When Life Throws You a Curveball

when life throws you a curveball

You learn a lot when you have cancer. It’s not just the obvious things, like which friends step up when your life gets turned upside down, how best to deal with frequent hospital stays (take a book, keep your phone charged and never be afraid to send visitors on errands), or even which treatment regime is best for you.

When you experience serious illness, you learn some valuable life-lessons too. Life lessons which can be applied not just to your personal life, but to your professional life.

Back at the end of 2021 I learned I had cancer. Over the months and years that followed I’d require treatment and major surgery. My life – at least in the short-term – was going to change dramatically.

I’d be spending time in hospital, I’d need time to recover from my treatment, I’d be attending many, many medical appointments.

For once in my life, I wouldn’t be able to do things on my own terms and in my own timeframe. I’d be reliant on others to pick up the slack – the difference between delegating tasks professionally and having no choice but to depend on those around you for everyday things hit hard.

Even though my husband and friends supported and cared for me every step of the way. I’d be forced to put my business on the back burner, at a time when I’d just started to breakthrough on the speaking circuit. And whilst there’s never a good time to be seriously ill, the timing of my diagnosis felt particularly frustrating professionally.

And then I realised, that whilst this was a set-back in terms of my immediate plans, it was an opportunity to adapt, learn and ultimately take my experience and use it to help those in leadership roles become more adaptable and able to deal with those unexpected roadblocks that life has a habit of putting up.

Once you accept that things can go wrong, you can start to plan for it and work out some strategies for dealing with things. And whilst you can’t plan perfectly for the situation that you’ll be faced with, you can devise strategies that make it less challenging to deal with.

You can also learn from the situation, so next time something goes wrong, you’re even better equipped to handle it.

As leaders we need not only to prepare for things going wrong with our business, but for things going wrong in the lives of our team. It’s not just a case of getting a temp in or sharing out someone’s workload whilst their off.

How we handle a crisis within our team can have a huge impact on morale and ultimately productivity. If you’re seen to only deal with the business side of things, those picking up the slack will not only feel that their colleague is being treated poorly, but they’ll know that should they have similar problems, they’ll get similar (poor) treatment.

Sending flowers on behalf of the team or even a supportive phone call won’t cut it. When the worst thing possible happens to one of your team, you need to do the best you can to support them. This might be a phased return to work, not asking them to travel for work short-term, making sure their workload is manageable or even getting professional support in place.

It’s about doing what’s right for them and having plans in place that enable you to do so – or at least having plans in place that give you scope to adapt so that you can support them whilst keeping things moving workwise. You never want to be the leader who’s poor planning adds to someone’s stress and piles on the pressure when they’re already suffering.

The pay off? Your team are more inclined to feel loyal and remain motivated, knowing that should they suffer a serious health issue, loss of a loved one, a change in family caring responsibilities, or even a positive change such as a pregnancy, they can be sure of your support. Knowing that you’re adaptable, understanding and will do whatever you can to accommodate their problems, helps people feel valued. And when people feel valued, they tend to feel more loyal.

What cancer taught me is that you should make plans for when things go wrong, but don’t make them so rigid that they can’t be adapted. I never expected to get breast cancer, but I did have plans in place in case other things went wrong and took me away from my business.

Having a strategy in place – even though it wasn’t perfect for the situation – helped me deal with things and keep moving forward. My roadmap was ready, I just had to take a detour, but because I’d already prepared myself for the fact that my journey would include obstacles, I was better able to deal with them.

We should never be afraid of what’s ahead, we should just be ready to act when we’re faced with the unexpected.

About Claudia Romero

Claudia Romero is an Edinburgh based graduate, serial entrepreneur, and busy mum of three boys. Coming to the UK from Chile over a decade ago, it was not easy for her to keep everything running smoothly, especially with no family around to help. Instead of looking for a 9 to 5 job, she combined her professional and personal experience to start two new businesses that gave her more flexibility and freedom.

She helps her clients reduce the frustration and lack of control that comes with trying to keep up with their family’s every project, activity, and daily tasks, and provides them with the tools and strategies that allow them to be more productive, have time for self-care, and pursue their own dreams while fulfilling their work, social, and family obligations.

This article originally appeared in her “The Maverick Paradox” and can be viewed here.