Knocked Off Kilter? Lean on Your Network

November 20, 2020


Before this year, I could count on one hand the amount of times I’d been truly surprised. Like, completely knocked back by something totally unexpected. That all changed in 2020, of course, as we couldn’t seem to go a day without confronting at least one curveball.  

Honestly, though, the handful of times I’d been shocked by life’s twists and turns prepared me well for the many jolts that came – and are still coming – this year.  

One of those soul-strengthening surprises happened on September 26, 2013. My wife and I were 20 weeks into what we thought was a third pregnancy. As it turns out, it was a third and a fourth pregnancy, all in one. Twins! Yay…  

Although we were grateful to learn she and the babies were both healthy, the news was a shock. Anyone who has gotten The Multiples News knows what I’m talking about. The mind starts racing, and it doesn’t stop, not even when the children are born. Not after they come home. Not after they turn 10. I imagine not ever, at least until the mind stops racing altogether.  

My anxiety and fear were overwhelming. Did we have enough love, enough fortitude… enough money… to raise four kids? The pressure was overwhelming, and the nervousness I felt threatened to impact other aspects of my life. My friendships, my advocacy, my job.  

I’ll never forget my boss, so full of compassion the day we got the news, telling me to go home, take the afternoon and let the news sink in. While insisting I take the time to adjust to the news was right in alignment with her personality, it was still surprising. I’d not seen someone so comfortably act on compassion in a professional setting before. It was a moment that had a lasting impact on my idea of strong, servant leadership.  

Many of us are feeling off kilter right now, knocked back by something we didn’t expect. For some, it’s results of the election, for others, cancelled holiday plans. It might be an illness, a job furlough, loss of a family member… or the addition of a family member.  

 Apprehension around these dropped bombshells can affect every part of our lives, not least of all, our professional lives. If you’re someone experiencing the shock and awe of 2020 in acute ways, don’t be afraid to talk about it. If the workplace doesn’t feel right, look elsewhere, and don’t stop until you find an empathetic ear. Church, family, the neighborhood, an online support group, a therapy or counseling service – each of these are good options to explore.  

If you’re in a leadership position – heck, even if you’re not – be on the lookout for people in your circle that are struggling to dodge 2020’s thunderbolts. Reach out in whatever way makes sense for you and for them. Let them know they are seen, as is their pain, grief, fear or worry. Advocate for them.  

Compassion is hard for some to express, especially in a corporate environment. If you’re one of those individuals, I challenge you to dig deep. Face the challenge of strong, servant leadership head on. Think of the ridiculous number of hurdles you’ve already overcome during the last eight months. Why not one more? Who knows… maybe one of the biggest surprises you’ll experience this year is yourself.  

Mark K. Phillips is vice president of treasury management services for Bank Iowa, Iowa’s second largest family-owned financial institution. He can be reached at To learn more, visit Member FDIC.