Earlier this week I had lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in several years. As we sat down, we started talking about a race he had recently run, my sponsorship of which had put us back in touch. With that covered, we had a moment where we looked at each other and said, “So, where do we begin?”.
Given the time that had passed, we weren’t sure how or where to start. Do we calculate exactly when we last saw each other and work forward from there? Or just skip ahead to current stuff – jobs, family, mutual friends? We figured it out, and, as it’s always been our custom to enjoy long, lingering meals, we spent over three hours catching up.
I’m hoping that meal will be good preparation for my upcoming return to the office, about a week and a half from now. Where do I start catching up with my colleagues? Of course, three months isn’t nearly the same as three years, but three months in the life of an organization is a significant amount of time. Particularly when that organization includes hundreds of people and spans multiple countries. On top of that, the past several months have been a time of transition and turnover. I honestly don’t know how many people I’ll recognize when I get back. Part of me wonders if I should pretend to be a new employee, and see how long I can keep that up…
For now, I’m focused on spending the first few days getting re-acclimated, meeting with and listening to the people who have been doing the heavy lifting in my absence. I have to remember to be patient with them, and with myself, and to allow for some difficulties in the first few days. Getting back to my old routine and schedule will be a challenge. I’m thinking of strategies to bring the things that have become important to me – exercise, mindful eating, thoughtful communication – into my work day.
All of this will take time. I hope in the weeks to come that I’ll be able to share some of what I learned during my sabbatical with friends and colleagues, and that those lessons will result in positive changes to my work and to our organizational culture. But first I need to listen, and understand the successes and challenges that my colleagues have had while I’ve been away. And most importantly, I need to find a way to show my gratitude, which, especially in these last days, is immense.