Leadership Lessons from Brian Wrobel and Robert Schmidt: Show Up

One evening at 10:45PM, I received a phone call from a colleague. Before I even answered the phone, I knew it was bad news. My colleague’s first words were to ask if I was sitting down. OK, it clearly was very bad news…our file server experienced corruption and we lost access to the data.

This particular system had already identified as a risk to the organization. We knew about the system’s fragility and were working to improve its reliability and redundancy. We knew that any issue affecting this system would bring our company’s productivity to a halt. In short, this was as bad as it gets.

I arrived to the office at around 11:15PM. I made a few phone calls and notified the IT department of the issue via email. By 11:30, I saw a familiar face. It was Brian Wrobel. He had a bag filled with energy drinks and candy. He pulled up a chair to my desk and made it clear that he was here to support us in any way he could. Brian wasn’t going to leave until we did.

By midnight, I saw another familiar face. Robert Schmidt arrived with another bag filled with candy and energy drinks. He also made it clear that he was in it for the long haul. Both Robert and Brian serve on different teams within IT. The problems we encountered weren’t directly theirs to solve. It would have absolutely been sufficient if they simply offered us positive vibes and well wishes from their homes.

Robert and Brian stayed with us throughout the night. They offered guidance, support and encouragement. Their actions minimized the impact of the issue and allowed some of our critical business processes to complete. Even as the sun started to rise and the reality of the situation set in, they maintained their positive attitudes and offered continued support.

Before this outage, I honestly don’t know if I would have followed Brian and Robert’s actions under similar circumstances. So many times throughout the day we see opportunities to help and support others but let those opportunities pass. Brian and Robert have inspired me to be not just a better coworker but a better person. I may not be able to pay them back but I will absolutely try to pay it forward.