Wed 10 May 2023 11:00am UK time

• When Louise Palmer was put on the transplant list, she knew she needed to make herself indispensable, so her absence wouldn’t leave Wildfire in disarray.
• After being away for three months, she came back to find her team were much more self-sufficient.
• Come along and hear from Louise about how she instilled this mindset in her team, while stepping off the hamster wheel at the same time.

People are always striving to make themselves indispensable – but Louise Palmer, a director at Wildfire, has done the exact opposite, after being told she’d need a liver transplant.

“I was officially put on the transplant list in December 2020. It was just a case of being told that I could get a call at any time, on any day, and I’d then need to be at the hospital within three to hours,” she says. 

“You sit there and realise you could easily get the call tomorrow… and the business wasn’t prepared for that unexpected absence.”

Louise set out to make sure that when the call did eventually come through, it wouldn’t leave the agency in entire disarray.

“The way we’re structured, there’s a lot of collaboration across the management team, but we also have different areas of the business we’re accountable for. Information sharing is good, but you have no idea what other people are actually doing behind the scenes,” she explains.

The uncertainty of when the transplant might happen made it difficult for Louise and the business to plan.

“If I’d received the call within a week, there would have been a lot of scrambling around, trying to piece things together – but if I’d planned a big handover and moved work immediately to others, the surgery might not happen for another three years.”

After three false calls, Louise successfully had her transplant in September 2022 – and on her return in January 2023, she found a huge difference in her team.

“They’ve really stepped up and have become much more self-sufficient. They suddenly realised they had this responsibility and the autonomy to do things the way they wanted, or the way they had to do it to suit themselves,” she explains.

“They’ve always had that opportunity, but while I was around I was their safety net, their go-to for advice and direction. They’re pleased to have me back, but they don’t need my approval.”

“Being out of the business for a few months has been empowering for everyone, and it’s taught us as a management team just how everything connects together. It’s been a learning curve.”

It also gave Louise the opportunity to step back and consider all the other things she wanted to focus on, including exploring further biz dev avenues, her own career development – and even B-Corp accreditation.

“I had consciously made myself dispensable, but in doing so, it opened up a whole load of new opportunities, things I’d either been ignoring or not thinking about in the throes of management. The time away gave me perspective.”

Come along and hear about Louise’s step off the hamster wheel, and how it’s invigorated both her and her team for the future of the business.