On Managing Loss and Grief

On Managing Loss and Grief

For many, this is the time of year when we pause, reflect, and express our gratitude. But this year, we are experiencing significant loss and grief. For some, this grief is complicated. According to the Mayo Clinic, complicated grief is “an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that keeps you from healing.” Stressors, including social isolation, financial hardships, and myths about the grieving process increase our risk for complicated grief. And, it’s not necessarily a response to the loss of a loved one. Loss of income, status, or identity; loss of what we considered normalcy; unmet expectations; any significant change or loss can trigger a grief response. Getting stuck in grief is a very real problem. It can affect you physically, mentally, socially, and professionally. Fortunately, it can be corrected, and even prevented. We need a better understanding about the process of grief, techniques to manage our experience, and the time required for healing. A Brief Review of Grief In the late 1960’s, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified the stages of dying which she published in On Death and Dying. In 2005, David Kessler expanded on her hypothesis in their collaborative work, On Grief and Grieving, identifying five stages of grief: Denial: shock and disbelief that the loss has occurred Anger: that someone we love is no longer here Bargaining: all the what-ifs and regrets Depression: sadness from the loss Acceptance: acknowledging the reality of the loss According to Kessler, the stages “were never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there...
A Legacy that Endures

A Legacy that Endures

As a leader, how will your legacy measure up? Your leadership legacy matters. It motivates people in the way they think and behave, today, and in the future. A lasting legacy sets a course: it adds value, creates positive meaning, and empowers others to carry on—with or without you. Thousands of entrepreneurs have taken early retirement over the last year, many without a clear succession plan. Some of the vacancies have been temporarily filled by former employees or next-generation relatives, while others remain open. History reveals it is not uncommon for crisis to create or accelerate significant changes at the top. During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, more than 2,000 CEOs of publicly-traded companies were replaced, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Legacies at Risk Based on the succession planning research of Yo-Jud Cheng , Boris Groysberg and Paul Healy, Harvard Business Review (May 2020): 63% of private companies do not have a CEO succession contingency plan in place 69% of companies with less than $50 million in annual revenues lack a plan The need for a succession plan is often more acute in small firms, especially start-ups According to the researchers, 45% of all the U.S. companies they surveyed do not have a contingency plan for CEO succession, and 46% do not have an effective plan process for CEO succession. The industries most at risk include Health care (61% without a CEO succession contingency plan), Media (61%) IT and telecom (59%), and Consumer staples (53%). Creating a lasting legacy is no easy feat. Those who succeed develop other executives: they understand what it takes for a successful leader to...
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Because Better is Better

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Because Better is Better

How does your organization approach diversity, equity, and inclusion? While many leaders believe they have taken adequate steps to correct or avoid inequalities in the workplace with policies, promotion, and training, all too often we hear about employees who experience some form of exclusion or inequity, including lack of promotion, outright harassment, and even worse. Being excluded at work is not fun. Even in times when most people are working remotely, being left out can intensify a sense of alienation, which impacts our happiness and performance. This is even more critical for small businesses: according to a 2019 survey, 52% of small businesses report labor quality as their biggest challenge. Imagine, then, the impact when co-workers and leaders ignore an ongoing problem. What if the exclusion(s) were due to your ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation? How do you address diversity, equity and inclusion problems in your organization? Social psychologist and researcher Robert Livingston, author of The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations, (Random House 2021) writes in the September-October 2020 issue of Harvard Business Review that the real challenge is not figuring out what to do, it’s our willingness. We’re able, but unwilling. Perhaps it’s a bit of both. Trickle-Up Diversity The concept that diversity will trickle up to the C-level suites is fundamentally flawed. According to research conducted between September and November 2019 by Mercer, Caucasians fill 64% of entry level positions and 85% of top executive positions, demonstrating a promotion and equity gap. “The representation of people of color (both men and women) decreases incrementally as career levels...
Great Leadership in Times of Crisis

Great Leadership in Times of Crisis

The men and women in charge of our organizations are now faced with unchartered challenges: leading their organization through a global pandemic. In this time of crisis, most leaders are doing their best to step up and inspire people to do their best. And they’re doing a great job. One of the challenges is the evolving new normal. Rapidly changing guidelines, mandates, and infrastructure require continual monitoring and adjustments. Leaders are in a constant state of discovery, decision making, designing, and implementation. This requires resilience, collaboration, and great communication. Those who are able to adapt quickly and wisely are best positioned to lead their organization, and in many cases, their entire nation, in novel ways. Great leadership in a time of crisis will see us through to the other side. Business continuity management is more important than ever. Based on the conversations I’ve had with leaders, developing, refining, and implementing contingency plans is well underway. With careful attention to employee safety and preparedness, leaders can minimize risk, and in some cases, position themselves for post-crisis growth. Below are a few leadership best practices. Are you taking these steps?   Legal Obligations First, and foremost, focus on employee safety. Review policies, and then identify actual practices. (What happens in the field may not be the actual procedures management recommends.) Ensure you have adequate communicable-illness plans and practices in place. Credible Authorities and Resources Depending on the size and reach of your organization, these may need to be local, regional, national, and global, and could include CDC, WHO, EUCDPC, Singapore and UK. Contingency Plans If you haven’t mapped out or developed...
When Your Values Shift

When Your Values Shift

Everyone knows how important it is to “know yourself,” yet how often do we reflect on why we do what we do? (Or for that matter, what we did?) Do we really understand our motives and values? Before we even graduate from high school, most of us have participated in interest inventories and career aptitude tests. By the time we graduate from college, our interests, studies, and skills have aligned. We anticipate we’re on a path best suited for our personality, talents, and education. And yet…most of us don’t recognize the extent of our complexity. Our personal preferences and unique sense of values are buried under layers of expectations and demands. To add to the complexity, our values shift over time. When we identify as, or claim to be, a specific type of person (kind, caring, and genuine), but our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors indicate otherwise (we are resentful, rude, and just want other people to fall into line), we may be unaware of our true values.    Of course, we are quick to notice when we see this happen in others. Our perception may be that they are inauthentic, manipulative, or fake; maybe even a hypocrite. When our own behaviors are incongruent with what we claim to value, many of us have a physical reaction: a twinge, cringe, or moment when our body says, “no!” But just as common, we learn to ignore these uncomfortable feelings. Eventually, we stop paying attention. We become mistaken about our own identity, unaware of the shift in our values. This can manifest in a mid-career crisis. Our careers are moving along at...
Visionary Vulnerabilities

Visionary Vulnerabilities

We live in an age of remarkable products and services from inventive thinkers with lofty ideas. These visionary leaders, who don’t think or work like anyone else, have started businesses based on novel concepts, and those whose achievements greatly impact society are afforded special status. Employees often flock to these visionaries’ companies, hoping the future will offer prosperity within a corporate culture that promotes free thought, excitement and cutting-edge innovations. But some visionary leaders can be difficult bosses whose brainstorming and idealistic tendencies frustrate employees and create career obstacles. As the term implies, “visionary” leaders like to walk among the clouds, devoting themselves to the future, the impossible and the things that could be. Unfortunately, businesses must be run with both a widescreen view and in-the-trenches focus, so pure visionaries with only big-picture mindsets are vulnerable to losing track of their enterprises. While everyone admires visionary thinking, too much of it creates a dangerous imbalance. Fortunately, visionaries can learn effective ways to keep their companies healthy and productive. Forwardly Focused Visionary leaders are bent on taking things to the next level, solving the unsolvable problem, and developing something unprecedented or revolutionary. They passionately blaze uncharted trails. While such ambition is worthy, pure visionaries tend to be interested only in conceptualizing business ideas, and they often fail to involve themselves in the execution stages. Their brains are fast-thinking, idea-generating machines, with each concept analogous to a sheet of paper quickly torn from a thick pad. Is your mind camped on the “what ifs?” of your business, while other issues are pushed aside? Do you wish you could devote all your...