“If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it.”

Scott Berinato, Harvard Business Review (HBR)

Earlier this week, HBR published an article on it.

It is not a normal topic for a business journal. 

These are not normal times.

It is grief.

Grief is not a normal topic for me to write about either. Certainly, I have come to experience that conscious leaders need to embrace pain to grow. But that “pain” was often individual…mine, theirs. And it was often partially self-created based on internal stories/drama driven by the need to win, be seen as smart, right, in control etc.

Now, we have massive pain on a global scale. It is real, not imagined. It is collective. And there is no sign of it easing up any time soon.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ name is synonymous with grief. She first wrote about the five stages of grief. Those who have grieved (a.k.a. everyone) will have experienced different stages, likely not in a linear fashion:

  • Denial: COVID19 won’t affect us here in our corner of the world. PEI will be safe.
  • Anger: You’re asking me to stay in my house for how long??
  • Bargaining: Fine. We will do this ‘social distancing’ thing for two weeks but I am not sanitizing my groceries…
  • Sadness: I have lost my job/money. What if I lose someone I love? (Anticipatory grief)
  • Acceptance: This is real. This is our life right now. How can we adjust and do our part?

David Kessler, grief expert, and Kübler-Ross have added a sixth stage Meaning. We see scores of people writing about birds singing, a return to family suppers, loving conversations with friends and family, and kind deeds. We see companies retooling overnight to produce medical supplies. We see the world on pause looking at itself.

Pause right now yourself.

In this now moment, how do you feel?

Are you feeling, joyful, fearful, angry, sad, creative/sexual? A combo?

What if you gave yourself a few moments to feel those feelings all the way through?  Feelings are just energy in motion. Many leaders, myself included, at times fear that once the emotional tap is opened, there will be no way to shut it off. In fact, the opposite can be true. Most feelings only last about 90 seconds until they transform into something else.

Try this:

  • Scan your body to see what physical sensations you have…buzzing, popping, twisting, tightness…
  • What colour are the feelings? Shape? Weight?
  • If the feeling could make a sound, what would it be?  How would it move?
  • What do the emotions want to tell you? What is their wisdom?

As a leader, being willing to feel your own feelings gives you access to SO MUCH MORE information and helps you open your compassion.

  • That analyst on your team who is spewing out doomsday projections…she’s likely feeling very scared.
  • The essential staff on the factory floor who are making snide comments about execs working safely at home…they are likely feeling scared and angry. And maybe sad.
  • And the healthcare worker whose children are staying with her parents while she works night and day…she’s likely very sad and scared. She may be angry too…at me and you!

So while it is essential that you lead though this crisis versus just manage the response, please make sure you feel YOUR grief too while you keep going.  Feeling your feelings makes it ok for everyone else around you to do the same.

That is leadership.


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