Monday, January 20, 2014

A Time of Grief and Loss

There are days now when I sit down to visit with leaders and discover they are overwhelmed by the magnitude of all that needs to change at work, and by the complexity of making it happen. They struggle with large and small problems. They wish for a new normal but only experience an endless amount of accelerated convergence where one problem is impacting all the others and all the other problems are impacting the one problem. Stuck in a endless loop of complexity and ambiguity, they often freeze up in thought and deed, hoping for a break from this cycle of never ending crises.

At times like this, we have to be careful and thoughtful people.  Some leaders are experiencing strategic blindness, where they do not see their strategy as a whole organization. Others are experiencing contextual blindness, where they can see the whole organization but can not see the environmental context within which the whole organization is working and moving through. What ever the case, we must remember the insights shared by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky in their book, Leadership On The Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading, Harvard Business School Press, 2002 when they wrote that “to lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what they hold dear...” We forget that  people do not resist change, per se.  People resist loss. And you as their leader, may appear dangerous to them when you question their values, beliefs, or habits of a lifetime. You place yourself on the line when you tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear.

We also have to remember that we too may be experiencing this loss. We be moving at such a pace that we begin to question our own values, beliefs and habits. We may be loosing our connection with the reasons why we took the job in the first place. At times, it also may be hard for us to absorb what is happening and to process it in a holistic and thoughtful manner. We as leaders may even have to rethink how we do things and how we define ourselves.

In such moments like these, it is important to activate our support networks inside and outside of work. We need allies and confidents who will listen well and when asked, offer sound advice and counsel.  These are challenging times to be a leader, but with compassion and kindness we can make the right choices.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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