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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Oct 6, 2023


Grief and loss are inevitable experiences for all of us. This week we explore how to lead a team through grief.



Hello and welcome to episode 204 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. This week we explore how to lead a team through grief.

Grief and loss are inevitable experiences for all of us. And the experience of grief isn’t confined to our personal lives. Things like the death of a colleague, serious illness, and workplace accidents can all lead to grief at work. As a leader it can be hard to know how to respond. We may either try to continue with business as usual, or be tempted to become full time counsellors. On top of that, the grief is likely to impact us personally as well. Here are four things worth focusing on when you’re leading a team through grief and loss.

  1. First, it’s important to recognise grief’s varying influence on the team. While grief is a universal experience, it affects individuals differently. Some may visibly demonstrate their grief, while others may internalise their emotions. It’s important to also recognise that people will take varying times to process their emotions around grief. It’s important to listen to people and give them your full attention. Acknowledging and validating their feelings can really help people to see their reactions as normal and acceptable in a workplace setting.
  2. Second, acknowledge with the team the likely impact on productivity and engagement. Grief will understandably distract people from their work. It’s unreasonable to expect productivity to remain constant. This is an important moment to clarify priorities and adjust expectations. You may need to communicate this upwards to ensure any likely operational impacts are clear. Many people will find work a welcome distraction from their grieving. Providing a sense of meaning and purpose to the work will help people to continue to contribute, even if overall output is reduced.
  3. Third, ensure emotional well-being is a priority. Link people to any available resources your organisation may offer such as employee assistance programs or counselling. You may want to offer flexible work arrangements and time off to provide space for people to grieve. Normalise seeking help through these resources.
  4. And the fourth point, foster a supportive team environment. Even as the team leader you don’t need to be the sole source of care and support. Team members can support each other. Ensure that grieving team members do not feel isolated or excluded. Include them in team activities and discussions, but respect their need for space. Also, recognise the support that you might need. There’s not much point leading your team through grief, only to collapse at the end of the process.

Grief in any context is difficult. At work these practical steps can really help you and your team to grieve well and support each other effectively.



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