The recent events in Nepal have me thinking about all of the different types of leaders who will rise up in the upcoming days and months to help comfort, rebuild and guide. It will be a daunting task for each of them. The reality is that crisis offers us the opportunity to watch powerful leaders rise up and do amazing things.
Tragic events occur more often than any of us would like. We can never predict them nor prevent them, but we can help others through them to the best of our ability.
In our workplaces tragedy may come in the form of an unexpected death of a co-worker, an act of nature that devastates the entire community or an act of violence aimed at the business or its leaders. When this happens, employees look to leaders for reaction, reassurance and renewed purpose.
Whether someone was a leader before the tragedy or thrust into the role as a result of the event, employees will be watching and taking cues from how the leader reacts. Here are three steps leaders can take when leading through tragedy.
Dealing with Emotion:
Maybe the hardest part about leading through tragedy is dealing with one’s own emotions while helping others with theirs. Leaders need to balance being raw and admitting that this event has affected them while still being strong enough to help others. Leaders need to be honest about the fact that whatever has happened is hard and frustrating to go through, but they also need to be able to deal with their emotions in a way that lets them focus on how to move forward.
Another important part of dealing with emotion is to understand that every employee is going to react differently. Some will be completely immobilized and unable to move on even with time while others will move forward much more quickly. Leaders must be able to discern between what each employee needs and help them accordingly.
Knowing When You Are Not Enough:
Some tragedies can be dealt with just by having those involved band together and move forward as one. Others need outside help. Leaders working through tragedy must know when employees need more than they can offer and what type of assistance is needed. A great example of this would be to bring in licensed counselors to help individuals deal with grief. When leaders step up and offer these types of services quickly and appropriately, employees are able to get what they need to process what has happened.
Provide New Focus:
Once emotions have subsided at least beyond the initial reaction, employees will be looking to leaders for next steps. Leaders who can offer a new focus, a new vision, a new way to move forward will be able to help employees take their mind off the tragedy by directing how they move forward. While this wouldn’t not be the right move immediately after the tragedy strikes, providing this after employees have been able to process the initial shock will help drive them to move forward with renewed purpose.
Dealing with tragedy is never easy. Leaders certainly should never minimize the magnitude of events that occur, but they can help minimize the time it takes to move on and rebuild. It won’t be easy and it will take time. Leaders who realize that emotions must be dealt with first, help employees work through them and then give them something to move on to will help move the entire process along and hopefully minimize the long term effects of the tragic event.