I have just finished reading “On Death and Dying” by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Sadly this lady is no longer with us, however the work she did whilst on this planet is so very special in many ways. Through her medical work she not only created a model for working with the death and dying to help with, what for some is a very difficult time, the acceptance that their journey on planet earth is coming to a end, but also providing the corporate world with a model for handling change (Kubler-Ross Change Curve). Who would ever put these two things together?
Whilst this book is not the easiest read, simply because of the subject, it highlights many things which as leaders we could do very well when applying it:
Holding back information from a loved one about their terminal illness, may on the surface feel the right thing to do. However, the mere fact that you know means you subconsciously change your behavior, which means your loved one knows they are seriously ill. As in business keeping the topic “closed” does not mean those around you do not understand there is something going on. Be open, don’t leave subordinates guessing. Try to understand how they feel, what is important to them. Avoid assuming you know how they will feel and react on hearing the “bad” news. Communicate openly and make decisions together. The beginning of coming to terms with something, is firstly knowing about it and what options there are, if any.
Avoidance Does Not Help Anyone!
Even though, the topic of dying is difficult, we should avoid burying our heads in the sand in the hope that it will go away, or that something miraculous will happen. As leaders there are many situations which we would prefer not to deal with, for example handling conflict with others in our team, with our boss, dealing with difficult situations, making team members redundant and so on. These situations tend not to go away, nor does something miraculous happen, other than the situation becoming more urgent, in the very least, but more likely getting worse! Have the courage to address and inform those involved, and then find the way forward together. The result, as for the terminally ill is very often a relief as it is now in the open.
Help Others Prepare for Change
We all react differently to change. Change tends to stir negative emotions. It is quite normal and natural to ask the question – What does this (change) mean to me? This then drives the questions - How do I feel? What is stopping me from embracing this change? Talking these questions through can be very powerful therapy and can help us all, irrelevant of the situation we face, to move on with commitment, and a level of comfort. Whilst for the dying, with peace and joy to let go.
As leaders – How are you helping your subordinates, peers and colleagues go through change and embrace it positively, with commitment, despite any fear and an understanding that change is necessary both for them as well as the business?
Don’t be Afraid to Let Go and Move On
It is easy to sit at my lab top and think when the time comes, which it surely will, that I will end this life journey with ease. Probably not! The idiom, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know springs to mind.” For loved ones knowing that you can let them go with love, light and joy is so important to helping them stop the struggle and to let go. Talking openly about this will help enormously. As leaders in businesses, we also have to have the courage to let go of the comfort zone we have created and move into the unknown for a short period of time whilst things once again find the norm. Hanging on does not ease the pain. It just prolongs it!
Move into 2016 with courage, with passion and with enthusiasm. Those that are meant to be with you will be with you.
Best wishes for 2016. Wishing everyone a fun journey, warmth and a compassionate heart.