When people are searching for meaning and a reason to hope for the future there is something leaders can do. By the very nature of your position, in times of collective pain and confusion you can help individuals and your organization begin to heal by taking actions that demonstrate your own compassion, thereby unleashing a compassionate response throughout the whole organization.
The leader can create an environment in which people can freely express and discuss the way they feel, which in turn helps them to make sense of their pain, seek or provide comfort, and imagine a more hopeful future.
The leader can create an environment in which those who experience or witness pain can find ways to alleviate their own and others’ suffering.
When people know they can bring their pain to the workplace, they no longer have to expend energy trying to ignore or suppress it, and they can more easily and effectively get back to work. This may be a mutually reinforcing cycle, since getting back to a routine can be healing in itself.
By acting as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening, the company’s leaders leave team members feeling as if the organization doesn’t recognize them as human beings, which creates a rift between employees and management that may never be repaired.
A seemingly simple but important aspect of demonstrating your humanity is just being present, physically and emotionally. It shows employees that the organization cares about what happens to them and will do whatever it can to help them in a time of need.
Take Care of Others
Leaders can also help people in times of trauma by taking care of their basic needs, which gives people room to make meaning of events for themselves and allows them to focus on coping with the crisis.
Model the Way
You can’t eliminate such suffering, nor can you ask people to check their emotions at the door. But you can use your leadership to begin the healing process. Through your presence you can model behaviors that set the stage for the process of making meaning out of terrible events. And through your actions you can empower people to find their own ways to support one another during painful times. This is a kind of leadership we wish we would never have to use, yet it is vital if we are to nourish the very humanity that can make people—and organizations—great.
Stay Focused on What You and Your Team can Influence
Use your Communication Board and have everyone post ideas of what you can control and what improvements you can make or have already made.