As A Leader, What Do You Do When Life Hurts?

Updated: Mar 19

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves." - Viktor E. Frankl

As a leader, what do you do when life throws unexpected and painful curveballs your way?

I’m not talking about the day-to-day challenges of navigating increasing market competition, addressing resourcing concerns, stemming cashflow problems, handling the demands of a new job, working your way through the thick political landscape of your organisation or driving up engagement and productivity across your business. Instead, I’m talking about curveballs like life-threatening illnesses, divorce, major financial crises, loss of loved ones, and the like.

No matter your background or age, you will have discovered along the way that life brings with it trauma, pain and loss. Some things are easy to deal with and so we move on, chalking it up to experience. Other things, however, require extended periods of grieving or professional interventions for us to get anywhere close to being able to move on.

So, as a leader, with all the demands and pressures you face to deliver results and engage your teams, what do you do when life hurts? I mean really hurts.

In the Spring of 2014, I was about to find out, again.

I was working as a Learning Director for a London based Employee Engagement & Customer Experience agency. During a lunch break, I called my mum to let her know that my wife and I were really keen for her to join us on holiday to Spain with our 3 boys. Mum was totally up for it. It would be her first major holiday with our family, since her retirement a few months prior, so it was an exciting prospect all round. There was also another agenda – my wife and I were looking forward to encouraging mum to be creative in making the most of her retirement. We especially wanted her to stay active and engaged.