Anyone who loses a loved one goes through a difficult time. But it’s not only your personal life that’s affected. Grief has an impact on your behavior at work too.

I was coaching a leader who was responsible for a team of 20 employees. This manager had received some constructive feedback regarding his attitude and communication skills that caused him to panic about his job security. My client had an amygdala hijack after reading the comments for improvement. After several sessions digging deep on the root cause of his reaction not only about the survey, but also during stressful work situations, he was able to express how angry he felt about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Angry about having lost a loved one 15 years ago was his normal state of being which doesn’t work well when leading others. Grief that goes unexpressed for that long is bound to have some unintended impacts and outcomes.

How long have you been holding on to anger? Has your grieving journey affected your ability to lead others to achieve the success you long for?

Here are 5 actions that my client and I explored to help shift his ability to lead effectively. These actions worked for me as well to get through my journey of “letting go” and letting my loved ones rest in peace. Perhaps it may work for you too.

  1. Go within and be with your feelings. Don’t suppress them. It also goes without saying to take the time you deserve during this emotionally difficult time. Let your “right-hand man or woman” take the lead to keep the business running effectively. Do whatever it takes to be with your feelings and thoughts, i.e. walking, meditating, visit the ocean or a lake, hike, be in nature, etc. Talk out loud so you can hear what it sounds and feels like to express the pain you’re in. As the late politician, Ann Richards, said “I think you have to deal with grief in the sense that you have to recognize that you have it and say it’s OK to have all his sadness.”
  2. Reach out for support either through professional therapy channels, family, clergy, or friends. DON’T HIDE or TRY TO FAKE IT and say that you’re doing just fine. Everyone will notice your inauthenticity, especially your employees. Many will understand and give you all the space you need. Fake it for too long and it will backfire on you.
  3. Imagine what your loved one would say to you if he or she was watching your every word and every move during your grief. Would you listen to him? Would you do your best to honor her wishes? Would she give you the big kick on your butt and say, “snap out of the it”? Now if there are unfinished conversations that need closure, get that out on paper. Read it 100 times, forgive yourself, forgive him, and then burn it.
  4. Engage with others especially those you lead. Be open with them and express that you’re having a tough time with grief. Ask them for support, their patience, and for their cooperation to accomplish business goals during this difficult time. Allow others to express sympathies, compassion, and even love for you. After all, you’re with them during the good and bad times. Let them be there for you. It will increase trust and deepen relationships—a necessary ingredient for team productivity and engagement.
  5. FREE yourself at your own pace, in your own time. Turn sadness into joy and gratitude for all the great memories you made with your loved one. Celebrate life. Be open. Stay vulnerable. Go forth and be the leader worth following. As Keanu Reeves eloquently stated, “I wear my heart on my sleeve and that can hurt. To be vulnerable is an enriching way to live, but when it goes wrong, it can be agonizing. But if you don’t open your heart to people, you end up being excluded from the rest of the world.”

I am thrilled to report my client continues to thrive in his leadership role. Is the sadness gone? Not by a long shot. Yet, there is more joy, freedom, self-expression, and deeper, caring relationships in his life and at work.

My client’s leadership performance and communication skills increased as a result of dealing with grief through these five actions. How about you? How have you managed leading while grieving? Want some guidance on leading passionately and powerfully through life’s ups and downs? Contact me at to schedule a coaching session.