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August 24, 2016

Why Growing Companies Need to Grieve

Recently as I was walking through the offices of a client I’ve worked with for the past two years, I noticed that something felt very different. A couple of years before, I knew all of the faces. Now I don’t recognize many. Before, there was a palpable intimacy that is the hallmark of an early stage company. The intimacy is now replaced by a more structured industriousness.

On one hand, it’s exciting to know that these new team members are a result of growth and product success. That’s to be celebrated. But as with all change, there are things or ways of being that disappear to make way for the new. As I met with people on the team that day, they voiced both excitement and a sense of loss. We took time to experience the sadness rather than just talking about it. We all, myself included, noticed the body sensations of grief—which many of us experienced in our chest, throat and eyes—and allowed ourselves to be with the sensations until they moved all of the way through.

My experience is that when teams skip over feeling grief, they end up recycling stories about the losses which results in a waste of time and energy. When emotions are not fully acknowledged and expressed we feel incomplete about an issue. We think talking about it will help us resolve it, instead it’s feeling the feelings that allows us to move on.

Once a person fully experiences the feelings accompanying change and letting go, it’s easier to first accept and eventually embrace the way things are now. Grieving the losses opens the door to genuinely connecting with excitement about the new.  

Other situations where grieving is valuable include when...

  • Goals are not met
  • When a vision isn’t realized
  • People leave
  • There is a change in leadership that brings cultural changes
  • A buyout or merger results in cultural shifts with another culture that does things differently
  • Your role in the organization changes
  • A client ends their relationship
  • A raise or a bonus isn’t given

To effectively lead yourself and your team in a faster changing world, we highly recommend you embrace the emotionally intelligent practice of grieving. [Click to Tweet]

The more adept you and your team are at letting go and completing what was, the more you will be able to be present and fully engaged with with the way things are now.

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