“Time heals all wounds” is a popular saying, but it’s wrong.
Time doesn’t heal wounds. How we use time heals wounds. Time doesn’t determine when we pick ourselves up off the ground – we do.
Some leaders cause irreversible damage to their teams in the aftermath of a change that causes pain by using the “get over it” technique…which means it will be a long time before anyone returns to previous levels of engagement.
When pain happens (dramatic change we don’t like), it’s easy to relinquish our control. “Okay. This really sucks. I’ll just have to ride it out and in time get over it.” Or, one of my personal favorites: “I’m going to stay angry until things are changed back to the way it was.” Such approaches are illogical.
Here are tips on how to honor the necessary process and shorten the time to recovery:
1) Acknowledge, validate and address the emotions your team is experiencing, with questions like:
a. What makes you angry, disappoints or frustrates you about what took place?
b. What will you miss about this person/the way it was?
2) Share “It’s important we allow ourselves to be real – and we’ll each need different amounts of time to do this.” Then ask:
a. What should we expect of ourselves in terms of engagement in the next few days?
b. What does it look like to be individually and collectively responsible given what’s happened? (Key: Responsibility is a choice – it can’t be mandated.)
3) Then support the team in moving forward, by asking:
a. As we lead forward, in what ways do you want to honor the person/past with our actions?
b. How can we learn from and use this experience to become even stronger and more effective?
c. Why is it important that we use this experience to learn, heal, grow and become better?
Pain is real. It’s vital to address it. In fact, until we do, we can’t be free to move forward – on our time.