Leave Space for Emotions

Autumn Scene

My head is singing “it’s the most wonderful time, of the year” on repeat. But at the same time, my heart is quite sad.

I did not know I was sad or at least had not slowed down long enough to realize I was feeling sad until I got “zinged” on two occasions. And by “zinged” I mean I welled up with tears for no apparent reason. I did not know the sadness was there, but then there it was…oh how sneaky our emotions can be!

On the one hand, I am excited to have my kids go back to school! And on the other hand, I’m sad for a few reasons: summer is ending, G is starting kindergarten, I won’t get to see my parents for a while, and there’s a lot of people around me carrying very heavy loads. My sadness is rooted in the changing of the seasons. This transition has my emotions running in all different directions. While I have slowed down to pay attention to this in myself, I’m also noticing it in others. There are some big emotions swirling around out there. One client recently articulated it as “I’m just not very good with change.”

We are entering into another phase of this pandemic. People all around us are experiencing fear and sadness. From the fear of sending kids back to school to grieving loved ones that they may have been lost unexpectedly to carrying heavy life moments. As business owners and leaders, we owe it to our ecosystems to show up in a compassionate and caring way and leave space for the emotions of this time to show up without judgment.

I know many business owners have said, “It will be great to finally have kids back in school so that engagement and productivity can improve.” I’ve even said this myself…“I need my kids to go back to school so I can put in a full workday.” But the reality is, if we don’t acknowledge the feelings surrounding this seasonal transition, productivity and engagement certainly won’t change JUST because the kids are back in school.  

I encourage everyone to proceed into September delicately. Owners and leaders, we need to remember to nurture ourselves first – recognize and feel your own emotions so that we can create the space and nurture others. “Embrace the suck,” my buddy Brene says.

What does creating space and nurturing others mean or look like? Here are a few recommendations to consider:

  • Practice your own mindfulness. Do random check-ins on yourself and practice RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture
  • Create the conditions – do random check-ins on your people. Do these check-ins as walk & talks. You will be amazed at the level of engagement in both of you. A few sample inquiry questions: How are you? What are you celebrating? What are you proud of? What’s feeling tricky?
  • Host a “fireside” chat; discuss this seasonal change and what it means for your people and the business. Bring your own candles! 

This type of leadership is uncomfortable and can surface a lot of self-doubts, and that may trigger some fear within us. But, it’s also within you to courageously show up for your people and to give them the space to acknowledge their own emotions and actually be human. Because if there is one thing I believe to be true, nothing drives engagement and productivity in a team than a people-first business.

While we all want to get the economy back on track and to get people working as quickly as possible, let us not sacrifice our humanity in doing so. Resist the urge to sprint into fall and maximize productivity. Pay attention to the energy of your little ecosystems. Tap into your emotional intelligence to really get a sense of how you and your teams are doing. Leave space for emotions this month by showing up as the leader you want to be known for- a leader that genuinely cares for the wellbeing of their people.