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How to Lead Your Business Through a Personal Crisis

How to Lead Your Business Through a Personal Crisis


What to do when work and life don’t balance.

I once worked for a boss who went through a painful divorce. On the morning that his wife told him she was leaving him, he went to work and conducted business as usual. He powered through without telling anyone for weeks, although others noticed his edginess, the missed deadlines and the diminished quality of his output. Sadly, all of us on his team would have stepped up our game if we had known.

As a business owner, how you handle significant, life-changing events affects your employees, suppliers, strategic partners and customers. When a critical life crisis hits, your business must continue—but it must go on in a way that acknowledges and balances what’s occurring in your personal life. Here are proactive ways to lead your business and manage productivity in the days and weeks following a life-altering event.

Notify those who need to know // A crisis such as divorce, catastrophic illness or the death of a family member releases emotions that are uncomfortable to express in a business context. It isn’t necessary to lay your emotions bare, or to provide details. Craft a brief statement that you can use to inform your team, and be specific about what you want your team to communicate to suppliers, customers or other business associates.

Prioritize your calendar // Review your calendar and pare down your schedule for the first few weeks following the event. While you may believe that you can meet all the commitments you’ve made, the reality is that your focus and energy will need time to adjust to new circumstances. Reschedule self-imposed timelines and appointments that do not involve multiple external parties.

Extend your deadlines // My former boss did not cut himself any slack on his deadlines, and his work suffered as a result. A personal crisis takes up more physical, mental and emotional energy that most people realize. Add a few days to each of your upcoming deadlines and discuss the extensions with those affected by the changes. Give yourself permission to take a little extra time to ensure that you maintain the quality of your work and relationships.

Identify options for continuity // It’s inevitable that some of your personal and business responsibilities will result in schedule conflicts. Consider options for shifting conflicting commitments to your internal team, or possibly to trusted business associates.

» Discuss alternatives with key members of your team and ask for their help.

» Designate a team member to document and disseminate your discussion.

» Ask for periodic updates of developments and outcomes.

John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” When a personal crisis occurs, life goes on. Make sure your business does, too.

Elizabeth Usovicz

Written by

Elizabeth Usovicz is principal of WhiteSpace Consulting®, specializing in top-line revenue strategies, business development coaching, qualitative research and strategy session facilitation. She can be reached at elizabeth@whitespacerevenue.com or (913) 638-8693.


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