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From Loss to Leadership: The Power of Journaling for Business Titans

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Navigating the complexities of leadership is a formidable task on an average day.

But what happens when grief and loss come crashing down on you and your team? It can feel darn near impossible to get through.

How do you manage the duality of leading while mourning?

As someone who works closely with leaders and death, I want to share a potent tool with you that often goes overlooked but can make an immense difference:


I get it; journaling might seem like a cliché activity, something reserved for those trying to get in touch with themselves or for writers.

But hear me out. It’s an incredibly powerful practice, especially when steering a ship through the turbulent waters of employee loss.

It’s so powerful that I honestly don’t understand why other coaches and training and development folks aren’t discussing it more often.

Here are three top key reasons to journal when managing a grieving team.

1. Emotional Release

There are no orderly stages to grief. Instead, the stages look like this:

When you're leading a team through the aftermath of an employee's death, your emotional landscape is complex. Journaling is your release valve. It's your chance to let your thoughts and feelings, which can otherwise remain trapped inside, flow onto the pages. Getting them out of your head and onto paper gives your brain a badly needed break from the common ruminating in leaders.

To quote a wise ogre, Shrek, ‘Better out than in, I always say!” He is right.

2. Mindfulness in the Storm

I know "mindfulness" is often a buzzword, but it holds significance here. Awareness of your thoughts is crucial, especially when managing a grieving team. Journaling helps you pinpoint what's going on in your mind.

Why is this important? When an employee presents a challenge, and you find yourself internally groaning, writing allows you to pause and consider whether their behavior might be linked to the recent loss. This awareness empowers you to act empathetically instead of reacting based on unexpressed emotions.

3. Igniting Creativity

Dealing with grief while leading requires creativity in abundance. Journaling opens pathways that can make you more creative. As you pour your thoughts onto paper, you create a space for fresh ideas to enter. Articulating your feelings can lead to innovative solutions for the myriad challenges you face.

A considerable caveat about journaling:

Journaling by itself might yield different results than the desired results.

Pouring your thoughts onto paper is helpful, but structured prompts are key for optimal results. When I work with my clients, I share scientifically backed prompts that guide their writing in a constructive direction. These prompts help you effectively channel your emotions, unburden your mind, and foster a sense of progress through the grieving process.

Does it work?

One of the first exercises I gave one of my recent clients was to write about her experience with the death of her employee. Her response after she finished the exercise? “I feel lighter! I hadn’t realized how much I’ve been carrying in my head!”

That freedom can be yours too!

In my personal experience, journaling is part of my morning ritual. Before anything else, I fill three 8 x 11 pages with my thoughts. (Suggested in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) Sometimes my writing is fluid, and sometimes it’s disjointed, but when three pages are complete, I feel calm and relieved to have my thoughts out of my head and onto paper. Sometimes, I return to those pages for notes and reflections; other times, I simply let them go. It's a practice that keeps my mind open, my thoughts clearer, and my approach to leadership more resilient and nicer. 😀

So, if you are navigating loss, a layoff, or any other challenging leadership moment, I urge you to try journaling. It's not about writing perfect prose; it's about releasing, reflecting, and freeing your mind.

And trust me, your mind needs freeing. Most of ours do!

Remember, you're not just leading a team—you're leading humans. They need you to lead with an open, level, and creative head. The kind that journaling can give you!

Thanks for reading this.

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