How to Help Your Team Recover When You Lose a Member

Unfortunately, in the military we deal with this problem on a daily basis. Soldiers are on details, at schools, or on leave and we need to continue to do our jobs as an organization. We train individuals to perform tasks at a level higher than their own for just these examples. When we inject training into the equation, it is often a goal to injure or ‘kill off’ a leader, to see what the team will do without their direct guidance and oversight. This can be a helpful tool to identify developmental gaps in an organization.

But what about when it happens for real? The military is a dangerous profession, and leaders often put themselves in dangerous situations to lead their subordinates. When loss occurs, it can have a devastating affect not only on the capabilities of the team, but also on the individuals left behind. By putting the right steps into place before this occurs, you can help your organization continue to perform, as well as aid in the individual recovery to loss. In the business environment we call this “business continuity planning.”

When tragedy occurs, the first two emotions are anger and grief. These two are so intertwined with each other that it is difficult to separate them clearly. When this occurs, bring the group together. Remove them from the stress of the day to day job and allow them an opportunity to focus on how they feel and what they are feeling.

Talk to them. The thoughts that are going through their heads can create their own stress. Inform them about the next steps that will be performed, timelines that can be expected, and then let them ask questions. Getting concerns off of their chests can help them to decompress and relax their emotions.

Obstacle CourseProvide them with outlets. We often utilize the chaplain in the military, but look at what outlets are available in your organization. It can be a person, an event, or even an activity. After a loss in my last organization, we organized a team building day which required people to work together to solve complex problems. The solution required everyone’s assistance and was both physically challenging as well as provided an opportunity to release steam together. It was a great bonding experience and helped us to move forward.

Take an honest look at what occurred and see if there is anything that can be done in the future to avoid it. Sometimes the reality is that accidents happen. Perhaps risk can be better mitigated, but it can never be completely removed. See if something could be changed to help prevent this from occurring again. The best way to do this is to seek feedback from the team. They will generally be very open about what they saw and did leading up to the event.

Honor them. When we say goodbye to someone who was a part of an organization, it is important that we honor them for their contributions, who they were, and how they impacted the lives of the people around them. By this phase, the grief and the anger are able to be separated so that people can release their emotions.

As leaders we have many responsibilities. Training our subordinates to perform their jobs and make decisions in the absence of orders, creating continuity books and processes to enable them to do our jobs if we are not present, and helping each other to move forward in the face of loss are just a few of them. Whether in the military or in an office environment, a team is only as strong as its individuals. By putting the right systems in place we can help to ensure that those individuals will be able to respond to any situation and successfully move forward even in the face of loss.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.
Kyle Soler

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