Loss is an inevitable part of life, and it can take many forms, including business-related losses. Losing a good employee or friend unexpectedly, experiencing a departmental restructuring that undermines your confidence and security, being retrenched, or failing at a business or project are all examples of real losses that can be emotionally challenging.
So why is loss so hard to bear? I believe that our expectations create a false sense of security and comfort that is shattered when something unexpected happens. We have an image of the future that we have built, and when that future is no longer what we expected, we feel like we have lost a part of ourselves, a part we were relying on.
Sometimes, we choose to make a decision that will lead to a loss, such as renegotiating a contract with a key client, changing product range, focusing on different client segments, restructuring, or implementing price changes. These decisions are risky and expose us to potential loss. However, most big decisions and choices that take businesses to the next level require the courage to make a decision that will lead to loss.
When we experience recurring resentment, fear, anger, and/or resignation about a situation, we know that difficult decisions need to be made. These emotions are the early warning system that something needs to change. Our resistance to making the decision shows us how important the decision is.
So how do we make these decisions despite the potential loss? At RainTree, we suggest a two-step process.
Step 1: Answer these three key questions to clarify the impact of the decision:
These integrity-based questions support decision makers in realigning with the “why” behind the decision. They allow the leader to connect with the business, the people impacted, and their own values and principles. Exploring these three questions often dictates the decision that needs to be made. They also guide the “how” the decision must be communicated. How it is communicated and acted upon must support the business, relationships, and the leader. When this comes from a place of integrity and honours all three impacted areas, the loss is still experienced, but the leader is able to be at peace with the fact that they have done their best to handle the loss in the most constructive way possible.
Step 2: Evaluate the risk vs. opportunity:
Once you have clarified the impact of the decision, it is important to evaluate the risk versus the opportunity. The second step assists you to consider the anticipated outcome of the decision so you can evaluate whether the opportunity is worth the risk.
Take time to visualize the potential positive outcome in 3, 6, or 12 months. Imagine the difficulty of change has been resolved and evaluate the “new” reality. Have you found a new “part” of yourself that you and the business can rely on? Have you found a healthy way to accept the loss and step into the new? Have you considered the good and bad aspects of the decision, as no decision is “perfect”? All decisions will have positive and negative consequences.
Loss comes before rebirth. It is a part of the natural process for us to have to let go of what does not work any longer to make space for the new that will work. Leaders cannot avoid the loss that comes from big and difficult decisions, but we can take responsibility for handling them with integrity and supporting the business to use the loss as the first step towards improvement, reinvention, and new beginnings. When leaders are confident that they have made the best decision in the best way possible, they can act on the decision and work through the challenges it brings. This allows us to open the door and focus on the new opportunities. It welcomes the fresh starts, allows the healing to begin and the new to be born.