“I think I have to leaveeeeeeeeeeee” sniff snort loud wail
“Katie. Katie. WHAT IS WRONG?” My therapist on the other end of the phone was very concerned. Obviously.
“Dr. X do you have an appointment? I need to come see you today.”
“Katie, yes, you can come in, but just a second, what is going on?”
“I have to quit working for the Anxious Zebra website and community.” (Not its real name)
*Relieved sigh on the other end of the phone*
“Ok, good. I thought something was wrong with Joe.” (Joe is my dear husband.)
This was, maybe, five years ago?
I went through it again about 15 months ago.
I had already been through it in a BIG BIG, life-changing way 13 years ago when I switched from managing botanical gardens to the type of work I do now.
“It” is the traumatic business change.
“It” is what a gazillion people are going through right now.
It” is, in my opinion, not being talked about openly enough.
To appropriate, paraphrase, and wreck a quote from Tom Hanks’ character in A League of Their Own
“THERE’S NO CRYING IN BUSINESS.” (Only replace “business” with “baseball.”)
Um, Tom, yes there is. There is crying in business.
Please, guys, have a cry. Had a cry? Have another one.
Why? Because going through “it” (the traumatic business change) is, in fact, trauma. It will cause feelings of grief. (Or yell. Or go for a walk. Or get a business therapist. Or get a regular therapist.)
Mallary and I were talking about this on, where else, zoom, one day. “I used to do work for a nursing home (Mallary has done work for just about every kind of industry but she says she likes garden people best.) and we had to go through this training that taught us that a lot of the feelings that we have during a normal day are actually feelings of grief for one thing or another. And I think about that. A lot.” The Harvard Business Review backs her up. (My Mallary is smart.)
We’re grieving the loss of all kinds of things right now, and I think we’re trying to process that grief about other parts of life much more than we’re trying to process grief about changes in our businesses. I think there are a variety of reasons why we’re not processing business grief including, but not limited to: feeling shame that we’re not instantly picking up on new tech, feeling guilt (or, possibly, surprise) at how ingrained our work is into our senses of self, and pure survival instinct and adrenaline.
Not processing business grief is affecting how we show up for the people we want to help.
Not processing our grief is also affecting how we care for ourselves and feel about ourselves. We are expecting unrealistic outcomes in unrealistic time frames. We’re expecting ourselves to turn on a dime, to pivot, and have immediate results using completely new technology.
It’s affecting the people who help us. We’re expecting the people who help us to pivot on a dime and provide immediate, seamless results with entirely new technologies, systems of doing business, and without the personal support we would usually have from family, friends, and colleagues because WE CAN’T BREATHE ON EACH OTHER WITHOUT POTENTIALLY KILLING EACH OTHER. (Looks like I have some processing to do. Here are some thoughts about how to do that.)
Lean into your grief. Unpack it. Work through it.
Writing “lean in” makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit, but it’s the most accurate way to describe what we, ultimately, have to do in order to move forward.
I encourage being thoughtful and deliberate about processing grief because ignoring grief can lead to really destructive behaviors.
In business, those behaviors can look like:
- Lashing out on social media
- Missing deadlines
- Hastily accepting invitations and obligations that won’t, ultimately, move your business forward
- Sending an abundance of all caps emails to undeserving recipients. (Unless they’re HAPPYCAPSBYKATIE™. I tend to email in all caps when I’m happy, FYI.)
- Snapping at customers
- Giving up
Ask me how I know this.
Your business changed, but did your “Why” stay the same?
Something that has helped me move forward as I’m processing grief about changes to my businesses is to get really clear on my “why.”
“Find your why” sounds new-agey and a little woo-woo right?
There are other ways to say “why”
- Desired outcomes
What do kids say first when they learn complete sentences?
That say that because it is the simplest way to get an answer that explains the purpose of doing something.
And while we might get away with saying “Because I said so” to a three year old, doing that to ourselves in our businesses will either grind us to a halt or bury us in obligations we don’t really want or need, and that our customers don’t really want or need.
And THEN, because we’re buried, we’re tired, don’t show up with our best selves, and have the urge to throw in the towel.
Ask me how I know this.
Two years ago, I actually wrote down a mission statement for my business that I return to again and again and again. I think about it every day because the process answers a lot of questions and opportunities.
Every day I confront the urge to happily pack my bags and head off on a wild goose chase. I’m a curious person and I LIKE HELPING PEOPLE. (Those are happy caps.) Only now, because I’m a business owner with staff and lots of clients, it’s not just me I’m taking along when I set off on a trip. My teammates, clients, and friends/family go with me.
Going back to my “why” keeps me on track.
Examining your “why” might make you feel better. That’s why I’m suggesting it. Examining your “why” might let you say to yourself, “My purpose here hasn’t really changed. I’m still doing what I set out to do. What I love to do. I’m just doing it in a different way.”
There are a lot of things I miss from the before times. I miss travel and looking at something other than the view out my window. I miss conferences and networking in person. I miss hugs. I miss clicking with someone new in a way that just doesn’t happen over zoom.
However, I’m really very lucky that my business didn’t change all that much with the onset of COVID.
Why? Because, if you remember the story I started with, I already went through some really traumatic business changes, eventually landing in my current iteration, which is extremely well suited to COVID times, and meets my “why.”
Which is, if you’re curious, “Providing tech help and business support for businesses and individuals stewarding the earth and helping others steward the earth.”
I (and my team) help people who help people garden.
It’s not too far off from my original “why,” which was to ensure the existence of public gardens and to teach people who visited public gardens.
How to Find Your Why
This is already a really long email, so here’s what I suggest. I’m not a coach. I’m not a therapist. I’ve just had to do this a lot.
1. Do I want to be doing the same thing tomorrow that I’m doing today? Do I want to be doing the same thing in five years that I’m doing tomorrow?
2. Doing XXXXX makes me feel like I’ve had a good day at work.
3. If someone described what I do to someone else, what would they say?
4. How do I want to or want my business to contribute to the world? What’s at the core of how I make a difference?
The next step in dealing with this new business world is planning your tech jumps. I’m living through the absolute hell of not doing that for one arm of my business and I’d dearly love to help remove the fear of tech jumps from your business life and help you avoid the situation I found myself in.
I’ll be back in your box in a couple of weeks with info about how to do that.
If I had my druthers I wouldn’t absolutely live on zoom. (Seriously, I spend, like, 10 hours a day nonstop on it at least two days a week). Here are three tips that might save your life.
- Save your recorded zoom meetings not on zoom storage. (That’s expensive.) Save on your GDrive storage by using a connector such as splain.io. When you set it up, the service will automatically upload your recordings to your GDrive, and GDrive storage is really cheap.
2. If you’re using MailChimp to send emails with zoom links, turn off the UTM tracking for those emails. If you don’t, Zoom will break all of the links in your email.
(Ask me how I know this.)
3. When you share a screen, you can just share an application window. If you’re primarily showing someone something on the web, just share that web browser window with what you’re showing. That allows you to look up other information for the person on the other end without showing them ALL of your emails or ALL of your client folders, etc.
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go!
Have a great rest of your week!