Vacant but still occupied

‘I’m the fifth manager in 3 years time, they call it the team from hell. No one wants to manage them.’
‘And now you’re stuck with them?’ ‘Yes, I mean no, I asked to be their manager, I know there are some really skilled people in the team and we are losing them. I want to make this team perform as they used to, rebuild the connections and trust. But I don’t know where to begin. That’s why you are here.’
We dive into the history of the team, 5 managers in three years time can be blamed on the people in a team, but it should be seen as a message, as a blaring red alert sign with an exclamation mark.
We look at the timeline of the team, when was the team created, who joined when and who left when, who led the team at which time.
He looks at the rough sketch of the timeline and the scribbled names he made on his notepad and asks me if I brought the ‘little dollies’, the figures I used for a table constellation during his previous personal coaching sessions.
He picks 7 figures and places them on the table. After a slight hesitation and a whispered ‘Sorry, man’ he puts one of the figures on its side.
‘What does that mean?’ He asks me. ‘I think you know better than me what that means, what happened to that manager?’
‘He passed away very unexpectedly, from a heart attack, just when we were in the first lockdown and all working from home. The team was devastated, he was a briliant leader and person, he is still missed throughout the company…’
No wonder all the leaders that came after him left so quickly, they did not stand a chance, the place of leadership was ‘occupied’. The team is still intricately connected with this leader, they did not get the chance to say goodbye, and in their hearts and minds he is still their leader, leaving no room for anyone new.
‘So what do I do now?’
‘You gather your team and give them time to connect, give them the opportunity for a ritual of closure, freeing up the place of leadership.

Just as trauma can leave mental and physical scars on a person, trauma in organisations can cause scars on teams and employees. Organisational trauma can be found in people leaving the organisation, involuntary jobloss, reorganisations, financial issues, employees passing away or long term illnesses.
When not recognized and given the proper attention these trauma’s can start to fester, disrupting work, employees and teams.

Curious what you can do? Reach out to me and we’ll explore together.


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