As well as being an extraordinary athlete, Alfredo Quintana was a very special person, praised by all those who knew him personally and professionally. Everywhere we have found sincere reactions of mourning for his loss, but his colleagues in the teams where he played [FCP and the National Team] are now facing a much more overwhelming challenge.
Facing bereavement or loss in a team is always difficult. Colleagues develop deep bonds, and these bonds are very visible in the best teams we find [both in sport and in organizations].
As leaders we are often unprepared. This is one of those issues… something we wouldn’t want to face, but which is inevitable during our professional careers. Here are a few tips to help teams through these times:
COMMUNICATE A LOT
When it happens, employees will look to you for support, reassurance and guidance. Whether it’s tragic or the result of an organizational change, there will be a need to “talk about it”. As a leader, be willing to talk [in person or remotely] and explain in detail what is happening and what will happen in the future. This will be the digital equivalent of an “open door” policy.
It’s important to signal that we understand the team’s loss and that we’re there to help them through it. Giving space to get through the moment, but also recognizing that work can provide a welcome sense of stability and continuity, without letting it be an escape or means of denial.
UNDERSTAND THE CHANGE IN BEHAVIOR
Employees may behave “out of their natural way” while dealing with the loss. As a leader, it’s important to be supportive and non-judgmental, giving time and space but ensuring that commitment to the organization and colleagues cannot be affected.
The team will always need to adjust. Make yourself available to support, helping with the execution or delegation of tasks to other employees or teams, providing extra administrative support and relaxing schedules whenever possible. Occasional mentoring outside the work cycle can also be valuable. It shows team members that you are aware of what they are going through, allowing you to find moments to reconnect and reinforce a sense of belonging, integrating change as the new reality. We know that there are no irreplaceable people, but there is talent that we would never want to lose, especially talent like Quintana and many other equally brilliant anonymous people.