United through Emotion

As the news of Queen Elizabeth’s death reached my shores, I instantly felt united in a collective outpouring of emotion. Yet, although the death of the Queen has been one of the most planned-for events in our history, the one thing that can’t be planned for is how we feel when we experience a loss.

I remember a workshop I gave several years ago where a NxtGen family member asked the group if there was a course he could take to learn about grief. He had never experienced death and therefore wanted to learn. Much to his surprise, I told him that unfortunately there was no such course. Whilst his desire to educate himself was admirable – loss, grief or suffering of any sort cannot be theorised only felt. Emotions simply cannot be neatly packaged into an exam. They are messy little things that can show up at any time – and believe me they can be pretty persistent.

A lack of emotional expression in family businesses is something that I have become all too familiar with in my work. Deemed to be a sign of weakness or of ill importance to the success of a business, I have found the opposite to be true. In my private practice of more than two decades with some of the world’s most successful and ‘wealthiest’ families, I witnessed the dire consequences emotional restraint had on the family and business.

People…aka human beings are the lifeblood of every business, every family and every human. We all experience emotions regardless of status, wealth or privilege – the royal family are no different to you or I in this regard.

It has been Prince Harry who has perhaps been the most vocal in sharing his feelings and emotions and although his openness has divided opinion, he has shown a vulnerability that most of us can relate to. It was Harry’s disclosure of the turmoil he went through following the death of his mother, Diana, Princes of Wales that for me demonstrated the danger of suppressed or ignored emotions.

Emotions and feelings are always present, and even if they don’t always show themselves immediately, they somehow always find a way to sneak up on you. I spent years restraining my own and without the necessary tools to release them, I sought refuge in a catalogue of toxic behaviours. As I now tell my clients in my private practice or audiences I speak to at conferences, feelings are the one thing you need to invest in more, not less. Unprocessed emotions get in the way of successful business transitions from one generation to the next, and as I have witnessed first-hand – can cause both businesses and families to collapse. Emotions and feelings are inevitable, but instead of abandoning them we must embrace them, learn from them and live harmoniously with them.

With feelings bubbling at the surface, families can all too often fall out when there’s a bereavement or loss. I have though also found it to be a time for unity and an opportunity to set aside differences. For the Royal Family they have the added difficulties of playing this all out in front of the cameras and world’s media. I hope that just like any family, they find a way to come together and support each other in what will surely be an emotional few days and months ahead.

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