Welcome to episode 40 of The Executive Edge. This week’s guests is Karen Chaston.


Karen has had an interesting life, spending time becoming a trained Accountant and senior CFO in a large corporate in Australia. Her life took a different turn though when she lost her son ten years ago. His unexpected death at 27 triggered a change but one she didn’t accept and act on until 15 months later. Her experience of similar and rapid change in her business, had the effect of pulling her up. This helped her realise how much she hadn’t dealt with.

It also highlighted to her how each of us handles our own challenges differently. We often do this badly. Many of us retreat in to ourselves, or from others. This is to avoid the management of such cataclysmic experiences.

Why does this matter do you think?

I feel we’re all equipped to learn from circumstances as we go, but how many of us are faced with something that huge in our lives? Instead, we might find ourselves opposite an employee, peer, friend or even family member struggling to offer words of support. It can feel difficult if you’ve never experienced something tragic yourself.

This has a two-fold impact

Firstly, Karen feels this disconnects us from our emotions and teaches us to ‘carry on regardless’, something that might make sense at the time but isn’t very healthy. Our experiences in the workplace can exacerbate this because we’re met with kind hearted but short-lived sympathy or worse! Many of us therefore feel the need to ‘pick up’ and get on with it.

Secondly, it became clear that part of Karen’s message is to encourage people to understand emotions better, the role they play, and that handling life’s adversity is part of living. Living your life in a meaningful way isn’t just about managing the negative experiences, although that’s beneficial, but also about identifying what brings you joy.

Aiming to feel happy so that the little things are enjoyable, is important. That, and taking time to connect with others. These are precious, especially to the people we love and who love us.

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