I have been observing with interest how Network 10 has navigated the shock death of Jock Zonfrillo. Managing what needed to happen practically, combined with the raw reactions, not only from those closest to Jock, his colleagues but also the community at large, is no easy task -. especially with a public figure.
They acted quickly, ensured that his family was on their way back to Australia, took over social media, cancelled media , and had bases covered with statements etc before any announcement was made. This is leadership in tragic circumstances, where emotions run deep. And there would be so much more happening behind the scenes. Delaying the MasterChef launch until they could gather their thoughts, consult with the family, and consider all options moving forward was a wise decision.
One notable observation was how the other MasterChef judges were protected from interviews under such devastating circumstances, showing empathy and support towards them. It appears to have been managed with care, and Andy Allen’s interview during the tribute to Jock was handled with sensitivity.
It was heart-warming to see his friends and colleagues share their feelings and emotions without it being too sensationalized. They sat with their emotions, expressed openly, and celebrated his gifts – all can be present together on the roller coaster ride of coming to terms with loss. This connection, sharing and story telling is really important, it normally doesn’t get shared on TV.
As they aired the first episode, they started and ended with statements acknowledging Jock. Plus, on a side note but adding to the realities of life, 10 minutes into the episode, the topic of breaking the stigma of mental health was raised with the return of a contestant who had left the MasterChef kitchen in a previous season due to impact on his mental health. I remember that they handled that well with the opportunity to raise awareness and not shy away from the reality.
People will have various opinions on whether or not they should have aired this season as there is also the business/commercial side of things alongside the loss.
What this highlights is the importance of leadership in crisis situations in workplaces. It is a reminder that there are humans at the centre of tragedy, and supporting your people is crucial. Any workplace that has had an experience like this knows it can trigger other losses, it needs to be addressed sensitively, staff will need support in various ways (some not at all), and the family’s wishes are also a significant factor.
One thing I know for sure is that handling tragedy can be hard. Life experiences can feel awkward to address, and it’s tough to navigate highly emotional times and it requires support. It is heartbreaking to manage, and I would love to hear from HR professionals about their insights into the systems and processes that have helped them lead their teams through difficult times.