In this Thanksgiving season, have you ever thought of “giving thanks for change”?
Whether in our professional or personal lives, or big or small, it’s easy to see how we should be grateful for positive changes, and changes that are our choice – new jobs, new homes, new relationships.
But what about changes that are negative? Or unwanted and undeserved? Losing a job, going bankrupt, or getting divorced?
Six years ago I went through one of the darkest periods in my life. Traumas from business upheaval to damaged close relationships to family health issues hit me all at once. It was during that time that I came up with my first book idea, entitled Screwed to Renewed (yes, you read that right!) – not my typical way of phrasing things, but, very reflective of my mindset at that point in my journey.
Whenever I mentioned the book, people really resonated with the title. It was during 2007, when so many people were feeling “screwed” by the economy and all the resulting pressures. I realized I had a struck a nerve, and made an instant connection.
In retrospect, what hooked people on the title came down to two things: First, the bonding that occurs when people realize they have an experience in common, and when it comes to getting/feeling screwed, we’ve all “been there, done that.” We’ve all felt victimized by other people, or by circumstance in general. Life can be unfair, and bad things happen to good people.
Second, I believe people gravitated to not just the “misery loves company” aspect, but moreover to the message of hope – “renewal.” Drafting the book (which never got past draft form) was a cathartic experience for me, as I worked through my painful emotions and sense of betrayal and disappointment. Importantly, I took a long, hard, deep look at my contributions to my situation, and how I could make better choices in the future.
Not only that, but I found gifts hidden in the negative changes. Granted, they were very well hidden and took a long time and a lot of soul-searching to find, but they were there!
In fact, if it weren’t for those negative changes, I would never have invented CQ. What is Change Intelligence all about? Helping us become more competent and confident in leading change – and not only for others, but starting with ourselves. I had to learn how to lead myself through change – both positive and negative – as I had while partnering with clients for decades! I had to learn to not only “drink my own champagne” when life was a party – but also to “eat my own dog food” when it wasn’t!
This is the “age of the agile leader.” We need the resilience to overcome adversity, the ability to pivot away from failure toward a more promising future. And to be a learning leader, who integrates all experience – the good and bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the chosen and the imposed – and to use that learning to build muscle for the future. Also, we need to lead others with ever-increasing empathy and compassion (which, incidentally, means “to suffer with” from its Latin roots).
Here’s an old story to contemplate:
A boy from a wealthy family receives a pony for his birthday. The townspeople say, “what a lucky boy.” The Buddhist monk says, “we’ll see.”
The boy suffers a crippling injury while riding the horse. The townspeople say, “what an unlucky boy.” The Buddhist monk says, “we’ll see.”
An invading army attacks the town and conscripts all the men and boys to fight with them, but the boy is not chosen because of his handicap. The townspeople say, “what a lucky boy.”
You get the message.
As tortured Hamlet observed, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” At times, each of us can feel like we’re in a hellacious situation, trapped, confused, scared, frustrated, and these reactions can be particularly acute in times of change. Yet, at the same time, most of us can relate to how we have grown exponentially during our most challenging times. We find hidden capacity within ourselves, untapped reserves of strength. New, amazing people come into our lives. New doors open that we would have passed by otherwise. Whether it’s at home or at work, change can be a springboard for professional development.
That’s why I encourage you during this Thanksgiving season to “give thanks for change.” You can start by asking yourself:
What changes have I been through that seemed negative at first, but turned out much better than I expected? Situations when were my fears not realized, but instead I emerged stronger and better than before?
What changes am I facing now that are causing me stress? Even if the change itself is out of my control, what are three specific actions I can take to help me and my team cope with it more proactively, to take charge of what we can, to influence the direction or outcome?
How can I use the possibility presented by current change challenges to emerge as an even more impactful leader? How can I use my skills at connection and communication to coach people to see unrecognized opportunities? To perceive change as an opportunity versus a threat? To share stories about taking response-ability to respond with resilience and agility?
As Price Pritchett affirms, “change always comes bearing gifts.” Sometimes those gifts are buried deep or concealed in dark corners. But always, every time, those gifts are there for us to find, and treasure, and share.