Whenever we experience a disruptive crisis, we see our world differently, realizing time is not something to take for granted and feeling ready to control the next change. In September 2021, a record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs and shined a spotlight on the growing trend now known as the Great Resignation. People are reevaluating their work and life goals – and it makes sense – after the great disruption we’ve all faced.
The Great Resignation: Side Effect of Disruption
In 1995, after my mother passed away from cancer, I felt the seismic shift which caused me to disrupt my career and pivot on purpose. I’d woken up to the fact that my current company was not aligned with my values of family, freedom and respect. During her two years of treatment, they’d not allowed me any work flexibility; however, they couldn’t deny my leave of absence at the end, because of the new Family Leave Bill.
After she died, within three months, I’d changed my career and company to align more with my values. I realized a caring and flexible culture were far more important to me than how many stock options I’d been awarded. No amount of compensation would ever be enough to compensate me for losing precious time with those I loved. In the 25 years since, I’ve never again worked for a culture that didn’t align with my core values.
When our view changes, our reality changes.
Sometimes we choose change and sometimes it chooses us. Whether you choose a transition, such as getting a promotion at work or moving locations…or it chooses you, such as the loss of a job or loved one, or an unexpected financial crisis or global pandemic, we can always find the gifts of disruption.
In my book, “Waking up on the Right Side of Wrong” (to be published inFall of 2022), I lay out a model for embracing disruptive change to find new opportunities to live more authentically and with greater possibility.
Navigating Disruptive Transitions at the C.E.O. Level
We have three ways to get disrupted, so we can unwrap the gifts of disruption. All disruption creates openings for us to interact differently with people and our environment which creates new perspectives and new outcomes for our lives.
C.E.O. Level Disruption refers to the three ways we can experience disruption: Core Strategic, Eruption, Opportunistic. When we work with all three types interdependently, we are operating with C.E.O Level Disruption Mastery. Getting to this level means we can handle disruption no matter how it occurs, whether it’s from external factors, or whether we drive it from the inside out. Here’s more detail on each of the three portals to C.E.O. Level Disruption. When you walk through these three portals of C.E.O. Level Disruption, you will be amazed at the abundance of gifts you find.
C = ‘Core Strategic’ Disruption (Inside Out)
Anything that helps us see things from a new perspective can support the core strategic disruption process, where we change how we view the world. Many of us look to books, podcasts and entertainment. When we expose ourselves to diversity and listen to others’ viewpoints, we are also tapping into important ways to disrupt and expand our thinking. For a growing number of CEO’s and senior executives, they are realizing how coaching can be a game changer to help them transform to the next level, breaking through barriers and illuminating blind spots. We weren’t taught these skills in b-school, law school or any school for that matter so professional support can help level up.
Every great leader I’ve admired says the most important skill they cultivate is listening. I’ve found listening to be an especially powerful tool for disruption as you enter into a new role, in those critical first 90 days. When we listen first, we can synthesize what we are hearing and thinking, and bring others along with us.
As we do the inner work, I think of us as transforming our carbon life forms into the brilliant diamonds we were meant to be. Diamonds erupt from volcanoes, starting out as carbon rock deep in the earth’s mantle. Through both PRESSURE and HEAT, their atoms transform structurally from the inside out. On the outside, they become the diamond which shines with brilliance; while inside, they become the strongest naturally occurring substance known to humankind. That’s the power of core strategic work!
E = ‘Eruption’ Disruption (Outside in)
The most powerful disruption is an eruption, for it creates a seismic shift to crack us open in a new way when we least expect it. When a crisis erupts, such as the global pandemic, financial crisis, loss of a loved one or your own existential crisis, we need to respond quickly even amidst continued fear and uncertainty. We catapult out of our comfort zone and realize how much we do not control. We act quickly despite our fear, which is hard to do when a crisis of this magnitude isn’t happening.
Eruptions will quickly change the fault lines in our bodies and souls. Once the shift begins, we see things differently, act differently and move beyond what we ever imagined. With everyone on the planet experiencing the global pandemic, we all have seismic shifts in some stage of play. The key is what you do to open this crack to new possibilities. The Great Resignation is a seismic shift in response to the global pandemic. We needed to quickly shift to new ways of working and living, which exposed many cracks as well as new opportunities. These eruptions are great teachers, because they force us to see things from a different perspective, since the prior view and life is obliterated.
My big wake up calls, such as my mother’s death and my late stage cancer were huge eruptions that I didn’t expect and couldn’t possibly ignore. When our health or the health of a loved one is threatened, nothing else matters. Our priorities become crystal clear. We realize what doesn’t line up in our life anymore and work hard to realign so we feel whole again.
O = ‘Opportunistic’ Disruption (Outside in)
Sometimes we find new opportunities on the horizon or they find us, such as getting recruited for a new position or relocating to a new country, or even just traveling to new places. These opportunities wake us up to new vantage points we didn’t see before. It’s as if we have been air lifted off one mountain and deposited on a completely new one.
I was talking to a rising High Potential Leader who has landed his dream job with Disney and is being faced with a fork in the road decision. His entire business unit and thousands of colleagues are being offered the option to relocate from California to Florida to build something new at the motherland, Disneyworld. While he hadn’t planned on making a home in Florida, we discussed how he can ride this wave of opportunity and learn about himself and future opportunities. No matter what, he will Win or Learn from the experience, since that’s his ingoing mindset.
Opportunistic disruption is a great way to keep learning and growing. If we’ve been skiing down one mountain over and over, we have certain pathways that are deeply grooved. Getting on a new mountain enables us to create new pathways and grooves, which make us stronger and more adept at pivoting when facing new eruptions and opportunistic disruption. It also illuminates insights that feed our Core Strategic disruption. We can learn as much from what doesn’t work as what does, when we approach with a growth mindset.
The only danger is getting too comfortable on that Opportunistic mountain and not realizing it’s not really where we’re meant to be long term, if we don’t do the Core Strategic work alongside this disruption.
Play to ‘Win or Learn’, so Losing is never an Option
Getting good at finding the gifts of disruption helps us pivot with skill and play the “Win or Learn game” no matter what happens.
Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”
As a competitive high achiever by nature, I love this idea!
When we play the ‘Win or Learn’ game, failing isn’t an option. We learn fast and keep moving forward if things don’t work out the way we originally planned. As an example, when I started my blog and newsletter a few months ago, I emailed my network of business executives with a link to opt in easily for my newsletter, excited to reconnect with tips and insights that would support them. I emailed several hundred people I knew and was shocked at the lack of response. Only 14 people originally signed up, and two of them were me and my husband!
I decided to play the “Win or Learn” game. Instead of assuming their lack of action meant they weren’t interested, I got curious and explored other tactics to make sure they got the message they were invited to join. Through texts and Linked In messages, I broke through. I went from feeling deflated on the subscriber front, to quickly getting many “Yes!” responses and adding people to my newsletter daily. As a high achiever, who coaches high achievers, I highly recommend playing the ‘Win or Learn’ game every time!
5 Proven Practices to Find More Gifts of Disruption
As an added bonus for December holiday season, I wanted to point you to last year’s blog, 5 Proven Ways to Build Resiliency Superpowers to Navigate Disruption.to support you with five mindfulness practices to grow your ability to see the many gifts from disruption. Enjoy!
Have a happy, healthy Holiday season and may it be filled with wonderful gifts. As always, let me know your feedback!
Mind your Fire,
Stephanie Klein is a keynote speaker, author, executive coach and certified teacher of the Search Inside Yourself (SIY), mindful based emotional intelligence program. She is passionate about igniting leaders’ untapped potential to propel beyond functional to optimal in a complex, changing world. In 2020, Stephanie founded Mindfire Mastery to support overstressed professionals navigating change – helping them “fire up minds” to build mental strength and resilience, so they can shift from burnout to balance, igniting greater productivity, relationships and wellbeing. She is the author of “Waking Up on the Right Side of Wrong”, to be published in 2022, about how challenging, disruptive experiences can transform our life trajectories in positive ways. To stay connected and learn more about how she can support you, contact Stephanie@mindfiremastery.com.