Tickets for The Ride of Our Careers!

While we never cease evolving, innovating, or responding to the environment we are in, knowing that we are living through a rather thrilling time of abundance[2], as Peter Diamandis has labelled it, can help us to decide what lens we are going to look through. We have been through a lot the last fifteen months, and yet we are now at a point where as leaders, we need to make a decision. As much as we may long for 2019 and before, most people will now concede, we are not “going back” to a former way of living. We are designing how to go forward in this stunning moment of transformation – when more variables are at play, at the same time, than we have ever experienced as leaders in the span of a lifetime. The decision point – are we going to look at this as a moment of opportunity and redesign boldly for the times, or are we going to freeze in continuous mourning, taking incremental steps as our strategic approach?

Most people take a while to adjust to a single change. In the circumstances we are living through, we are having to adapt to shifts personally and professionally, all at the same time. It’s not the normal experience of authoring a strategic plan and then executing in a “make the dominoes fall” sequential format. It’s not an all-hands-on deck approach when one person within a team or a family is having a personal crisis, which we step into and fill for a time, and then all return to engaging as before. This is all of us recognizing that the shifting sands are underneath all of our feet at the same time, personally & professionally. Most people prefer certainty. There is no sign of that on the horizon.

We are also engaged in multiple sensitive and delicate conversations in the midst of these transitions. Mature conversations require several important elements. Mutual respect. A willingness to listen first. Recognition that our lens is not necessarily the lens of everyone else. Space to allow multiple viewpoints to be present and heard without attacking. Taking the time to design the conversation prior to engaging in it – thinking about the outcome you want to achieve and whether to engage one person at a time or a larger group. Remaining in a state of inquiry as much as possible. Realizing that we don’t have to win or be right every time. Acknowledging differences can co-exist – they have for millennia – how we handle them and negotiate between them is critical.

We have conversations for different reasons – to understand, to learn, to negotiate, to inform, to persuade, and to encourage others to action. The key is to engage from the intellect. We can acknowledge emotions but speaking and acting from them rarely takes us into productive problem-solving or true understanding before we seek closure. If we’re labeling, we’re not listening. Emoting and labeling are less likely to elevate results and usually occur when we feel unseen, unheard, disregarded, or fearful. Every conversation we engage in during this extraordinary time has the opportunity to elevate individuals, issues, and impacts. The effort to do this well as leaders is essential.

So what does that mean for us as we try to lead through this ride of our careers? For some, they are actively choosing to postpone career aspirations; uninterested in stepping into the fray, interpreting interactions as alienating and unwelcoming, disturbed by the manner in which conversations are being had, feeling ill-equipped, and concerned about being a casualty of poorly developed dynamics and immature leaders. For others, it is creating great motivation to launch into this transformational time. They feel built for this moment and are open to challenge themselves, develop a set of leadership skills they didn’t realize were going to be essential, and desire to encourage their colleagues, boards, staffs and members to become more than they ever dreamed for a different time. The difference is how individuals and groups of leaders process risk-taking personally, professionally, and organizationally.

For boards, some are staying slightly paralyzed, trying to make incremental decisions, instead of educating themselves at a much deeper and broader level that will be required to create valued, relevant organizations for the future. Others have maintained high performance governance structures with well-defined roles with their CEOs and are taking on a complete redesign – not just of programs, governance or financial models – but are fundamentally going back to the why questions; committing to deep understanding of what is happening in the environment, how they must fit into that eco-system differently, and are refusing to be bound by former definitions of who they were or what success looked like. There is bravery in the discovery of these organizations and a willingness to look at everything from narrowing value for greater impact to examining what it means to be a member to exploring how governing bodies’ diversity, or lack thereof, is playing a key role now and in the future to recognizing that their CEOs need the complete latitude to reconfigure the team that will partner with them strategically in the future – with potentially very different skill sets and operational structures from the past.

This is an era that is compelling, as we move into a time that calls for humanity to solve its greatest problems from the inside out, to organize in ways that recommit to the co-existence of the common good and the freedom of the individual, and has more resources, capacity, and opportunity to produce extraordinary results through the power of associations and our impact on society. We have the talent and the opportunity in our community. Let’s use those tickets together and go on the ride of our careers! The world is counting on us.

[1] Millenials, GenZ, & the coming youth boom economy. January 25, 2019.

[2] Peter Diamandis. Abundance.

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