Step Back and Grow

Earlier this week, during my daily LinkedIn Live, Simon Fogg and Michael Harrington asked me this question:

“Have you learned anything during this unique time that you may carry over into your “normal” life?”

It’s a great question.

One I’d pose to myself, and to you as well. It seems easy enough to answer.

Except: do we learn anything when we are in a crisis?

Earlier this week my colleague David Peterson, head of Coaching at Google, explained that when we are afraid, we shift into performance mode (competitive risk) rather than the more profitable learning mode (market risk).

Are we learning anything in our abnormal new normal?

I suspect for all of us there are moments when we are not. Maybe we’re wondering if we will have a job in a month, food on the table next week, even the more existential question—will I be alive in six months?

Fear is a powerful distraction from learning.

As humans we are eminently capable of not allowing fear to hijack our brain but to stay aware, or what my friend Lisa Poulson said, to wonder at what is happening. And what will happen. So, while this is a bit more introspective than my typical newsletters—here is my effort to do that.

First, I am learning that purpose trumps perfectionism. I am a recovering perfectionist, which means I tend to over-script things. I want things planned out…perfectly. For years, my colleagues Macy Robison and Amy Humble have encouraged me to do more unscripted video. I’ve resisted. Too uncomfortable. But when things began unraveling, I thought about what I could do, what I needed to do. I’m confident that every one of you reading this has felt like there are a few things you need to be doing. A way that you could uniquely contribute like we learned from Tom Rath. I know that the best way for us to manage through this is to disrupt ourselves and play to our distinctive strengths. I know that apart from the physical game of chicken being played with the coronavirus, there’s a MUCH bigger head game playing out. Does fear hijack us—with all the dire implications—or does hope?

But how could I communicate that? For me, LinkedIn Live was the answer. But you will see, if you tune in between now and March 31st when it wraps up that I flub up a lot. One day I could not get my words out. Another day, I played the piano. I talked about what I believe, my faith—I brought my whole self—a few people unfollowed me. Another day only a few people showed up. It didn’t matter. Ok. It did a little. Alas, perfect it is not, but it doesn’t matter a lot because my purpose is to help other people manage through disruption. Purpose trumped perfection.

Second, I’m re-learning that we all need to step up our negotiation game, or what I like to think of as our agreement game. We are going to feel scarcity for the next few months, less to go around. In some situations, we will need to get creative to find a win. In others we will need to extend grace and empathy so that someone else doesn’t lose.

Third, everyone is on a new S Curve of Learning. EVERYONEAnd we were pushed; none of us jumped by choice. Typically, there’s some preparation and people to provide needed support. But no one is in the sweet spot or at the high end of this crazy curve. So, offer the encouragement you want to receive. Give each other shout-outs, and not just for big stuff. Our tendency could be to hoard praise, like we would TP or mac n cheese. But praise is not zero sum. The more we encourage, the more encouraged we are, the more courage we will have to be encouraging.

Fourth, whatever your hobbies or talents are, it’s time to revisit them. Whatever it is, do it. Mine is piano. Because I’m not traveling, I am playing the piano and I’m enjoying it. It soothes me and makes me happy. I might even put in enough time to improve.

We disrupt ourselves in order to grow. And we can be unexpectedly disrupted with the same result. Growth.

The temporary step back can be a slingshot forward.

We have two podcasts this week: tomorrow, we’ll be airing our conversation with neuroscientist Tara Swart. We’re discussing the mind and the science behind some of the powerful tools to change and rewire our behavior from her new book titled The Source. And if you missed it – since so many of you don’t have a daily commute to keep up on your podcast queue – we spoke to Cali Yost, an expert on remote work, with timely, pertinent advice. Join us!

My best,


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