This article has been taken directly from the Korn Ferry library.
It resonated with me so I thought I’d share it. The original
article can be found on the Korn Ferry website.
The pandemic’s perpetual uncertainty shows how leaders must be comfortable acting even when so much is out of their control, says Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison. Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of Leadership U: Accelerating Through the Crisis Curve.
So if you're tired of the same old story
Oh, turn some pages
I'll be here when you are ready
To roll with the changes
The pilot’s announcement was the last thing any of us wanted to hear. “Sorry, folks. We’re not going anywhere.”
It was many years ago, and I was en-route to Madrid for a series of important meetings, with a connection in London’s Heathrow Airport. Along the way, however, the flight was diverted because of a snowstorm, and we had to land in Shannon, Ireland.
Not only were we in the wrong place, but the crew had exceeded their legal flying time, so we’d be stuck there for 14 hours. When I looked out the window, I saw no other planes at the gates. I had to do something.
I grabbed my carry-on (I never check luggage—for this very reason), deboarded the plane, and rented a car. Driving 120 kilometers along country roads in the rain, I made it from Shannon to the city of Cork where I got the only available seat on a regional airline. Last row, in the middle—but I didn’t care.
I landed at Heathrow around midnight, stayed at an airport hotel, and got up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the flight to Madrid. But I made it on time. Moral of the story: We can’t control the weather, but we can—and must—adjust our sails.
We’re all on an airplane these days—up in the air, and not sure of where or when we’re going to land. When ambiguity is imposed on us, agility is our response. Combined, it’s ambigility — and that’s what will get us through.
We’re in a constant state of flux—think about it. Masked, unmasked. Fully vaccinated, maybe a booster. Back to the office, maybe not yet (or ever). Virus variants—Delta, Lambda, [fill in the next one]. Extreme weather. Global unrest…. Even when we feel things are looking up, we’re always looking over our shoulders for the next down.
This push-pull, if-then world is like a Monte Carlo simulation running in real time. We’re trying to anticipate what lies ahead by plugging in all we think we know about today’s reality. But the more we’re all immersed in ambiguity, the less information we have. And that’s the conundrum.
For leaders, this is not surrender. It’s all about finding serenity—what can we change, what must we accept.
The good news is we’re not where we were. We’ve built new muscles, perhaps without even realizing it. We’ve become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Today, however, it feels like we’re all at the crossroads where the world’s ambiguity is testing our agility. And our response can be nothing short of ambigility. We’re learning what to do when we don’t know what to do amid circumstances and challenges we’ve never seen before.
We’re in a state of transition—and maybe always will be. As Bryan Ackermann, managing partner of our firm’s Global Leadership and Professional Development practice, told me this week: “In the beginning, we all just wanted to get through the pandemic. Now, we realize we are living in it. We can’t be in such a race to get back to the familiar that we fail to see things as they really are.”
We can’t control it. We have to roll with it. Here are some thoughts:
Rolling with it.
No one is going to pull the sword out of the stone for us. We need the grit and grace to do it for ourselves. But hubris and heroics, alone, won’t do the job. As paradoxical as it may sound, the only way to develop ambigility is by acknowledging what we can’t do by ourselves. As Evelyn Orr, chief operating officer of the Korn Ferry Institute, told me this week. “In this environment, it’s no longer about believing that ‘I alone can make things happen.’ It’s acknowledging that we’re all part of an ecosystem that we can influence, but not change by sheer force of will.” Knowledge is what we know, but it takes ambigility to acknowledge what we don’t know—and can’t control.
Not if/then—more than.
“Ambi” derives from Latin, meaning both. So, ambiguity really means things could possibly move in two (or more) directions. Same thing with ambivalence. It doesn’t mean we don’t care—we just feel equally strong in both directions. That’s why we need ambigility—so we can make it all work. Just like the batter who can hit from both sides of the plate, we become ambidextrous. As our firm defines it, ambidexterity is where strength meets flexibility—for example, performing today and transforming for tomorrow. As a chief medical officer told me just the other day, “We can have both ends of a spectrum and balance the needs accordingly. That changes how we perceive challenges today as not just problems to fix, but poles to leverage.” After all, in life and leadership, few things are either/or, if/then. They’re more than.
Where anticipate bumps into navigate.
This L.A. story happened on a Saturday morning—just a week ago. Traffic was crawling, bumper to bumper, down the 405. Gripping the steering wheel, I made eye contact with the driver in the next lane—both of us exasperated. I had anticipated that the freeways would be clearer on a weekend. Instead, I was navigating a traffic snarl for two long hours to reach downtown L.A. No accidents, no construction, no reason why. Flash forward two days to Monday. I had a meeting in downtown L.A., at almost the exact location as Saturday’s destination. With schools back in session and people returning to offices and businesses, I anticipated crowded freeways—so I left more than two hours ahead of time. But this time, it was blue sky and completely open lanes—and I reached downtown in a mere 45 minutes.
Same location, two different days, two completely different outcomes. Quick on a rush hour day, slow on a leisure day. These days, it’s as if anticipation and navigation have become “frenemies”—interconnected but often clashing.
Within that tension, we must constantly anticipate what lies ahead and in all directions and continuously navigate in the moment.
And it starts with the paradoxical reality of today.
“In a perfect world....”
How many times have we heard those words? What comes next is almost always a commentary of how things should be. But there is no perfect world—and futilely looking for one only makes everything else seem far worse by comparison. This reminds us of the wise words of President Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” We need to stop looking for some mythical “perfect” solution and focus instead on what will work for us right now.
Not a year from now, not six months, maybe not even next month. Today. That’s the world we live in. Granted, ambiguousness is no one’s favorite state of being—we much prefer clarity. But there’s no avoiding the fact that today’s new world and the workscape in which we operate are still largely gray and unknown—and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
We make our path as we walk it along a road that is anything but linear. It twists and turns—sometimes rushing us forward, other times slowing us to a crawl, or even diverting us to places unknown. We can’t change it, so we might as well go with it.
Indeed, with ambigility, it won’t matter where the path goes—only how we respond.
Everything in life happens for a reason and whatever it is, it leads you
to your next lesson.
We can accept shit happens and learn to understand that these events
happen to teach us something, help us grow and encourage us to
view things differently and change, embrace challenges and use it as a
driver to make changes for the better.
We can accept what’s happening around us or stick our heads in the ground and try to ignore what’s going on.
When something happens, it’s normally because something isn’t right. Whether that be you getting sick because you’re not taking care of yourself (self-care), gain weight because you’re not eating healthy, you’re in debt because you overspend on trivial things and regret it later, you’re unhappy at home, work, school because you’re trying to control things outside of your control, and sometimes, things just happen.
When things happen do you view it with a lens of “it happened to me” or “it happened for me”?
Changing your view by just a little and look at events as life lessons that are happening to teach you something about yourself (or others) is a good way to look for opportunities and lessons in challenging situations.
Think about a ‘bad’ situation you’ve had in your past – what happened, what did you learn, how do you do things differently now because of that experience?
We can’t control external factors, but we can control how we respond
There are things that we just can’t control and we need to accept that.
We can’t decide when a new baby
is going to be born, accidents,
Covid-19, redundancies at work,
When things happen instead
of complaining and focussing on
the negative of the situation, or falling apart and being a victim, you can focus on what you CAN control in that situation.
We can always control our response to anything and by acknowledging and doing so, we take back power for ourselves and our actions. This activates parts of our brain that will help us see opportunities instead of problems.
By becoming a victim, you are surrendering to the event and can fall into a phase where you can be easily influenced by focussing on the negative.
This can lead to unhealthy habits forming, eating unhealthy food and justifying it as “comfort food”, drinking too much, doing drugs or other things to try and remove yourself from the perceived problem.
However, when you realise that there are things you can control, your focus changes.
You can control you!
Use this as a platform to look for opportunities. Where there is good, there is bad, where there is light, there is dark, it’s what you focus on that matters.
You can’t have a rainbow without the rain.
So next time you’re caught in a metaphorical rain storm, look for shelter, grab your umbrella (those tings that you know make you happy), learn new ways of doing and ask for help if you need it. Then when the rain has past, you can enjoy the colours of the rainbow.
We see things through our own life experience
Do you only see the first thing in situations, or do you look further, to see differences, to embrace a different view?
When you see this image – what do you see FIRST?
Did you look at this picture and take the first image you saw and move on? Or did you look further to look for other things?
And now, when you keep looking at it, search for different things to see – and what else do you notice?
How much more intricate is this image than you first thought?
Life is like that. If you limit your view to the first reaction to a situation, you could
be missing out on the beauty that is hidden within, the opportunities and
lessons that await you.
You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. ~Brian Tracy~
Change is not easy, and you don’t have to do it alone. If there are times when
you are struggling, reach out and ask for help. Family, friends and community
groups are there to help.
You are stronger than you think
There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience – and
that is not learning from experience. ~Archibald MacLeish~
When we experience challenges we have an initial reaction, which is our
normal state of response. However, when we are aware that we have a
normal response, we can catch, cancel and correct our response.
Once we learn something new, we can not unlearn it. So, learning how to
catch, cancel and correct to put ourselves in a more positive state is a great tool
We become stronger because of our challenges and we build new skills to
cope with future events. The strengths you have know have been built over time. The things you can deal with now and cope easily, you wouldn’t have been able
to do say, 5 years ago. We learn each and every day, and sometimes we don’t
realise we are even learning.
You are stronger and more resilient today than you were last year and you have different ways of responding to events. The strength you have built over the years is one of your most valuable assets. And as we learn, we get better and then that skill, competency, way of being becomes our ‘new normal’ and we step into new experiences differently, learn new things and continue to grow.
You are stronger and more resilient than you know and it’s only in
challenging times that we realise just how strong we are.
Your self-talk is omnipotent
Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded
We are our own toughest critic and most of the time, unfairly so. Is your
first reaction to tell yourself off, beat yourself up for something you did or
didn’t do? How’s that working out for you?
Catch, cancel and correct that voice inside your head.
Catch that negative response to yourself, cancel it out and be correct it with a
more kind thought.
When your inner critic starts to rise up, have a chat with yourself and ask yourself
if you would talk to a friend the way you are talking to yourself?
Would you say those comments to someone else going through what you’re
going through? If the answer is “no”, then change your thinking and
And cut yourself some slack. Remember, it’s ok to muck up every now and
then, that’s part of life. Acknowledge that you may or may not have behaved in
the best way possible and vow to do differently next time. Accept that this
has passed and that you have learnt from it. To be able to heal, you need to
accept what’s happened, forgive yourself and your mistakes, take the lesson
you’ve learnt and re-set your thinking.
Have a conversation with yourself as if you are your own best friend. See how
your inner dialogue changes when you only speak to yourself the way you speak
to your best friend, partner, parent or children.
What’s really important?
Learning to enjoy the simple things in life is important, particularly in tough times. Appreciating and focussing on what you “do” have instead of what you don’t is key.
What you focus on grows.
Focussing on positives instead of negatives will enhance your mood and
improve your overall wellbeing. Being grateful for your health, home, family,
clothes, food, books, TV, shower etc can boost your mindset.
Who is important in your life right now?
If you’re in lockdown, who are you missing the most? Who is keeping in
contact and who isn’t?
Know and nurture those relationships that are important to you and don’t
worry about the rest. Invest in those that lift you up and help you fill up your
cup and avoid those that drain your energy.
If you’re in lockdown think about what you can do differently? We can keep
in touch with social media, but how special is it when we actually get something
in the mail? Make an effort and send a note or a card to a loved one and see
how special it makes you both feel.
Share some tips below about how you stay positive in challenging times.
And if you want to chat about coaching, reach out and make contact for a quick 15 min chat about how we can work together.
Image by: Oleg Shupliak (bored panda)
Effective leadership in today's changing
world is more important than ever. And
leading yourself first is paramount.
Understanding how you are coping through
change is the first step. Recognising what
builds you up and drains you, where you're
at and how to self manage is fundamental
in any leadership position.
I am honoured to be included in this article with other amazing coaches and leaders.
Click the button below to access the full article.
Helen brings a wealth of experience gained over 20 years in Human Resources in Australia and overseas.
Images by JKO
Copyright © 2017 Helen Luxford & Corporate Leadership Coaching - All Rights Reserved