It is a truism that a good lawyer never asks a question in court whose answer she doesn’t know. But some of the fun of live radio is doing just that. You take a flier on a question without really knowing what you’ll get. That happened this weekend when I inquired of John Patricolo, executive vice president of Right Management Associates, “I may be putting you on the spot, but I wonder if you’d hazard a guess at what percentage of the clients your company has helped through downsizing and career transitions have felt better about their work and their lives 6 months or a year after coming to you than before they were downsized?” John, whose firm has helped thousands of folks make that tough life transition, hardly hesitated: “Eighty percent, I’d say.” I expected a pretty healthy number. 80% really blew me away.
John’s data flies in the face of our rather depressing conventional knowledge. Conventional knowledge says: challenge is bad; loss is bad; and suffering is definitely bad. And conventional knowledge says: with good leadership, things will always grow, get better, be smooth. But that defies all laws, the laws of nature, of economics, or of the world of spirit. Things don’t forever arc upward. Instead change is constant, things grow and things shrink, hair grows and then hairlines recede, nights get longer but then shorter, jobs challenge and then jobs become obsolete. I feel for people who are jolted by a downsizing, a bad health report, or a life loss. But I also pull back my mind’s camera, frame things larger, and remember that such losses almost never have to be an end but almost always open up to new beginnings.
The conventional view of Michigan’s economy is that the sky is falling. But observers are missing thousands of rebirths that are accompanying bad news. Individuals are finding new careers (according to Patricolo, 63% of downsized folks in the Southeast Michigan region are finding jobs there) that are frequently better. Companies are, albeit painfully, reinventing themselves. Companies like Herman Miller have paid close attention to their core values and emerged from downsizing as stronger companies. Individuals in pain are rediscovering enduring values of faith, family, love, and sometimes a long lost passion toward work. And whole new industries are rising up.
One thing we can do as leaders is to draw the frame back from the tight focus on the immediate and see that in crisis lie myriad opportunities for growth. Our own eagerness and resilience and our FAITH will serve us well as we lead others through times that appear dark but can and usually will yield to the light.
Look for opportunities for rebirth as you
Lead with your best self!