A couple of weeks ago, when things started to reopen somewhat here in North Carolina, I realized that never in my lifetime had an event occurred that affected the whole world simultaneously. I was born after World War II. That was the closest thing in recent history that could compare to this world-altering pandemic. I began to think, “So, what have we learned” and, more importantly, “what are we going to do with what we have learned?” As I was reflecting on our current situation, John Lennon’s song “Imagine” popped into my head. One of the verses goes:
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.
I do a lot of work with the concept of learning agility and, specifically, with the Burke Learning Agility Inventory. There are nine dimensions to this assessment, and I use it to help me process situations. For example, when I think about what we have learned from the pandemic, I can apply the Reflecting dimension from the Burke Learning Agility Inventory.
I have been thinking a lot about the 36 million people who are currently unemployed in this country. That is staggering. If you have never been there, it is a humbling experience. I had been employed since I was 23 years old and one day, at age 53, I instantly became unemployed. I had a wife, three sons, and a house. And while the Burke Learning Agility Inventory did not exist at the time, that situation forced me to unknowingly begin to apply some of those nine dimensions: Information Gathering and Collaborating through networking, etc.
Months of unemployment went on with little progress. I was trying to find the same type of position that I previously held. I came close to an offer a couple times, #2 in line. As far as I was concerned, coming in second was the same as being in last place. The result was the same — I was still unemployed. I then got a call from a friend about a consulting opportunity. I took the assignment and began working for someone who I had never met until that day. Again, although I didn’t know it at the time, I was using the dimension of Performance Risk Taking and, specifically, engaging in an ambiguous task.
The work was great but the person I worked for was a jerk. In the past, working in a large organization, I went along at times to get along. But now that I was a consultant, I promised myself those days were over. I was not going to be a malcontent, but if something was not right, I was going to say something. And again, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was demonstrating the Interpersonal Risk-Taking dimension of learning agility and, specifically, “bringing up tough issues with others.” I quit that assignment after six months because the boss was cheating me on my compensation. But quickly after that, I got another consulting opportunity and I have been with E.A.S.I-Consult® for the last 19 years.
What’s the point? The point is that I was forced into unemployment — not my choice. Initially, I kept looking at my job prospects the same way, trying to find the same job with a different company. It wasn’t until I used what the Burke Learning Agility Inventory calls Flexibility that I was able to open up more options by reframing my situation.
My story is a personal example of how you can take an unexpected life changing event and turn it into an opportunity. What have you learned about yourself and your situation from the pandemic? What are you going to take away from this situation and use to improve your situation? What are you going to stop doing? What are you going to start doing?
My biggest fear coming out of this pandemic is people’s yearning to return to the “old normal.” This is such an opportunity. It would be a shame to not have it result in at least incremental positive change for each of us and, in some cases, transformational change.
I was listening to a Podcast this week and one of the presenters was describing a conversation with a group of CEOs. The CEOs talked about taking a workforce that had worked in an office setting to a 97% virtual workforce in 24 hours. They said that a project of that magnitude would have taken 18 months with several meetings. The group’s conclusion would have been not to go forward with the project because it was too risky. In fact, this change was accomplished successfully in 24 hours. Was it perfect? No. Did it really matter that it wasn’t perfect? No.
How many things are not happening individually and organizationally due to our unwillingness to move out of our comfort zone? Burke calls that Performance Risk-Taking. Whatever you call it, don’t waste the learning opportunities of the pandemic.
About the Author
David Hoff is the COO and EVP of Leadership Development for E.A.S.I-Consult®. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. E.A.S.I-Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring advisement. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.