“Crisis” is a point of view.

Carolyn Taylor is the leader of Axialent’s Global Cultural Excellence Practice. A Widelyacknowledged leader on team development and cultural change, Carolyn has brought transformation techniques from many different disciplines into some of world’s most respected organizations. Her book on cultural change, Walking the talk: Building a Culture for Success, was described by Strategic HR Review as the most detailed, practical, and readable book on how to change organizational culture.

Analysts look at the situation the world is now and seem compelled to provide an answer as to why it happened. The media is full of theories and people displaying their wisdom, many actually being paid to fill hour after hour of news analysis programming. Does anyone really care about their theories? What value do they offer?

Another group, less prominent in the media or in the board room, displays of variation of “Everything happens for a reason: it was orchestrated by some force (spiritual or economic). It was meant to be.

My interest lies in a different way of looking at this. It did not happen for a reason, but there is a reason in everything – if I am courageous and determined enough to look for it. A reason for me, something I can learn from. I am interested in a mental model in which when things happen, they can serve to provide some stimulus which will lead me to grow and to learn.

How can we use this situation to become a different kind of organization?

I learned from Tim Gallwey, the author of The Inner Game of Tennis, that every endeavour has three types of objectives – to achieve the planned result, to learn and to have fun. Any one of this objective has equal value and every situation offers at last one. Expanding objectives in these way changes our perspective in the current economic situation.

“Crisis” is an opinion, not a fact. Another opinion is that this is the most exciting time to be alive, to ride this wave which is one of the best to be found in today’s ocean…if you are a surfer who views big waves as the best kind of fun.

To achieve the objective of learning, I have to consider the question “What kind of person is this situation demanding that I BE?” Who do I need to BECOME to surf this wave well? What kind of leader? What qualities? What kind of company? Team? How can we use this situation to become a different kind of organization? What if a real paradigm shift were starting to emerge right now? What if the past rules no longer applied and everyone really did go back to zero? The “BE” question precedes the “DO” one. There are many things we could do, but we will only do different things if we really change the way we think and what we value. Without this, we will continue to do the same things, and expect a different outcome – a fair definition of insanity. How can we position ourselves to play and win while the new paradigm is still emerging from the seething mass of panic and fear? Bring it on, I say, this is the adventure I seek. I want to spend time with my colleagues and my team wrestling with these rich questions.

There are many things we could do, but we will only do different things if we really change the way we think and what we value.

But what of those who lose their jobs, their fortunes, their market dominance or even their existence? Should we not wring our hands and join in the outcry of horror? I do not feel we are in a position to judge, from where we sit, about what will arise from this situation for each person or company. What is in our control is our response to the situation, and, if we are in a position to influence others as leaders, as advisors, as coaches or as friends, we can play a role in supporting the response of others. There are some responses that are probably more valuable than others, and that will produce results in future years which will be considered better. To see this as an opportunity to learn and to grow stronger will be more useful than to see it as a time to blame and contract. To contract is to close down to opportunities – to close the mind, to close the heart, close the investment wallet.

What is in our control is our responses to situation, and, if we are in a position to influence others as leaders, as advisors, as coaches or as friends…

Alignment, resilience and decisiveness are other responses to test team work which are likely to lead to motivation and excitement. Asking our team: “How good are we really? Are we up to challenge like this?” can awaken a great warrior spirit.

To revisit our personal and corporate values can center us and remind us of what really matters. Taking a step back and considering: how would somebody who lived life according to the values we crafted so carefully in some previous team meeting deal with this situation?

To revisit our personal and corporate values can center us and remind us what really matters.

As leaders, we have a lot of influence over the “frame” or meaning that people build in their minds around a set of fact. Crisis is a “frame”, and so is “opportunity”. Everyone is heavily influenced by the media frame, so within our companies we will need to counterbalance this by others which could be more useful. Every communication is an opportunity to frame. If left is a leadership vacuum, people will surround events with their own meaning. The prevailing media view, coupled with natural fear and anxiety, is likely to fuel a negative frame which may not be valuable to the potential opportunities this situation could offer your team.

To see this as an opportunity to learn and to grow stronger will be more useful to see it as a time to blame and contract.

I want to participate fully as a player in this incredibly unusual scenario which has presented itself to me, a rich moment in time of a quality which may rarely be surpassed in my lifetime. And as a consultant, I want to offer support to clients to do the same thing. I don’t want to be part of a mass opinion of disaster and gloom, but rather a pioneer of an opinion of opportunity and learning. How many times does such a blatant “reset” occur to, hopefully, remove some of the bugs that have built up in our own minds and our business practice? Wow, this is worth getting out of bed for! Of course, in the end, there is no ultimate truth, but rather a series of perceptions about the same set of circumstances. I just have a viex as to wich opinion will be more rewarding.

Praxis Team.

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