“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” -Albert Einstein
Have you ever won the lottery? Well, neither have I. But I have won the lottery called “something big is about to change.” Winning the lottery is a form of disruption on every level – one that we would probably gladly accept. We are all evolving through the midst of this disruption – whether we like it or not. Each day, we find that something changes. Often the changes are minor, but occasionally we find ourselves in upheaval like we have never experienced before. Many find themselves in this place now.
Disruption causes massive disorder and interruption – the familiar flies out the window and fear blows in with the changing winds. Disruption causes everything to shift and provides us an outstanding opportunity for transformation. It rattles our typical routine and helps us see things with new eyes, perspectives, insights, and awareness. What opportunities do these new insights provide? How do we turn disruption into transformation? How do we avoid being “stuck”?
As I was thinking through the current state of disruption, it reminded me of my own personal disruption in my life and career that started with debilitating health issues and lasted almost an entire decade. Through this time, I underwent challenges, shifts and finally a complete transformation in my health, career, and life. The transformation continuum I am sharing developed from my own experiences and my experience working with my coaching clients. It provides a roadmap to help us grow through this process and evolve with purpose, meaning and into a higher state than before.
Turn the big “D” of disruption into the big “P” of purpose and possibilities. As we walk through this disruption process, be inspired by the many possibilities that emerge. Synchronize and navigate the rapid changes occurring and create a new and improved normal in business, leadership, and life. A normal that may have never occurred had it not been through disruption – hence the phrase “redesigning disruption.”
According to Meriam Webster, “transformation” is an act, process, or instance of transforming. It is to change in composition or structure, the outward form or appearance of or in character or condition.
Meriam Webster defines “evolve” as to produce by natural evolutionary processes. A process of change in a certain direction as an unfolding. It further defines it as a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state: growth.
When we connect the words, transformation becomes a “natural evolution of change”. We are always evolving – experiences continually shift and change our perspective. But disruption has the tendency to “jumpstart” the transformation process and move us from comfortable to pain zone quickly. We will most certainly be in a state of “new normal” but the key is to make it a higher normal than before. What are we evolving from and what are we evolving to? How do we evolve with purpose?
The transformation process is a flow, like the infinity loop because once we go through the transformation process, it does not stop. It continues as we continue to evolve – the goal is to stay on this growth loop. It is important to recognize that we never “arrive” which is why transformation is a continuum of change.
Evolving requires extracting what we want to keep, letting go what is not valuable and no longer serves a purpose, and creating the higher value and opportunity. If we want to move forward and not backwards, then we must embrace the process of transformation – with intention and purpose for the highest results.
Rarely do we have a massive disruption that necessitates operating with intention and purpose to obtain strategic results of a greater, higher, and positive outcome. If we are not evolving, we are static and stuck. If we allow ourselves to become too comfortable for too long, we end up stagnant. We do not want to end up in that place. When we are not growing, it is often because we are in reactive mode which causes us to continually put out fires and operate from a place of fear. When we move into the growth zone, we open the door to possibilities. When we are in the loop, possibilities emerge – when we are outside of the loop, we are reacting.
Finally, as we move through this process, remember that it is not necessary to eat the whole elephant at one time – we may start with one small thing and then another, and another. Be prepared to make mistakes…that is why it is a continuum loop of growth and change.
As your business and leadership are evolving, there are some things you can do throughout the process to navigate with purpose and clarity. As I share the evolving phases of transformation, the following principles are a guide to help you grow in the right direction:
- Create space for reflection and inspiration,
- Let faith of your possibilities conquer fear of your problems,
- Grow an abundance mindset,
- Give yourself grace to make mistakes,
- Open your heart to receive possibilities, and
- Search for wisdom over ego.
PHASES OF TRANSFORMATION:
“It is the hard days — the times that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.” -Sheryl Sandberg
The reactive space is the place of immediate survival after the disruption. It is the space where we are fighting fires, one after another. We are running from one storm cloud after another to address present and critical needs. The place where we put one foot in front of the other, but we cannot see beyond it. Some leaders and business owners may be in this space now and some may have moved past it.
But the good news is that we can learn to find peace and shift from reactive to the growth zone with intention and purpose. We need to ask ourselves, “What are we shifting too and what do we want our new vision to look like?”
Disruption takes many forms – it is not always the extreme event that we are experiencing today. I have seen leaders remain in a reactive space for years because they are not willing to address the critical issues they need to change. The reactive space is often a slow evolution due to lack of resources and proper planning. At some point, we acknowledge the pain and ask ourselves, “How do I move past this?” I incurred 4-5 years of debilitating health issues before I finally allowed myself to “see” the truth.
The key is to look inward and begin to ask yourself questions to help you move from reactive into the growth zone:
- What thoughts need to shift to see beyond the obstacles?
- What resources, behaviors and mindset do you need?
- How do you think beyond “this”?
- What do you need to let go of?
- What fear(s) are you holding onto?
Remember, when we dwell in the place of fear, our boundaries are limited. When we dwell in the place of love and possibilities, our boundaries are expansive.
“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.” -Richard Branson
The definition of “awakening” is an arousing from sleep, slumber, or inactivity we did not have before. It is a coming into awareness.
Think of it like this – an awakening is before we have our first cup of coffee. Our mind is fuzzy, but we have shifted from sleep to awake. It is a gradual awakening of the senses. As it relates to transformation, it can be a moment or small noticeable shift in thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. Our way of being in the world begins to alter and adapt. Now we are working from home, wearing masks, etc. Once we have had our cup of coffee, clarity begins to increase.
An awakening opens our heart and mind to possibilities and potential change. We may not yet know what it will look like yet, but we know change is on the horizon. During my own disruption, I initially resisted because I thought the obstacles were too substantial to overcome. That mindset left me “stuck” for too long.
We often have little moments of enlightenment or insights – sometimes we take these insights and make lasting changes and other times, they fade away as we are caught up in our daily routines. We make excuses. But a major disruption forces the necessity of greater awareness if any progress is to be made.
Eventually we realize, acknowledge, and accept that something MUST change and that leads to a DESIRE to change. That is the “awakening.” Once we have this acknowledgement and acceptance, the rest of the transformation process starts to unfold. We begin noticing what is important and what is missing. Maybe we realize we enjoy working from home, spending more quality time with family, are more productive, or our processes are outdated. This is where intentionality and purpose are critical.
Do you remember ever being in a place where you said, “Something has to change!” When that happened, did you know exactly what that change would look like? Typically, the answer is no. Clarity takes time, but here are a few questions to help you move forward into the next phase of “Discovery”.
- What has changed in you internally?
- What has changed in your circumstances?
- What is possible today?
- What is being revived in you?
- What are you feeling right now? Panic, relief, excited, overwhelmed?
- What is your first instinct?
- What insights are you receiving?
“The seeker embarks on a journey to find what he wants and discovers, along the way, what he needs.” –Wally Lamb
We are always in discovery mode of learning, growing, and adapting – we never fully arrive. Once we have the need and desire to change, we want to move into the Discovery Phase.
The Meriam Webster definition of “discover” is to make known or visible, to expose. The synonym, unearth, implies bringing to light something forgotten or hidden. This is the phase where we have fun, let our inspiration and creativity guide us and explore, explore, explore. Notice your reactions with each new discovery. Become the detective: what is possible?
Discovery is both inward towards ourself and our inner beliefs, values, and attitudes that drive our thoughts and behaviors and outward towards our circumstances and the potential to change both. We do not need to focus on discovery, but open our heart and mind to it. Allow our hearts to lead the discovery. Look for the inspiration that will create exciting new possibilities.
If you were traveling somewhere for the first time, what would you be doing? What attitude would you have? What would you be excited about? What would you want to discover and take home with you? When I travel, I explore the new environment in all aspects – the food, scenery, history, and culture. A few years ago, I traveled to Italy and tried to “see” as much of it as I could. I wanted to absorb it all. The experiences opened an entirely new perspective for me – that is what we are looking for through discovery – a new perspective.
Now, as a leader, we find everything turned upside down. If you were new to the organization, what would you discover immediately? Think in terms of higher purpose, greater value, innovative strategies, leaner processes – what is missing?
As you let discovery unfold, here are a few questions to help guide you into the next phase, “Cleansing”:
- What are you exposing in your business that was a blind spot before?
- What are you exposing in your leadership that was a blind spot before?
- What are you exposing in your systems that needs to improve?
- What are you exposing in yourself that brings you joy?
- How do you want the landscape to look going forward?
- What have you discovered that is working better in this new normal?
- How has your concept of “working from home” changed through this?
- How is hope and innovation showing up for you?
- What values are showing up?
- What do you want to change and what do you need to change?
“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” -Sheryl Sandberg
We are surviving and awakened to the newness of what will exist. We have discovered new things about ourselves, our industry, and perhaps about others as well. This is the place where we extrapolate our learnings with the expectation of an improved normal.
I love this stage and it is quite simple – right now, we are washing (cleansing) our hands in this current environment constantly to “rid” ourselves of any potential virus. In fact, the Meriam Webster definition of cleanse is “to rid of impurities or as if by washing.” We find ourselves physically cleansing all the time.
Now, we have this brilliant opportunity to take the process of cleansing to remove the toxins from our leadership, business and lives with purpose and intention. We cleanse our businesses and lives similarly to the process of cleansing our diets to rid ourselves of impurities.
Once we go through the discovery phase and expose the weaknesses, blind spots, behaviors, and beliefs that are no longer serving us, it is time to cleanse and prepare for rebirth as a stronger leader, organization and individual. We are turning our old perspective into a new and higher perspective.
As you begin cleansing the toxins from your leadership and business, here are a few questions to help guide you into the next phase, “Rebirth.” As you reflect on these questions, be both brutally honest and allow yourself grace.
- What internal behaviors, attitudes, habits do I need to cleanse to achieve a higher purpose?
- What obstacles, clients, systems, processes, behaviors need to be cleansed from your business?
- What behaviors, attitudes, and habits does our team need to cleanse?
- What has been holding us back and causing more stress, less time, and less joy?
What else needs cleansing in this current environment?
“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” -Peter Drucker
When we encounter and evolve through massive disruption, the ultimate culmination and result of the awakening, discovery, and cleansing is rebirth into an improved state. Meriam Webster defines rebirth as a new or second birth. Businesses are born and continue to evolve until significant change forces a transformation that may look very different than before disruption. Intention and vision towards an improved state lead to growth. That is rebirth.
Imagine being transformed into a new, future, and improved state – a version 2.0. That is the result of intentional work through all the phases. As software continually releases later versions and operating systems to remove glitches, we must do the same. We must continue to evolve and improve our operating systems.
Pain points may still exist, but the growth and learning are beyond what we imagined. Often, this occurs during a short time frame. Our growth zone was expanded exponentially and when we look back at where we were, we can see the mountain climbed and the progress made. We cannot expect perfection – we will always have moments where the reactive phase kicks in. That is normal. However, the tools and resources help shift reactive into rebirth again and again.
We will be more aligned with the purpose of where the organization is headed. We will be more aligned with greater purpose in other areas of life. Processes, procedures, mindset, and behaviors have all evolved as we lean into this newness.
Finally, we are humbled, yet grateful for the growth opportunity. We lean into our vision and purpose of our future state with great admiration and become accustomed to new daily routines. We will never forget how the disruption helped us achieve a higher state than before.
This is not the end, but a new beginning. Keep discovering and evolving. One day we will look back and wonder how we existed before.
Cynthia Legg, CPA, Founder of Inspired Success, is an executive level leadership coach. A prior partner in a regional CPA firm, she blends her business acumen and a passion to help leaders live with purpose, embrace joy and achieve high-impact without sacrificing what is important to them.