Among a bunch of other things, this pandemic brought into our attention a concept that I saw mostly used into the corporate world: opportunity. I witnessed several corporate trainings and top-down messages praising the conversion of a problem into an opportunity or challenging folks to find an opportunity into each problem/situation/conflict and so on. As usual, there were instances in which it made a lot of sense to use this wording reconversion and there were instances in which it was simply a way to avoid a challenging conversation. After all, everything in life comes with a fair share of dos and donts.
As I was reflecting on this topic (and trying to work my way around how to balance between moments in which this reconversion is good and moments in which it's just not constructive), I remembered the year of 2009 when I probably saw this used for the first time. It was a major crisis within the company I used to work for at that time driven by the very core of its business. The topic per-se is less important now, I will only focus on the system: the entire board of directors were in a continuous ”war-room” (okay, maybe 30 minutes break were taken from time to time).
After almost 72 hours of war-room during which I had max about 6 (perhaps 8?) hours of sleep, I finally collapsed. But the most impacting thing that happened back then was an invitation from our CEO that sounded like... now, guys, let's put things into a different perspective: how can we turn this awful crisis into an opportunity for us?
I do not have words to express the rage I felt at that moment. I was exhausted, I was trying a lot of actions to mitigate the impact of the crisis to our customer, I was trying to figure out a way to assist and even compensate every single customer and I was in constant communication with our IT dept in order to ensure platform availability (it crashed several times due to the flood of customer complaints)... I was thinking that no-one understood me, no-one appreciated me and I was putting too much unrecognized effort into that situation... a victim in true shape and form.
It took me years to understand what our CEO was trying to do. Namely (besides a regular businessman activity), to give all of us a purpose to live that day; a purpose to aim for, a purpose that made it worth our efforts; a purpose greater than simply cleaning up a huge mess; a purpose to build.
How did I get there? Well, perhaps a bit of experience and a big deal of coaching essence. In this particular case it was all about shifting from a term that I disliked at that time (opportunity) to another term that felt right for the specific context: chance. It was by chance that I and my team got impacted. But it was our job and in our own hands to be part of the solution. An unfortunate chance gave me a chance to do something different, something bigger... Years later I was laughing with a significant part of my former team about what our struggles were and we remembered every single moment with joy.
What was the learning for me? Realizing that a simple change in term, from something I repelled with all my heart to something that was suitable for that particular scenario, gave me the chance to change some destinies, including my own. What is your chance to change the outcome of this pandemic which came to you by... chance? I am thrilled to hear your story.
Photo by Nathan Sudds from FreeImages.