To Evolve Means Disruption

It’s ironic that my last post asked, “What’s Missing?” Little did I anticipate that I would be missing in action for so long from that posting to this blog. I’ll share a few highlights to give you a sense of what’s been happening between then and now. Alert— a longer post than usual.

You’ve heard me say many times that people have good reasons for doing what they do—I am no exception.In the fall of 2010, I was reading someone’s blog (can’t recall whose) and read a quote by John Mayer (I didn’t know much about him then and still don’t). He said . . .

“To evolve, you have to dismantle. And that means accepting the idea that nothing you created in the past matters anymore other than it brought you here. You pick up your new marching orders and get to work.” John Mayer, 2009

His words fit the exact spot I found myself in. I’d been antsy since returning from my Kilimanjaro climb. The trip hadn’t fulfilled my expectations. When I returned home, home didn’t feel like home. It triggered within me a sense that I should examine my life and the crossroads where I was standing. As a result, in early 2011, I made three major decisions:

  1. change my business model
  2. give up my commercial offices after 14 years
  3. sell my condo

Climbing Kilimanjaro had been intense and certainly prepared me for the disruption that lay ahead.

My business model

Mayer’s quote was like a mosquito hovering around my ear. Clients and their companies were dealing with business norms that were changing drastically. While necessary, the challenges required commitment without knowing whether the outcome could be achieved. Increased accountability for managers heightened awareness that if individuals didn’t learn new ways to handle the complexity and volume they would miss needed business results.

How do you develop when there is no time to do so? Managers working on crucial projects and breaking away from cultural norms wanted even more specificity related to their challenges. In response, I created Learning Labs, small group coaching sessions, which focused on what matters most to the participants—a way to work through the specifics of what and who they were dealing with and how they could influence others and processes in order to accomplish what was expected of them.

Managers needed more flexibility for when and how they accessed coaching. For me, that meant coming up with new ways of getting development to them that also suited their time frames.

Executives had higher expectations, yet fewer senior managers were available to take care of existing business let alone grow the business too. Whenever you have a combination of fewer people with more to do and not enough hours in a day something has to give, so you find a better way.

Give up my commercial offices after 14 years

Changing work patterns of business and travel called for more flexibility. The airport location had been ideal for many years but was now too static in today’s work world.

I learned about business centres (wished I had a few years earlier). Since I work with groups of 3–6 people, being able to work closer to their workplace made sense. Now I have a virtual office based in Mississauga, yet have access to a business centre in multiple locations. I can work in Markham, downtown Toronto, Waterloo, Winnipeg, or wherever. I have access to 1,100 locations worldwide. I thought I would miss my offices, but that hasn’t happened. The disruption has been a driving force in finding new and better ways for getting things done.

Sell my condo

When I moved in, I had planned to leave in 2014. I escalated that plan when I heard the construction equipment next door. They were building a preview centre across the street from my corner unit. Two new condo towers would soon be going up. My million-dollar view would not compensate for five years of noise. Plus, the effect on property values while they were in presales mode conflicted with my exit plan. So, on a Saturday, I called a real estate agent who specialized in my building, and he brought me a buyer. Our deal was done within 72 hours and, fortunately, came with a six-month closing date.

Solid decisions but where was I going to live and work? In a 30-day period, I had made two major decisions that felt very right. Yet, I didn’t have a clue about where I was going to live or work. The “Mayer Mosquito” kept buzzing: “ . . . nothing you created in the past matters anymore other than it brought you here. You pick up your new marching orders and get to work.”

Because I wanted to stay in my neighbourhood, my search was narrowed. I mapped out possibilities, and one day I made a call. The agent described just what I was looking for—done! I found a townhouse that filled my needs. The dates of the multiple moves made my life interesting to say the least. Office furniture went into storage for a couple of months (a new experience for me). All in all it meant that I was in “moving mode” from April to December and was still taking care of a busy coaching practice.

Much like the Kilimanjaro trip, I had a clear plan. Our group figured out our essentials and studied possible risks. We were so prepared that we had multiple water purification methodologies and gear. We were more than ready. Actually, we had no problems with water or the food or sanitation. But we did have problems where we didn’t expect them.

When I moved into the townhouse, some of my best-laid plans went awry. I had worked with a number of technicians in plotting the phone and computer network setup. On paper it was a good plan. In reality it didn’t operate as it was supposed to. Fourteen weeks of frustration followed, which used up time and energy I had allotted for creating new systems. Yet, furnishings that I paid little attention to fell smoothly into place. It was as if my office and home furnishings had been waiting for this merger.

The journey is vastly different from the written plan—faith and doubt. I have survived some very difficult situations in my life and learned from them. Experience now fuelled my faith that my choices were good ones, and I would cope with whatever came my way. I have learned that difficult situations don’t get easier. It’s me that gets better as a result of how I handle things. When the going did get tough, I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. Yet, the doubt lasted only seconds. Instinctively, I knew I was doing what had to be done. It certainly helps to be mindful and not get caught up in uncertainty.

In the midst of disruption, who’s in control? With all the planning and preparing, you do wonder who’s in control. Evolving and adapting may have sapped my writing energy during the past few months, but it has made me stronger in many ways. I am enjoying my new flexibility and now have time to write this blog and the new book that is on the drawing board. In my next post, I will share what the book is about.

P.S. A few days before Christmas break my laptop died. Replacing an operating system is very fast and inexpensive, but reinstalling software and preferences is a time-consuming journey. I managed it all, though, with only minimal technical help. The experience wasn’t fun, but it was definitely less daunting based upon what I had learned from the tech disruption during my moving experience.

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