In the last few months, I led a change management seminar for professionals looking for a job. They find themselves in a change process. Moving toward a new job while experiencing the ups and downs of the job search. All that during a pandemic. It can be daunting to receive rejection emails one after the other. Sometimes they lose hope and see themselves as failures. One participant told me that he wrote one sentence I said on a post-it to help him move forward. I’ll tell you what the sentence is later in this article. I see a parallel between those job finders and the corona crises. We see the glass half empty.
In the course of the seminar we approach different theories. One that has them scratch their head is the “learning organization”. We speak about the need to move from the failure culture toward a learning culture in order to empower individuals during times of change. Intellectually they do understand this need. Sometimes it takes more effort for them to relate to it personally.
We were raised in a system that sanctions failures. Sometimes it breaks down an individual’s potential instead of reinforcing it. This implicit call for perfection is palpable in companies. You must be perfect. Failures will be punished.
Our perception of the world influences how we feel and act. Different schools of thought support this idea. Otto Scharmer wrote in his book Theory U that it is the “interior condition” that matters for success. NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) speaks about changing our state to change our thoughts and actions and therefore our results. Saint-Exupery summed it up nicely “what is essential is invisible to the eye”.
A failed attempt to achieve a goal is feedback. If you fail many times, you collect data about what is not working for you. There is a story about Thomas Edison getting more than 999 feedback on how NOT to build a light buble. Each feedback gave him insights on what else was possible. His desire to find a solution was strong enough to keep him failing and learning.
What did the participant of my change seminar write on the post-it?
I am learning!
It is a reminder that when we find ourselves in a new environment or situation. We have the choice between learning to fail and failing to learn. We can see the process we are going through as an opportunity to learn about what works and what doesn’t. We can focus our attention toward what helps us move closer to our goal.
When we see ourselves as learners instead of failures. We suddenly create more energy. We can access our resources. We have this amazing opportunity to grow. We can also treat ourselves and others with more compassion.
Hard times can then become a place of creation and fun. Whatever happens we are in a change process. Why not focus on learning? Why not be the crazy one that dares to lead, to try, to fall, and to learn again and again and again?
We only have one life. We only have this moment. Everything can change in one second. So why not make it as comfortable as possible. No one can predict tomorrow but everyone can contribute to a better day.
What are you ready to learn?