Disrupted: Chapter 1 – “Disrupted!”

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Read Chapter 3 – Corporate Disruption – Insights from Talent Development

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Today is not going to be a good day. You were up half the night worrying. You hardly hear the audiobook you put on in the car to steady your nerves, and as you walk from the parking deck to your office, the cup of coffee in your hand is shaking.

You make it through the front door and past the main lobby. On the way to your desk, you pass your colleagues. Some of them look well-rested as they debate last night’s game and swap weekend plans, but others look like you feel. They seem to share your nervous energy, and you get a few knowing half-smiles of camaraderie as you open your email and hope you’re wrong.

It’s no surprise that half the office seems on edge. Your company was just acquired and, on Monday, your leadership team said the dreaded word that you haven’t been able to stop thinking about: “reorganization,” commonly referred to as “reorg.”

By Wednesday, your manager, Marissa, announced that she was leaving, and last night your new manager, Dan, unexpectedly put some time on your calendar for nine a.m. today. You worked closely with Marissa for nearly two years, but now Dan has taken over Marissa’s team as well as two other teams. You worked on a project with Dan about a year ago, but he’s from a different department and most of the work was done remotely. You doubt he really remembers you.

When the clock strikes nine, you walk down to Dan’s new office where he is sitting with an HR business partner. He asks you to take a seat and shut the door.

Dan sighs, and you know instantly that you were right.

“Thank you for your work here the last two years,” he says. “But the company is moving in a different direction and we don’t have a need for your role right now.”

The rest of the conversation is awkward and brief, and then you thank Dan for telling you in person as you head back to your desk to pack up your things and wait for a follow-up email from HR.

As you take the long walk from the lobby back to your car, everything starts sinking in. You wonder what you did wrong, how you didn’t see this coming months ago, and worst of all, you worry about what comes next.

Last Friday your world was completely different. You had a plan, you felt secure, but now…you’ve been disrupted!

Disruption happens to everyone at some point in their careers, and, for many of us, it will happen many times over. Whether you’re a new recruit or a twenty-year veteran, a seasoned C-Suite leader or a recent college grad, you can and will be disrupted. Favorite managers leave, companies are bought and sold, and boards decide their companies need a new face at the helm. Whether or not you’ve lived this story firsthand yet, the inevitable truth is that at some point in your career you will be disrupted.

In fact, you may even disrupt yourself! We actively seek new roles, go back to school, move our families, or chase dreams. And while that kind of disruption is self-inflicted, it, too, can create lasting impressions that may linger outside of our best intentions.

We take disruption personally. Whether it’s a long walk from a desk to a parking lot with our things in a cardboard box or a cross-country move, there’s vulnerability that comes with disruption. Even when we’re in the driver’s seat, we often still feel lost, confused, and a little scared. Yet some people seem to thrive in disruption! Our societal lexicon is full of underdogs who turned failures into successes and went from disrupted dreamers to kings and queens of the hill. So, how do they do it?

Until recently, the old model for promotions and success within a company had not changed much since the 1950s. You put in your time with a company and the company would slowly bring you along in your professional development, investing in you and moving you along at an established pace to develop new skills and to prepare you for a senior leadership position. But that old and patient model has changed. Companies move at incredible speeds and, as the demand for more specialized and technical skills increases, talent leaders can no longer wait for someone to develop a skill over time. They need the skill right away. This is why many companies have shifted to a hiring model of “What do we need today?” and “Who can adjust easily to whatever we need tomorrow?”

That’s a very different mindset for developing and acquiring talent, and it’s a shift that not many employees realize has occurred. Even self-labeled “job-hoppers,” who only plan to stay with a company for a year or two, still have expectations that a company will help develop them and advance their career in some way. And while many organizations say they do this, the reality is that most employees do not hit the internal development radar until they meet a specific criterion. That’s why, when disruption suddenly hits us, we often feel confused.

  • “I didn’t know they were looking for that skill set…”
  • “I assumed they would teach me any new skills I needed…”
  • “I would have learned how to do that if they’d let me know…”

But, as I mentioned earlier, some people thrive in disruption. Or at least, they seem to. So, what’s their secret? Those who thrive in disruption understand how to do two things that will improve their ability to navigate disruption and reset their careers: they know how to position their brands and they know how to tell their own stories.

Excerpt Ends

In our latest book, we discuss both and share insights about expectations from hundreds of talent leaders.  There’s more to come ….stay tuned!