Small Bites of Success During the Great Realignment

Dear Readers,

When you hear me speak or read my articles, you see themes and phrases which I repeat. This month, my theme is “The world doesn’t happen to you. You happen to it.” 
The world didn’t reset the way we anticipated post-Covid. War, high prices, and geopolitical unrest are causing anxiety and stress.  Many of us feel unsettled.  So how do we regain control? Sometimes it is through a commitment to small steps which provide a positive outcome for you, your family or someone else.
That is why I am excited to introduce my new interview series in partnership with SWAAY: "Women Who Stand and Deliver". The series highlights women who lead through inspiration and aspiration.  At the end of each interview, find my key takeaways and lessons learned.
To launch, I chose to interview Iryna Rubis not only due to her dauntless commitment to gender equity, but because she delivered on her promise to support others’ career aspirations during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Iryna Rubis’s legacy is immense. Iryna, her family, and her country have faced unimaginable terror and tragedy with determination, sacrifice, and solidarity. 
Let me know what inspires you.

Small Bites of Success During the Great Realignment
Desmond Tutu said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” In my family, we ask “what is your bite of the day?” When I am overwhelmed, I choose one to three action items to accomplish before I go to sleep that night. I start with the smallest thing first.  I will fill out my expense report. I will submit my video for a speaking opportunity.  I will drop gently worn clothes in the donation box.  There is nothing more satisfying then drawing a line through an item on my “to do” list. By the midweek, my anxiety is less as I see my list shrink. My mind is free to tackle the bigger items.

Every day, Americans should be energized and inspired to act with purpose, but right now our sense of purpose seems to be waning. It’s been tough and our energy is dissipating. Voter trust in American institutions is at an all-time low.  The words “I can’t” frequently are part of our conversation as we make personal tradeoffs as prices increase. Political advocacy is frustrating as politicians present a problem as too big solve or too big to fail. It’s not surprising that people are throwing up their hands and wondering why try.

Our country needs a turnaround. It will take small bites each day to make that happen. Sometimes we forget that each of us has the power to create meaningful change through our individual actions. By doing so, we retake control of our daily lives. Every small step forward contributes to a healthier work environment, community, or school. Every time we link arms with another person to solve a problem, we show collaboration and inclusiveness in action and build momentum towards a more positive outlook with observable results.

Life can be overwhelming, and nothing may be more mind-boggling than our health system. Recently, I was honored to speak at the Mayo RISE for Equity conference. I had an opportunity to talk with some of the world’s top doctors and medical professionals who are focused on access to care. It was a joy to be in a room filled with brilliant people with big hearts. After my remarks, I was asked how we can create more inclusive environments. In that moment, I had a realization. We spend so much time talking about institutional solves with big, aspirational goals, we sometimes fail to recognize and celebrate the impact of small bites—a colleague quietly helping a peer up the career ladder or a medical professional who spends the time on a call with a distraught mother.

A person helping another person with something tangible—removing a boulder in their path—is how we solve complex problems. Our call centers, a physician’s assistant, or the hospital information booth volunteer can have the most immediate impact on a person’s day and affect their outlook while managing a crisis. How we treat people matters. It is something we control and provides a benefit to both the giver and the receiver.

By blending grace and heart with process and ingenuity, you can turn around a project, an organization, and your community.  Many times, we can see that something needs a turnaround but can’t articulate why.  It seems too big to get our arms around. Instead, we say, “It’s a mess” or, “It’s losing money.” We can see the symptoms but haven’t dug deep into the level of detail required to correctly diagnose what’s wrong or prescribe the right treatment. Once we identify the underlying problem, we have not broken our recommended solution into small ingestible bites.

More importantly, we underestimate the impact of our individual actions. When I was managing US engagement at the 2005 Aichi World EXPO on a tight budget, I realized my best and least expensive “asset” in that endeavor was not an expensive gift or event. It turned out to be me. My personal time became the essence of high-touch diplomatic engagement delivered at no cost and in a manner that provided value and long-term benefit. I showed up at small events as well as those with large fanfare. My daughter who was six drew thank you pictures which we later saw hung in the offices and homes of Japanese CEOs and diplomats. I was consistent in my actions and took the time to listen.

Some are calling our national Covid inflection point “the great realignment.” We may have no choice but to do things differently then we planned.  With supply chain shortages and shifting political dynamics, what you planned to do may no longer be an option—or it may not be the best option in the current economic environment. Be patient, planful yet agile.  Forward movement feels like walking through mud after a heavy rain but appreciate that each step forward brings you closer to your goal.

Here are a few tips:
  • Be a lifelong learner. Learn new skills. Seek out new people who can show you how to execute differently.
  • Dig deep in a new category of business. Identify your North star. Revitalize your resume to reflect how your talents align with the hiring company’s goals.
  • Invest in identifying other people’s pain points and factor their needs into the outcomes you design—making success a team sport.
Most importantly, remember the world doesn’t happen to you. You happen to it. The things you build speak to your impact on the world around you.  Beyond just results, how you treat people, how you react to success or failure, who you lift-up with you along the way, that’s all part of the legacy you leave—kindness, inclusiveness, and generosity.

"In times of change, it’s learners who inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists."

- Eric Hoffer

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Copyright © 2022 Lisa Gable, Turnaround Book, All rights reserved.

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