June 9, 2008

Learning in the midst of Confusion

Why does the most profound learning come in the midst of a crisis? You have probably had that experience. After a failed project, a personal set back or a time of major transition, you find yourself making major breakthroughs. This is very common and there is evidence suggesting a physiological basis for this phenomenon. What happens is that during these times you are more open to new learning. When everything else in your life is being challenged, you question basic assumptions and reflect upon things you usually take for granted. This can result in great insights or "AHA" moments.

Let's say, as a leader, you receive 360 feedback and you are totally slammed by peers, direct reports and/or managers. You are floored! You had no idea! Do you pick up and leave the job, try to escape? Do you dismiss the information as lacking credibility? Admittedly, you are embarrassed as well as confused. However, this is a critical moment and an opportunity. Rather than dismiss the data, you can take it on as a challenge. You do some serious self reflection. You work at understanding the perspectives of your colleagues and you use the information to become a better Leader.

You always have a choice and choosing to learn and improve yourself is probably better than hiding your head in the sand. Even if it does involve some confusion.

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