Thursday, July 2, 2020

Phoenix Rising - The Possibility of Post-Traumatic Growth

We live in interesting times.  This statement of the incredibly obvious encompasses a range of experiences for many of us right now including the real or potential loss of job/career, a dramatic shift in how teaching and education is delivered to our children, how we shop, how we work, how we live and how we interact with each other.  The ripple effect of these seismic changes is certainly not fully understood by any of us now and we face immense uncertainty as to how decisions today may play out for our future.  At points in time I can't help but think we are entering into and living through a new dark age. Those are the moments of despair talking!

But there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Just like the dark ages of history were followed by a reanaisannce, I believe that each of us has the possiblity to establish a new and stronger future for ourselves.  And by a new and stronger future I mean something that is greater than a return to the status quo as we have come to know it.  So this blog is intended to convey to you the possibility of better things to come out of your current trials and tribulations.

The concept of post-traumatic growth is something that I was only exposed to in the last few years. I was taking a course that delved into the relationship between coaching and psychology.  One of the readings was from Richard G. Tedeschi (Psychologist at University of North Carolina).  Upon reading the article on post-traumatic growth I had an immediate epiphany.  Tedeschi was talking to my lived experience!  This enlightenment, however, raised as many questions as it provided answers.

The concept of post-traumatic growth first begins with the trauma.  And by trauma I don't mean a minor injury or wound.  Much like what many of you may be experiencing through the current time, the trauma I refer to is one of paradigm-shattering reality.  The two personal examples I can provide includes (1) the sudden and unexpected death of my first wife in 2007 and, (2) the involuntary termination of a leadership career of 25+ years in 2012.  In respect of the former, my life changed in minutes as I learned of the death of my wife while seated in the Denver airport on my way back to Edmonton.  In respect of the second, my personal identity as a leader shocked me into a new reality upon being reintroduced to the marketplace.

In both circumstances, the foundations upon which I had established my life and my identity changed.  In one instance I instantly became a single parent to a 6-year old daughter.  Now having to nagivate life - seemingly - on my own.  In the second instance, my personal identity as leader was challenged.  I could no longer call myself CEO, or Vice-President, or similar such moniker.  In both cases my sense of self and my world view were radically upended.

From this darkness, however, ultimately came not just recovery but far greater success and fulfilment than I would have envisaged or imagined possible prior to either of these traumas.  Following on the tragedy of 2007 I can directly trace my journey to the finish line of Ironman Canada 2010.  In those three years I had remarried, had two more daughters, lost 40 pounds and became an athlete.  My priorities had been reordered.  Possibilities had been realized and pursued.  My values were rediscovered and reinforced.  I had become a new man physicially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

A similar experience took place with the loss of my senior leadership role in 2012.  Many sleepless nights preceded and followed that eventful day.  But from that point I can say that I have established a thriving coaching and consulting practice that has allowed me to step even more fully into my power and potential.  I have more fully owned my purpose and values which has allowed me to far exceed what I thought was the pinnacle of my leadership career in 2012.  From loss came far greater success and enjoyment.

What accounts for that exponential change in fortune?  What explains not just recovery or a return to status quo, but a leap beyond?  That was what perplexed and intrigued me.  I've come to a few conclusions about what allowed that post-traumatic growth for me and has also allowed it for others.  This experience also sets the stage for what I am experiencing now through COVID.  In assessing my past (and current?) experience I can now look at that through the lens of Stephen Joseph's THRIVE model.  I wasn't aware of that model in 2007 and 2012 but I can attest to its reality then and now.

Taking Stock.  In the context of PTG, this means assessing my own reality - mentally, emotionally, physically and financially.  What's real?  What's happening?  What can I control?  What can I do?  Basically what is the true state of my affairs. Each of us is likely to do this differently.  Unfortunately for me (likely) in each of my traumatic events I took the masochistic approach of evaluating and re-setting on my own.  It doesn't have to be that way and for many of us this process could be helped by reaching out for support including the help of counselors, therapists, family and others.

Harvesting Hope.  This can relate to seeing a positive future, seeing possibilities, and reengaging with one's own strengths and abilities.  What can be done versus what might no longer be possible.  With the death of my wife I refused to believe that my life also ended at age 42.  What else could I do?  What future yet lay before me?  Similar process for losing my job.  What could I yet be?  How could I not let this setback define me but rather motivate me?

Re-Author My Story.  Leading from and supported by a sense of hope, I took steps to challenge beliefs about myself and my world.  While it took time, I did in fact change my narrative about who I was.  By 2008 I came to believe that I wasn't also dead and that I had more to live and achieve.  By 2014 I had largely successfully re-centred myself around my commitment to supporting great leadership.  In the midst of COVID I used the gift of time to finally formalize a proprietary leadership and coaching model.  I changed my narrative from despair to possibility.

Identifying Change.  Taking the time to actually notice where small, positive changes are starting to take place.  And more than just a passing notice - documenting and rewarding the positives that are starting to happen.  Losing weight, getting healthier, seeing an uptick in monthly billings, more engagements on LinkedIn or on my blog, getting positive feedback on drafts of the leadership and coaching model.

Valuing Change.  Understanding the significance of the changes being made and starting to derive some meaning from the adversity that has been experienced and will continue to be felt even once the initial trauma has passed.  So for me this included providing a fulfilling life for my daughter (and myself), continuing to be impactful for leaders, aspiring leaders and their followers, and now thinking about how to take my impact on leadership and coaching to another level.

Expressing Change in Action.  Everything - including good coaching - comes down to action.  We must move from seeing things differently and thinking differently to acting and being different.  It takes courage to change.  It takes courage to move beyond the pain we are feeling to create something new and possibly even better than before.  Just do it.  Even if it feels awkward and imperfect.  Keep moving forward.

To be clear, the readiness to THRIVE and the ability to move through the phases of the model was, and is, highly dependent on a range of circumstances.  I can honestly say that I wasn't ready to THRIVE until a year after my wife's passing.  It probably took me at least that long to come to terms with a change in career path - and identify - after leaving my last executive role.  COVID-19 THRIVE?  That's a story that is still being written but I believe I'm in that process now based on the the actions I have already taken.  But everyone is going to go through this at their own pace.

So I offer this model and this personal disclosure to help you navigate your own path forward and to hopefully show you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel - that is not a train.  Leadership through these times starts with self.  Part of that self-leadership comes in recognition of the challenge and the recognition of your own strenghths, abilities and potential.

Take stock, harvest hope, take action.

Greg Hadubiak, MHSA, FACHE, CEC, PCC
President & Founder - BreakPoint Solutions 

Helping leaders realize their strengths and enabling organizations to achieve their potential through the application of my leadership experience and coaching skills. I act as a point of leverage for my clients. I AM their Force Multiplier.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Leadership: What's your POV?

I think about leadership a lot. This week maybe more than usual as my BreakPoint SoultionsTM partners and I introduce AscensionTM, our in-house leadership model. The model moves through  AnimationArticulationAmplification, and Action,  with Assessment integrated into every element of the model. We believe the model provides a dynamic approach to identifying, expanding and realizing goals that can be used by individuals and organizations.  More information is available from me, any of my partners, and at


It’s not my intention to sell the model here, rather I’ve been reflecting on what I believe about leadership and how it’s changed over the years.
Like many people, my initial understanding of leadership was as a verb. The act of leading others. Getting others to do what you want or need them to do. Outward focused and the responsibility of someone in a position of authority. The more I read and think about it the more I realize that before you can impact or influence others you need to look inward. As a result I’ve identified some steps toward becoming a leader:
  1. Recognizing where you have opportunities to be a leader
  2. Be willing to lead
  3. Getting clear about the purpose (the Why)
  4.  Communicating from that position of clarity
  5. Honing your skills
  6. Have the courage to take action to make things better

Today I’ll tackle 1, 2 and 6. The rest I’ll leave for another day.
A Leadership Point of View
A few years ago I was introduced to Level Three Leadership-Getting Below the Surface by James G. Clawson. If you’ve heard me speak about leadership you have heard me refer to a key concept in Clawson’s book that resonates with me:
Being a Leader depends on point of view, not title or status.
Clawson’s leadership point of view consists of three elements:
  •        Seeing what needs to be done
  •        Understanding all the underlying forces at play in a situation
  •        Having the courage to initiate action to make things better

Anyone can adopt a leadership point of view. No position or authority is required. Instead many of us adopt other points of view – by choice or by habit. You will all recognize the others:
  •           the follower – who waits to be told what to do;
  •           the bureaucrat – who waits for permission or simply passes things up the chain;
  •          the administrator – who is constrained by what has been done before and can’t handle anything new or out of the ordinary;
  •         and the contrarian – we all know the contrarian. At one time or another we may have been the contrarian uttering phrases like “that won’t work”, “we’ve tried that before”, “yes but…” and on and on.

I invite you to ask yourself a few questions:
  • What point of view am I operating from? 
  • Is this where I typically operate – my habitual way of seeing the world?
  • If not, why is my point of view different now?
  • Where do I have opportunities to apply a leadership point of view?  

Did you see yourself in any of the other points of view? If so, don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve all been there at one time or another and sometimes with good reason. A follower POV for example is fine when you are new in a career or position, but if you find yourself here after a while it’s great to step back and ask why? Is it as simple as changing your view or do you need to ask for help or additional training? 

The bureaucrat and the administrator may be tougher. Let’s face it some jobs are bureaucratic or administrative. I think the trick is not to settle for any of these points of view. Even in the most bureaucratic or administrative position you can be on the look out for what needs to be done and the underlying forces in the situation and when your situation prevents you from taking action the courageous thing to do might be to ask someone who is in a position to act to do so.

Of all the others I think the contrarian is the most dangerous. Dangerous to the team because the negativity can get in the way of success – and dangerous because it is contagious. If Dale doesn’t care, why should I? If Dale say’s we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work, why bother trying? But, perhaps the most dangerous thing about the contrarian POV is that it’s sticky! Once you are there it’s hard to get away. It takes a conscious effort to make a switch. In her book Change Your Questions Change Your Life, Marilee Adams identifies mindsets and pathways and suggests that we can use switching questions to change from one mindset to another. Adams suggests that questions like Why are they so stupid? or What’s wrong with me (or them)? will move you further down a negative path. On the other hand questions like What do I want for myself and others? What assumptions am I making? or Am I being responsible? can move us to a more positive mindset.
       What questions can you ask yourself when you need to adjust your point of view?
Questions will also help if you find yourself occupying a point of view that is different than your typical world view. What is it about this situation that has shifted you from where you normally are to one of the others? Can you use shifting questions or the leadership POV to readjust? It may require the courage to take action!
I hope by now you agree that being a leader is a choice. It’s about recognizing when we have the opportunity to lead, being willing, and taking action. Many of us see what needs to be done and understand at least most of the underlying forces at play, but having the courage to initiate action to make things better is, for me, what differentiates a leader. You know these people. We all do. People in our lives, in the public eye or historical figures who provided leadership regardless of, and sometimes in spite of, their title or authority. Could you be one of these people?
So the most important question to ask yourself might be:
            Am I willing to adopt a leadership point of view?

Willingness to do so, especially having the courage to take action, is a giant step toward leadership for those who are starting out and a giant step in the right direction for those who already see themselves as leaders.
Keep your eye open for opportunities!
My hope is that sharing what I’ve been thinking gets you thinking.  As always, I invite your comments or questions.  Agree, disagree, and share your own tips and tools.  Thanks.
Dale Cooney, BSP, MBA, CEC, ACC
Partner - BreakPoint Solutions