Attending to the Silver Lining – likely as not, there is one.

Organizations have set backs – everything from a fire that destroyed a building, to a loss of a major donor, or perhaps the resignation of a key staff person to significant loss in the earning power of an endowment.   

We also have these set-backs personally.   In a recent conversation someone spoke to me about the actions taken where he had his job terminated; he was summarily dismissed and walked out of the building.   He was stunned in that he had been with the organization for 16 years and had consistently had positive annual reviews.   But, the politics of the organization – a hospital – had changed; and he was on the outside looking in.   He was stunned, he told me, but then he chuckled as he noted that even as he walked to his car in the parking lot it was already crossing his mind:  so, where is the positive here?  Where is the silver lining?  What good might come from this?   I was amazed at the speed with which he turned the corner and assured him that most of us need more time to process a major personal set-back!  We need days – well, actually, we might needs weeks and months.   We need more time than a walk to the parking lot.   And yet, his example is a good reminder that in a time of set-back, it is good to ask, sooner than later:  “where is the silver lining” in this development? 

And what I am thinking here is that we also need to consider this for the organizations of which we are a part.   When there is a significant or major development that can only be described as a set back – something as a rule unforeseen that creates stress or a sense of failure or disappointment – can we move, at least relatively quickly [perhaps not between the office and the parking lot . .. but faster than weeks and months] towards asking:  what good might there be in this development? 

What opportunity does this create?   In a significant personnel departure, what opportunity does this now open up for us – either in the recruitment of someone with complementary or different skills or to restructure the department in some way that would not have occurred to us otherwise?   What does the loss of a significant stream of revenue mean?  This is always tough of course; and seemingly there is nothing good in this development.  But, slow down and ask:  is there something in this that is actually going to call for something or help us see something that we might otherwise not have seen?  Something that we might otherwise of have overlooked or taken for granted? 

Wise leaders in organizations think this way.   They let the mourning happen when someone resigns and leaves; they feel the full force of something that has not gone as they had hoped.  The pastor of a church that burned down two years ago was in minor shock but had to lead his congregation through the mourning process. But, even in the process, it can start to emerge:  what might this mean and what new possibility might this create? 

Where is the silver lining in this otherwise not very happy development?

Institutional Intelligence is the capacity to work effectively within organizations.