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Steamboat Lake State Park

October 5, 2020

This week’s missive from Korn Ferry (truncated).

Sometimes in life, the ball is thrown our way—either by chance or by choice. But we have to take that shot. That’s where we are right now. We have to seize this moment to create a world with fewer walls and more windows for greater transparency and authenticity. Here are some thoughts:

  • What would you do differently? Over the last couple of weeks, I must have asked 100 people the same question: If they knew last year that a pandemic was coming in 2020—if they had “perfect vision”—what would they have done differently? Overwhelmingly, and more often than not without any pause or hesitation, they said one of two things: (1) spending more time with friends and loved ones and (2) taking that big trip. No one mentioned the material things—or making some investment at the right time. It was all experiential—particularly around people and emotions. It’s an important perspective to keep, considering that we’re all bracing for what could be next—including a possible human hibernation in the Northern Hemisphere this winter. Even if we do end up sheltering in place because of a second wave of contagion, we need to connect with others.

  • Demolition—or design. So how do we live in this new space? Do we revert to the attic or, ironically, do we travel to the basement? I reached out to some PhDs, psychologists, and researchers across our firm. Here’s what they had to say:

    • “It takes intentionality to migrate from segmentation to integration. But when we do, efficiency, harmony, purpose, and balance are all positive outcomes that can be realized,” says RJ Heckman, a Vice Chairman in our firm’s Consulting business.

    • “The pandemic is forcing people to create new structures to support themselves and how they behave in the world. If they don’t have structures, they can feel at the whims of circumstances and change,” says Janet Feldman, a Senior Client Partner in our firm’s CEO Succession Practice.

    • “For some people, the structures are about being disciplined with their time. Others may have to do that literally—separating workspace from living space,” says Signe Spencer, Client Research Partner at the Korn Ferry Institute.

These new structures shouldn’t wall us away—they should help us make connections. It’s the one choice we always have, even when we’re not in control. These days, we may have self-driving cars and the world at our fingertips via a 5-inch screen, but that doesn’t give us control. And we certainly can’t control time. But we can control what we do with our time.

  • A walk in the park. Despite all the technological advancements of the past 50 years it still comes down to people. We want human connection. We need human connection. We thrive from human connection. We know from our research that affiliation—establishing and maintaining relationships—is one of the most important motivators of human behavior. Even during this time of social distance, we can’t stay locked behind our walls—virtual or otherwise—waiting for the vaccine. By tapping our people agility, we can find safe—and surprising—ways to interact and relate to each other. Sonamara Jeffreys, Korn Ferry’s Co-President of EMEA, based in London, described for me how we’ve been encouraging clients to go beyond Zoom and interview candidates in person—but outside the walls of offices and conference rooms. We’re going totally old school and old world, arranging for clients to meet with candidates while taking a walk in the park together. “Clients are telling us that it’s incredibly refreshing. They get much further down the road (literally) by walking and talking than if they had met via teleconference,” she said. You actually discover the “who” of somebody rather than simply the “what.” Her comments reminded me of when I interviewed people in the old days: I always met them in the lobby and brought them first into the office kitchen to get water or coffee. In familiar settings, we can more easily show our A.C.T.: being authentic, creating a connection, and giving others a taste of who we are.

How long we will occupy our open floorplan and what new rooms will emerge are anyone’s guess. Unlike the game of Clue, there won’t be just one little envelope at the end that contains the solution to the mystery. We each must find our own envelope. One thing is certain, though: after tearing down so many walls, we need to be careful about how many we put back up again.

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