From Great Resignation to Great Aspiration with Whitney Johnson, Author of “Smart Growth”

With no choice, the pandemic forced us to radically transform the way we work and manage our lives. But now as we move forward, the path is less clear and we’re struggling. Some believe it’s best to “go back” to “normal” while millions are quitting, joining the Great Resignation as they seek money, flexibility, and opportunity elsewhere.

From Great Resignation to Great Aspiration: Embracing the S-Curve of Learning

What if instead, we turn the Great Resignation into the Great Aspiration? That’s the conversation I had recently with Whitney Johnson, the CEO & Founder of Disruption Advisors and the author of the new best-seller Smart Growth: How to Grow Your People to Grow Your Company (the book I gave away recently to three lucky newsletter subscribers!)

Whitney has spent years deeply immersed in what she calls the “S-Curve of Learning,” a framework I’ve referenced many times to explain and normalize what happens during any change or disruption. We both believe that by understanding where we are on the S-Curve of Learning we can more intentionally embrace the inevitable discomfort and growth of change.

This will be critical if we’re going to take the best of what is and the best of what was about the way we work and together determine what will be best next.

Great Aspiration in Action: Reimagining Work, Together

In addition to exploring the origins and power of the S-Curve, we talked (minute 24:00) about how I’m seeing the Great Aspiration in action as managers and employees together jump on a new S-Curve of Learning together to reimagine work.

Recently, we led a training session for over 1,000 managers and employees at a client organization, introducing them to the process, skills, and tools to help them partner in the set-up and activation of their new flexible operating model.

We began the session by asking managers, “When I think about leading changes in how, when, and where my team(s) and I work, I feel?” and employees, “When I think about the still-emerging changes to where, when, and how my team(s) and I can do our work, I feel?”

Then, instructed them to select all answers that applied from a list of choices based on the work of William Bridges who studied how people experience transitions:

  • Accomplished
  • Energized
  • Experimental
  • Hopeful
  • Innovative
  • Curious
  • Skeptical
  • Frustrated
  • Confused
  • Uncertain

The top responses for managers were Hopeful, Innovative, and Uncertain while it was a tie between Energized and Curious. For employees, the top responses were Hopeful, Curious, and Innovative tied for second, followed by Uncertain and Energized

All reported feeling uncertain which was to be expected, but with both groups knowing there would be support and guidance to navigate the next stage of change, together, that uncertainty was surrounded by a sense of aspiration in the form of hopefulness, innovation, curiosity, and energy. Whitney and I then discussed what that shift toward aspiration means for organizations and leaders.

How Leaders Can Adapt

Our conversation also included a discussion about how today’s leaders can adapt to lead flexible teams and operating models when those leaders advanced to their current roles by mastering an S-Curve that’s probably no longer relevant for the way we work today.

Even though the path is uncertain, if leaders invite their teams to the process and provide them with support, guidance, and resources to reimagine work going forward, we can switch the momentum from the Great Resignation to the Great Aspiration. As Whitney said, “Some people are doing it, and they will win.”

Watch our full conversation and learn more about Whitney Johnson and Disruption Advisors:

Buy her book: Smart Growth: How to Grow Your People to Grow Your Company
Listen to her Disrupt Yourself podcast
Visit her website