When Chaos And Crisis Can Be Your Comrades

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We had (more than) a little challenge this past week at work. One of our keynote speakers pulled out... two weeks before our annual international meeting. This was not good. It caused a lot of crisis and chaos in the office. He was a headliner that a lot of people were eager to hear. While this is definitely a First World problem, we always want to deliver on what we say we'll deliver. Furthermore, this was a problem we really were not planning on for the day. We already had enough to do with the meeting itself, with hosting nearly 1,000 of our friends and members in a (very) short time.

Needless to say, we were a bit heartbroken.

After my new manager broke the bad news to us (CEO, Chad Worz of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists), we brainstormed ideas and options. However, with T minus 2 weeks and counting (and a limited budget), the team was starting to get a bit discouraged. Energy in the room deflated quickly.

But Chad had a different mindset when it came to the crisis and chaos. He stated later on in the day that instead of viewing the crisis and chaos as a negative with our speaker pulling out, he viewed it as an opportunity. When the universe throws him a wrench, he always tries to accept the seemingly negative challenge and turn the crisis into something not only positive, but better. In this case, we’d find an even BIGGER and BETTER keynote speaker and draw than the one who ghosted on us!

If you're a fan of the book, Strengthsfinder 2.0 or Now, Discover Your Strengths, you already know that his approach is as a "maximizer." I appreciated his context, as I am generally a maximizer too (not as much in crisis mode, however, so I was glad for the reminder). It also changed my own mindset on this problem - switching it from a crisis, to an opportunity. It sparked the picture in my mind of the Chinese symbols for crisis hanging on my wall of fame at home: one of the two symbols in the word translates to "opportunity."

Right after he shared his mindset, and just before I stepped on the plane to go home after a very busy week of planning for our meeting in Washington, DC, I started checking my email. Ironically, I received a message from a CEO of a HUGE new concept in healthcare that I reached out to a couple of weeks ago to be a part of my podcast. Note that he replied the exact same day as our "crisis." So, I shared the email with my colleagues at ASCP and asked for their thoughts - if we should just go for it and invite him to be our new keynote? (Not that being on my podcast isn’t awesome, but this speaker would also make a FABULOUS keynote by talking about some hot topics in healthcare - like drug shortages and drug pricing--through his company’s innovative, disruptive model of doing business in healthcare.)

When I was boarding the plane, Chad texted me that our director of marketing, Christine, was on the phone with him. I boarded the plane wondering if his mindset affecting mine was the trigger for this other CEO to reach out. While a bit woo-woo and generally not something analytical brains like mine think of as logical protocol, I do think the universe has a funny way of fetching when you know clearly what you need from it.

As I write this Perspectives piece, I have no idea if this speaker worked out or not. I'm still on the plane. But, it really doesn't matter one way or the other to the ending of this story. What matters (and our happy ending here, along with a friendly reminder to myself) is that we all need to appreciate and remember to think like Chad: in life's chaos and crisis, there's always an opportunity to make something bigger, bolder, and better. It's only a mindset shift away!

Erin Albert is senior director of education for the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists.

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