How do you recover from major setbacks?

Everyone faces rough patches in life. For Lynn Good, 2002 was a career-defining year. As a partner of the 89-year-old accounting giant Author Anderson LLP, her career couldn’t have been better. All of that changed on March 14, when the U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment of a single count of obstruction of justice related to the collapse of Enron Corp. Things quickly unraveled. Less than a month after the indictment, Arthur Andersen announced plans to lay off 7,000 of its 26,000 employees. Lynn soon found herself unemployed. At that point, many would have thought the best part of their career was behind them. Lynn calls such moments “opportunities.” Maybe it’s that perspective that led her to her current role as CEO of Duke Energy – a Fortune 125 company.

When I asked her to share a leadership lesson, she quickly pointed to that painful time and the importance of resilience and perseverance. She noted three elements of her life that helped her navigate the storm.

Recipe for resilience:

  • Connection to friends and family. Maintaining strong social networks has not only been shown to improve happiness, but it also contributes to future career success.
  • Keeping the right perspective. While careers can be immensely satisfying, no job will ultimately define happiness. At the end of life, many with successful careers will quickly note that it is things like faith, family, and balanced healthy living that they most treasure.
  • Willingness to change. The only thing certain in any career is change. Learn to watch for the signals of change and embrace it.

Big or small, setbacks can either knock us down or inspire. Like Lynn’s story, many life-changing setbacks come quickly, with little time to prepare. The best time to work on resilience is when things are going well – ensuring your social network and perspective on life are ready to help you through change.

For more of Lynn Good’s perspective, including her thoughts on the changing energy industry, watch our interview.

Leadership Notes is a blog and video series on leadership.  Through interviews with leaders from both the private and public sector, Johnson examines key leadership issues like empowerment, team development, and cultural dexterity.  The blog also addresses topics such as learning from failure, the importance of friendship, and the role leaders play in developing organizational culture.

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