“Tell me of the time you experienced a crisis and how did you handle it?” Phil, the interviewer, asked me.
“Do I tell you of the worst personal crisis I ever faced or do I just mention one of many I have handled well at work?” I thought.
“The worst crisis I ever faced was not at work, Phil. Would you like me to tell you about that or the ones I handled at work?”
Phil blinked. But he recovered in an instant and said, “Please go ahead and tell me about the worst one.”
Bill George writes in ‘True North” about leaders finding their purpose after crucible moments, failures and tragedies transforming their leadership paths.
He wrote about Kevin Sharer, then Amgen’s CEO, whose difficulties at MCI helped him to realize what he really valued was not the next promotion. Similarly, Jeff Immelt‘s turn-around experience at GE, several years before he took the helm as CEO, taught him about how to stay the course under immense pressure.
Many crucible moments revolve around tragedies and loss. My story is among them.
2003 was a crucible year for me.
I read the organizational announcement with a smile. I survived the organizational re-shuffle of the Operations function in the Asia Pacific and Australasia region. No, I did better than survive! Instead of losing my position, I gained leadership of another function, concurrent to the one I held. The announcement acknowledged my worth and placed confidence in my ability to do more. The isolation I felt as the only female director in the group was now in the past.
Yet that corporate experience was not my crucible moment.
The crucible moment happened when my husband died suddenly a few days after being admitted to hospital. Many hours later, as my children slept, huddled next to me, I felt my own life ebb away. Wait! A pause. I asked a question. I received my answer: “I will live for greater purpose.”
Since then I have flourished in spite of the brokenness.
I do what I do to leave behind a legacy; something that is good and valuable; the best that I can do; one that endures; enjoyed by others beyond my days; life and work that is pleasing to God. This singleness of purpose, the laser-like focus, at work and in life, is inspired by this verse.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things…
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:2, 17 (The Bible, New International Version)
Have you experienced a crucible moment? How has it shaped your approach to life and work?