Rita McGrath Transcript

We’ve all faced situations that create a massive shift in our lives and careers. It could be a business decision that makes things 10x faster or a new software that makes manufacturing 10x less expensive. Outside of work, these experiences could be getting laid off or seeing a new opportunity that significantly changes your life. How do you handle these situations to see the most growth and opportunity?

Rita McGrath, professor at Columbia Business School and best-selling author, calls these experiences inflection points, or situations that create a 10x shift. These are the moments you look back on and realize are when everything changed. But in the moment, knowing how to identify and navigate these significant changes and opportunities can be challenging—especially when the inflection points are negative, like getting fired or rejected.

Rita says the first thing to do when you face an inflection point is to take a deep breath and get centered on what you’re trying to accomplish. An inflection point may have taken you off the course you had planned, but you can re-center around your goals and purpose. Or perhaps an inflection point moved you far beyond where you expected to be. Remembering your goals at that moment can keep you grounded.

Rita says we often get fixated on a particular expression of success—such as reaching a certain job title or hitting a revenue goal. And it can seem bleak when those things don’t happen or we face roadblocks, such as not getting a promotion or losing a big client. When that happens, Rita recommends getting to the why behind the goal. Why did you want to have that job title? Why did you want to increase your revenue? With that why in mind, you can realize other potential paths to success. You may want to become CEO to create change within your company. But when that goal doesn’t happen, your inflection point can help you identify other ways to create change without the job title.

Personal inflection points can thrust us into a period of introspection, which Rita said many people experienced during the pandemic. Embracing that introspection and taking time to identify an inflection point and think before you make a decision is critical to moving forward. It may be tempting to jump at the next opportunity or rush into another idea, but taking time to sort through the emotions and consider your next move is essential.

Rita gives a common example of someone losing their job. That challenge is an inflection point that can change the course of their life and career. Instead of rushing into the first opportunity to resolve the tension, even if it doesn’t seem quite right, take time to evaluate your goals and path.

Inflection points can change the course of your life and career. And in a business setting, inflection points can redirect a company to new growth and opportunities. But that doesn’t mean they are easy or frictionless. Knowing how to identify, regroup, and pause during these critical moments can be the difference between moving forward and getting stuck.

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