Let Go or Be Dragged: A Psychologist’s Journey to Sustained Relevance


Today I stand before you as a psychologist who has been disrupted. I’m going to share my journey to sustained relevance.

But it wasn’t just me — our entire team of highly skilled management psychologists was affected.

Our story started in the summer of 2015 when we were at an all time career and practice high …

Reaching Our Pinnacle

You see, we’d just supported an arduous and thorough CEO succession that involved a complete “inventory” of our VP+ population’s leadership and business capabilities. The work was dynamic, exciting, groundbreaking and ultimately supported a highly acclaimed CEO succession.

Our stock price remained stable, our employees were excited and engaged and our company performance continued on a positive trend. Our new CEO was set up for success. Accolades came to our group from within Cisco and outside.

This was our Super Bowl. Our gold medal. But one thing we’d failed to notice while we were so busy with the multi-year process, was that the world around us was changing.

SOOOO … you might imagine our shock when a few months later we learned that our group was getting repurposed and folded into a “new” organization comprised of existing parts.

Our New Reality

A new leader had arrived on the scene to assist in Breaking HR. Now we were asked to fundamentally disrupt how we select, assess, grow, coach and promote our leaders and teams. And here is the punch line, we would do this at scale and our work is to reside at the intersection of digital and human technologies …

A mouthful right? Huh? You might be asking? Indeed, we wrestled with this a lot. What did it mean?

Our customers were already delighted, why would we change anything?

Suffice to say that some of us had our moments — think four-year-old wanting their way and then perhaps over a glass of wine a few of us said,

“Ok. What if? What if?”

We’ll keep doing what we have to do to run the business WHILE we effectively end of life — think dial-up modem — our models and frameworks and completely redesign for the future.

You might say the wine helped with a recognition of “let go or be dragged” and none of us wanted to get dirty.

Letting Go

And then when we let go, new ideas began to flow- we grounded ourselves in the research, the data, refreshed on neuroscience, positive psychology and built what we refer to as Source Code.

A year in and our practice has changed to ensure that Source Code is the core of every practice we build- with the goal of enabling the best of each leader to emerge while still satisfying the requirements of our rigorous executive leaders.

We are:

  • Using technology and building our own to assist us with our practice
  • Building new communities and finding allies and information from fields with whom we’d never before connected
  • Utilizing social media to get our messages out
  • Looking at gamification

Most of all, we are experimenting like mad and recognize that failure is a natural process of our ability to be even better. We are driving impact, having more fun than ever, and we are getting paid for it!

So I ask each of you: As we think about and experience today how digital technology is intersecting with the best of human technology– Will you let go? Or will you be dragged?

Attaining Sustained Relevance

There are numerous unanswered questions about the future of mental health. Now is the time to bring them to the forefront and some of these have been addressed today—but what will we as mental health practitioners or technologists actually do together?

Start by asking some of these questions:

  • Will new communities will be born?
  • What new ethical guidelines do we need?
  • How will new policies inform us?
  • Will new ideas for treatment be unleashed?
  • How will we change to meet the needs of clients and patients?
  • What does the data suggest about disease and well-being? Where do we take this?

Where will you come in? Will you stay relevant for the next 5 or 25 years? How will you disrupt your practice? How will you get involved? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

-This blog topic was originally a talk given by the author at the William James College of Psychology Conference Telemental Health: Expanding the Digital Frontier from September of 2016.

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