By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, FAAN
What does luck have to do with it? This is a question that we rarely see asked of nurse leaders when they discuss their career successes. I was intrigued to see Jim Collins and Morten Hansen, authors of Great by Choice, devote a whole chapter to this topic in their new book. Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying “I am a great believer in luck, and find that the harder I work the more I have of it”. Is luck an outcome of hard work as Jefferson noted or is it something that happens in one’s career and one can capitalize on it or not.
Collins and Hansen define a luck event as having the 3 components:
- A significant aspect of the luck event occurs largely independent of the actions of the individual who experiences it.
- The event has a potentially significant consequence (either good or bad).
- The event has some element of unpredictability.
Luck as defined by these authors is an event that is largely out of your control. Although it may be random, some individuals are more likely than others to recognize luck and seize the opportunity. One of my nursing leadership students recently told me of her experience with luck in securing a position as a new graduate in a critical care unit in a highly respected hospital with a competitive selection process. Her mother was unexpectedly hospitalized after experiencing a massive heart attack. This new graduate flew back to her hometown to be with her family. She stayed with her mother around the clock. One day, the nurse manager in the intensive care unit was making rounds and she happened to be at her mother’s side. The manager asked her about her mother’s care. She told this manager how impressed she was with the staff. The nurse manager asked her about herself and she mentioned she had recently graduate from nursing school and was looking for a job. At that point, the manager said nothing and my student assumed she had forgotten her but continued to help care for her mother. Three days later, the manager came back into her mother’s room and told my student that she wanted to interview her for a position that had recently opened. In recalling the incident, my student told me that the manager had spoken with every nurse who had taken care of her mother and asked about her. “She saw a spark in me that I did not see in myself. It was an unbelievable stroke of good luck for me and of course, I changed my plans and moved back home to take a job on this unit”.
Capitalizing on Luck
At some point in your path to becoming a nurse leader, you will likely experience a lucky break. Luck is not a career strategy but capitalizing on luck when it occurs is. Collins and Hansen offer some important advice on how to manage luck. This involves four things:
- cultivating the ability to zoom in and recognize luck when it happens.
- developing the wisdom to see when and when not to let luck disrupt your plans.
- being sufficiently prepared to endure an inevitable spate of bad luck.
- creating a positive return on both good and bad luck.
Tjan points out that the secret to capitalizing on luck begins with the right attitude and stems from humility, intellectual curiosity and optimism. We can’t cause, control or predict luck. We should be aware that most of us at some point will get a lucky break that could propel our careers forward if we act on it.
Read to Lead
Collins, J. & Hansen, M.T. (2011). Great by Choice. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
[amazon asin=0062120999&template=iframe image&chan=default]
Tjan, A. (2011, July 06). Why some people have all the luck. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/tjan/2011/07/why-some-people-have-all-the-l.html
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