What happens when “the whole thing goes down”?
A few years ago I was struggling in a leadership role that was not a good fit. Despite my best efforts…despite my hopes and dreams…despite my repeated attempts to “fix” the situation, I wasn’t thriving and I wasn’t succeeding. It was an extremely challenging time, and an experience I’d not wish on anyone. Ever.
Yet even awful times have a silver lining. I’m lucky to have friends and colleagues who provided a sounding board and a support system. Their open hearts, empathy and common sense helped me make tough decisions and come to terms with the situation. The gift of those terrible months was a renewed gratitude for the strength of my support network.
One friend in particular helped me better understand what happened. Sam Soma is a leadership coach, design leader and skilled facilitator. She introduced me to the concept of fallback.
Fallback is defined as “the total loss of capacity to reason, to see or to feel what you saw or felt or reasoned before…to feel helplessly subjected to an experience.” Fallback is a theory proposed by Dr. Valerie Townsend Livesay in her 2015 research paper One Step Back, Two Steps Forward: Fallback in Human and Leadership Development.
Reading the paper helped me to make sense of my experience and rebuild my confidence. Knowing what fallback is, when it occurs, and how to mitigate it has helped me navigate opportunities and support others encountering professional difficulties similar to what I experienced.
In order to internalize and synthesize the all the detailed information in the paper, I visualized it in a sketchnote.
References & Resources
- Source paper: One Step Back, Two Steps Forward: Fallback in Human and Leadership Development, by Valerie Townsend Livesay; Published in the Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, Volume 12(4) 2015
- Valerie Livesay, PhD., Author
- Samantha Soma, Leadership Coach