Wow… how’d that happen??

Posted December 28, 2009 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

I always find the time between Christmas and New Years a great time to reflect.  It seems to take on even more significance when we reach a decade milestone.  It’s interesting to look back over 10 years and reflect on your life’s highlights and low lights.  In this past decade alone I got married, had a child, walked away from a six figure salary, lost a mentor way too soon and gained a deeper insight into who my friends truly are as I struck out on my own entrepreneurial path.

Yesterday as I was cleaning up my office in preparation for 2010, I came across my Strength’s Finder report that I had done after reading Marcus Buckingham’s book, Now, Discover Your Strengths.

I’d become a Buckingham fan after seeing him present ideas from his first book, First, Break All the Rules.  I really liked the idea of strengths-based management and, like with any good management advice, really believe you have to apply the theory to yourself first in order to figure out how to make it a reality for the people you lead.

In 2000, I became committed to working with my strengths.  I started to pay a great deal of attention to what I enjoyed doing and what I loathed doing.  (See my blog post on Buckingham’s recent TO appearance to learn how to do this yourself).  I also took advantage of taking any assessment and feedback sessions I could get my hands on.  I hired coaches on my own dime and got clear on my values.

As I looked at my Strengths Finder report that had been lost in a file for the past 5 or so years, I was a little amazed at how much “this stuff actually works!”.  The top 5 “signature” strengths are all components of my current role.  It made me think “wow, how’d that happen?”.  Unlike a lot of people out there who talk about the importance of having concrete goals and plans, I’ve never really operated that way.  If you asked me what my career goal was 10 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to articulate it very clearly.  I didn’t know what I wanted to “be”.  I was thinking more about what I wanted to do, or not do.  I found it hard to label that on a specific role.

Buckinghams points out that to work with your strengths requires small, incremental changes.  It starts with clearly understanding what you love and loathe and then making conscious choices to do more of the former and less of the latter.

Ten years after starting my own conscious personal journey to use more of my strengths each and every day, I feel like I’m 75% there.  There’s still lots of what I have to do that I don’t enjoy… but I’m getting clearer and clearer about who I am and what I want to be spending the majority of my days doing.

So… for all of you out there that are feeling stuck in a large career rut (as I was at the turn of the past decade), and are feeling paralyzed because you can’t articulate a clear “goal” around what you want to be “when you grow up”, here’s my (unsolicited) advice:  let go of the pressure to come up with the “right” answer.  Instead, ask yourself “what is one small change I can do in my life that lets me do more of what I love and less of what I loathe?”  And then do it.  And keep doing it.  By 2020 you may be surprised to see where you find yourself.

Happy leading!

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  1. Samantha Leach says:

    Thanks for this reminder of Buckingham’s fantastic advice that makes the task of setting and achieving career goals simpler and more manageable.