A simple framework for Career Development

Several years ago I had an informal discussion with a fellow HR professional, Michelle.  She is an expert in Org Development, etc. who shared her expertise with me as we sat at a meeting room table.  (PS – shout out to Michelle, who I have lost contact with, and with whom I’m not connected with on social media).

I was asking Michelle about her thoughts on career development, and what model(s) she used to effectively teach these principles.  She excitedly scribbled the following venn diagram on a blank sheet of paper for me, and it forever changed my perspective on the topic:

career-development

 

Here’s the gist: every “thing” we have to do at work – every task, every assignment, etc. – will fall somewhere in this diagram.  Is it something the company asks you to do, but you’re not good at it, nor do you like it?  Blue circle.  Is there something that you are passionate about but aren’t yet good at it, nor does the company need it?  Green circle.

At times there’s an overlap – for example, something you’re good at that the company needs you to do is the area where yellow overlaps with blue.

The BEST area is the small triangle in the middle where all three overlap – this means it is something you’re good at (skill), something you like (interest) and something the company needs you to do (company need).  That’s the sweet spot.

That’s the area of pure motivation, engagement, performance, and joy at work.  That’s the gold standard.

In my experience, the most important circle to be aware of (and also the trickiest to manage) is the green circle.  If you were to ask your team where most of their job lies on this diagram, they will probably say blue, yellow, or the overlap of the two.  Why does this matter?  Because it is outside the green circle.  If it is something they aren’t interested in at all, they will likely burn out, or grow disinterested, disengaged, or just stop doing their job.  #thatsaproblem

So, use this model of career development to begin discussions with those on your team – evaluate where different pieces lie, on the diagram, and talk about how to get them into the middle triangle.

This approach will change the focus slightly, instead of thinking about career development in terms of getting promoted to the next level, next position, etc. – it becomes about bringing as many things as possible into that middle section.  This will bring additional skills, experience and results that benefit all involved.

(Next week, I’ll share some examples to help walk through this in more detail…)

Try it our!  See where it goes.  I think the hardest part about career development discussions is just getting started.  This is a great point to start!

Leadership lessons from… an Ostrich???

A while back I was putting together some material to train on some leadership principles.  I needed a really good example of what not to do – don’t hide from a problem, address it head on.  My first thought was an ostrich sticking its head in the sand.

I had heard the phrase before…  “don’t stick your head in the sand…” or “don’t bury your head in the sand”

So I started to do a little reading.  Why do ostriches do this, anyway?  Is it true that they really assume that if they hide their head, their whole body can’t be seen, as originally thought?

As I read a few different things, here and here, I learned a few lessons that really apply to leaders.  Not what I originally thought, but perhaps even more valuable.

I learned that ostriches demonstrate three distinct behaviors very similar to leaders & managers in the workplace.  We can learn from each of them what not to do as a leader.

First, don’t run away.

The physical make-up of an ostrich is well known – can’t fly, but can run at great speeds.  Well, it turns out that this is their greatest defense – to run away from trouble.  No great surprise, right?

What I learned:  leaders can also run away from problems.  They will physically go out of their way to avoid people, meetings, places or situations that might present a sort of “danger”.  This is a mistake.

Leaders don’t run from things!  Confront reality, even though difficult.

Second, don’t lie down and pretend you won’t be noticed.

Did you know that an ostrich will, in fact, lay down and hold perfectly still as a defense?  It’s true.  They hope to not be noticed and to avoid any trouble by just holding perfectly still.  Ostriches have excellent sight and hearing; in fact, they can oftenostrich-head-sand sense predators coming long before they actually arrive.  They commonly lay down flat to “hide” from the danger they sense coming.

What I learned: leaders often have a sense of pending danger, or a sense when something is wrong.  It is a mistake to just lay down hoping it just goes away!  Seems risky for the ostrich to just lay there, hoping that a predator won’t notice, don’t you think?  Likewise, it’s even more risky for a leader to figuratively “hold still” and hope no one notices, or no bad happens.

Leaders should not just lay down and hope trouble passes.  

Take an active role!  Face it head on!

Finally, don’t bury your head in the sand.  Really.  🙂

Back to the myth of burying your head in the sand.  This was the most interesting breakthrough I had… Continue reading

Lessons I Learned from a Rock on the Beach

A few weeks ago, I was walking on Indian Beach along the Oregon coast.  A spectacular, beautiful day, looking much like the picture above (and yes, that is a picture of Indian Beach).  As my wife and I walked down the beach as the waves rolled in, we were looking for shells that had been washed ashore, that we could take home to show the kids.

Suddenly, I saw it.  The most perfect black rock you’ve ever seen.  It was a little smaller than a golf ball and was glistening perfectly in the sun.  Perfectly clean, perfectly black and perfectly smooth.  It looked as though it belonged in this family of rocks:

black-rock-symbol-72dpi

My mind immediately started thinking:  “how did this rock get so perfectly smooth?”

The answer was simple:  waves and sand, smoothing out the stone over a long period of time.  It definitely took a long time, I concluded.  Awesome.  I was very pleased with my meaningful souvenir and shoved it in my pocket as we continued walking down the beach.

However, I didn’t expect some additional lessons that I would learn from this ‘perfect’ rock…

At the base of the trail to leave the beach, there is an immediate uphill climb (where the forest meets the sand, the left-hand side of the picture), there was a whole bunch of black rocks just like the one I had claimed as my perfect rock.  They were all sizes and various shapes – but all smooth.  All worn by the waves and the sand.  Suddenly my perfect rock wasn’t feeling so special…

My next realization came when we got home.  I got out my perfect rock, but for some reason, it wasn’t what I remembered.  It wasn’t quite as perfect, as smooth, as black.  Now that it was dry, and not glistening in the sunlight anymore, the luster had faded away.

But this is still “my rock” and I still love it, because it has taught me a few very important lessons:

  1. The principle about waves and water making a stone smooth?  Absolutely true.  In our careers, becoming the smooth stone we all want to be will take time, and it will require experiences (sometimes rough).  Stay patient.  Stay positive.
  2. If I consider myself the black rock I found on the beach, safe to say that co-workers and associates are the other group of black rocks by the trail head.  We are all in it together.  We are all just trying to smooth ourselves over the course of our careers.  Leaders remember this, and recognize it in others.
  3. My perfect rock wasn’t so perfect in the end.  Leaders are well served to remember that sometimes things aren’t as perfect as they seem.  Take some time, let the luster fade a little bit to understand the real beauty of the ‘rock’.

So now my rock sits on my desk as a constant reminder of these important lessons:

rock at desk

 

Maybe it is the perfect rock after all.