Ignore Your Dream… Do What You Are Good At

Follow your dream. Do what you are passionate about. Have you ever heard advice like this? Have you ever tried to follow that advice? And have you ever seen someone who followed that advice to fail miserably? Do you have friends who are happy at their job? And if you are one of the lucky ones have you ever analyzed why you are happy when others just complain? Let me give you some answers and some more questions to think about.

I have recently finished reading an excellent book So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport. It provides a rather controversial view on what makes people happy at work. Cal has done a research into the topic and some of the findings follow the work of Anders Ericsson The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance that was later on popularized by Daniel Pink in his book Drive. I immediately identified with the view Cal Newport pushes since it reflects well my own career.

Do what others are willing to pay for

Being passionate about something sounds like the best place to start when you are looking for a job. But frankly, what are the things you are passionate about and how many of them have any relation to a potential job at all? You might be passionate about collecting stamps, fishing, walking in forest and observing nature, or what about your passion for chocolate? All these sound great but you might be hard pressed to find a job where someone would be willing to pay for your passion. And if no one is willing to reward your enthusiasm then you don’t really have a job that you are passionate about and that can cover your basic needs.

Another thing to consider is that with many people you will find that their passions are their hobbies. The moment you would start rewarding them for their hobby, change the hobby to a job, they may actually lose passion. Their intrinsic motivation goes away as the external motivation (pay) increases.

Do what you are good at

So if no one is willing to pay for your passion then what do you do? Well, obviously, you need to do something that people are willing to pay for. You do what you are good at. And chances are that the better you are, the more value you bring, the more others are willing to pay in return.

This is of course rather tricky. Not only you need to figure out what you are good at, you also need some competitive advantage. Understanding the broader field you selected for your career is important first step. For example there are different ways how to become a great manager. Depending on your personality and your skills at the day of decision you can have a style more focused on numbers and metrics, you can be more focused on hard skills to get things done, more on the empathy side to mentor and coach others. There are numerous strategies that can help you to become truly great manager and you don’t need to pursue all of them. Just pick the one for which you have a competitive advantage and relentlessly work on it to hone it to a level of ultimate mastery.

Be patient and focused

Because, it is all about mastery. When you really examine the causality relationship between passion and skill you will discover that skill comes first. I urge you to consider some hobby you are really passionate about. Take running for example. I have seen this times and times again when people decided to do something for their health. Running seemed a good idea. Were they passionate about it? Not really. It was a boring, difficult and not at all enjoyable experience. They run a mile, and felt tired, miserable, out of breath. I wouldn’t describe passion this way.

But they were patient and persevered. With enough focus, energy and routine they were able to train their bodies to run longer and longer distances. They could see the improvements in their performance, their health, and that lead to more enjoyment. That fueled even more effort and dedication. They became truly passionate about running. Why? Because they became really good at it. It is not a tedious activity anymore, it is truly enjoyable and they love doing it.

Seek challenges and feedback

All humans have unlimited potential. At least that is what I chose to believe when I decided to use coaching and mentoring as my primary management style. However, most humans also have limits to what they are willing to sacrifice and how they measure greatness. We tend to do only as much as is really needed and very few of us are willing to go above and beyond.

Maybe that is why so few people become truly great at what they do. Most of us will be only “ok”. Once we get to a certain level of performance that is acceptable by others, and more importantly that satisfies us, we stop improving. We level off because we feel we are good enough. And it is good enough to be good enough. This mindset has one pitfall. Good enough today may not be good enough tomorrow. Today’s satisfaction with our performance and our job will turn to dissatisfaction, complains about lack of advancements, feeling that others are getting more opportunities, and that life is not fair.

The way to battle this and get into a loop of constant happiness and satisfaction with your professional life is to never stop learning, never accept good enough when looking at your performance and relentlessly seeks feedback on what you can improve.

And not only feedback. You need to constantly seek challenges and new tasks that are just a bit out of your comfort zone and you need to find ways to realistically gauge your performance on these tasks and improve next time. This will get you step by step to the mastery in the field of your choice.

Build a brand and goodwill

How do you build a brand? Have a mission. If you consistently, over long period of time, exhibit certain behavior, volunteer for certain type of tasks, spend time and energy on getting better at these tasks, talk about why these are important for you and find the unifying mission of your life then you will yourself into a powerful brand. You will be seen as really good at these topics and it will fuel further development. The same as with the hobbies you will become passionate about what you do and you will love it.

Keep in mind that this is not about a particular job or position. It is bigger and more lasting. For example, I could see myself as being operations or engineering manager and aspire to become a director. I could have development plans to focus more on strategic focus or leading bigger teams. But I would be in the pursuit of a title and not really in the pursuit of excellence of what I do.

So years ago I decided to have completely different paradigm. I have a mission in my professional life. “I’m the guy who builds teams, offices, and grows people.” I don’t care about what the job title is, even what the actual job description says because in whatever role I’m I will find or build the aspects aligned with my professional mission. It gives me opportunity to be better and better at what I do. That is seen by others so they give me opportunities for doing more of it. And ultimately that makes me love what I do.

Love what you do

So instead of endless jumping from job to job, from career to career, trying to find your passion. I would suggest you focus on doing whatever work you have really well. By doing a great job you will gain respect of others, more autonomy, satisfaction from job well done, and all this will feed back into the loop of excellence. And at the end people love to do what they are good at.

 

What is your recipe for being happy at work? What are you passionate about and do you follow your passions?

Originally posted at LinkedIn.

Follow me on Twitter: @GeekyLeader

Overachievers, Mediocre, Underperformers. Where Do You Focus?

If you are managing growing teams you probably experienced it yourself. So much to do and so little time. One of your primary responsibilities as a leader is to coach, mentor and develop your team. You want to make sure that everyone knows what they should do and they are constantly expanding their abilities and growing in the job and to the next one. This is very important not only for their personal benefit but also for your ability to scale the organization.

But where do you spend the most of your time when it is clear to you that you cannot give every single individual eight hours a day of attention? Do you focus on the underperformers to help them perform? Do you focus on the average guy to make him a star? Or do you focus on the overachievers who already excel at what they are doing? This is extremely complex issue that may even be a bit controversial.

What happens when you focus on Underperformers?

For argument’s sake let’s assume the 20-70-10 rule. You have 20% of overachievers, 70% of the average guys and 10% of underperformers. If you say you want to spend 80% of your time with the 10% of underperformers to make them into average guys it sounds like a safe bet. You will deal with their issues, they will perform better than in the past you helped your organization. The rest of the team will do a decent job, couple of overachievers will even drag the rest of the team slowly forward. This may not be completely bad strategy when you are in industry where it is impossible to replace the low performers and you don’t need the team to grow and reach more than it is reaching today.

What happens when you focus on Mediocre ones (the average guy)?

The average guys are most of your organization so let’s focus 80% of your energy and time on them. You can help them to be better and better at their jobs and eventually event get to the next level and catch up with the best in your team. Sounds like a good approach to equalize the team. This way you also offset the bad work done by the underperformers so in average the team does a good job. The average guys are happy as they are getting opportunities, the underperformers are struggling, some may even leave, but since you don’t focus on them too much they will probably stay. Only the overachievers will at some point say enough and leave since they are not getting the opportunities to learn and grow and at the end of the day the best wants to work again with the best.

What happens when you focus on Overachievers?

You are spending 80% of your time with people who are already very good at what they do. They are talented, motivated, dedicated to the success of the organization so it may sound a bit counter-intuitive. However, your effort is not to make them better at what they do already well, but rather to use their potential and accelerate their move to the next level. This may be a more senior technical role or a leadership role. What is the big benefit of focusing on these guys? You just build yourself a team of people who can help you grow the rest of the organization, deal with the underperformers and scale the team much faster than you could do alone. Then it is not completely only your job to help the average guy or deal with the underperformer. You have whole army of overachievers who were given the training, the attention and the means to excel and help you in a truly meaningful way. The nice side effect is that the top talent will most likely stick around as they will feel properly challenged and valued.

So what are you going to do?

It always depends on your circumstances but I would argue that to quickly build a scalable and fast growing organization you need to spend disproportionate amount of time with the overachievers and the top talent. You need to give them the support and means to quickly grow to the next job level and help you build the rest of the organization. Of course, you need to spend some amount of time with mediocre ones and the underperformers to give them a fair chance and support to improve, but you also need to realize when enough is enough and that they would be happier elsewhere.

 

Where do you focus your coaching and mentoring effort? What type of people do you prioritize? Or are you democratically distributing your time equally across the whole team?

Originally published at LinkedIn.

6 Fears Of Leadership

Every new manager needs to deal with tons of situations he or she never dealt before. There are battle you never fought before, battles you even cannot imagine. It requires courage, strength, vision, and understanding your opponent. And unfortunately the opponent’s army lives in your head.

Couple of years ago I participate on a coaching training organized by Erickson Coaching International. Part of the sixteen days long course was to learn how to deal with our internal fears and how to coach others to overcome them. Dr. Marilyn Atkinson calls these fears “gremlins”. She is describing four of these gremlins or fears that may inhibit your growth, success or happiness in life. They are essentially habits that can stop you from achieving your life or business goals. To make some of the ideas behind them more prominent I added two additional fears you will need to deal with when entering the world of management. So what are the fears that prevent you from becoming a stellar leader?

  1. Fear of dreaming

If you want to change something, or reach a goal you need to have a vision. You need to be able to visualize what you want to achieve, how you want your life to look like, how you want to be seen by your team and why is this important for you. The inability to dream, or rather to visualize yourself actually achieving the goals is one of the root causes why you don’t even begin. It might be you don’t believe you have the skills, or you see other people around who are in your eyes better, smarter, more beautiful. As a consequence you are unable to create a realistic visual experience on how your life could look like if you pursued some challenging goal. You are so afraid to dream that you procrastinate and you don’t even want to consider what might be possible and what you can be capable of.

How to fight this fear? Get a mentor or a professional coach to help you realize what your strengths, and your potential are. Remember that when you were five years old many things you do today (driving a car, buying a house, reading a book) looked pretty unachievable and still, here you are.

  1. Fear of failure

Even when you are able to set vision for yourself you can still get derailed by another fear that will pop up regularly as you are faced with new and new challenges. Fear of failure is there to shield you from doing something stupid that can hurt you. Unfortunately, it is rather conservative fellow and often prevents you from experiencing anything new. For people who get their first management job this is often very real fear. Suddenly, you are faced with whole new world of requirements and you feel like not having the necessary skills. As you get more and more experienced and as you get more comfortable with failure this fear slowly goes away.

How to fight this fear? Remember your first attempts to ride a bike? Or first swimming lessons? I’m pretty sure you had your share of failures and they were very important learning opportunities. It is ok to fail. And to help you get this mindset try to break down any insurmountable task into a bunch of simple steps that don’t look so threatening. Failing at the next small step is not that scary as failing at the huge vision.

  1. Fear of conflict

We are not alone. There are people all around us and especially in a leadership roles you need to expect frequent interactions with others. People who find themselves in a leadership role need to be able to fight. Ability to distinguish what are the battles worth fighting and how it should be done is one of the markers of really great managers, communicators, and leaders. Most of them have one thing in common. They have a very strong internal compass based on a clear set of values and rules. If you understand why something is important to you, if you are able to judge the impact on your actions and have communication skills to limit any collateral damage you get also more comfortable with having difficult discussions, having strong opinions and you get the ability to show your team a vision they can follow.

How to fight this fear? Focus on improving your communication skills and how to have difficult conversations to build your confidence. Look inside you to find the values that guide your life and make sure that your actions align with those values.

  1. Fear of system failure

We live and work in a complex system. Things somehow work, they are all connected and any time we do something we influence the system, the environment, and the people around us. Getting into a leadership position means that you are required to constantly influence the system in pretty significant ways. You have bigger impact on lives of others than when you were individual contributor, you have formal (or informal) power and you need to be ready to use it. The common fear here is that your decision will negatively impact someone’s life, you may lose friends, or you may get your boss angry. It then leads to indecisiveness, procrastination or apathy. You are getting to the wait and see mode instead of proactively directing your life and steering the system in a new direction.

How to fight this fear? Again, use your values as a compass for knowing what is right. Understand what role you are just playing in that given moment (boss, father, friend) and behave in a way that is aligned with that role. Stop worrying about things you cannot change. You cannot change how others feel, and you cannot change the whole world at once.

  1. Fear of insignificance

This is a fear that many managers experience. All human beings have the need to be respected. You want your boss to treat you like a human being and at the same time you want to feel people reporting to you are taking you seriously. For a new manager this fear may significantly impact his or her performance. It can also manifest itself when you are being promoted to more senior leadership roles and asked to work as a peer with people who are vastly more experience or if you are coming as a new manager to already built team. This fear can lead to being afraid to make tough decisions (or any decisions at all), being afraid to speak up on topics you are not so strong about (you could be ridiculed), being afraid to appear weak (so you start shouting on people and play a big boss). In short, this fear is rooted in you not being confident enough to do a job you are asked to do.

How to fight this fear? You’ve got to the position you are in for a reason. Others probably believe you will do fine. Getting a good understanding from the people who you interact with what they expect from the role, setting up clear communication and feedback channels, and making it very clear what values you stand for is a good start. It helps to have a trusted mentor who can guide you until you get the necessary amount of confidence.

  1. Fear of uncertainty

The world is changing. Any growth requires a change. And with any change there is uncertainty. For many managers and leaders the fear of uncertainty can keep them stuck in their ways even when those ways no longer work. You see that the team is not performing as well as it could, but you don’t know whether the improvement idea you have would work. So you don’t even try. There is a new big initiative coming, but because you are uncertain whether it will succeed, you resist. And then you are either left out or you help the initiative to fail. You need to make a decision, but you are so afraid of the uncertain future that you are trying to collect endless amount of data thus not making the decision too late, or not at all. There are so many similar situations that this fear can drastically impact your ability to grow your career but also to grow as a person and have a happy life.

How to fight this fear? Keep in mind that no one can predict the future. Also remember that the world around you is changing whether you want it or not and it is always better to lead the change as you can at least impact the direction. If you don’t make decisions, the life will make them for you. The need for clarity and understanding the future is very strong but can be broken by having a positive mindset that allows you to enjoy small wins, and keep the optimistic attitude and solid amount of curiosity. Once again, things that don’t change can’t grow.

And now what? If you have no clue how to find your internal fears then you should consider working with a life coach who can guide you on the journey through your inner self. The ability to understand your values, getting your vision, and recognize these fears so you can align them with your goals or even remove them altogether is a good first step for happy life and successful leadership career.

 

What are your fears as a leader? What were the internal fears and worries you had to overcome to become good at what you do?

Originally posted at LinkedIn.

Career Coaching 101

In my life as a manager, a leader, and a coach I’ve been frequently asked for help or advice about the next career steps. In my life as an employee I have frequently faced the same questions from myself and not always had a good answers. So what do you do when a team member or a coaching client comes to you and wants a piece of advice? Whatever you do, don’t give it! Each of us has different values and different goals in life. Each of us is at different stage of our careers and due to different skillset have also many different options of what to do.

So instead of providing answers start asking questions. Especially in a coaching relationship it is always a good idea to start with the big picture and talk about the value system, and the non-professional part of life to ensure that the work piece fits nicely with the rest. To guide you through the career coaching session let me share couple of questions that may get you started.

Who are you in your professional life?

It is good to define who the person is in his professional life and who he wants to be. It should provide high-level framework for the rest of the discussion.

  • What are the things you like in your work? And why? (You have to ask this but don’t expect any deep thoughts, it is essentially an ice breaker.)
  • What are your strengths? (Forget about weaknesses.)
  • Why do you work? What is your motivation? (And don’t say money, dig a bit deeper here so you find the real drivers.)
  • What are the skills you are learning and you want to learn? (Most people have some things they would really like to learn and usually there is a deeper reason behind.)
  • What are the skills you need to learn? (Most likely set of skills you are missing to outperform at your current level in your current job.)
  • What is your dream job and why? (This may lead back to values and should help to identify whether the person is actually in the right field and shouldn’t make a bigger change to be happy.)
  • When was the last time you were “in the flow” and what were you doing? (You dig deeper here to understand what are the things that make this person go above and beyond.)

I personally just love asking these two questions. In fact I love them so much that I tend to ask them even in interviews when search for leadership potential. I believe that because they require a very succinct answer they push the person to think a lot about who he really is and possibly who he wants to or how he wants to be seen in his professional life

  • What is the mission of your professional life?
  • How would you describe yourself on twitter (140 characters or less)?

To give you example I just returned from my Philippine mission back to Europe and found many new faces in the office. Instead of giving these new team members the whole story of my life I decided to make it twitter like “I’m the guy who builds offices and grows people” (in fact only 47 characters including spaces). This essentially sums up the last six years of my professional life and that is how I see myself and would hope that others would see me today. Is it how I want to be seen for the rest of my life? Most likely no and when I get tired of this particular picture of myself I will come up with a new “mission” and then will try to find a job that will fit this new image of myself.

How are you seen by others?

You need a sanity check so answering this question would really help and to make sure you get an honest picture you probably want to ask around for some feedback

  • What feedback do you have from others?
  • How are you seen by your bosses, peers, subordinates, and partners?
  • What are the things they are saying that are not in-line with what you believe about yourself?

What do you keep and what do you lose?

Now, let us talk about what aspects of your job you want to keep and what you want to get rid of. For example, I hate dealing with bureaucracy so I would try to set my job in such a way that I don’t need to deal with it too much. Or I just love working with people so whatever my next gig is it has to have a strong aspect of working with others.

  • What are the key aspects of your work you want to keep?
  • What are the key aspects of your work you want to change?
  • What is standing in your way to get your dream job? Any skill gap? And if yes, how do you plan to tackle it?

What is out there?

The philosophical part is behind us and now to a real field work. These questions are just to guide a person but most likely cannot be answered in the first coaching session. It can be a good idea to ask the person to do his homework and research a bit what is happening around him. Starting with how his colleagues work. Why are some of them happy, what drives them, what are the opportunities inside the company and what is the situation on the job market? Depending on the results of this search you can continue with some of these

  • What realistic opportunities are out there for me? (The key word is “realistic”. If you are a fresh manager with two months under your belt you can hardly expect to get a fancy job of a director responsible for bunch of teams around the world. At the same time don’t let the titles fool you. Each company has a unique way how it is structured and depending on company culture, size, and maturity the titles may vary quite a bit. So instead on headlines focus on job descriptions.
  • What can you do to increase the number of these opportunities? (Would training help? Contacts? International experience? Etc.)
  • How can you learn about them? (Do you need to do something proactively?)
  • How can you let others know that you are a suitable candidate for these roles? (Be creative and think long-term. Do you join some professional association? Do you start answering questions on some industry related public forum? Do you seek opportunities to help out your colleagues or people from other departments? Do you start building a network of contacts within your industry?)

How do you select the right opportunity?

At this stage you should have a pretty clear picture about what is out there, what your values and skills are and what positions you believe are a mutual match. The worst thing at this stage that can happen is to have more than one option to choose from.

  • What are the key criteria to help you decide what is the right opportunity?
  • What are the things you are willing to sacrifice in case of really interesting opportunity? (And believe me you need to be able to make sacrifices. There is nothing on this world as a perfect job. At least not at the beginning. To have a perfect job you need to step into one that is relatively close and then mold it and let it mold you in such a way that one day you find you and your job be the best friends)
  • Who will I ask for an opinion? Who are the people I trust to give me a good advice? (This one might be important question. Who are the people impacted by your decision so you want to give them a chance to voice their thoughts? Who are the people you value for their wisdom and life experience? Just remember at the end of the day it is your decision and you will have to live with consequences.)
  • How will I know I made the right decision? (You won’t until you make the choice and live it out. It might be a good idea however to have some sort of success criteria defined that you can consult in couple of months to see whether the change you made had the effect you desired.)

How do I start?

If your coaching session wasn’t just a theoretical exercise but you want a real change then it is important to define some plan and the first steps to get things moving

  • How well are you prepared for job interviews? What can you do to improve?
  • What are the first steps you need to take?
  • What are the results so far and how can you improve them?

Twitter type summary: “To help others find their place in the world you need to be unbiased and ask the right questions that will struck deep into who they are.”

What are your favorite questions you use to stimulate others to plan their career? Are there questions you would never ask? Original article posted at LinkedIn.

Coaching 101: What To Ask?

Once upon a time I wrote an article on Coaching Approach To Leading People. Since then I shared many additional thoughts on how to lead but not that many on how to coach. So let me rectify this today with a basics of a successful coaching dialog. For you to be a successful coach you need to spend majority of the time listening and only minimum talking. At the heart of coaching is the idea that people have the resources to help themselves and you as a coach just need to trigger this hidden power. The best coaching session is the one where at the end your client gets up with a clear mind and objectives that he owns because they came from his or her heart. To get you started let me share couple of coaching questions that are always a great first move. Keep in mind that you want to stimulate discussion and you don’t want one word answers so make sure you ask open ended questions.

1. What do you want?

Before you start working on something you need to understand what it is you want to get at the end. And if you are getting coached for it then it means spending significant resources so you better be sure about what and especially why.

  • What is it you want and why do you want it? (Usually people have a good idea of what they want but very often the “why” gets the confused. You may come to me and ask you want to figure out how to get more money. If I ask you why you will probably say “so I can buy stuff”. So why do you need to buy stuff? It feels good to have a new car. Why does it feel good? Why a new car and not something else? etc. Digging into the “why” can totally change the direction and end up in another “what”. Maybe instead of wanting more money the person wants to be valued by others. And maybe there are other ways how to achieve it, ways that will be closer to the person’s abilities and desires.)
  • Is it positive? (This one may not be so obvious but it is important. If you want to motivate person and especially if you want to see positive change, new behavior and positive outcome then also the goal needs to be formulated in a positive way. For example “I don’t want to feel miserable.” Nice sentiment, but it doesn’t really answer the question what do you want. It just states what you don’t want. “I want to be happy” is much more positive though you may still need to dig deeper to figure out what “being happy” actually means for that person.)
  • Is it under your control? (Make sure your goals are achievable and under your control. There is very little sense of coming up with a goal that sounds great but assumes other people to do it for you. You would feel helpless, things could go in any way and you have no way to influence the direction or quality of the execution. Whatever your goal is it needs to be under your direct control. For example “I don’t want others to yell at me,” is a nice goal but is your boss yelling at you under your control? Not really. So try instead “I want to make it easy for others to treat me with respect.” You still cannot influence how others will behave but you can exhibit a behavior that will make it easy for others to treat you with respect and don’t yell at you.)
  • Is it aligned with your other goals? (“I want to live alone on a tropical island” is a great goal but how does it fit with your other life goals of having a family, thousands of friends, party every night and go skiing every weekend? You should always do a sanity check to ensure that the goal you want to achieve won’t have disruptive effect on your other goals and on the goals of those around you that you hold dear.)

2. How will you get it?

Now, since we know what you want we can start talking about how you get it. The goal of these questions is to identify what resources you need and how to get you started.

  • Who do you need to ask for help? (Is it really completely under your control or are there some areas where help would be welcomed? Would a chat with your spouse or your boss help you achieving those goals?)
  • Do you need any resources you don’t have today? (Do you need to buy something as a prerequisite to achieving your goal? Do you need a specific time and place to be in?)
  • What is your first step? (How you get started? What is the first step you need to take and when will you take it? And be SMART about it, or better read this article on how to define a good goal SMART Goals Are Not Good Enough.)

3. How will you commit?

Now comes the hard part. Especially for long-term goals the challenge you will face is not how to get started but how to keep going.

  • Is there anything that may prevent you from getting it? (There might be competing priorities, you might get bored, you may need support of others)
  • If yes, how will you mitigate this risk? (Have a plan for these eventualities so when they occur they don’t stop you dead in your tracks but you are ready to deal with them and push forward)
  • What other ways of getting it could work? (Have you thought about other ways how to achieve your goal that may not be so straightforward at the beginning. “You want to learn a foreign language” so you decided to “study every weekend for two hours and enroll for a lesson at local language school”. What about living abroad for a half a year? What about finding a girlfriend or boyfriend who speaks the language? There are always many options so make sure you consider what is out there before you commit to sub-optimal solution.)
  • How do you rely on others and what are the consequences for them? (We talked about who you need to help you and you have a plan to deal with drawbacks in case they are not able or willing to help. Now comes the other side. You achieving your goal and “live on a remote tropical island” will without doubt affect other people around you. Are you comfortable with that impact on your family and friends? How can you ensure you limit that impact? How will you feel about your decision in couple of months? This one is really tricky as we cannot really predict how we will feel in the future. For the reasons why, check this post Human Brain, The Biggest Liar Of All Times.)

4. How do you recognize you succeeded?

And the best at the end. If you set a goal you also need to be able to measure somehow that you reached the goal. Aside of the fact that you might be curious you also want to feel good about finishing your goals and how can you feel good about finishing when you don’t know you finished?

  • How will you track your progress? (You probably need some way how to see you are still on track to achieving your goals. Do you need a weekly follow up? Do you need a measurable small steps? Do you need a feedback from others?)
  • How will you ensure to keep your momentum? (There will be bumps on the road so how do you ensure you don’t lose the momentum? When you check your progress and you discover you are slowing down how will you reenergize yourself to push forward?)
  • How will you recognize you succeeded and achieved your goal? (How will you know you are there? “I want to learn Spanish” is a great goal but what exactly does it mean? Unless you set a clear success criteria you may never get there as it is unlikely you will ever speak like a native speaker. “I will know that I speak Spanish when I take a week vacations in Barcelona and will be able to get around, order dinner, go to the movies and speak with locals without a need to have a translator.” This is still a tall order but at least it is something you can do to verify you succeeded. For me personally the moment I considered as me being able to speak English was the moment when I stopped translating everything in my head and started to think in that language.
  • How will you celebrate your success? (Have a plan for celebration. Why? It can act as an additional motivating factor if the way you celebrate is directly related to the goal. “When I learn Spanish I will go for two weeks vacations in South America which is my lifelong dream.”

That’s it. Pretty straightforward. Most of the difficulties will be at the very beginning trying to define what the person really wants. If your client has troubles with identifying his needs and wants then you may help him out by guiding him through the Life Balance Wheel exercise to get them started.

Twitter type summary: “As a coach you don’t talk. You just listen and when required you ask questions to stimulate your clients thinking process.”

What are your favorite coaching questions? Is there something you would never ask and is there the one question that always makes the difference?

Originally posted at LinkedIn.

Forget About Work-Life Balance, Just Live A Happy Integrated Life

It is being used in professional circles quite a bit. Talk about work-life balance, about the ways how not to sacrifice your personal life to your career goals and have a balanced life. Nothing against well-balanced life but what I would question is the inherent premise in the work-life balance theory: work means sacrifice and is not part of life. That just sounds really weird. You spend at work at least eight hours a day if not longer so how can you believe it is somehow not part of your life? And if it is really such a big sacrifice then why you do it? And please don’t tell me because you need money. Money are not the ultimate goal, they are just means to something else.

 

I must confess that I’m not someone who works nine to five. I spend considerable amount of time in the office and I love it. I also don’t feel that it has negative impact on my personal life. I have hobbies, travel the world, read tons of books, meet with friends or write this blog. And I do sleep seven to eight hours a day. And still some people would call me a workaholic only because I love my job, I like talking about it and I jump out of a bed every morning looking forward to yet another day in the office.

 

So if the work-life balance is not the thing to pursue then what else should you focus on? Well, the most obvious answer is the work-life integration. Why should you balance the great time with your family, your hobbies and great time at your work? And if you don’t have a great time at work isn’t it partially because you have a mindset that tells you that work is bad, home is good? Wouldn’t it be great if you could integrate these two and just have a great life regardless whether you are currently located at home or a company office?

 

It is about priorities

 

Wrong. It is a bit about priorities, but to be able to achieve the priorities of your life you need a good and stable base. If your life goal is raising a pair of beautiful kids or being a CEO of a big multinational company you just cannot get it done without regard of the rest of your life. What happens if you get fired from your job? What happens if your family breaks? Without a solid base and a well-integrated life you would get suicidal. If you look at your job as a sacrifice for your family how will you feel once for whatever reason you lose your family? You lost the thing you really care about and you are stuck with a job you hate. Not a good place to be in.

 

It is about mindset

 

Why not look at each aspect of your life as a necessary and helpful to support all the other parts? Why not to enjoy every aspect of your life to the fullest? I was told couple of times that I shouldn’t waste so much of my time in the office and rather go out and enjoy the life. I find that line of reasoning really peculiar. My time in the office is part of my life and I enjoy it immensely. I enjoy also being home with a good book. I enjoy great food in a nice restaurant. I enjoy talking with friends over a glass of beer, or bottle of coke in my case. I enjoy travelling the world and seeing new cultures and interesting places. And I enjoy playing with my little niece. I don’t see any of these as a waste of time. They all contribute to a happy and fulfilling life.

 

The key is being present

 

And yes, I realize I’m not offering any tips and tricks on how to have a well-integrated life. Since I believe it is about mindset and not some tricks or tools I cannot provide you with a plan how to get there. I can just point you in the direction of couple of posts that deal with happiness and positive mindset (Positive Approach To Life, Looking At The World Through The Eyes Of 5-years Old).

 

The only advice I give you is to always be present in whatever you do. If you are at work then be at work. Focus on the task at hand and don’t worry about anything else. If you sit on a meeting then focus on the topics discussed and ignore your email. If you are at home with your kids then give your complete attention to them and don’t check your blackberry every five minutes. It might be tempting to do many things in parallel in attempt to achieve more, but the only thing you will achieve is a state of constant worry and the constant feeling of missing out.

 

Life-balance wheel

 

If you really want a tool then you can look at this one used by some coaches (in fact I use it frequently when coaching new clients) called the life-balance wheel. Who knows why it is called this way. You can look at it as balance wheel or you can look at it as integration wheel. In any case, it can give you a nice framework to collect your thoughts on the topic, realize what the things important to you are, and what part of your life is not integrated well with the rest. If you are interested just check out my post on this topic Coaching Tools: Life Balance Wheel.

 

Twitter type summary: “Forget about having a great work-life balance! Better to focus on the task at hand and have a well-integrated life.”

 

What is your point of view? Do you have a great work-life balance or just a great life?

Introverts: How To Be Happy

I have already talked about the difference between extroverts and introverts Introverts: Who Are They?”, about how introverts can act more extroverted and why it might be worth a try Introverts: It Is All A Game and how to be a good introverted leader Introverts: How To Be A Leader. Today I want to focus on the most important aspect. How do you live a happy and satisfying life when you are introvert in a world that awards extroversion? I mean aside of the obvious answer: “Just ignore what others think,” since you are probably doing it anyway.

It’s all about your core values

Most of the people who are happy with their lives are those who have been able to align their purpose on this world with their core values and adjusted their expectations accordingly. You may do it naturally (without thinking about it) or you may try to give it a thought (or to approach a life coach) and dig deep into your conscious and subconscious mind to find out what your core values are and what is really important to you. If you come up with answer like “money” then you didn’t dig deep enough. It is very unlikely that your core value is to make money. Most likely you feel that you need money to satisfy some other need and core value. For example, you may discover that money are important to you because you want to be able to provide for your family and family is important to you because you want to belong somewhere and you want to belong somewhere because you want to be loved. By digging deeper you got from money to love. So again, don’t get satisfied with obvious answers and spend the time to find your real core values.

What is a mission of your life?

When having your core values you can then easily figure out what your life mission might be. Let’s say that one of your core values is to “be useful” (which is by the way one of mine). You can then figure out various means to satisfy this value. You may decide to spend as much time as possible with your family and provide all the help and care you can muster. Or you can join a non-profit organization and keep helping in third world countries. Or you can decide to work with people and help them grow and be successful in professional life (which is the path I follow). Often, it will be combination of more than one path. Since there are usually many ways how to live your life in harmony with your core values you may consider taking into account your dreams to pick the right path.

What are your dreams?

What are your dreams and what is behind them? One of my dreams since I was a child (very curious one) was to see the world. I would dream of visiting far-away places, see the natural wonders and humanity’s biggest achievements. Being introverted I was able to satisfy my hunger for visiting these places just by reading about them and seeing pictures but at some level I really wanted to experience it in real. To achieve that I could again select several paths. If I would look at where is the intersection between my dreams and my life mission I would have concluded that working for a global non-profit organization to travel and help in various places might be a good path. However, that would mean meeting constantly too many new people. The path in management I follow allows me the same while working with relatively limited number of people that I can get to know pretty well and seeing them grow and succeed brings me great satisfaction.

How can you achieve your goals and be yourself?

If you follow this approach it may help you to achieve your goals and be happy even when the path leads you to more extroverted type of life. Just make sure you keep a way how to put a break on things and resupply your energy in situations when your passion for the life mission takes you too far from who you are. This may happen when one of your core values takes control over your life and over the other values. It is very likely that there are more than one thing that are important to you and you need to make sure these are well integrated and whatever you do needs to be “mentally ecological”. Meaning, it shouldn’t be at odds with any of the core values.

And what if your core values and mission of your life go well with your introversion? Even better. Just focus on what you love being it science, programming, writing or painting and ignore the surroundings that may want you to become someone you don’t want to be. I still remember one of the best software developers I ever met who worked for a small start-up for quarter the salary he could make elsewhere without much chance for any upside. When we talked about why he doesn’t follow money and go to sell his services for the real market value he answered that he could do that but he just loves working on this particular project as it will be used in railways and he just loves trains.

Twitter type summary: “To live a happy life make sure that what you do aligns with your core values, dreams and mission of your life.”

What are your recipes for happy introverted life? What is the mission of your life?