STOP! Don’t do a career!

In the newspaper of last weekend was an interesting cartoon – the hierarchy of needs by Maslow reframed for a classical consulting career. It named this order from bottom upwards:

  1. Finalize high class MBA
  2. Buy a Porsche
  3. Become shareholder of the consulting company
  4. Become naming partner of your company
  5. Hike Camino de Santiago (and find yourself)

If you know some consultants you might find a person for each stage. Because there is some truth in it: Some are doing the career for money and status. They are good in what they do, get rewarded and walk on. Only when the reward is so high that it is hardly possible to increase it any further – but the emptiness inwardly stays the same – people start changing their paths to look for fulfillment in a different area of life.

But what happened to people who have searched for fulfillment in that different style? People who have eaten, prayed and loved. People who were gone for a while to hike the Camino de Santiago. People who sold their ferraris. All of them found new aspects in life, increased inner peace and got deeper insights. But basically they had the same 24 hours on a daily basis as everyone else. They needed to make a living, too. Although they had a special time dedicated for special actions, they all came back to a regular life – some with different jobs but at least with some sort of work that paid the bills. So in consequence, it seems that it is less about the lifestyle but rather about the mindset of a person.

So why do people hit No. 5 in the named hierarchy of needs?

People need to have an answer to their “WHY”. Why are you doing what you are doing? As long as you are running an imaginary path that you didn’t even choose nor created you will hit a point in which you wonder: why?

Why the stress? Why the hustle? Why the long hours?

In the beginning of your career you are certain that the answer will come along the way. Thoughts like “when I reach x amount of salary …” or “if I become partner …” postpone the essential question of “Why are you getting up in the morning?”. You just assume that the answer will be behind the next promotion.

Spoiler: You will not find the answer to your “WHY” along your career path.

Therefore it does make sense to invest some severe thinking and time of reflection right now – and create that new mindset. Who are you? What do you like? Why do you get up in the morning? What motivates you?

When you found your answers, you can still be successful in your career – but you probably have stopped to do a career only to chase for an answer you assume coming with the next promotion. You are having fun in doing what you are doing – and if that happens to be a highly paid job it’s totally cool.

What is the benefit when you do what you love?

You become more resilient towards setbacks. Because you are not working for a future result, the dependency of the targeted reward decreases. If you get that promotion: Awesome! Celebrate! If you don’t get that promotion: you still liked every day of your work because you know why you got up in the morning.

Your colleagues and friends will like to be with you, because everyone will sense that you like what you do. You will be more at ease with yourself and therefore more likeable for all around you.

All of this starts with a bold answer to the little question: Why are you doing what you are doing?

Be a LEADER – without holding a management position

If you love to lead, get inspired how you can influence people without being an officially assigned leader yet.

You can easily spot leaders in the soccer arena. They are the ones that announce the strategy, coordinate their teammates and lead the team to success. They don’t even have to wear a batch – just by their behavior leadership is visible. Leadership guides people to a certain behavior that lets them accomplish a goal. For some that would mean to get a short call on what to do next, others need a hand of encouragement on their shoulder to regain faith in the potential victory. A leader knows how to interact with each teammate in a given situation.

Same is true in the business world. Even if you don’t hold a management position yet, you already can lead your colleagues. “Leading” means to bring people from one place to another – often into new places people would not have attend without leadership support. For example, you encourage a colleague to take an unknown task that develops his/her skillset. Or you talk to an intern who benefits from talking to you to develop a vision for his/her career.

Especially when you are heading for a management role in your career, start to think about leadership. Why do you want to hold a management position with leadership attached? What is your leadership style? What attributes should others see in you?

Here is a sentence to think about: A leader is someone people follow.

With this picture the perspective changes. It isn’t so much about I want to be a leader, but rather I am a leader when people choose to follow me. There is an aspect in leadership that is expressed by the behavior of others towards me – as a free-willed resonance of my own behavior.

Therefore, here is some inspiration on how you can grow your leadership based on your own behavior – and independently from your management position at work:

Listen

Most people engage in a conversation in order to respond – not to listen. In a classical situation each one in a group would have the next story at hand as soon as one person has stopped talking. There is not so much of a conversation but rather a story-after-story talk. How does it make you feel?

If you want to let people feel important, listen to them. Engage in their story. Ask questions based on what you have heard. Comment on their feelings and be present with true empathy. When people feel truly heard, they will open up and will remember you as a person who cared. Based on that care, trust evolves – and that is the fundament you need in your leadership.

Train this skill as often as possible – it will help you in all your future staff conversations.

Ask

Asking questions gives your counterpart space to think and to express her/himself. People love to speak about themselves. And if you are the one building that stage for their thoughts, they will like you. Again, this positive vibe is a good basis for leadership.

Serve

Serve in order to get your ego in check and remind yourself what leadership is about: to lead others so that they are more successful. Your leadership serves them – not yourself.

A lot of people want to get into a management position, to show everyone how great, clever and successful they are. They might even mix this understanding with their version of leadership – wanting to be served by their employees. How do you feel around those people?

Serve on a regular basis, e.g. take away all left over cups in your office – especially if they are from your colleagues. Go that extra mile for your client, help the team assistant, hold the door. And every time remind yourself that your leadership serves them – not your ego.

Encourage

Speak words of encouragement, affirmation and opportunity as often as possible. Recall that the last moment you got a positive word regarding your own career from a colleague. It has been a while, right?

Somehow our society isn’t using words of encouragement that frequently. And yet, they are so important for people to be built up inwardly and to reach their goals. Think of pros in sports – they work a lot with affirmation in their mindset in order to perform well. Same is necessary in business – and you can invest in your colleagues by speaking uplifting words.

Love to read your thoughts. Feel free to comment.

Words have power

There are words I will never forget – for good and for bad. The power of words can be used to build people up or destroy relationships – How do you use your words?

Can you remember the first time you heard the words “I love you”!? Your world changed. It felt like magic. That emotion running through your veins was indescribable. Three little words – with impact. Same is true for negative words. Ever heard a “you will never succeed in this”? What impact did it have? Remember that disbelief or disgust from a teacher or trainer? I guess you can still recall that pain those words caused.

There is something in us human beings that we react upon words – regardless whether they are true. Usually we don’t filter. We hear. We feel. We react. Words can hurt like knives. And at the same time words can bring healing and uplifting. It all depends on the speaker.

How can you use this power in your workplace?

When you think of your ideal workplace – how would you like to work with your colleagues? What should be the atmosphere in your team? For example, I enjoy having a team that likes each other. I love to hear laughter and a loud “hey, good to see you! how are you doing?” when people from my team meet each other.

So, what do I do? I model exact that behaviour. I greet my team. I tell them how happy I am that they are there (and I am truly happy that each one of them is in my team!). I use words to express what I am feeling. Otherwise they wouldn’t know. And because they feel welcome, they are at ease and enjoy being around. And from what I am seeing – they are continuing to welcome new people in the team and extend the good atmosphere themselves.

How can you build your team with this power?

Your team consists of individuals. And you have to invest in each person individually in order to get a great team. What do I mean? When you are in a feedback session use the time well to speak potential into your people. Aside from the “well done here” and “please improve there” find time to speak about the future roles and responsibilities you see them in. Specify which strengths you see and where these attributes will contribute to the career of your team member.

When your team member hears you speaking strength and life into his/her life, he/she will start growing. It strengthens his/her self-esteem and self-believe. And that grown person will contribute to the team in the future – consequently the team grows.

How do you know what to speak?

If you are unsure whether you should make that statement let it run through this filter:

  1. Is the statement true?
  2. Is the statement helpful for the other person?
  3. Can you speak it kindly? (meaning: with a kind intention)

If you asked yourself, you would immediately know that you would only want feedback spoken in that way: true, helpful, kind. Yet, very often we tend to be harsh, unfair or angry.

BUT: “I am not a person of words”

Quite often the discussion on speaking to each other hits the “I am not a person of words” argument. Meaning: I don’t want to speak to my team. (I assume you have the ability to speak, so the only reason you do not use this ability is a pure choice.)

You can choose in life whatever you want: speech or silence. But don’t expect people to know what you are thinking. Quite often frustration joins the discussion: “but they should know…” This is based on the assumption that the logic of your brain must be the logic of all brains – especially of your team members. To make that clear: You are responsible to speak your mind. If you choose to stay silent, it will have consequences, e.g. a team that is not doing what you want.

Words have the power to transform your team. So does silence. You choose what you want to model.