How To Design Your Career Growth From A New Angle

how to design your career growth from a new angle

I wanted to give insights to you as you begin 2016 and progress through January and beyond. Perhaps you’re struggling to make, keep, or understand why you’ve already broken New Year’s resolutions. But even if that’s not you, here’s a new strategy for handling your tricky and hard-to-solve career issues.

The beauty of a new year is that it can feel like a blank slate – a time to re-write ourselves anew and re-create the future you know you want (or at the very least head to a known future more smoothly.) This time of renewal can feel necessary – it’s why most major religions and cultures (that I know about) have a way to mark and celebrate a new year.

The rub, of course, is that waking up on January 1st, and nothing is different about you except maybe an extra burst of motivation and will-power. So you’re moving forward trying to change your path and destiny with essentially exactly the same tools, thoughts and habits that you had the day before.

It’s no wonder that only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are successful . . . They are usually more like New Year’s pipe dreams!

What’s an inspired and still-hopeful visionary to do then?

There are several great books on changing your habits to change your results. I highly recommend The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg, Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal. If you just need to change a habit, such as exercising more, going to sleep earlier or meditating (you get the drift…), these books are all amazing resources.

What if you’re trying to listen to your team more consistently and communicate to them more effectively, or you want to make sure you pave the way for next year so that you have a new (bigger) title and a correspondingly bigger team – will having better habits be enough to reach your goals?

While changing your habits can be simple yet frustratingly difficult, it’s changing your larger ways of being in the world that often keeps you spinning your wheels not even knowing where and how to begin.

Lately, I’ve been reading the Achievement Habit by Bernard Roth and he offers a perspective on how to reach your goals using design thinking. Design thinking is revered in Silicon Valley with beloved companies like IDEO reaching cult levels of adulation. One of the hallmarks of design thinking is to see if there are other ways to frame the problem that might offer a new perspective, a different problem and perhaps a wider set of solutions.

For instance, let’s imagine that you are trying to communicate more effectively to your team. In design thinking you would ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish by communicating more effectively.

Are you:

• Making sure your performance evaluation next year doesn’t red-flag
• Trying to ensure that Bill and Janet don’t end up in the blame game yet again?
• Trying to avoid late nights at the office fixing mistakes that resulted from miscommunication?
• Trying to increase your team’s performance level?¬“Needs to communicate more effectively with your team?”
• Trying to achieve something else?

Let’s imagine you realize that you really want to increase your team’s performance level to help all of your careers. Take some time to brainstorm all the possible ways your team could increase their performance level.

For instance:

• You could hold regular, and organized, check-in meetings
• You could send Bill to an anger management class
• You could take a stress management class so you don’t regularly get so impatient with your team
• You could hire a coach to work with you and design a team performance intervention
• And the list goes on . . .

To illustrate this point Roth tells an illuminating story about one of the students taking his design thinking course at Stanford. Each student had the assignment of tackling an issue that had been bothering him or her for a while. One student chose fixing his squeaky bed that kept him up at night. Each week the student came to class with a new excuse; the hardware store didn’t have the spring he needed, the special order spring was delayed, etc. Finally, the professor told the student that if he didn’t fix the issue that week, he would fail the class! Sure enough, the next week the student came to class with a big smile. He had fixed the problem – he bought a new bed!

This is design thinking at it’s best – initially the problem seemed to be how to stop the bed from squeaking, but the larger problem was getting a good night’s sleep; getting a new bed fixed both the larger (and the smaller) issue.

My question to you is – what’s one big behavioral change you want to tackle for 2016? If it’s a taller order than just forming one new habit, what’s a larger perspective you can use to find a new problem that’s easier to solve and addresses your main needs?

While it may not be easy to think outside of the box, it can end up making your life easier. And if you decide that you want some help along the way, feel free to contact me. I would love to help you make 2016 a year of professional and personal growth!

Posted in

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

Leave a Comment