“You are on a default path to somewhere.”
I remind my clients of this frequently. Whether in a stable situation, in transition, or trying to figure out what’s next… You WILL wind up somewhere!
I also talk about the notion of an “accidental career.” This is where you’ve made incremental decisions at various points over the course of your career: “That is a company I want to work for.” “That’s a great salary offer!” “That company is located in a place I’d like to live.” “I need a job, so I might as well take this one.”
Those decisions are likely the best ones with the information available in the moment. Except for the select few, who at an early age know exactly what they want to do and have laser focus on getting there. Most have made incremental decisions that have led you to where you are right now.
How did I get here?
It has likely served you well. You have been successful on many counts. You have a title and a position of importance. You have been able to provide for yourself and your family well. You have been able to use your gifts and skills.
But, are you truly happy and fulfilled?
If you have lived elements of an “accidental career” and also accept the notion you are “on a default path to somewhere,” it can be unsettling. As you get older, has it become your “accidental life?” You start to ask the questions “Is this all there is?” “How long can I ride this out?” “What’s next?”
Is it where you want to be?
The exciting thing is my clients also come to realize, “You’re right where you’re supposed to be!” Everything that has happened to you to this point in time – accidental or intentional – has created who and what you are in this very moment. You can’t go back and change anything, and you can decide what your next steps will be!
It is very freeing to realize you can create that path ahead.
Getting off that default path and creating the intentional path can be uncomfortable and difficult to chart. Doing it alone, or even with family and friends whose intentions are good, you are tied in to old stories and expectations. And, it’s hard to be free to be honest – and to dream.
Through a reflective and structured program of looking at your past & present, uncovering strengths & values and clarifying passion & goals, we WILL be able to map that course and put intention ahead of accident.
Let’s shift gears and start taking control of your path…contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a conversation about how coaching can help you create that path.
Relying on the expertise and coaching support for a top-level executive can seem somewhat stifling – after all, why are we paying the execs so much money in the first place? The reality is professional coaching can help everyone, including senior executives, if not especially.
Yesterday when I read that McDonald’s CEO, Don Thompson, was stepping down; I was very shocked, but not surprised, if that makes sense!? It occurred to me that I have seen more McDonald’s news, of late, than advertising. First, the turnover that led to the hiring of Don Thompson, then longtime McDonald’s executive and CMO Neil Golden, then the hiring of a host of new technology executives… Yada, yada, yada.
First, I must say, I’m not personally a big fast food supporter. That said, I have always thought that McDonald’s advertising and ability to capture younger markets through genius tactics had truly been their “secret sauce”. But, try walking into the golden arches or is it arcs [Coming To America reference anyone?], and see for your self; there’s a disconnect between the patrons advertised and those actually dining-in.
In short, the answer is: not at McDonald’s. What for years had been its ‘bread & butter’ [youth demographics], McDonald’s is simply not speaking the millennial language. And what’s worse, if you’re McDonald’s, they don’t even know it – as evidenced by the game of executive-musical-chairs going on in Oak Brook, IL.
So, here’s the thing – where am I going with all of this?
If a company as powerful and ubiquitous as McDonald’s can do something amazingly well for decades then just cease to be effective almost overnight, what is to stop that from happening to your organization?
What do I suggest?
Imagine if rather than shuffling executives around and hiring outsiders to change the “secret sauce”, and for the first time in the company’s history, chasing the competition rather than leading it – McDonald’s had decided to hire professional coaches to help its previously successful executives mine the changes presented by millennials.
I do know McDonald’s has access to the greatest resources available when it comes to consumer insights, demographic trends, forecasts and projections, etc. It’s all about data-driven decision-making, right?
I also know that in making senior-level decisions – and using that data – there is a person, a human being, at the core of that decision. These leaders carry with them doubts, fears, and histories that don’t always allow them to make the best decision in the present.
What if, senior staff had the opportunity to hear and be open to non-McDonald’s insights that might have fostered a keener understanding of environmental shifts taking place within the fast food industry? What if they had the confidence to listen to their gut – or others – and make more impactful decisions?
Now maybe McDonald’s hired coaches and consultants, I don’t have any personal knowledge on this, but the recent behavioral pattern suggests otherwise.
And, I am not saying that a few good coaching hires would have saved kept the bun on the sandwich, but I honestly believe that supersized change is only good when it’s the only alternative.
“Me, me, so happy!” is an iconic family phrase attributed to one of my older sisters.
She was always the most even-keeled one of the five of us kids, and nothing seemed
to fluster her. Carrying this mantra throughout life may seem a bit “Pollyannaish”, but why not?
We can always choose to look for the negative in any situation and dwell on that.
“It’s sunny out today!” “Yea, but it’s so cold”. “This is an amazing meal!” “Yea, but it
cost a lot and think of all the calories.” “We landed the client!” “Yea, but they’re so
difficult to work with.” In each of these situations you can choose to lead with the
positive or dwell on the negative.
More and more research points to the value – personal and financial – of being
happy and having happy workers. The oft-cited 2013 Gallup Study reports that since
70% of U.S. workers are disengaged and uninspired – and I would add unhappy – in
the workplace, it costs businesses over $450 billion annually. Neuroscience research
shows that while we might default to find the negative in situations, we can re-wire
our thinking to gain the benefits of positive thinking. And, being more positive
translates into “Happy people are better workers. Those who are engaged with their
jobs and colleagues work harder — and smarter” (HBR).
Making subtle changes in how we think and move through our day can lead us
increased happiness. Here’s a start:
1. “What’s the Opportunity?” – Ask yourself this question going into ANY and
EVERY situation. This forces your energy to shift in a positive direction that
generates creative solutions.
2. Pat Yourself on the Back – Take time to reflect on the little wins on a daily
basis. Use these to remind yourself of the value you bring dozens of times a
day. It may be as simple as getting your kids off to school, or making someone
smile on the train when you give up your seat. You can do this.
3. More “ands” Fewer “buts” – Look for the positive builds in conversations
rather than taking the contrary position. “It’s sunny out today, and let’s enjoy
the brisk walk.” “This is an amazing meal, and we’re blessed to be able to
enjoy it together.” “We landed the client and it’s going to take our best effort
to wow them with amazing results.”
Being happy all the time maybe more than we can hope for, but being happier a
higher percentage of the time is something we can all choose to achieve.
Leadership According to Nelson Mandela.
I’m currently traveling in South Africa. It’s an amazing place for the natural and cultural beauty. And, you’re never too far from an image of Nelson Mandela. His face appears on signs, souvenirs, sides of buildings, and even as graffiti in places it “should not” be. But you know it will not be removed.
Conversations about him are full of reverence and admiration, but also laced with fear of what might happen now he is no longer around to propel the vision and control those that might stray.I participated in anti-apartheid rallies in Philadelphia in the mid-80s and organized letter-writing campaigns to release an imprisoned a South African pastor. And now I am walking the streets of Cape Town and driving past the Townships.Tonight I read a posting from the respected theologian and author, Jim Wallis of Sojourners. He too traveled to South Africa recently and shared this quote from Mandela:
“The cell is an ideal place to know yourself. People tend to measure themselves by external accomplishments, but jail allows a person to focus on internal ones, such as honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, generosity and an absence of variety. You learn to look into yourself.”
I can’t think of a better explanation of why leadership begins first and foremost with an understanding of self. And, I can’t think of a leader worth emulating more than Nelson Mandela.
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