My daughter is learning to drive and I found myself in the passenger seat this morning gripping the arm rest as we approached in traffic a tricky, double-lane, 100-degree curve.
My daughter is working through the very natural tendency to have too much confidence in the situations with hidden danger and not enough confidence and decisiveness in the situations that require her to go for it.
It’s easy to get it mixed up. Instead of caution, you drive too fast when more thought, preparation or awareness of surroundings would be prudent. And instead of confidently accelerating, you drive too slow or act tentatively in situations that require decision and fast action.
There’s lessons here in how we manage our careers and businesses.
The Skill of Seeing the Road
One of challenges of career management is that we’ve never travelled down the road in front of us. We can draw from experience to predict what’s around the next bend and we can try and point ourselves in the right direction to get to a destination. When it comes to our own careers, there’s an element of pioneering involved and it’s helpful to recognize it as such.
To combat this, one technique is to take yourself up to 2,500 feet to see yourself on your professional journey, a personal road and route. How are you doing? Where are you going?
Foot off the Gas
From the vantage point of 2,500 feet up you should be able to see where you are vs. where you’ve been and what’s coming up.
Danger: Are there upcoming obstacles, key events or unknowns that call for you to double-down on preparation, clear space, and approach with greater intent and seriousness?
Wrong direction: It’s all too easy to get on the wrong road, and common to not realize that this wasn’t your intended route, or that you don’t like this route. Are there professional commitments or obligations that are consuming too much of your capacity that no longer serve you? Have you said yes to things that now need to be re-examined?
Going too fast: To what extent do you feel like you’re hurtling forward out-of-control? Are you in full reaction mode without time to steer your own course?
What’s not working: A lot of us are guilty of putting too much time and energy (and expectations) into endeavours beyond the point where it’s clear that it is an uphill battle. Are you struggling with something, doggedly persisting when the evidence suggests that’s it isn’t working?
Foot off the gas action items might involve slowing down, scanning for or preparing for danger, doing less of something or stopping something altogether.
Foot on the Gas
Accelerating through a curve. Merging onto a highway. There are moments when its time to step on the gas.
Critical Events: Key presentation to deliver? Opportunity to step into a strategic project team? Appreciate the opportunity and act with intention and confidence.
Beyond those critical events, there’s a skill to recognizing the signs for the more subtle opportunities to change direction.
What’s going well: Where are you getting results with ease and truly enjoying the work? What is the source of positive feedback? How could you do more of this?
Increasing Returns: Connected with above, is there an area where you feel more investment of time, or energy would pay-off? Is this activity / skill / expertise area / work direction something that feels strategic and that you can leverage?
The Moment: Answers to the above can come from deliberate analysis. Be open, as well, to that feeling, that inkling that this is it. The gods are smiling. It is time to lean in.
Foot on the gas actions translate to approaching initiatives with more confidence and commitment, doing more of something or recognizing that the country lane to your right might be exactly where you want to go.
Maintain Your Speed
Maintenance is an important concept as well. We all have large parts of our professional lives that aren’t critical factors in winning but are critical too not failing. For example, while cash flow management and web site hosting are important to preventing my business from failing, they aren’t drivers to future growth.
What are those areas for you? Where is it important that you perform at certain standards?
Back to McGill street and my white knuckles. My daughter drifted a bit and was late in accelerating through the turn, but she made it and we arrived at our destination. She’s getting the hang of it for sure.
Experience. Observe. Improve/Correct.
She had the benefit of someone to talk her through it and give perspective.
I’m having one of those step on the gas moments. The Career Growth Program is starting to pick up steam and I’m receiving strong positive feedback from first customers. My sense is it’s time to lean in. Could you use a guide to help with your perspective? If so, get in touch. I’d be happy to explore your route with you.