“It’s the change of a decade and I feel like I need to process more than just that holiday food I ate,” an executive coaching client recently said with a smile. Her company is going through change and she felt fuzzy in her thinking after the holiday break. She wanted my help to clarify her goals for the coming year. For many, the habit is to rush to plan for what’s next or create the usual new year resolutions (often abandoned a few weeks into the new year). Instead, here are ten questions we started to go through.
I recommend each of us work through these questions to enable us to be more prepared and present for this decade of disruption in which millions of old jobs will go away and new jobs created. These questions will help you gain clarity regarding your strengths and values, develop learning agility. and discover the contributions you want to make to your workplace and world in the coming years.
What am I truly grateful for now? This question helps us examine all the good that is already here before we rush into setting goals for the next year. We can take a broader view of everything for which we are grateful (health, relationships, experiences, learning, material possessions). This helps us frame goals from a place of contentment. It also allows us to set goals that are more authentic and fulfilling, rather than just based on comparison to an external standard of success. We are more likely to stick to these goals because they are driven by intrinsic motivators.
What past accomplishments and strengths am I proud of? This question allows us to notice what we have accomplished and how far we’ve come. Next to each of your accomplishments, list the strengths that you have developed that have enabled that accomplishment. Knowing and fully leveraging your unique strengths will be essential to meeting goals and having the confidence to lead in disruption.
Who are the people who have helped me? For each of your key accomplishments, list the people who helped you – mentors, bosses, peers, team-mates, family, friends. Take a few minutes to reflect on the ways each of them helped you. In the decade of disruption, the most effective leaders will be adept at nurturing collaboration across an ecosystem. From a neuroscience perspective, taking a few minutes to actually feel and express gratitude for others helps us deepen neural pathways in our brains to feel more connected and collaborate better.
What professional and personal experiences were meaningful and shaped me? Pick three to five experiences that really shaped you. Be sure to include experiences of challenge, success, and failure. What did you learn from each? What makes them meaningful? An executive coaching client shared with great courage about how he got fired from a job a few years ago and how hard it was for him. As we processed this, he realized that he had a lot of shame about this and had made some assumptions that were preventing him from being effective in his current role (for example, “making tough people decisions will get me fired”). I cannot emphasize enough the value of taking time to examine both successes and failures. Doing this with an executive coach or a trusted advisor with coaching skills can really help you work through the learning and re-examine your assumptions and beliefs.
Based on the above, what can I learn about my values? Important clues about what’s important and fulfilling to you can be found by examining your sources of gratitude and pride, and even the frustrations and challenges faced. For example, an executive coaching client beamed while telling me about a conversation she had mentoring a young leader deeper in her organization. She realized that “growing talent” is a value, giving her much fulfillment. We discussed ways for her to bring more of this into her workdays to find greater purpose in her work. Finding meaning helps sustain us through the daily challenges and be more resilient in failure.
As I leave this decade what am I ready to let go of? Think about what fears hold you back. Are there certain assumptions (for example “making tough people calls will get me fired” or “I’m just not good at x”) the letting go of which will create a more successful and fulfilling career for yourself?
The following questions will specifically help you think about your vision for yourself and preparing yourself for the future of work. The next decade will be one of tremendous change in our professional lives. Millions of jobs will be disrupted due to globalization, geopolitical shifts, and changes in technology.
What strengths, values and sense of purpose are important to me to anchor myself during change? Given the rapid and unpredictable changes ahead, it’s important for each of us to connect with and nurture an inner GPS. This helps us be grounded and make decisions right for us.
What is my personal definition of success and contribution (across the domains that are important to me)? Important domains may be your health, professional career, family and community impact. Admittedly this is a hard one and our vision of success and contribution changes over time. It’s also not an easy question to answer in one sitting. It is one to ponder over time and invite your inner GPS to whisper answers to you during quiet times or meaningful experiences.
What new skill sets will be important for me to learn? With the digital revolution upon us, it may be skills in automation, data analytics, or robotics. It may also be creativity or emotional intelligence that you want to grow. Take a course. Ask for a stretch assignment or mentor in this area. Pick one area and take a small step. What new experiences do you want to invite to help you advance this skill set?
Who are the mentors, community or tribe with whom it is important for me to be connected and contribute? As you think about what’s important to you, think not just of the trusted network you have now. Also consider new people with whom you can contribute and learn.
The unpredictable future often brings uncomfortable emotions: self-doubt, fears, discomfort. So, here’s a bonus question that I find useful to ask myself: What are some practices that will help me better lead myself? For me a daily mindfulness practice, weekly yoga and walks in nature with friends are a source of centering, self-care and resilience. What practices do you want to commit to?
I realize that these are big questions to ask ourselves and can seem overwhelming because we don’t have all the answers. (This discomfort can cause us to skip self-reflection and say something like “I’ll come back to this when I have more time”.) So pick just one question and answer it. Find a coach or mentor with whom to process. And of course feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if I can be of help to you in clarifying your personal vision of success and contribution during this decade of disruption.
A version of this post first appeared in my Forbes leadership blog.