Read the article below first, then watch this abbreviated Career Path Appreciation feedback given to a high potential. You may want to watch as a refresher (if you have done a MCPA or CPA with me over the years) or are interested in how a practical example of the generic insights shared in this article.
During my career I have been privileged to listen to over one thousand people talk to me in depth about their Working Journey. I have heard how their journeys have unfolded; the wonderful times of flow and those times of stress and hardship. And of course, their hopes for the future.
My interviews have been over a diverse range of individuals, from the illiterate to those in high profile public leadership roles (even a Nobel Prize Winner). Here are some of my observations;
People GROW their Working Journey to fit their LEVEL of comfort.
By and large most people strive to actualise their potential as best they can. That is, until they reach a place where they become ‘comfortable’; a position that is then defended. Being ‘comfortable’ represents the known; where uncertainty becomes ‘manageable’; the known knowns and the known unknowns. ‘Comfortable’ is a complex idea, maybe its when we find balance and harmony in our different Journeys(1), or as Gillian Stamp says, ‘we become whole’. I also suspect it is when someone reaches their point of mature value adding (no further cognitive transitions) or they are adding value in a particular work theme over a long period of time. Balance, mastery and growth of knowledge, skills and experience become important, as is defending that ‘wholeness’ or sense of ‘comfort’
This ‘comfort’, or acceptance of a status quo is part of what I think defines a mid-life crises, although what constitutes mid-life in chronological age can vary considerably, but for most, its between 35 and 55 years of age. Trade-offs across the different Journeys is of course a pre-requisite for ‘comfort’.
For high potentials(2) the situation is usually very different, because they are driven by a deep need to add value (however defined) in increasingly complex ecosystems. This accelerates as they mature. Their level of comfort (and flow) is in almost continual flux for the bulk of their Working Journey. Stability quickly becomes stifling. Many follow unconventional and uncertain career paths, with rapid promotions, successes and sometimes crushing failures in the process.
Almost always, individuals with high capability (potential) find the feedback from this process really meaningful, because it provides a navigational aid to Life.
Why? It gives us predictive dates with destiny, it gives us symptoms of change to be on the alert for, it offers solutions or pathways to consider in our planing, it provides hope for the future and importantly, a light into the darkness of the future.
The process provides a rare insight into the Order that exists beneath everyone’s Journeys and specifically our unique Journey of the Self (1), (i.e. how our capability will unfold) that in turn, dictates the broad pathway of our Working Journey and the challenges we will need to actualise, to find flow. For high potentials, this is gold.
Don’t underestimate the power of your subconscious desires, they can often manifest, in real time, so spend the time being clear on what you actually want. Its a great investment.
The emergence of next steps during a transition period for many have direct connections to their background, experiences and what they value, passionately. Ideas and thoughts acts as attractors for desired opportunities. What was wished for strongly enough, often manifested. People reported clarity, consistency of thoughts and actions did manifested their hopes.
Conversely, if you have no vision, no passion, then what we manifest is a jumble, a confusion and increased uncertainty. The greater the clarity and hunger to achieve it, the clearer and more certain the outcomes.
We are in charge of our own Journeys. Mentors, a good HR function and an effective board can add immense value, but the truth of the matter is; your Working Journey is in your hands. High potentials realise this early on and embrace the fact.
A very useful tool is a journal. Those who adopt the use of making personal notes regularly say it allows for reflection, reminders and in hindsight, come to realise that putting thoughts into words, clarifies thinking. Some talked about defining moments, when they decided to take on risk to follow their passion(3).
Remember risk is the first step, without risk, nothing happens.
risk the ride…
Another observation is options are thin at the top end…life is challenging, especially for truly high potential individuals.
A significant percentage of those with capability to work in the Values Domain(4) tend to end up with work portfolios. For corporate individuals this may translate as finishing stints as CEOs (5) or as executive teams members. The next step is joining boards, as well as lending their support to one or more causes, campaigns and sometimes deferred pursuits (e.g academia, hobbies).
For others who have chosen different paths, the road for the majority seems more rocky and underutilisation becomes a real issue. Like those from the corporate world they manage a patchy portfolio of activities, but finding flow may be more of a struggle then those with a more conventional career ladder.
The evidence is actualisation depends on one’s desire to embrace Life. You MUST live your best life. Below is a summary I put together some years ago based on these interviews.(6)
In closing remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “It is not the years of your life, but the life in your years” that counts. Remember and harken those words from Dylan Thomas poem“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’
(1)Gillian Stamp. The Four Journeys.
(2) Definition of High Potential; ‘People with capability to grow cognitively and be in flow with the complexity of the work theme of Strategic Intent and beyond.’
(3) See Adizes, I. (1996) In Search of Prime, especially the sections on infants and go-go for understanding this Risk of setting up your own venture.
(4) Values Domain – Work themes of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Prescience – work levels VI and VII.
(5) By CEO I refer to entrepreneurs, corporate leaders of profit and for purpose. They may be state based, national, multinationals or international.
(6) Sadly , I think this wonderful tool is in danger of vanishing.Why? Models not understood and complex, HR professionals unaware, not quick fix or bling, victim of high priests and poor management over decades; rigorous, expensive and time-consuming training.