Career Leap | Book Review
"Two of my greatest joys are learning
and sharing learning." (p. 159)
Subtitled How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career, Michelle Gibbings builds on her foundational step up, which introduced a Conscious Change Leader mindset. In this next step, she visualizes an unceasing Career Reinvention Cycle with four phases: Assess, Architect, Activate & Accelerate; and we may think of this process as the application of leadership skills.
Now in are bold new concepts like digital disruption, globalization, mechanization, artificial intelligence and perhaps most powerful of all, the desire for personal growth and development (p. xv). Many of these disruptive changes are external factors; note however, the last one is internal.
Let’s pause and consider internal disruption. More than any other time in history, the opportunity for each of us to create our own job, company, lifestyle, or brand is not only possible, it is advisable. Gibbings provides a handy table (page xxxiii) which recommends Ditching the Old Career Parameters and instead Creating New Career Parameters. For example Job Taker: you take the job that is on offer vs. Job Maker: you create your own job that fits your lifestyle, skills, competencies and ambitions.
This review ties key leadership behaviors we may learn and practice to the four phases of the Career Reinvention Cycle.
Mindset & Curiosity | Priorities
What is your mindset? Do you have a fixed or growth mindset (p. 27)?
I feel threatened by other people’s career success.
I ignore feedback on my work, dismissing it as irrelevant.
I give up easily when I get knocked back, and I avoid challenges.
I’m convinced I’ll never get any better at that task/work, so there’s no point in trying.
I hear myself saying:
“I’m no good at this.”
“This is good enough.”
“I give up. I can’t do this.”
“This is as good as it gets. I can’t do any better.”
I draw inspiration from other people’s success.
I welcome feedback and seek to learn from it to advance my capability and career.
I persist with my career goals, despite challenges and setbacks.
I constantly look for ways to improve my work and my life.
I hear myself saying:
“What else can I do? What might be missing?”
“I’m proud of my work effort. It’s good work.”
“With practice and effort, I’ll be able to do this.”
“I can always improve my work."
A growth mindset provides the sustaining energy for a career leap. Notice how the growth mentality asks questions which trigger feedback, learning and improvement. Or, as Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Pray, Love fame, suggests, “If you can let go of passion and instead just follow your curiosity, then your curiosity might just lead you to your passion (p. 18).” It all starts with good questions.
Gibbings asks us to assess our rhythm of life, auditing the following activities (p. 22): Career, connections, finance, learning, lifestyle, self-care and service. How many of these activities may be considered current High Payoff Activities (HPAs), covered in Academy Leadership Setting Leadership Priorities workshops? Notice these are generally important and not urgent (quadrant II) activities yet lead to opportunities and sustained goodness. A fixed, or static psyche is likely correlated to one captured by daily important and urgent activities (quadrant I), handcuffed by largely reacting to events.
When we are curious, seek self-growth, and are also aligned with our passion, we are authentic. Others notice. Gibbings summarizes:
And yet people, or customers, don’t buy what you do;
they buy why you do it – they buy into your purpose. (p. 19)
In Core Values Alignment workshops, we learn that in typical organizations, 90-100% of time is spent drafting and redrafting core values statements or definitions, while spending no more than 5% of time on creating alignment. When embarking on new careers, taking enough time (80%-90%) to align values and actions is just as critical.
The World Economic Forum predicts the ten competencies most in demand in 2020 will be: complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision making, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility (p. 47). There’s a lot more than just technical or analytical skills on this list.
Gibbings offers an exercise on page 61 similar to the Life’s Compass Rose from Aligning and Accomplishing Goals workshops, prioritizing the following career specifications: Alignment with life goals, autonomy, learning and challenge, money/financial security, status/power, sense of achievement, work environment and flexibility.
By ranking career goals and aligning them with an increasingly creative and cognitively-based vocational environment, we can envision and architect a new course forward. Just as Jeff Boss, former Navy SEAL, describes in Navigating Chaos, a curious mindset is the key to overcoming uncertainty. Likewise, Gibbings finds that it’s by being curious that your mind expands to embrace ideas (p. 51).
This inquisitiveness is also the best source of authentic networking. Contemplate how many people worldwide who may share our curiosity and passion we simply haven’t connected with -- yet. Gibbings cites Aneka Manners: “You will find support and friendship in the strangest places, and if nothing else ever happens, that discovery will be enough and be transformative in a different way (p. 73).”
Living Your Personal Leadership Philosophy
Gibbings derives her own definition of a Personal Leadership Philosophy:
You need to have a story that explains who you are,
why you do what you do, and what you want to be known for.
Think of it as your personal mission statement,
leadership manifesto or leadership philosophy. (p. 95)
Recall earlier, that it is a great time to create our own brand or company. Tom Peters (p. 90) goes further, stating “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
Documenting a leadership philosophy is an unusual, singular activity. But it is just the beginning. We must activate, or more simply, live it. If we use Peters’ analog, Me Inc, how about adding a board of directors? Gibbings points out you will want to craft a small and strategic group of people who will help to guide, challenge and inspire you through your leap. This is your personal advisory board (p. 109). One of the key elements of a leadership philosophy is the commitment to, or the request for, continuous evaluation. Gibbings concurs: “The best way to find out how others see you is to seek honest feedback – warts and all!” (p. 91)
Authentic leaders are vulnerable. Consider what may happen when sharing who we are in a personal mission statement. Gibbings lists three types of people you will come across when you are looking to build your network and leap – the takers, the fakers and the makers (p. 110). We’re not just exposed to these outsiders, in addition self-doubt may hold us back. Gibbings cautions there are three tyrannies of progress we must control (p. 118): dialogue (how to tame the little voice inside your head), time (how to make the most of your precious time) and energy (how you conserve it and sustain yourself through your shift). How might we do this?
Journal for Reflection
There’s a good chance you may have kept a daily journal, or diary sometime in the past, and no longer do so. Consider self-evaluation with regard to your personal leadership philosophy. Move forward and take the time to reflect on progress. Check in with yourself on what is and what isn’t working. Identify where you may need to shift, adjust or realign your expectations and behavior (p. 146). Affirming and listing the positive results when living our philosophy provides sustaining energy. Or, as Sandy Hutchison (p. 140) shares: You need to draw on a great deal of inner resilience and self-belief, much more so than you would imagine (p. 140).
When we begin to make significant decisions, at work, or life, based on living our leadership philosophy, then our growth may accelerate. Don’t fall into the perfectionist trap, believing you have to have absolutely everything mapped out and in place before you board (p. 137). Living a leadership lifestyle is a process. Gibbings’ aim of the [Career Reinvention] cycle is not to finish it, but to use it to constantly seek ways to improve your career and your life (p. 152).
Let’s briefly revisit the growth mindset. Ultimately the growth mindset rejects scarcity, believes there is inherent good, and seeks win-win outcomes. Tal Ben-Shahar, in Happier, articulates four archetypes of people and how they approach life (p. 154):
• The hedonist focuses on enjoying the present, ignoring the potential negative consequences of their actions.
• The rat racer is focused so much on personal future gains that they let the present suffer.
• The nihilist enjoys neither the present nor the future.
• The happiness archetype lives secure in the knowledge that the activities they do today will also lead to a fulfilling future.
The takeaway: Living a leadership philosophy not only leads to career leaps, but a lifetime of gratitude.
Gibbings shares all of the book’s exercises at:
Note: Michelle Gibbings generously provided a copy of her book for review.
JE | May 2018