Many professionals want to achieve more success, but theyâ€™re afraid they donâ€™t have the time to do more or they just donâ€™t know what to do next or how to do it. And theyâ€™re afraid more success will come at the expense of their personal happiness.
In this article, Iâ€™m going to outline four steps necessary to achieve more professional success, so you can spend your time and energy on whatâ€™s most important and less on what isnâ€™t. Youâ€™ll be able to focus your attention on achieving more success and advancing your career, without giving up your happiness.
Step One: Get crystal clear about what it is you want. This might seem obvious, but too many people strive to achieve what they think they should want or what others tell them they should want, without getting clear about what they really want. An attorney recently thanked me at the end of a day-long course telling me, â€œMy wife and I have been arguing because I thought I needed to join a big New York law firm to be successful, but she wants to stay here. Today I realized that everything that matters to me is right here. Thank you!â€ Now heâ€™s able to fully focus on doing excellent work for his current employer and enjoying life with his wife and family in the Pacific Northwest.
I know a man whose parents and influencers encouraged him to become a lawyer. Midway through his first term of law school he had the courage to say, â€œThis isnâ€™t what I want. I want to be a teacher.â€ Heâ€™s now an outstanding teacher, beloved by his students. And I know attorneys and CPAs whose parents, because of their own limited educational opportunities, never dreamed their child could become a professional. Whatever you want, go for it! But first, be sure itâ€™s what you really want. Donâ€™t spend years climbing a ladder only to discover youâ€™ve climbed the wrong ladder. Achieve your vision faster and more fully by getting clarity about what you want professionally and personally.
Step Two: Identify your Highest Talentsâ„¢. Your Highest Talentsâ„¢ are the intersection of your unique combination of education, experience and strengths. No single factor is unique to you, but the combination is unique to you and it will distinguish you as you advance your career and develop new business relationships.
Here is my own example: my education includes a degree in business, with an emphasis in marketing; my experience includes business leadership and twenty years of consulting and coaching in professional services; and my strengths include building strong relationships, thinking strategically and the ability to help people achieve success.
With this combination, I focus my practice on working with professionals, helping them successfully manage their careers, build their practices and lead their teams or firms. I donâ€™t accept work outside my expertise, instead providing value by referring that work to a circle of capable colleagues. As a result, I love my work, I help my clients achieve the success they desire and I take pleasure in my clientsâ€™ success.
What are your Highest Talentsâ„¢, the intersection of your education, experience and strengths? You can easily name your education and experience, but identifying your strengths might take more effort. Start by completing a strengths assessment. Meyers Briggs, DiSC and Strengthsfinder will all help you clarify your strengths, but my favorite is PREP Personal Strengths Profile. It will provide information about your strengths, communication style, problem-solving style and more. All are helpful in your self-knowledge and development.
Next, complete a self-assessment using the PARS process. Think of a Problem or opportunity youâ€™ve faced, what Action you took to address it and the Results you achieved. You can write this in a single paragraph or have fun and write a few pages describing the problem or opportunity you faced, how you addressed it and the results you achieved. Now summarize it in a one or two sentence Success Story.
Hereâ€™s one of my own examples. Problem: I became bored with my job, didnâ€™t see a promotional opportunity in my company and was away from my aging parents. Action: After considering my experience, strengths and values, I decided to return to my home of Portland Oregon and start my own consulting practice. Results: I returned to Portland, engaged with my community and began consulting to professional service firms, while spending more time with my parents. Success Story: I built a practice helping professionals achieve greater success while staying true to their values. And mine.
Use the PARS process to write several Success Stories. Some will be large successes, like the example I shared. Most, however, will be small successes, the kind you achieve on a daily and weekly basis, but too often overlook. Now list all of the strengths you used to achieve each success. Which strengths did you use most successfully? Which ones did you use repeatedly? These are your key strengths.
One more way you can identify your strengths is to ask others, including family, friends, supervisors, peers and your direct reports. Use discretion, because some feedback might be biased or inaccurate. But, when you find patterns, theyâ€™re probably true and theyâ€™re probably strengths.
The first time someone described me as calm, it stung, though I knew it was intended as a compliment. I thought to myself, â€œI donâ€™t want to be calm. I want to be the life of the party!â€ After the third time I heard myself described as calm or calming, however, I knew it was true. And Iâ€™ve come to embrace it as an asset to my clients.
A human resource vice president I worked with during a layoff told me I eased the fear the moment I walked onto their site. Working now with managing partners and professionals, I donâ€™t bounce in multiple directions. Instead, I help them identify what they want to pursue and decide strategically how to move forward. One managing partner Iâ€™ve been working with for several years tells me often, â€œYou help me focus.â€ Those are some of the ways my calm demeanor is a strength that helps my clients.
Based on one or more measurement tools, self-assessment and feedback, what are your key strengths? Where do your education, experience and strengths intersect to become your sweet spot, your Highest Talentsâ„¢? Knowing your Highest Talentsâ„¢ will allow you to excel by doing more of what you love, less of what you donâ€™t.
Please see my upcoming News and Insights for Step Three, Learn to lead, and Step Four, Learn to bring in new business.