The Success Intersection
Throughout the early part of February I shared a series of blogs which which had their roots at a time in my career where things weren't going very well. Like most people, my career has had those moments, but thankfully they've become fewer and further between as the years have passed. Having reflected on it a lot, I think that there's a lesson in why that might be.
One of the most satisfying things I got to do over my years at the bank, was to present every year, for a decade, to a new intake of graduates, interns and apprentices. As one of very few people who had completed two graduate schemes, as well as having managed graduates and ultimately coached leaders who managed and recruited graduates, I had plenty of experience and some different perspectives to share, as well as real life experience - the good, the bad and the ugly - and was very passionate about giving an honest account of the things I'd learned and seen. Ultimately, every time I spoke to a new cohort, I wanted to give these new, fresh-faced youngsters everything I could, so that they had the best possible opportunity to succeed.
These presentations began with a brief outline of my career, finished with a Q&A and sandwiched in the middle was a set of eleven principles I'd developed over the years of speaking to the new arrivals. Today's topic is one of those principles!
In the first part of my career, I did a lot of different roles in a relatively short period of time. Nine placements over five years, and some of those placements could have been subdivided even further, as I supported different departments or ran different branches. That's one of the great benefits of a graduate scheme; you get to try lots of things out, and get a better understanding of where you might want to dig a little deeper or advance your career.
There was a certain amount of flexibility in the placements, where we were given a booklet of options and effectively had to bid for those ones we most wanted. Naturally, there were some glitzy, high profile placements that were oversubscribed, as well as some that were much less attractive, but I took the opportunity to try and become more well rounded, by picking a variety of opportunities, even if they didn't light me up at first reading.
I believe now - having made the mistake of not doing so, learned, done so and seen my career flourish - that the most significant thing I could have done in those early years was to follow my passions and my skills. I remember one example vividly; it was coming to the end of a placement on my first grad scheme and I was presented with a book of potential roles for placement two. There was one that shone out like a beacon - something that that I instantly knew I'd love to do and would be able to make a great job of. It was a high profile role but one that would have helped me hit all three segments of the PIE model, before I'd even heard of the model! It was a no-brainer to put that placement down as my number one choice, but instead I hesitated and I listened to others. Those others told me there were other placements that'd give me more stretch, or which would let me find my feet, or suggested that maybe something less visible might be a better fit. And so I didn't select it at at all, and I ended up in a role that made me miserable, looking over the fence at someone else doing something I knew I could have smashed.
When I set up my own business, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do. After the early setbacks I described above, I spent my last eight years in corporate life doing a job I adored. There are a handful of things which I'm good at and which I love doing; coaching, facilitating, developing leaders and speaking in front of audiences and I got to do them every day. And so these became my business! I set out with the very clear mission; find ways to do all four of these things and as few other things as possible and to make a positive difference to peoples working lives. Fill my days with joy and do things which I'm good at and which make a difference. If i'm going to get up every weekday for the next 30 years and look at my diary to tell me what's lined up, I want to be looking at a list of activities which I love, I'm good at and which make a difference - so I keep that in mind every time I'm seeking new opportunities or an offer pops into my inbox! Minimise the things I really don't like doing or am not good at - make life as enjoyable and successful as possible.
Pat Williams, the great Executive of the Orlando Magic, has written over 100 books, including one released in 2017, called The Success Intersection. Every now and then you'll read, listen to or watch something which perfectly lays out or labels a concept that you've innately understood or believed, but struggled to articulate. This book was one such example. In it, Williams describes the Success Intersection as the point at which the thing you're good at meets the thing you love. That's what I'd described and what I'd finally found!
Think about the feeling you have when you're doing something you love; spending time with friends, playing an instrument, carrying out a hobby, walking your dog - whatever it might be. Life seems easy; time passes quickly and nothing seems like a chore, even if it takes skill and attention to do it and there are hurdles to overcome, you[re engaged an committed and you power through. Because you enjoy it, you seek more opportunities to do it. More time spent doing it, means you become better at it. Your passion for the activity shines through, which is infectious to others and leads to more opportunities to do it. Now think what happens when you're doing something you hate. You're miserable, you grudge doing it, you find ways to get it over and done with as quickly as possible and to avoid doing it again. Less commitment, less effort, less frequency means worse outcomes. The same applies to your work.
In American Football coaching we talk about 'putting your player in a position to be successful' by letting them use the skills they have, to maximise the success of the team. What are the skills that you have and which you love deploying? What's brought you success in the past? What brings you joy to do? Split a piece of paper into two columns and take some time to write down a list of all the tasks and activities you've done professionally that you absolutely loved in one column, and all those you'd rather never do again in the other. Find ways to do more of the things you love in work, even if it means going above and beyond the core of your role. Find people who do these things professionally and learn from them. How did they get into it? How could you? Where could you demonstrate your capability and passion? Make a plan and build the career you really want. You owe it to yourself!