As many companies and individuals face possible obsolescence or at a minimum becoming stale in their service offerings, their approach to their market, or perhaps in their own passions for how they are contributing, the concept of ‘reinvention’ is becoming more and more prevalent. Though this concept is certainly not new, this term has become a mainstay in our present vocabulary. Blame it on the Baby Boomers, who are seeking career longevity amidst the onslaught of the millennials and the ‘Gen X and Y’ populations. Regardless of the catalyst, reframing ourselves and our offerings – or perhaps just reframing the way we look at our companies and our own personal careers, has always been the key to survival.
Over the years, I have watched many mediocre business professionals carve out very successful careers by their ability to parlay their approach into attractive and ultimately lucrative options. No, these individuals are not the smartest nor the most successful in their prior roles, yet they honed the knack of marketing themselves. They have mastered the ability to show (and in most cases virtually create from nothing) a multi-faceted face – both in ‘real life’ and via social media – which puts forth the image they wish to create. Today’s social media enables these ambitious ones to paint the picture they wish to paint, associate with those they wish to align themselves online (primarily for the purpose of self-promotion), and to show only the sides they wish to show. It is a fascinating phenomenon. Of course, as my father has always taught me: “If you see it, everyone else probably sees it, too”. Thus, these social media mirages are indeed, just that. So, if one does want to ‘change the frame’ on their careers – and do so authentically and anchored in reality versus ‘social media hype’ – how does a person get started? If a person wants to ‘reinvent’ their focus areas for contribution, or perhaps even their lives – how do they this?!
As mentioned before, it is not luck (in which I am personally not a believer) or plain smarts or even hard work that most commonly leads to uber success (success, by the way, as defined by the individual). Ultimately I believe it is our intentions fed by our energy – consistently and genuinely – which will lead to our success. So, what are a few initial steps we can take to harness our intentions and ‘change our frame’ as we build our ‘second or third acts’?
1. Know where you are today AND determine where you want to go NEXT.
While working with Dr. Noel Tichy over the past few decades in our transformational leadership work, we utilize a process which undoubtedly is one of the most impactful exercises for organizations to experience. It is the process of discerning ‘Our current state’ (facing the harsh reality of where we find ourselves today) and then, defining and projecting ‘Our desired state’, which is where we ultimately want to go. We can use this process for individuals just as we do for companies and organizations. The objective is to look in the mirror and determine – are we doing what we REALLY want to do? Are we good at what we are doing? Are we aligned as individuals, or if we are part of a team – is the team aligned around where we want to go? If not – that is the first awakening. We must determine where we are AND where we want to go.
One last and critical note on this – the ‘where I want to go’ does not have to be the FINAL destination. So many times, we think and think AND think…..which leads to ‘analysis paralyses’!! Nothing in this world is permanent; so your next step will probably not be your ‘last step’. Make the move. Forward momentum is how we determine if the direction is the ultimate ‘right’ direction!
2. Parlay your Gifts into the Market
This can be a tough step. Just because you love what you do AND you are good at it does NOT mean that anyone will want to buy it! What NEED are you filling? What is it that YOU offer that makes you different? Who are your potential clients….or hiring audiences? Learning how to take what we ‘do’ and apply it to a void in the market is a critical success factor. AND, remember, what folks wanted to buy 5 years ago is not what they will want to buy today….unless it has been modified for the market.
3. Creativity coupled with Agility is Key
We have to hone the ability to ‘think outside and inside the box’. It is hard to do this in solitary confinement! So – we need to build our posse of partners to help us. Retired executives, leadership coaches, prior professors, supportive customers, and even competitive business colleagues. Each will have a perspective or insights to offer. We have to be willing to ask for help – and to hear the brutal, honest truth. Does the market value what I bring? Is my approach outdated? Do my clients want more – or different – services from me? What do I NOT know – that I need to know – to truly thrive and survive in the market today? We have to be open to the answers….as hearing them and then ignoring them – does nothing! We need to hear (and listen) to the market and then be creative and AGILE in how we meet them where they are.
4. Build a game plan and be FOCUSED.
Every business has a game plan (and if they don’t – they will not be around for long!). Every one of us, for our careers, needs a game plan, too. Sure – it will change – yet, to not have any sense of where we want to go and HOW we are going to get there – results in mere folly. We need to lay out specific steps on how we are going to accomplish specific goals. Too many times, we become insular in our focus – meaning that we focus on stuff that will not REALLY move the dial. We need to determine where we want to go, what we want to contribute and THEN determine how we are going to get there. Then, become ruthlessly focused on these steps…..the other stuff is just noise.
5. Hang tight.
This is easy to say; yet, this is where the weak are separated from the strong. We have to exercise our muscles so that we do not give up too easily. As any company, organization, or individual introduces new approaches, new products and services, or a ‘new face’ to their markets and constituents – immediate acceptance and ‘manna from Heaven’ is not guaranteed.
There is always going to be a phase of education to the market; then a phase of ‘differentiation and selling’ and then – if we are diligent – we will secure our first proving ground. This may be a new job in our new field or a new customer for our new service offering or a product extension in an existing market. Yet, what I know for sure is that it will probably NOT come about instantly AND it will not happen without sweat equity. Yet, when we do ‘win’, our expended effort just makes our success that much sweeter.
My final thoughts are: we need to stop comparing this new chapter with the old chapter – good or bad. There is no comparison, thankfully. We (and the organizations for which we work) are a compilation of all our experiences, and this new chapter will be a completely new life in many ways. That concept can be quite liberating when we allow ourselves to embrace it. We need to simply embrace progress not perfection. Keep the forward momentum. Stay open. Be receptive to even what may appear to be an opportunity which is out of your wheel house. If you are attracted to it, explore what about the role turns you on. There is a reason – of this I am certain. Our intuition and inner voice does not lie. Ever. So listen to it. AND remember that nothing is permanent.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.