Do you want what you need?

Now... where did we want to go again? (picture copyright: Brooklyn Museum)

I have written a lot about how you can understand and use your networks to get what you want and where you want. But in my coaching practice I experience that the difficult question often isn’t “How do I get there?” but: “What do I want?” or, more precisely: “Do I want what I need?”

The things we want are those we have consciously set our eyes on: “I want to start my own business baking cup-cakes!”, “I want to earn a million dollars!”, “I want to become a lawyer, photographer, mother of three!”

Sometimes people come to me, because they want me to help them get there. When we talk about “where exactly…”, they might tell me a specific location, a specific goal, a solution. But while we explore what “photographer” or “millionaire” actually would mean for them, we have to take one step back and look at: “What do you need? What are your desires? What would your good days look like and feel like, if you fulfilled these needs and desires?”

If you go down to the basements and look at these inner needs and desires you might come up with things like: “I want to work with beautiful things.”, “I want to be independent.”, “I want to make a difference in the world.”, “I like working on a lot of different tasks at a time.”, “I enjoy working focussed on solving one task without anyone interrupting me for hours.”, “I thrive under pressure.”, “I would love to have a mentor.”, “I do (or don’t) enjoy work where I interact a lot with others.”, “I want to have a good amount of free time to spend with my family.” etc.

There are two reasons why I recommend to look at these needs first:
1. Once you know what you need you can check whether the goal you have set (become a gold digger, orange grower, yoga instructor) will actually fulfill these needs or whether it’s just something that sounds good or looks tantalizing from the outside. The best way of finding this out is to talk with people who do what you want and ask them whether their occupation fulfills at least some of those needs you have identified.
2. Very often people hold the strong conviction that only this one career will make them happy and if they don’t make it, their life will be a failure and they are destined for unhappiness ever after. By looking at what you need (instead of just focusing on this one goal) you can figure out which other life paths there might be that would fulfill these needs and make you happy.

After we have looked at your needs together and you have done your homework (do research about the different options, talk to people who seem to live your dream life etc.) we can sit down and draw a road map (Net-Map): Who can help you get there?

Telling a great story well

I’m always drawn to good, hands-on and approachable visualization as a tool for getting the message across. Today I stumbled over this photo story about a participatory video project in African villages which really inspired me. I love the story but even more concrete and easy to apply in my own work is the idea of using pictures in a comic strip kind of way to draw people into a story.

Community Based Adaptation in Africa, Photostory (copyright by Insightshare)

If it’s complex, keep it simple

How Net-Map can help executives make better decisions

And if you can’t, ask for help.

I just talked with Andrea Fuller who runs Mindfarm (who knows Net-Map and the corporate world) about the question: Why would a CEO want to use Net-Map? My own explanation is as complex as the method. I am just too deeply involved.

She gave me a great brief and straightforward explanation: “To make good decisions, we need to know the hard facts (the numbers etc.) and we need to know about people and their connections. In corporate America we do a great job of understanding the hard facts and putting them in pie-charts and spreadsheets and everything else Excel has to offer. That is easy. Where we are kind of lost is understanding the people and their relationships in a similarly rational way. And taking people into account is so crucial for the success or failure of projects.

That’s where Net-Map is real helpful, giving you a structured and rational way of mapping out the people, their relationships, their influence and goals. So you know afterward, if you want to get something done in your organization, you could go to each and every one of your staff members… or you could just go through one or two of your central people and they do the networking for you.”

Your (and the President’s) most valuable asset

The doctor is in... (copyright A. M. Kuchling)

Often, when people start drawing their own professional network, they spend a lot of time putting actors on the map who give them money or orders or get products or services from them. They are all very important, because, sure, you are in business or employment to be able to pay your rent, you have to follow (or get around) those with formal authority and if you forget about your clients needs, you won’t be successful for long. But… I learned that if you look at your professional progress in the longer term, not just a snapshot of your situation today, you might find that your bosses and clients are rather exchangeable, but a completely different category of people is much more crucial in shaping where you go and how (and if) you get there. That’s the advisors in the largest sense of the word: People who share their experience with you, warn you of potential pitfalls, connect you with promising ideas and people, inspire you and guide you along your way. Or maybe just at one crucial point in time, when you were at a crossroads and they helped you to decide which way to turn.

Sometimes your advisors might be individuals who also give you money, orders, or receive your services. Others have no formal link to your work life: they might be family members, friends or even significant strangers. Look back at the last 5 years of your career and think about those moments when you had to make big decisions: Who was there? Where and when did you have this impactful conversations that gave you strength and direction to go this way (and not that)? Who picked you up and told you to persevere when you thought it really wasn’t worth it any more? Who told you some inconvenient truth that you hated at the moment but that safed you a lot of bruises or wrong turns? Who inspires you and gets your creative juices flowing?

Take good care of them, because they might be among your most valuable assets. Just as they say: A President is just as good as his ability to choose great advisors. Acknowledge them in your success. Call them every once in a while and see what will happen. You might just have a nice chat and an opportunity to thank them. Or you might go away with a new insight that is crucial for your next step.