Threshold of Change
When it feels like your career progression has stalled-out, it’s easy to feel like your life has stalled-out, too. This is probably a familiar feeling - you can’t figure out why things aren’t going your way, and the more you spin your wheels, the more unhappy, demotivated, and (ironically) the more un-promotable you eventually become.
It can feel utterly impossible to escape this cycle, but the good news is, it isn’t! Every single day, we choose how we will live our lives. That means we can choose to keep standing in the fire, getting burned, while hoping something will change, or we can stop, drop and roll. Stop asking why, drop the self-pity, and roll out a new plan.
It begins by embodying the Spirit of Reinvention, bringing it front and center, and accepting it as part of your life. The Spirit of Reinvention is the willingness to design and catalyze change in every aspect of your life. It’s having the courage to ask: what is working for me, and what isn’t? What is keeping me from reaching my true potential, and what can I do today to change it? It’s elevation, enrichment, empowered curiosity, driven and dynamic growth. This is the spirit of reinvention.
I don't want to oversimplify this, because it can take a lot for us to realize we need in order to be able to take a new approach. Sometimes, it takes hitting rock-bottom before losing faith in old perspectives, allowing you to open your mind and heart to new ideas. However you arrived here, at the corner of Reinvention and Readiness, isn’t important. What is important is the amazing opportunity you now have in front of you.
These intersections are life’s richest moments. The beauty and promise of sunrise, where oceans roll and crash to meet the shore and recede. A renewed, fresh beginning. The spirit of reinvention wipes the board clean. It gives license to create a new vision for your life. A vision unencumbered by the dumbed-down status quo, cognitive distortions, and fear.
Objective Self Assessment
As Fender’s Chief Product Officer, I was responsible for leading the product teams through the strategic planning process. Most high-performing businesses define strategic intent and supporting tactics across a three-year calendar. New product assortments, pricing, marketing, sales and operations initiatives, etc. You get the idea.
The first phase of this process is Evaluation. Where is the market red hot, and where has it cooled? What competitors are making bold moves, and who has taken their eye off the ball? It’s an overall assessment of the businesses’ current capabilities and performance. This evaluation represents the foundation for growth and provides a situation analysis that puts performance into context. Evaluation is a critical component to a business’s strategy and success.
You can (and should!) take this page from the business handbook. Think about how you could apply a mindful and comprehensive evaluation to yourself as a mechanism for determining where you are today, and what your foundation for growth consists of. From there, you absolutely can chart a new course.
Objective Self Assessment is a process designed to elevate self-awareness, build positive self-esteem, and expand the field of opportunity in your life. Self-awareness often focuses on interpersonal effectiveness and our ability to see ourselves as others perceive us…to the admittedly limited degree that it is possible. Conversely, Objective Self Assessment looks at our core strengths.
To accomplish Objective Self Awareness, let’s borrow from the strategic business playbook once again. By completing a customized SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) focused on our personal performance and capabilities, you can start to see how you really are and can begin to build your best life around that knowledge.
Here is the rub, when it comes to looking in the mirror, objectivity is usually nowhere to be found. Let me explain what I mean - research has shown that about 15% of us display a higher sense of “self.” What makes this so amazing is that just about all of us, over 90%, believe we have a higher sense of self!
The importance of this information can be summed up in one simple question - why would anyone pursue something they already have? People fail to seek self-awareness because they erroneously believe they already have it - oops! If you can realize you might fall into that 90% of unaware/self-proclaimed-aware, then this becomes a huge opportunity for Positive Personal Differentiation. If you make an effort to better understand yourself objectively, you will be in a pretty elite group - a group that has a categorically higher level of fulfillment, joy, and happiness.
Objective Self Assessment offers the same challenges as basic self-reflection…objectivity. Luckily, this is easy to solve, but not always so easy to swallow. To gain objectivity, you have to go outside and get focused feedback from others - internal assessments will never be as objective as candid external feedback. While asking trusted friends and family to share their views about you, you might be surprised at what you hear, but don’t forget to listen with an open heart and mind. People you respect and trust will be honest with you, and likely will be more than happy to help you on your path to objective self-assessment and reinvention. These people will also point out positive strengths and traits you don’t recognize in yourself. It goes both ways - you have both positive and negative traits that you’re totally unaware of.
Some of you may have experienced a 360-degree-style peer review at work. This is incredibly powerful information, and I encourage you to participate openly if the opportunity ever arises. I had one such review as a senior leader that had a far-reaching material impact on my professional and personal life. It came with a box of tissues and a screwdriver; I needed to wipe my (many) tears and fix some stuff. You usually don’t to that realization on. your own, so don’t shy away from external feedback.
Applied Strengths Analysis
The principal of Applied Strengths examines independent strength-traits through specific situational lenses. Our strengths are not actualized until we apply them to the right circumstances, at the right time, in the right way. You need to know your Applied Strengths (and weaknesses) so you can strategically evaluate and adjust your life plan.
To help organize the types of Applied Strengths and properly assess them as tangible, implementable skills, let’s group them into four main “buckets.” Our four buckets (and what they mean) are:
Getting Things Done - These Strength Traits help us achieve results. Focus, energy, and adaptability all serve us when we are driving for the finish line. These strengths can be observed in-home projects, work challenges, hobbies, philanthropy, anywhere there is a clear, definable finish line.
Strategic Energy - These Strength Traits tend to show up in the areas of planning, strategic vision, creative production, or analytical tasks. Do you have a competitive nature that helps you see opportunity? Do you enjoy research and defining solutions? Are you comfortable with risk? If so, that’s a strength that will serve you well as a strategic thinker.
Versatility - These Strength Traits help us succeed in complex, unforeseen, or changing situations. Do you step outside your comfort zone to relate to others? Are you collaborative and an effective communicator? Is your self-awareness a strength...or maybe a weakness?
Influencing Others - These Strength Traits are seen most obviously in social or power imbalance situations. Are you in sales or marketing? A mom or a school teacher? Are you articulate and a passionate, inspiring communicator? Are you a great listener? How’s your charisma? Come on, don’t be shy! Are you comfortable on stage, self-confident and committed? Then influencing others is probably a strength of yours!
We can use these four category lenses to collect, focus and organize our thoughts. This is not a thought exercise, a fleeting hallway murmur, or light dinner-table chat! It needs to be memorialized, written down, carved in stone; tattooing it may be extreme, but short of that...write it down. Keep it visible. Make it real!
Objective Self Assessment Templates
I have created templates you can use to get your strengths assessment off the ground, but before we do that, we need to have a conversation about where to look for your applied strengths. The answer is, everywhere! There is a psychological effect known as “recency.” It says, we put a lot more weight, focus, and context on things that just happened. It’s why the fight we just had with our spouse this morning now defines our relationship. This effect also keeps us from taking stock of accomplishments in the past, which can serve as an obstacle to your objective self-assessment.
The goal of this assessment isn’t to draft a resume, it’s to better understand the complete profile of your traits and capabilities. That includes all of your life experiences. If we are feeling stuck, one of the first things we need to do is get our success vibration going. An applied strengths assessment reviewing the extent of your capabilities can be a powerful reminder of where your passions lie.
Home: If you’re a stay-at-home-parent, remember, it’s a career - treat it like one. You exhibit strengths in all the same areas as any business professional. Look at your leadership, organizational, logistical, and strategic strengths.
Early Life Equity: What was your passion as a teenager? Did you play sports, work with kids, were you in the band, yearbook club? What do you know more about than most people? Don’t rule out your early life experiences, they count!
Educational Journey: This one is pretty clear cut, but don’t blow by it. Be thoughtful. Were you in any clubs or organizations, or excel in a specific subject? All the engineers I know were always better at math than the other kids…what was that thing for you?
Employment History: This activity represents the apex of our engagement, effort, and energy on a daily basis. We are at our most visible, most connected state of being when working. We use our minds, our backs, our book smarts, and street-cred. We buy and sell, barter, build, plan, create and debate. The scope and intensity is no different for the stay at home parent than it is for the Fortune 500 executive. If you’re successful in either environment or anywhere in between, you’re doing it on the back of your strengths.
Applied Strengths Assessment Tool
I am supplying four templates for your initial review. One template representing each of the four key areas of focus. 1. Getting Things Done 2. Strategic Energy 3. Versatility 4. Influencing Others. Each list contains sixteen words or phrases chosen to stimulate your thoughts about the application of your personal strengths.
Select those you feel you possess on a scale of 1 to 5. One (1) being just shy of a weakness, three (3) table stakes, not a super-power, and five (5) “I got this working for me, Sir.” Try not to overthink it the first time through. Go with your initial response for now.
Next, forward the link to the individuals you are inviting to participate in your applied strengths assessment. It takes courage to open yourself up to a conversation about your strengths (and your implied weaknesses). It is powerful when done right. Choose the right individuals and put it into context for them.
One more time: Write it down, memorialize your perspective, make it real, visible. We will revisit your Strengths Assessment when we start engineering your specific, purposeful Reinvention, so stay tuned.