Wednesday, March 20, 2013

People leaders, understanding individual needs and desires

Read here part 1 People Leaders are Bridge Builders

I invariably start a conversation with people about their career with the following question: where do you want to go? If they can’t answer that question the conversation is usually very different from the ones who can. You may have already heard that quote by Lewis Carroll “If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

My version is slightly different: if you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere. I can’t build a bridge to someone who doesn’t know where they want to go. However, I still can help. That’s the first step for people leaders:

1. Understand the individual desires and needs of a person.

No answer to the question is wrong if someone is really seeking self-realization. I met countless people looking for professional advice who provided canned answers to that question. Things like: I want to grow and have increased responsibilities, I want to be Director of this or VP of that, I want to be the CEO, etc.

My follow-up probing question is simple, one word: why? That’s when most people will freeze and either have that blank stare common to those who never thought about it or they’ll look at me as if asking why they have to have a reason!

If there is no why it’s unlikely to really be a solid long-term answer. The answer though doesn't need to be a noble cause but it has to be meaningful for the individual. Some will want power and money, some will do it to help others, some for pure passion. However, there are many who in reality just want to keep a job but feel compelled to show ambition because “that’s how it works”. Others want it because it’s their parents’ expectation or to show their friends they are successful. These are not valid reasons for one will sooner or later feel empty despite all accomplishments.

2. Recommend the individual to search for a reason (no need to get too philosophic, even though it can be a great opportunity for it; one can keep it simple and look for short-term answers).

This soul searching exercise can take time but it’s important to be done often in life. Finding our true passion and reason allows us the find the path to self-realization. As we mature our reasons may change. The motives of a young professional may be different from senior ones. That’s where I believe Abraham Harold Maslow did an outstanding job with his model for Hierarchy of Needs.

Once there is a good answer to that question a leader can start the next step to help building one’s personal bridge:

3. Help individual with self-awareness. Assessing one’s true position is key. Neither being too optimistic nor too humble about it is a good thing here. It’s not a discussion about confidence but about reality. Many people struggle to see it or accept it. I’ll talk more about it in the next article.

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