Whenever I’m working with leaders on their development, I find it useful to get a sense of where they are on the ‘career curve’. This helps us make sense of their context, and identify the most effective strategies that will help them keep moving forward.
Here’s how I think about it:
This is based on Charles Handy’s Sigmoid Curve. We all move along this curve a number of times during our career. It’s important to know where we are at any one time, so we can make the most of opportunities that the context of each stage presents.
‘Right Start’ is the stage where you’re just starting a new role. You’re excited, nervous, focused on making a good impression and getting a few runs on the board. Depending on the role, this stage can last a few weeks to six or more months. It’s a time to capitalise on the honeymoon period: building relationships with the people who matter most, identify the few priorities that will make the biggest difference, and put in place a plan to maintain your energy and focus.
‘Developing Mastery’ is where you’ve been in the role for a little while now, the honeymoon period is well and truly over, and you’re focused optimising your team’s performance. This is typically a longer period covering some months to years. While it’s still vital to maintain the strategies from ‘Right Start’, it’s now also really important to really pay attention to the behaviours that will help you to achieve a stellar performance. In the heat of the day-to-day pressure of the role, it’s easy to lose perspective. Reconnecting with the purpose of your role, aligning your activities around your strengths and values, and identifying and adapting any potential derailing behaviours can really help you master your role.
‘What’s Next?’ is the natural question to ask at some point. You’ve probably achieved what you came here to do, and need a new challenge. Maybe you’re not sure which direction to go next. I often meet people who have been at this stage for a long time, feeling frustrated or stuck. The thing to do here is to make the time to take stock and ask yourself some big questions like ‘what do I want to achieve in the next stage of my career / life? When I really think about it, what sort of work most excites me? When it comes to work, what do I really value?’ Your answers to these questions will provide you with a foundation to take charge and create your next curve.
So, where are you on the career curve? What can you do now to make the most of the stage you’re at?
If you’re leading people, try using these questions and the curve in your next coaching conversation. You’ll put them in the driver’s seat and help them to take responsibility for their situation.
Try it out. I hope it’s useful for you.
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