Boundaryless careers

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase ‘boundaryless’ career?

Perhaps you imagine a special kind of career that defies definition. A career that spans all functions and facets of a business.

Maybe you thought of a career that could take off in any direction, as if the future were going to be without bounds.

Or maybe your mind takes a cynical turn and you thought of theq all-access (boundaryless) careers we have – email, mobile phone, laptop access 24-7.

Turns out that researchers were thinking of something different.

Social scientists give us this definition:

moving away from one single, externally determined view which defined what a good career is”

From Lips-Wiersma, M, McMorland, J. (2006) “Finding meaning and purpose in boundaryless careers: A framework for study and practice.” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 46(2), 147-167.

In other words, a boundaryless career is one that is not concerned with climbing a specific career ladder, but is more concerned with ‘the individual’s experience of the career unfolding.’ In otherwords, a boundaryless career is a non-linear career path.

Boundaryless careers ask individuals to take responsibility for their career paths instead of the corporations that employ them. Traditional careers assume the corporation will move individuals up the ladder and reward employees with increased pay as they work hard and accomplish goals. Boundaryless careers are more concerned with meaning and purpose than with simply climbing a ladder.

My guess is that the idea of a lifetime career not being about climbing a ladder and instead about realizing a larger purpose initially strikes people differently based on their generation. My father (a baby boomer) joined a company fully expecting to work there until he retired. When that didn’t work out, he moved to another company expecting much the same thing. And then when again that did not work out, he went to work for himself, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

I (proudly generation X) personally did not expect to work at the same place for more than a few years before going someplace new. I’m not sure why, but I think my generation was told that we would never be happy in one place for long. I proved them wrong, along with many others of my generation, staying at the same company for 17 years and not leaving by my own choosing. Now, however, given the opportunity to explore possibilities in life and work, I find myself deeply drawn to the boundaryless career idea. I now want my work to be grounded in purpose and meaning.

As for the generations behind me, they were supposed to be the generation that put purpose and fulfillment ahead of any other career ambitions. Yet, in my time in corporate America, I saw a pattern much like mine. I saw the desire not to get stuck, and yet person after person sticking around long after any happiness they had in their position had been sucked out of them.

So although the idea might strike the generations differently initially – the Baby Boomers see a boundaryless career as their rewards after a long time spent slogging away in the corporate jungle, the Generation Xers as an idea that comes after disappointment and heartache, and the Millenials as the way it should have been anyway – it seems to me that we all come around to the idea that work would be much more satisfying and worthwhile if it were more focused on our purpose and brought meaning to our lives.

Now the question is: how do we find and/or build these boundaryless careers? How do we free ourselves of the notion of being ‘stuck’? How do we find meaning and purpose in our lives without having to relegate it to time spent outside of work?

These are great questions, and unfortunately there aren’t any easy answers. To reach these goals in life, it takes a great deal of self-awareness and introspection. I’ll give you some questions to start with below. At the same time, I’ll let you in on a secret – The short-cut is to get yourself a coach who will help guide you through this. (I can help with this!)

Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help you build your own boundaryless career:

  1. What brings you meaning? Write down your answers. Ask yourself this question over and over, answering from different perspectives (work, home, school, community, etc.) until you run out of ideas.
  2. What are your values? Write them down, then go back and circle the 3 most important. Why are these important to you? What do they look like in real life?
  3. If you were guaranteed not to fail, what would you do right now? What would happen if you failed?
  4. What is it that is keeping you from following your dreams? What would it take to allow you this freedom?

If you are moved by the idea of the boundaryless career, and want some help finding your own, I would love to help! Give me a call, leave a comment, or send me an email.

5 Reasons You Need a Coach

Do you need a coach?

The HUB Leadership Consulting Group

Have you been thinking about getting a coach? Perhaps someone has suggested the idea to you. Perhaps you’ve read something somewhere that mentioned coaching. Perhaps you just know you need a little help. This is all good news. It means that you are already looking to grow, to improve, to understand yourself better, and to build new and different skills.

If you aren’t quite sure what a coach might help with or whether a coach is even the right thing for you, let me give you some insight and concrete examples of what a coach can do for you.

Before we get there, note that there are many different “flavors” of coach out there – life coaches, career coaches, executive coaches. Every one of these folks, regardless of their specific label, is here to do one thing – help you to be the best version of yourself. How they go about it may differ considerably, but largely their mission is all the same.

I have worked with several coaches over the years. One executive coach helped me negotiate through some significant personal tragedies while maintaining my career trajectory. She also helped me to deeply consider my future professional path and make some initial changes in how I considered my role in my company.

A life coach I worked with helped me to realize how much I had separated my work-self from my true-self, and how important it was for me to reunite those two parts. She also helped to take some dramatic risks in my life that have helped me to grow significantly and reclaim some joy in my work life.

A business coach I hired helped me to understand what it will take to get my own business off the ground. She gave me support, encouragement and accountability when I needed it most. She also connected me with necessary resources, both human and otherwise that will be important as I continue to build my company.

An outplacement coach helped me considerably when I suddenly found myself without a job. He helped me plan, he held me accountable to the plan, and to this day he continues to connect me with resources and helps me to feel supported and encouraged.

Here are some reasons you should consider hiring a coach:

  1. You want to get ahead but just aren’t sure how
  2. You want to make a change but are uncertain of the steps you ought to take
  3. You are not getting the feedback/support/encouragement you desire from your boss
  4. You feel stuck
  5. You are not experiencing joy in some aspect of your life

You want to get ahead but just aren’t sure how

Have you heard the phrase “What got you here won’t get you there?” It is the absolute truth. Every step of a career journey requires a new strategy and a new set of skills. Sometimes, the requirements are obvious. Sometimes, not so much.

A coach can help you deal with the struggle of performing at the highest level in your current role while developing the necessary skill set for the job ahead. She can help you see what steps to take, and when to take them, to help you navigate the crazy world of corporate advancement.

You want to make a change but are uncertain of the steps you ought to take

Sometimes there is something pulling at your heart telling you it is time to make a change. Sometimes is it just a hint, other times it is a roar.

Maybe you are not even sure what change to make, you simply know something needs to be different.

But then what?

A coach can help. She can help you decipher what it is that needs to change. She can help you figure out the first step, the second step, or even the hundredth step. By helping you gain clarity of vision, she can help you along the path, make adjustments along the way, and can help hold you accountable to your goals. She can also help keep you from backsliding into old habits and routines.

A coach can help you find your new, brighter future.

You are not getting the feedback/support/encouragement you desire from your boss

It is rare that we receive the feedback we need from our bosses today. Managers in every field, at every level, are busy, distracted, and ill equipped to offer the feedback most of us are looking for.

I remember one time receiving my annual review and being upset by all of the high marks. It seemed my boss could find nowhere for me to improve. But I wasn’t running the company yet, so surely there was something I needed to work on!

A coach is a great person to help you with the “what got you here won’t get you there” kind of feedback. She will help you to spot your strengths and your weaknesses and help you to work on both.

A coach can give you honest, objective feedback that will help you to reach your goals. If something doesn’t seem to be working, she can help you figure out a better way to move forward. She might even be able to provide valuable insight into why others respond they way they respond.

If you are looking to understand better how you are doing and strategies for improvement, hire yourself a coach!

You feel stuck

Sometimes you aren’t feeling the pull to change, but you still feel stuck. It could be that you wake up feeling like work has become a struggle. It could be that you used to love what you do, but it just doesn’t inspire you in the same way anymore. It could be that the next step up isn’t the step you want to take, and you don’t know where else to look.

A coach can help you get clarity about why you feel stuck and what next steps are the most appropriate for you to take. She can help you work through things that might be holding you back from being your best self and help you get unstuck.

You are not experiencing joy in some aspect of your life

We all have one life to live, and we ought to enjoy as much of it as we can. If there is some part of your life where joy is hard to find, a coach can help you to find it. Or change it. Or rearrange it. Or uncover it.

Whatever needs to be done to find the joy in your life, a coach will be there to help you uncover what you need to do to find it.

There are many coaches out there. Do your due diligence to be sure you pick one that you trust and that you feel comfortable working with. You’ll be practicing quite a bit of vulnerability with this person, so be sure you are ready and willing to do the hard work and feel safe doing so.

And if you are looking for a coach, start here! Send me an email using the ‘Contact’ button and we will set up an initial call to see how I can help you. I would love to help you no matter what your goals are, and can’t wait to hear from you!

As always, stay positive!

Go get yourself a mentor!

mentors

Research shows that one of the most significant factors in getting ahead in the workplace is having a mentor, someone who is willing to spend time on you and your career. Bonus points if the mentor is a powerful and influential individual within your company or industry.

In my research interviewing many successful leaders in the financial services industry I heard the following, and repost these quotes from an earlier blog post because of their significance:

“Luckily I have a boss who is now really invested in my future and sees a lot going for me and I would say I am one of the lucky ones. I am one of the ones who is going to be put in a good position in certain roles and will continue developing.”

“I would say that [my mentor] is the number one reason for helping me get ahead.”

But how do you get one of these mentors?

I had the pleasure, recently, of serving as a host at a roundtable discussion for young leaders looking to advance their careers. I had a wonderful time and met some incredibly intelligent and motivated young leaders. The question came up, as expected, “How do I find and attract a mentor?” I offered, as a starting point, the following:

The most effective mentorships happen organically; they are not assigned by HR

In my own life, I cannot tell you a single success story of a mentoring relationship that worked well when it was assigned by HR (or some other group). I am sure there are situations where it has worked for others, but my guess is that they are the exception rather than the rule.

I do, however, have story after story I could share where a successful mentorship developed because of a personal relationship I worked to develop. These mentors have helped me understand the bigger picture when the world felt very small and mean. They gave me feedback when I was uncertain of my next step. They have coached me and guided me, and I will never be able to express the gratitude I have felt for their willingness to invest in me.

I heard the same from the leaders I interviewed. When they actively sought out and cultivated their mentoring relationships, it reaped a significantly richer, deeper, and more satisfying result for them personally and professionally. In our discussion at the roundtable, the young leaders agreed that this was true.

What this means for those of you looking for a mentor is that you have to go out and find one yourself. Do not sit back and wait for HR to develop a mentorship program. Here are some thoughts on how to do this:

  1.  Recognize that the vast majority of leaders are open and happy to meet with you, you just have to ask for 10 minutes of their time;
  2. Pay attention in meetings, presentations, anywhere you have exposure to leadership in your company. Look for someone you wish to emulate, or has a quality you admire.
  3. Reach out to this person. Ask a question, request feedback, share an observation. Anything to start the conversation. Use email to show respect for the individual’s time.
  4. Follow-up*. This relationship is on you to cultivate. Provide an update, ask another question, make a new suggestion. Just keep the conversation going.

Some examples for #3, as this is certainly the hardest part:

“I heard you mention X the other day in a meeting. I am particularly interested in X. I wonder if you would have 10 minutes to discuss this further with me?”

“I was particularly taken with how you presented Y in yesterday’s meeting. I am giving a talk in the near future on a related topic, and I wonder if you would be willing to give me some feedback on my presentation?”

“I am currently working on building my team, and I noted that your team works very well together. I wonder if you would have 10 minutes to give me some tips and pointers on how best to build my team?”

These are just a few ideas. Hopefully they help you to get started. Now, go get yourself a mentor!

*Just a note that some leaders are just going to be too busy to meet with you or even respond to an email. Be cognizant of this and don’t become a pest. If you don’t hear back from one person, move on to someone else.

Keep it positive and smile! Happy Monday!

 

“I’m just too….” (subtle, inherent, insidious bias)

Image result for bossy woman meme

Of late, I have been interviewing successful female leaders in the Financial Services industry. I have asked them to share their journeys as they have navigated their careers, both within the Financial Services industry, and outside. This has been an exciting project, and I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing women. The leaders I spoke with hold positions at all levels of the organization from manager to Executive Vice President. They have careers spanning everything from 2 years to 35 years. They have worked for over 35 different companies. They are highly educated, highly intelligent, driven, and by all standards, exceptionally successful.

My main focus in talking with them was to understand what barriers and supports these women might have encountered as they climbed the corporate ladder. What I came away with were hours and hours of amazing stories, and some lessons I’d love to share. I do not have explicit permission to share the stories (I was collecting them for a different project), so I will speak in general terms, and will do all I can to protect their identities. The plan is a series of posts, each dedicated to a lesson I learned from these generous, brave, inspirational women.

Trend #1: I am just too….

As I spoke with these women about challenges in the workplace, the conversation would invariably turn to failures. These failures covered everything from a missed promotion, to a project failure to a simple meeting gone awry. Each time one of these perceived failures came up, we would dive into the why. Why had we failed? What was the true cause of the lack of success? The answers were, as you might imagine, as diverse as the women themselves. Many of these will be the subject of future blog posts.

Some mentioned politics. Others mentioned a lack of resources, whether it was human or material. Some mentioned ambiguous requirements and expectations. Most of the time, it was a combination of all of it. We are complex beings!

What came up, however, in every single conversation, was an inherent personality characteristic of the woman herself. Sometimes the women ascribed this characteristic to herself (‘I was just too___’) and sometimes she related that others had ascribed this to her (‘He/she said I was just too ___’). It was the rarely the single root cause of the perceived failure and most women would probably not have attributed much significance to it.

I might have seen little significance in it myself, and instead simply seen it as the individual woman bucking normal stereotypes, had it not come up so. darn. frequently. And had the qualities not been so similar. The list of these characteristics is extraordinary, and I offer them here as direct quotes:

“I’m too aggressive”

“I was too outspoken”

“I’m too bold”

“I am too direct”

“I was too honest”

“I’m just too impatient”

“I’m too perky”

“I’m too rude”

“I am too stubborn”

This is just a sampling…the list goes on and on. In a vacuum, these words are powerful and most are the mark of a successful leader. In each case, however, the women were using these words to describe the reason for a failure. This is not good!

A true leader is bold, is direct, is honest, and yes, sometimes even aggressive and impatient and rude too! A leader needs to be strong in order to lead! The more we ascribe negative connotations to these words when talking about women, the more we impede her ability to lead effectively!

My ask is this: If you ever hear your inner voice say something like “I’m just too….” or “She is just too….” STOP. Stop and ask yourself if you are ascribing a stereotype that is just not appropriate in the situation.

Inherent bias, biases we don’t even know we have, are exceedingly hard to detect. The more conscious we are of them, the better the chance we have of eliminating them!

Stay positive and smile! And have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!

Do it your way!

I spend a good deal of my time talking with up-and-coming leaders, and have had the honor of mentoring many of them as well. These folks are strong, smart, ambitious, and most of them know what they want out of life and their careers. At the very least, they know they want more. These folks are at all different levels of the organization, from manager all the way up to Senior Vice President.

They share future visions of leading large teams, of running major project initiatives. More often than not, they express a desire to make a positive impact in the world. One leader told me, “I want to be able to influence a large group of people, to help them realize dreams and goals they might not have thought possible.”

Which makes this next part all the more curious. I have heard from multiple leaders some version of the following:

“I am in line for my boss’s job, and I don’t want it/don’t think I can do it.”

The obvious question, and I ask it every time, is why? Why would these capable, driven leaders say something like this? The first thing to note is that they are not saying this because they have something else in mind. They are not, for instance, in line to be the head of marketing and would rather be the head of HR. I have asked, and I know this is not the case. Second, it is also important to note that in every case there is no indication that the individual is lacking any of the skills necessary to handle the job.

So what’s the deal? The responses sound something like this:

“I see my boss attending events that I have no interest attending.”

“The way the department is now, I could never run things that way.”

“The hours he puts in! And the people he has to talk to! I just can’t see myself doing that.”

“If the job entails doing x, y, z, then it just isn’t for me.”

The flaw in the logic should be immediately obvious when reading this objectively and from a distance. Up close, it is exceptionally hard to see. But here it is:

Just do it your way!

Being a leader means forging your own path. It is about using your own particular strengths and leveraging the strengths of your particular team. This will never (at least, not ever in my experience) look like what was in place before you got there, nor will it look like what will follow when you leave. In fact, because of this the leader who attempts to imitate the leader they follow is setting themselves up for certain disaster. No two people are the same, no two leaders are the same, no two teams are the same.

One quick acknowledgement. There may be a situation where there is a non-negotiable in the job description that just cannot be overcome. No one should ever feel bad about turning a job down when this is the case. What I contend, however, is that when it comes to leadership, nearly everything is negotiable. Don’t want to attend every function? Empower your associates to help out! Don’t like the way things are set up or organized? Rearrange it! Don’t want to work the long hours? Build in efficiencies and alternate work arrangements to get things done.

My suggestion is this: If you are in line (or could be in line) for a new position, and you hear a little voice inside tell you that you don’t want it or can’t do it, step back a minute and double check that you aren’t making assumptions about the job that just aren’t valid. Then

Go do it your way!

Keep it positive and smile! Happy Tuesday!