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Month: March 2015

Winning Culture With Core Values

Well-defined and leveraged Core Values are one of the most powerful mechanisms to grow a company, especially as it passes 50 employees and gains complexity.

Core Values define the character of your firm and create the foundation and frame upon which the organization is built. A company’s Core Values can exist by default or be developed and supported by design. “By default” is a dangerous way to run a business because employees won’t have a clear should/shouldn’t framework in which to make decisions. Well-designed Core Values are a simple set of rules that define the kinds of behaviors you want to see inside the business. They also eliminate the need for countless, more complicated rules and operating procedures that can destroy a company’s culture anshopping-list-707760_1920d chase off the A-players on your team.

The number one mistake I see with Core Values is they are rarely mentioned, and most employees don’t know what they are, let alone the key behaviors tied to each Core Value. Yet, getting Core Values right – and integrating them into every aspect of the business – generates huge leverage and saves a tremendous amount of time and trouble.

How To Leverage Core Values

1. Use Core Values as a baseline and a test for developing strategy. Does a growth strategy idea work within the Core Values? Or does it violate any of them? This is an effective method to screen out ideas that could pull the organization in the wrong direction.

2. Use Core Values to evaluate talent as part of the recruiting process. Drill deep into the behaviors that define each Core Value for your business. For example, the word “teamwork” may have different meanings to different companies and different people. You must have clarity on the specific behaviors that reflect each Core Value. You can teach Core Values to employees, but you’re better off hiring people who already share your organization’s Core Values. Most companies hire for skill and fire for fit. Getting clear on the Core Values and integrating them into the recruiting process can reduce the chance of poor hires due to wrong fit.

3. Use Core Values as an easy method to manage employees. Clearly defining Core Values and the behaviors that support them makes it easier and more productive to have difficult conversations. Employee problems are almost always due to a fit issue or some type of behavior that is getting in the way of production. Often, problem employees have the right skills, but the people dynamics get in the way of things. Well-defined Core Values are an easy way to help managers address problems early, get someone back on track or even make a more difficult decision clearer, faster. And the employee receiving the feedback is less likely to be personally offended or upset if you tie the behavior back to the Core Values.

4. Use Core Values in dealing with clients. Try to attract clients who share your view of the world and how you do things. And when a client becomes difficult or antagonistic with employees, use your Core Values as a framework to have a difficult conversation. Using a Core Value as a talking point takes the sting out of the dysfunction and makes the conflict less personal.

5. Try to use Core Values for marketing leverage. Look at Whole Foods. Shoppers are willing to pay a premium based on what Whole Foods believes… who they are… their Core Values. They will not buy certain species of fish to resell because of overfishing in certain parts of the world. They are willing to risk an economic hit to retain a Core Value. And look at how well the market responds to decisions like that.

6. Tie public praise for great work or deeds back to a company Core Value. If this can be done weekly, it can really imprint the Core Values into the mind and behaviors of everyone in the organization.

You can’t over-communicate Core Values. All employees should be able to name them, describe the key behaviors for each and tell a story about someone in the company living a Core Value in the past 90 days.

During facilitated planning sessions, we always open the meeting by asking about Core Value activity in the past 90 days. It’s a great warm-up exercise and a way to reinforce the concepts. One of the best early warning radars for anticipating trouble in a company is when no employee can tell a Core Value story from the past 90 days. Core Values are one of the best lead indicators of organization health. And healthy teams are winning teams.

 

Metamorphosis

A man. A mission. A Motorhome. Life Lessons From the Metamorphosis.

Metamorphosis

Have you ever worked with or for someone who was an entrepreneur? Someone who seemingly called the non-existent into existence? Someone who could see the potential in others or in new possibilities when the future they envisioned seemed impossible?

If you are an entrepreneur, I think you’ll find some things in this article that will ring true with you and perhaps even bring a smile to your face. If you are less entrepreneurial but are still interested in picking up a nugget or two from a true story of vision, inviting others into the journey, overcoming adversity, and keeping the mission in perspective, stay with me. My dad’s story just might inspire you.

When a leader’s “vision” looks more like a land yacht. One day, my dad rumbled up to our house in the early 1970s in the form of a 1960 Chrysler Imperial that sounded bad and looked even worse. I was embarrassed by the sight of this metal monstrosity but my dad was beside himself with enthusiasm. “We’re going to turn this baby into a motorhome!” he declared.

Granted, I was just about 10 years old at the time, but I wasn’t seeing the same possibilities my dad did in his newest mission. The thing was ugly, ran rough, and was embarrassing to have in the vicinity.

Have you had a similar reaction when your partner, boss, or CEO boldly declares their latest vision and you wonder what they might be smoking? Even so, I think it is truly a gift to “call the non-existent into existence” like so many successful entrepreneurs are able to do.

I realize I’m not a true-blue entrepreneur. I have some entrepreneurial affinity but I’m more of a turnaround guy or an impact catalyst. Even though I’m not quite wired like my dad who was an educator-by-day and entrepreneur-by-night-and-weekend, it can be exciting to be around hard-core entrepreneurs. I especially like being with those are able to effectively recruit others into helping make their vision a collective reality.

Recruit others along for the joy ride. Don’t misunderstand me here. Recruiting others to join you on your journey of “calling the non-existent into existence” isn’t simple hypnosis or coercion. Sure, there are plenty of those who subscribe to this theory. After all, it can yield some impressive short-term results. However, if you want to see people run through walls and do more than they had ever dreamed over a sustained period of time, you have to help them find meaning and purpose in joining you. Provide a healthy dose of fun as part of the adventure and you’re all in for a fun ride.

My dad was able to do that really well. He was really funny. He genuinely enjoyed being around people and seeing them accomplish great things. For him, the mission went beyond the mere accomplishment of doing stuff that others said couldn’t be done or simply transforming basket cases into mechanical works of art. He seemed to enjoy the twisted journey as much as the final destination and didn’t want to make the trip all by himself.

Like my dad, I don’t think life was meant to be lived in isolation. Sure, we need moments of solace. However, I think the real magic happens when we allow our vision to expand and ferment with the active participation and input from others. If you think about it, very few people accomplish truly great things without a little help from some friends.

But you barely have one leg to stand on! All of us face challenges and naysayers. Overcoming adversity is part of life. For some of us, big adversities just create bigger victories.

In my dad’s case, he lost all the muscles in his right leg when he was stricken by polio at the age of 17. In spite of limping through the majority of his life physically, he was outrunning most people on many fronts. The metamorphosis of the 1960 Chrysler Imperial which transformed into my dad’s version of the Winnebago (with the Chrysler’s ultra-cool push-button transmission mounted on the dash) was a great example.

His disability also made room for a 10 year-old son like me to be his helper. Don’t get me wrong, fetching tools, holding boards, gathering equipment on nights and every weekend wasn’t glamorous or even fun much of the time. However, being able to participate in such a deliberate yet drastic transformation of one vehicle becoming something dramatically different over the period of 18 months or so was thrilling. Being able to learn from and be inspired by my dad at such a tender age was priceless. Only now do I begin to grasp what a gift that was.

It’s easy to squash ideas that are outside of the norm or to quickly point out the excuses of why embarking on an uncharted path should be avoided. I think fear of the unknown, risks, etc. drives us to that. However, sometimes all we need is a powerful dream, one good leg, and a willing companion with abilities that complement our own to build something great.

Celebrate the accomplishment without having it define us. Sometimes, especially when we worked so hard to accomplish something great with lots of battle scars to prove how difficult the journey was, it is easy to lose perspective on the accomplishment. If we’re not careful, we can make the accomplishment define us. In doing so, it can alienate us.

One thing I really appreciate now about the experience that my dad and I enjoyed while building the motorhome is how he didn’t allow such a cool accomplishment like transforming a once-creaky land yacht into a rambling motorhome define him – especially for a guy who was repeatedly told he was a bit nuts for trying such a feat with only having one good leg.

We enjoyed using the motorhome after it was built (after the bugs got worked out including a minor engine fire!) and we had some fun times camping in it as a family. I know my dad was proud of it and enjoyed using it but I never got the sense that this accomplishment defined him.

That was underscored when he sold it one day to someone who offered cash for it. I remember the buyer whipping out a thick stack of $100 bills and driving it away. My dad didn’t get rich off of it but he felt like he got what he needed to be made whole. We ended up buying another camper (one that wasn’t as cool) shortly thereafter but it didn’t hit me until I was much older how big of a deal it was for the inventor to gracefully watch his invention drive away.

Have you seen someone who was so wrapped up in their accomplishment that they allowed it to define them? Have you seen them turn what seemed like a noble mission eventually into a vehicle that ran over anyone or anything that got in their way? Have you ever felt used by a visionary who enlisted your help to accomplish their mission only to feel kicked to the curb once the mission was accomplished? I’ve seen it in the business world many times.

I must regretfully admit that I have been guilty of all the above – especially when I was much younger in my quest to build a world-class integrated marketing agency. On one specific occasion, I lambasted an employee with all the finesse of a turbo-charged steamroller as he failed to accomplish MY objective. Our relationship was never the same in spite of my repeated attempts to seek his forgiveness for my insensitivity. Since that time, I’ve made a conscious commitment to never put accomplishments ahead of relationships.

Throughout my childhood and my adult life, my dad proved to me in his actions that he always valued me more than his accomplishments. It is great to celebrate accomplishments and to even savor them. However, I believe that there are more important things in life.

Relationships trump accomplishments. I hope and pray that no matter how bodacious our newest personal or professional mission may be, we will keep that simple truth in front of us.

Dare to dream. Invite others along for the ride. Overcome the detours. Celebrate the milestones. Put relationships in the seat of honor. In doing so, we might just have the kind of positive impact on each other that my dad had on me while we have one amazing journey.

Shipwreck

Could Your “Sales Star” Be Silently Shipwrecking Your Company?

Shipwreck

In today’s marketplace, it’s all about results, right? As long as you are hitting your quarterly top line and bottom line numbers, your Board is nodding with enthusiastic affirmation, and your market share is growing, all is well. Or is it? Could there be trouble lurking below the surface? How can you know before trouble strikes?

It’s tough to argue with financial performance metrics. However, I’ve witnessed some pretty devastating collateral damage within companies that had once been cruising along quite nicely. Had there been more proactive probes, more effective challenges to the status quo, or a thoughtful expansion of what defined the “measures of success”, disaster may have been averted. Chances are, you have witnessed similar failures as well.

Sales performance is more than the top and bottom line. What is your immediate reaction to the names, Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay of Enron? What about Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom? How about another infamous “Bernie” – Bernie Madoff? Anyone with even a marginal sense of right and wrong has a visceral reaction of repulsion to any or all of those names – especially to the name “Madoff”.

However, you would have likely given a different answer if you knew anything about him before “Madoff” became synonymous with “Ponzi” in 2008 and 2009. Prior to that, you were considered to be among an elite group if you were “fortunate enough” to invest with him. Bernie Madoff had incredible sales performance for almost 50 years! He once was the rock star of Wall Street. The guy was slick. He was polished. He had credentials. He “made” a lot of people money along the way – until the music suddenly stopped playing. At the end of the day, he was proven to be a huckster of gargantuan proportions who trashed the lives of many to the tune of approximately $50 billion.

Under the mirage he skillfully “sold” of deep and rewarding financial waters, massive and dangerous rocks of truth were lurking – underwater boulders capable of shipwrecking his loyal crew and unsuspecting passengers who had entrusted their livelihoods to this once-respected man. Once the financial tide went out, the rocks which were always there – hiding just below the shallow surface – suddenly appeared. In an instant, the bow of Bernie’s opulent, “safe investment yacht” was savagely ripped to shreds by perverted peaks of Ponzi.

The power to influence is not limited to the CEO. Ultimately, those occupying the highest seats of power in your organization can have the most profound effect (both for good and for evil) on your company. However, ANYONE who represents your company – especially front-line sales and customer service people – can wield tremendous power in forming your brand’s perception and reputation simply by the way they conduct themselves day in and day out. After all, we are ALL ambassadors of the companies and brands we represent by how we speak and act toward others. Yet, how often do we measure these behaviors?

It doesn’t require committing fraud to severely damage your brand. Have you known sales “top guns” who consistently shot the lights out of the numbers but eventually, their actions revealed that they were all about themselves? Ultimately, they proved to be more about what YOU could do for THEM than vice versa?

Chances are, all the financial metrics on their performance dashboard were on target. Yet, it eventually became obvious in other behaviors that something was off kilter.

I referenced Bernie Madoff as an extreme example simply to make a point: We should be measuring and evaluating MORE than short-term sales performance if we want to build a company of integrity, lasting value, and long-term relationships with our customers, colleagues, and vendors. If those things don’t matter to you or your company, then full steam ahead with whatever you are doing. Good luck with that.

Are your performance metrics incomplete? Believe me, I value and understand the importance of solid financial performance. Whether we are in sales, management, administrative support, etc., we have to provide a positive return on the investment that our employers, partners, or investors have made. Without profitability, eventually there is no ongoing viability. However, I think we all know there has to be more. Perhaps you are even measuring qualities of your salespeople that go beyond financial performance in attributes such as:

  1. “Trustworthiness” and/or “seeking win-win solutions” as deemed by your customers.
  2. “Collaboration and teamwork” as deemed by fellow employees.
  3. “Exhibits company core values” as deemed by both employees and customers.

If you are measuring things like this, congratulations! Your company likely values more than simple financial metrics. However, in the case of Bernie, he may have still scored highly on all of those. We need to measure those things that can be measured and be on the look-out for other indicators.

At the heart of the matter, it’s the motivation of the heart. I think it is very difficult and even dangerous to try to discern the motivation of someone’s heart beyond our own heart. We can misinterpret others’ motivations and easily be deceived by our own. Even so, I believe it is worth starting with an examination of our own motivations first before we take on judging the motivations of others.

A few questions that we can ask ourselves if we are willing to evaluate our own motivations include:

  1. Am I being driven by my needs and desires (short-term sales targets, quotas, notoriety, affirmation, rewards, etc.) or am I genuinely seeking to put the needs of someone else ahead of my needs?
  2. Am I willing to “do the right thing” even if I must pay a hefty price to do so?
  3. Can my values be bought at a certain threshold? If so, “conviction” is really a “preference” with a price.

Look for the fruit. While discerning the motives of another’s heart is really up to God and not us, examining “fruit” of their actions is less difficult to spot. Jesus himself said, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” That doesn’t mean that any of us will walk perfectly. We all screw up.

However, I believe that “fruit” means “evidence”, actions, or even patterns of behavior. Fruit is substance that goes beyond words. Talk is cheap but actions are revealing. While I’m no authority on this by any means, some simple evidences of “fruit” that I look for in myself, salespeople, and anyone who may represent my team, brand, or company include:

  1. How does this person treat those who likely couldn’t benefit them in any way? For example, how do they treat the janitor, the lowest paid guy on the plant floor, the teller, the waitress, or the taxi driver? Do they treat those who can benefit them one way and everyone else another?
  2. How does this person treat their spouse?
  3. If they make a mistake, are they quick to blame others or are they willing to raise their hand quickly and accept responsibility?
  4. Do they expect others to “carry their bags” or do they demonstrate “servant leadership” like opening doors for others, helping clean up messes they didn’t cause, tipping generously when no one is looking, saying “thank you” for even little things, etc.?
  5. Can you trust them to honor their verbal commitments?

A broader definition for success is needed and should be measured. I don’t believe that sales performance must ignore financial results. Without financial performance, a company eventually ceases to exist. However, I believe we can all be well served to raise our eyes and take a broader view of what we are evaluating when we define and measure “success”.

While it is important to give financial performance a respected seat at the table, our companies can increase our chances of creating healthy, sustainable, win-win-win relationships with our customers, companies, and colleagues. How? By evaluating and expanding our performance measurement criteria to align with our stated values.

Then what? Once we have taken the time to define and measure relevant performance metrics that INCLUDE but GO BEYOND simple financial performance, I believe that we need to consistently hire, train, and reward our front-line sales and service colleagues based on these expanded criteria. We also need to pay close attention to the “fruit” exhibited by those who are members of our crew. When the fruit is present, the measurable performance is likely to show up as well.

And what about when our “sales star” who puts up great numbers fails in the other important measures? I believe we must attempt to coach them to success – if they are coachable. However, if they can’t be coached to perform beyond the one trick of financial performance, we need to find the courage to promptly ship them out of the organization. In doing so, we just might save our customers, colleagues, brands, companies, and even ourselves from some serious trouble that may be silently lurking beneath the surface.

The Winning Team

For a sports team to win the big game and stand atop the podium with the big trophy, it not only needs the best players at each position, but also all of the individual athletes working well together toward their ultimate goal: winning. To be the champ, an athletic team can’t just have the best players on the field, coaches on the sidelines or front-office staff to manage the day-to-day business. It also needs everyone who influences its success – vendors, sponsors, ticket buyers, consultants and the league office – to buy into what it’s selling.

The same things are true in business, and, just like in sports, a poorly functioning team will prevent you from achieving your version of the Ultimate Podium Finish™, the goals you’ve set that will determine whether you’ve beaten the competition and won the game of business in your field.

Just like in sports, your team isn’t just the people who work at your organization, but also your entire universe of customers, vendors, contractors, advisors, coaches, consultants, etc. You want to attract and retain A-players – the people who are onboard with your Core Values and achieving (or beating) performance goals – and weed out the players who drag your business down.

Build A Team Of A-Players

We’ve all heard stories about locker-room issues that prevent a sports team from winning games. This also happens in business. To build a team full of A-players you must address the things that repel A-players from your business. Often, this is management not taking any action to fix problems with B or C players, bad processes or customers who are more trouble than they’re worth to the bottom line.

A-players maintain your Core Values – the rules and behaviors that define your culture and personality – and are repelled by co-workers whose bad or inappropriate behaviors cause workplace tension or reflect poorly on your business.

First, make sure that everyone on your current team knows your Core Values and has a fair chance to show whether they can live by them.

Next, you need to identify your A-players and deal with the B- and C-players. Place everyone on an ABC matrix.

  • B-players: weak job performers, but their behavior reflects your Core Values
  • B/C-players: strong performers, but they have behavior problems
  • C-players: poor performance and poor behavior

Now you need to deal with what you’ve learned. Let’s tackle this in reverse order:

  • C-players: eliminate them, either by terminating them or finding a new role that will give them an opportunity to become A-players.
  • B/C-players: clarify behavioral expectations and give them an opportunity to change the attitudes or actions that are keeping them out of the A quadrant.
  • B-players: offer job training to help improve their job performance. (Consider Laurie Bassi’s exhaustive research, which showed that training and development produced a 672% ROI, more than any other investment a business owner could make.)
  • A-players: take actions to keep the A-players happy and engaged. (Dealing with the B- and C- players should help.)

Get Your A-Players Working Together

Building a team of A-players isn’t enough for small and midmarket companies to achieve the Ultimate Podium Finish™. Those A-players must work together, driving as a team toward your goals. The technique to breaking down those silos is creating cross-functional responsibilities. During your quarterly planning, identify quarterly Rocks, and the Tasks needed to achieve them, that involve multiple departments. Although one person is accountable for each Rock, he or she must work with people across the business to achieve it.

This strategy encourages leaders to work together, and it also exposes any interpersonal issues or other below-the-surface things that are preventing your people from being a team. As those issues surface, they must be quickly addressed with team-building exercises or other interventions to get healthy.

Why It’s Important

Just like in sports, your team can make or break your ability to achieve your Ultimate Podium Finish™. Take steps now to ensure that your team is full of A-players – high-performers who reflect your company’s Core Values and are committed to the business’ success.

The Career Path

When Life Leads Your Career Down an Unintended Path…

The Career Path

How do you cope with the unexpected detours of life? We’ve all had them in varying degrees. They can frustrate us in our quest to control our journey or become a surprising source of adventure along the way. I think it’s all about perspective.

In this article, I hope to provide some encouragement, a wink of humor, and possibly some helpful insight for anyone who has also experienced a few unexpected twists, turns, and speed bumps along your own journey.

Finding the blessing in the unexpected. Even though I’m sometimes embarrassed by my non-traditional career path that seems to be a rather humorous example of, “I planned and God laughed”, I’m actually thankful for the rather unusual journey that has unfolded. (One look at my LinkedIn profile and you’ll understand that it isn’t one that fits inside a nice and neat little box!)

Believe me, I have had my moments of fighting some of the detours that seemed destined to sabotage my once-meticulously formulated plans. However, I’ve found that the more intentional I am on finding the blessings and the things for which I can give thanks even in the midst of disappointments, tragedies, threats, and less-than-perfect circumstances, the more joyful, satisfied, effective, and fulfilled I become.

One of my mentors is known for saying, “If it is meant to be, it is up to me.” Well, I can appreciate his perspective but if it had been up to me, my path would have been far more predictable, likely far less exhilarating, certainly less terrifying, and far more boring. I can guarantee you that my pre-planned path wouldn’t have been nearly as filled with the valuable experiences and immensely meaningful relationships that have proven to be more precious to me than coffers overflowing with money.

Is “stability” a destination? Having started my career as a graphic designer and quickly advancing through the creative ranks to management positions in the advertising world, “stability” was never considered to be an option. Accounts were won and we scrambled to add talent. Accounts were lost and talent was promptly shown the door. It was a fact of life that was tough for my dad – an educator who had only worked for two school systems his entire career – to witness, much less understand.

When my young family and I had experienced much of the tumultuous ad agency world, I had an opportunity to take a marketing management role within a Fortune 100 company – a large, national bank. My dad was relieved because after seeing me weather the effects of agencies going out of business or unable to pay their employees after losing huge accounts, he couldn’t think of anything more stable than a bank.

He was shocked to hear my report from the first day of new employee orientation where about 80 middle managers including myself were given a message by an HR representative that went something like this: “The days of retiring from the same employer with a gold pocket watch after years of service are pretty much a thing of the past. We have identified skills and experience that you currently possess that we presently need. There are no guarantees that we’ll need those same skills in the future so while you are here, we suggest you add to your ‘tool box’ of experience and keep yourself relevant for the time when you are no longer needed here or choose to find a different opportunity with another company.” That was an eye-opener. Welcome to Corporate America.

Trail marker #1: Loyalty from a company to an employee is a largely a thing of the past. While I believe we are to be good stewards and demonstrate loyalty to our employers, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment if we think that businesses are going to reciprocate to the same degree. The sooner that we understand that there are no guarantees, the sooner we can embrace the need to keep growing and appreciate the blessings of today.

Is “True North” relative? The movie star from the 1940’s, Irene Dunne once said, “If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything.” I’ve experienced first-hand the devastation resulting from trusted leaders who ultimately descended down a dangerous road covered with the black ice of situational ethics. As I’ve witnessed, oftentimes these “falls from grace” were generally decent people who ultimately bought the lie that “True North” was relative. The wreckage caused by “ends-justifies-the-means” mentality embraced by once-admired leaders isn’t pretty and isn’t limited to just the perpetrator. Many times, their families, partners, co-workers, and even their businesses have paid unimaginable penalties.

I believe that once we are immovable in what we value most deeply, we can be flexible in the things that are less important. When I was in the ad agency business, an element of my “True North” was found in a simple litmus test: If I couldn’t openly discuss or recommend my clients’ product or service in the presence of my young children, I refused to advertise it.

Shortly after I had discovered and confronted a business partner’s financial impropriety that left me devastated, a very lucrative job opportunity came knocking while I was trying to figure out what to do next. I needed to find another good job rather quickly given the situation my partner had created and my need to provide for my family. Even though this new opportunity was a great position with fun people and great pay in a desirable area of the country, I elected to say “pass” and walk away. As painful as it was to turn it down, it was an easy choice. Why? One of their primary clients manufactured products known to cause unhealthy addictions that clearly violated my litmus test. Ultimately, I took a role that didn’t offer many of my “ideal” criteria but I was able to be flexible in the less-important things knowing that my core values weren’t compromised.

Trail marker #2. Know your own “True North” or you’ll eventually get lost. Knowing what you refuse to compromise and being resolute in guarding these values regardless of the cost can save you, those you love most, and those you are leading from unnecessary heartache. It may be a less traveled and more difficult trail but at least you can sleep well at night. It might even take you to some very cool, unexpected destinations.

So, how do we get there from here? Have you also asked yourself that question when career detours suddenly appear? At one point in my journey, I found myself contemplating my career path that looked more like a random series of cruel pranks than the carefully plotted course I envisioned. In the midst of this introspection, I started asking myself some probing questions that ultimately helped me more clearly articulate my purpose. These same questions have also helped me find the blessings in the unintended paths that weren’t found on my original roadmap.

Here are a few key questions that I force myself to answer on an annual basis that I hope may resonate with you…

Beyond financial rewards, what is my motivation? I found that some questions found in Rick Warren’s best-selling book, “Purpose-Driven Life” helped me clarify this. His “Life’s Five Greatest Questions” contained in the book are:

  1. What do I want to be the center of my life?
  2. What do I want to be the character of my life?
  3. What do I want to be the contribution of my life?
  4. What do I want to be the communication of my life?
  5. What do I want to be the community of my life?

If I could have any role, what would it look like? In other words, what are the areas or situations in which you thrive?

If I should avoid any role, what would it look like? In your experience, what are the areas or situations in which you wither?

These can be tough questions that require some vulnerable introspection. However, I find that they help ground me and reorient my career compass so I can be more effective and confident as I strive to make a positive difference wherever the road may lead me.

Perhaps you can relate. Perhaps you also have experienced some challenging twists and turns along your journey. Even though it doesn’t come natural to many of us, I believe we can discover hidden blessings even in the detours.

I planned. Yet, at times God has seemed to laugh. I’m ok with that. I’m learning to embrace it. While I remain committed to dreaming, planning, and defending the things that matter, I’m determined to be flexible in the things that don’t. I’m also willing to laugh along with Him when His plans take me down an unintended path. After all, He might have something far better than you or I could have ever imagined.