In transition? 6 lessons from successful career changes.

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Change happens fast. Transitions take time. That’s because with each new career change, if you’re thoughtful about it, you take a step closer to becoming your true self. This can’t be rushed.

What will it take for the next five years to be your best ever? By linking what you do to who you are, your career becomes your vocation.

Over the years, I have witnessed hundreds of executives make job changes, mostly involving a bigger title, more money, or greater responsibilities. Few of these executives quit to move into entirely new careers. Fewer still describe their new career as their vocation. Maybe it’s because most executives are too damn busy to reflect on what makes them truly effective or happy; or maybe the easy pay raises have seduced them into careers defined by money or power. Or tunnel vision. It doesn’t have to be that way.

What will it take for the next five years to be your best ever?

Changing your career is not the same thing as changing jobs. A truly successful career transition requires a redefinition, or reinvention, of who you are. In my experience, executives who have succeeded in single or multiple career transitions — and I don’t mean job changes — and who love what they do, have five critical qualities in common:

  1. Self-Awareness. The starting point is understanding what drives us. 75 members of Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Advisory Council, mostly made up of senior executives, were asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop. Their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness. Self awareness gives executives the power to spot the disconnects between their chosen career path, their income potential, and the joy they get out of life. Self-awareness gives people the power to recognize when “something’s missing” in their career. By reflecting on what’s important and experimenting with different choices, they learn from their experiences. In our coaching, we routinely use self-assessments to flesh out motivations. We help executives find meaning from their career successes and failures, their values and passions.
  2. Autonomy. Successful career-changers self-author their careers and lives. They, not their employers, take responsibility for their own development and the fulfillment they get out of their work. Thirty years in the making, a self-determined career is now a reality, thanks to LinkedIn and the slow death of the social contract. Like it or not, we are all contractors now. Successful career-changers know that theirs is the start-up that matters most. Their livelihood is determined by how effectively they discover, nurture, and sell their inspired vision for the future.
  3. Pursuing Mastery. Good things happen when we are at our best. This takes conscious effort. When executives strive to attain higher levels of mastery over their mindsets, ideas, and behaviors, opportunities come their way. People are eager to work with us because of who we are, not just because of what we know. And we, in turn, want to work with people we can learn from and who challenge us to be better. Mastery is a journey that takes time, experimentation, effort, and discovery. My coaching clients describe this journey as the hardest thing they have ever done — and the most rewarding. With each new level of mastery, higher mountains stand before them.
  4. Purpose. All of us are drawn to an activity that is meaningful for us. If we are lucky, our purpose or ‘calling’ grabs us, shakes us, and doesn’t let us go. Succumbing to our purpose can and should dedicate us to something bigger than ourselves. Our energy, engagement, tenacity, and confidence stems from our purpose. Life takes on a sense of urgency. But relatively few of us are committed to a purpose, according to research published in HBR (see my prior post).
  5. Identity. In your transition, who is the new you? By stepping into the future of your own design, you become the person or leader you aspire to be. Your identity, the way you show up in the world, shifts, and there is no turning back. Have you felt this way? There are many examples of accomplished people who have consciously reinvented themselves, driven by a clarifying and renewable sense of purpose: Winston Churchill, Leopold Stokowski, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Gates, to name a few. Without exception, every successful career shift coincides with a shift, or reinvention, of identity.
  6. Experimentation. Successful career-changers have a learning mindset. Reflection can take you only so far. It is often a good strategy to experiment or act your way into a new way of thinking or being. This involves testing your career ideas on others, attaining certifications or new skills, building new social networks, and trying out new jobs or volunteer roles where your passions can be tested.

How do you score on the above list?

Back to the drawing boardThe most successful people find creative ways to express their inner selves through work. If something’s missing, they change their work. They stretch themselves, accept their strengths and weaknesses without judgment, and are relentless in pursuing the thing they love to do.

If you are in the second half of your career, you know that most careers don’t always follow linear upward paths to success. Careers are journeys filled with ups and downs, pain and joy. Changing your career deliberately and consciously is not the same thing as changing your job. A successful career change takes reflection, hard work, a personal support system, and the courage to experiment. I’d like to hear about your experience.

Remarkable careers don’t happen by accident. Careers, like the leaders who create them, are made, not born.

For thirty years, Michael Bekins has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and the US in global and regional roles, making almost a dozen cross-border moves. His conversations with thousands of executives have shaped his perspectives on life and work. He is Managing Partner of CapitaPartners, an executive coaching and talent consulting firm specializing in Global Mindset and Purpose-driven Careers. He co-leads Executive SpringBoard, the career redesign workshop for executives. Connect on LinkedIn. Friend on Facebook. Follow Michael on @michaelbekins.

Interested in more information? Visit our Executive Springboard website and consider our reading list.

Leaving tracks

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Remarkable careers, like the leaders who create them, are made, not born.

I don’t spend 15 minutes thinking about making money. What’s important in my life is influencing many people as well as China’s development – Jack Ma, CEO, Alibaba

Successful careers don’t happen by accident, any more than successful start-ups are accidental. Consider three critical building blocks to career-building:

 

1. Purpose. In a previous post I reported that less than 20% of business leaders can express their individual sense of purpose, according to the Harvard Business Review. And yet the most effective leaders have fierce resolve. They know their talents, strengths, gaps, and passions. They put their purpose to work consciously and with urgency. Think level 5 leadership. See Executive SpringBoard video

 

I see every human being as having a purpose, a destiny, if you like – the destiny that exists in each of us – and find ways and means to provide such opportunities for everyone. – Jonas Salk

 

2. Being the best at something. There must be a need for what you have to offer, and your offering must be sought after.

 

I place the remaining years of my life in your hands. – Nelson Mandela to the people of South Africa, on the day of his release from prison, February 11, 1990

 

3. Financial viability. Your market-driven financial model must be sustainable. Test it. Perfect it. The money needs to be enough to keep you going.

You shouldn’t be surprised that these are the same building blocks of any successful entrepreneurial company. You are the only start-up that matters. Leaving your mark takes self-awareness, conscious choices, and some hard knocks.

You may not fully comprehend the tracks you leave, but others will.

 

I make dreams happen for my team and my customers. Out of work executive preparing her the next opportunity

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For thirty years, Michael Bekins has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and the US in global and regional roles, making almost a dozen cross-border moves. His conversations with thousands of executives have shaped his perspectives on life and work. He is Managing Partner of CapitaPartners, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in Global Mindset and Purpose-driven Careers. Connect on LinkedIn. Follow Michael on @michaelbekins.

Three numbers that should change the way you think about your career.

PurposeThe first number should wake us up:

Only 11.1% of managers feel ‘highly committed’ to their work or organizations, according to a 2004 engagement survey covering 50,000 employees in 59 companies.

Our careers, taken as a series of promotions and pay-raises, storybook fashion, seldom result in happiness or anything close to it.

The truer version of happiness, or of fulfillment, comes from challenging our mind toward a series of meaningful, highly personal, goals. A paycheck doesn’t do it, nor do impressive titles. The starting point is understanding what drives us. 75 members of Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council, mostly made up of senior executives, were asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop. Their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness.

Here is the second number that wakes me up:

Less than 20% of business leaders can express their individual sense of purpose, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review.

Why is this important? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer of the scientific study of happiness, writes that when we focus our attention on a consciously chosen goal, a purpose, the experience can be immensely enjoyable, and effective.

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Purpose is the synthesis of your passions, your talents, your character, and your values. People who have it know why they do what they do. They make conscious career decisions. They define success and write the script that gets them there. Purpose stems from who we are, and comes in all shapes and sizes.

If you are one of the 88.9% of managers who are not “highly committed,” try drilling down into your purpose.

Here’s the third shocking number: $150 billion. U.S. companies spend upward of $150 billion every year on development and training. Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of it. Ask yourself: Did it get me closer to where I truly want to be?

Back to the drawing board

If you were investing in your own development, your spending would probably be a lot different. You would assess successes, failures, strengths and passions. You would take time for deep personal reflection. The work would refresh you, reconnect you to that sense of purpose. You would take the path that takes you there. This is why a group of us created a career ‘redesign’ workshop for executives we call SpringBoard.

Having a purpose doesn’t guarantee success. But most highly effective leaders have purpose.

For thirty years, Michael Bekins has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and the US in global and regional roles, making almost a dozen cross-border moves. His conversations with thousands of executives have shaped his perspectives on life and work. He is Managing Partner of CapitaPartners, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in Global Mindset and Purpose-driven Careers. Connect on LinkedIn. Follow Michael on @michaelbekins.

Considering a global job? Mindset matters

earthGlobal roles are complex, unpredictable, and loaded with ambiguity. What do effective global executives do to master their environment and deliver results? Being hard-charging and smart come with the territory. What else helps? What’s the mindset in Global Mindset?

Let’s start with listening and reflection. Successful global executives know when to step back and cultivate their curiosity. They explore the world through experience, reading, and asking lots and lots of questions. Powered by curiosity, they listen to others, seek feedback, and reflect on their experience.

Leaders who are curious also tend to appreciate ambiguity. Rather than judge others or themselves, they face uncertainty with optimism and openness.

Take cultural curiosity. By engaging with people from other countries and suspending their own judgments, they learn about their own implicit cultural assumptions. Successful global leaders are culturally self-aware and understand how their behaviors land on others. With this, they can adapt their style to fit the situation and the needs of their colleagues. This is a core quality of global mindset and takes practice. Putting others at ease increases credibility. It helps with team building. (For relevant posts check out Ten Things Charismatic Leaders Do and Ten reasons why Asia is good for your career in my recent LinkedIn blogs.)

I once asked the Regional Head of Southeast Asia for a major multinational if she was willing to become better at adapting her style to meet the needs of others. “Yes,” she said, “I can learn to do it, but I’m not sure I want to.”

“Wanting to” comes from deep inside. You have to really want to do it. It can sap your energy.

This gets to another core quality. Physical and mental energy. Tenacity. Engaging with others across functions, boundaries, time zones, and cultures takes enormous resilience. The late night conference calls are only part of the story. But you can’t influence executives half a world away without it.

Not surprisingly, it also takes confidence. Otherwise leaders would just throw in the towel.

I’ve seen executives increase both their confidence and their tolerance to ambiguity. How? We’ve noticed that by pausing, reflecting, listening and engaging with others, leaders begin to approach ambiguous and complex situations with greater confidence and credibility.

These global leaders are conscious of their strengths and weaknesses in their entirety and approach people and situations with humility (another core quality).

Driving for results is a given. What’s under-appreciated is the need to reflect and manage ourselves amidst uncertainty, ambiguity, and heightened complexity. It takes consciousness. (Check out Daniel Goleman’s Self-Regulation: A Star Leader’s Secret Weapon.)

The good news is that we can measure these qualities through our assessment tools. By openly presenting our assessment data to global executives, we build self-awareness, reflection, the commitment to change, and a greater sense of purpose. And purpose drives performance. This is the “mindset” we look for in Global Mindset.

For thirty years, Michael Bekins has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and the US in global and regional roles, making almost a dozen cross-border moves. He is Managing Partner of CapitaPartners, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in Global Mindset and Purpose-driven Careers (see SpringBoard). Connect on LinkedIn. Follow Michael on @michaelbekins.

SpringBoard: A Career Redesign Workshop

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A career redesign workshop for executives who value purpose over promotions.

This October, CapitaPartners will be hosting SpringBoard, a two and a half day experiential program where executives fashion a professional career that is driven by purpose. Guided by internationally recognized executive coaches, participants link their strengths and values to professional satisfaction.
Reconnect with your passion. Build a legacy. Make fresh contributions.
Join us October 15 -17, 2015 in Santa Barbara, California.
Learn more and register here. And consider sharing this with a friend or colleague.

10 things Charismatic Leaders do

Do all successful leaders have charisma? The answer is yes, and it can be nourished, but let’s be clear about what we mean by charisma. We are not talking about over-the-top, larger-than-life sales-types who ooze charm for better or worse. I know of no follower in any culture who wouldn’t shy away from such a leader. So what do successful charismatic leaders do?

  1. They articulate a vision. This is inspiring when we like the vision. We follow. Vision stems from the potency of a leader’s inner purpose. Powerful leaders do the hard work it takes to discover a purpose that matters. Their vision is positive.
  2. They connect emotionally. In true charismatic leadership, we find the ability to emotionally connect with others. They communicate in a way that puts others first. People feel charismatic leaders and are attracted to them.
  3. They listen. They ask what their stakeholders want. And they ask for feedback.
  4. They meet others where they are. They adjust their social styles to fit the needs of the situation, other people, and different cultures. And yet, I am struck how often I hear executives describe this skill with suspicion. They ask, “How can I be authentic when I am behaving like a chameleon?”
  5. They have integrity. In other words, they can be a chameleon with integrity. Their selflessness propels them to follow through and make a difference.
  6. They walk the talk. They do what they say they are going to do. This generates trust. I talk about this in a previous post. Charismatic leaders find solutions and finish what they start.
  7. They stand out. They project themselves and are aware of how they land on people. They know how to work the room. In some cultures (like Asia) these leaders walk a fine line. Sticking out too much can be overly individualistic. One Japanese executive told me he felt like a fake. He began to find his charismatic voice by disclosing to others what he stood for. Because he believed in the power of a “learning organization,” he grew more confident working with his team to build a new culture.
  8. They are conscious of their behaviors. They practice the art of observing themselves in action and making conscious choices to modify their behavior in the moment.
  9. They have confidence. They stick their necks out in their engagement with other people, especially on matters close to their heart. This is personally risky and difficult to do. But without confidence in their ability to communicate and execute, they may as well throw in the towel.
  10. The are selfless. Their agenda is bigger than themselves. They demonstrate humility.

In my experience, charisma can apply to both introverts and extroverts. It is high on everyone’s list of essential leadership qualities, regardless of culture. But there is a dark side. We’ve all witnessed the charlatan. None of these qualities can make up for the absence of the first and last points on this list: a positive and selfless purpose that benefits others.

By taking time to translate charisma into actual behaviors, we can gain more confidence, make a difference, and infuse our work with greater meaning.

For the better part of thirty years, Michael Bekins has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and the US in global and regional roles, making almost a dozen cross-border moves. He is Managing Partner for CapitaPartners, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in global mindset and purpose-driven careers. Follow him on twitter (@michaelbekins) #Leadership  

Ten reasons why experience in Asia is good for your career

Asia provides leaders with an ideal testing ground for mastering new ways of thinking and operating. Just ask the current CEOs of Pepsi and P&G, as well as the former CEO of IBM. All developed their leadership skills in Asia. Many executives head to Asia in the hope that the experience they get working in rapidly growing and changing markets will give them a competitive advantage. That’s not a bad plan: Asia is a region that rewards fast learners. Here are 10 takeaways you can expect from experience in Asia:

  1. Navigating both the local and the global. Getting this balance right requires that top executives in Asia win the trust of colleagues up, down, and across the organization. This gets to the heart of global mindset—systemic thinking and global savvy. If you’re leading a team in Asia, a big part of your job is navigating the global system to make it easier for local executives to do business. The Asia team will appreciate your ability to shape the global strategies and products that impact their local operations.
  2. Getting used to speed. Executives quickly learn to get things done on the fly, often without a playbook. This takes energy, resilience, and tenacity.
  3. Listening for understanding. To build a business for the long-term, leaders first need to understand the local market and culture. This is especially important if you’re an expatriate. Experienced leaders in Asia say they’ve learned to tone down their temptation to judge or comment until they fully understand what is being said. Listen first.
  4. Leading with humility. While all of us have it to some degree, Asia helps us appreciate the importance of humility in our everyday actions. Leaders in Asia use their humility to connect with others, find creative solutions, and adapt their styles to meet the needs of other people and situations.
  5. Doing what you say you’re going to do. In high-achievement Asia where personal relationships drive business, executives learn quickly to keep their word.
  6. Inspiring people. Demonstrating charisma is just as important in Asia as it is in the West—and challenging, given the vast geographies, time-zones, and cultures. The soft qualities of charisma are especially important—connecting with others emotionally, demonstrating integrity, and communicating the why of strategy.
  7. Demonstrating cultural awareness. Executives learn how their work relationships are impacted by their own cultural preferences and the cultural preferences of others.
  8. Appreciating uncertainty. Expect the unexpected. Many new executives find global roles in Asia more complex and ambiguous than what they are used to in the West. Let new situations arouse your curiosity.
  9. Building relationships. Because Asians are in it for the long-term, relationships built over time can speed things up, remove uncertainty, and ensure that the needs of many stakeholders are considered.
  10. Building to last. Over the years I’ve seen many expatriate executives win repatriation back to headquarters by delivering short-term results. They’re building castles in the sand. There’s one big problem: their ‘successes’ often fail to survive the first Asian downturn. For sustained success, global executives need to lay the foundation for local leaders to grow and thrive over the long-term.

CapitaPartners introduces SpringBoard, a career redesign workshop for executives

CapitaPartners announces the launch of SpringBoard, an intensive career redesign workshop for executives to help you put purpose and meaning back into your career.

Over two and a half days, a group of like-minded executives will move through a series of interactive exercises designed to bring awareness, insights, and critical thinking to their career and life plans. Our goal is for participants to learn as much from each other as from the coaches – and for the coaches to learn from the participants. This approach is grounded in concepts of adult learning, executive coaching methodologies, and 30 years of practical experience in career decision-making. Through feedback and support, you’ll come away with fresh thinking and a concrete plan that’s been validated by your coaches and peers. You’ll have a fresh mindset and a new sense of purpose. You’ll know how to retool and how to correct any gaps in skills or leadership competencies. Finally, you’ll have a strategy for writing the next chapter in your life and career.

Our first workshop will be in Santa Barbara, California, on October 15-17. Consider taking a short time-out to focus on the “why” of your career. Contact SpringBoard@capitapartners.com for more information, or visit our SpringBoard website.

About Michael Bekins

For 35 years I have advised and coached senior executives, particularly global executives, through career transitions big and small. Whether the encounter was formal or informal, I remember just about every one, thanks to the lasting imprint that is formed during such periods of intense human interaction. If you’ve ever experienced in-depth career coaching, you’ll know what I mean.

More recently, as an executive coach, I’ve thought deeply about how to make an impact on executives and careers in today’s world where we are, in many respects, “sole proprietors.” By leveraging LinkedIn and other networking sites to promote and monetize the unique experience, skills, networks, qualities, and passions that set us apart and add value to organizations, we author our own careers. This new reality requires us all to think about our our value to the market-place and to develop a set of skills that was once needed only by entrepreneurs.

About CapitaPartners

We partner with clients to develop global mindset in executives and to build an outstanding cadre of global executive talent. Our executive coaching and consulting offerings include Leadership Coaching, Global Mindset Workshops, Leading Across Cultures, SpringBoard (career redesign workshops for executives), Expatriate Advisory, and Transitions Coaching. CapitaPartners also works with clients to assess and recruit senior executives into global roles. Our AsiaNext platform focuses on igniting the critical leadership qualities necessary for the next generation of leaders in Asia.

Our platform has grown considerably over the past two years. Our executive coaching team focuses on a radically unique agenda – building a firm dedicated to understanding what it takes to lead successfully in challenging global markets, truly moving the dial with the clients we serve, and underpinning everything we do with evidence-based assessment tools and research.

Why Career?

With the vast amount of job-related advice available online and in print today, the best way to translate it into a thoughtful action plan is to put it in the context of the why of our career. This becomes increasingly important as we move up the ladder and consider our impact and legacy.

Finding meaning in our career is a matter of listening to what life wants of us, not just what we want of life. John Schuster, a coach and writer on human development, says that responding to a call is a choice that leaves you no choice. Our purpose sometimes grabs us, shakes us, and refuses to let us go. Responding—and giving in—to that calling or purpose can energize us to achieve amazing things.

When we are honest and clear about where we are on our journey, we can move forward more thoughtfully and efficiently, saving years of “soldiering on.” However, not all of us are lucky enough to attune to a higher calling all the time and most people’s lives and careers aren’t linear. Instead, we move through ups and downs in a spiral fashion, riding the waves of intense energy, success, frustration, boredom, change, growth and renewal.

Building a “successful” career isn’t just about moving up; it’s also about digging deep. By mining our past and mindfully approaching our present, we can regularly tap into our passions, values, and strengths to design a career that fully reflects what we want our life to be about. If you feel something is missing and want more in your life and career, now may be the time to act.

CapitaPartners introduces SpringBoard, a career redesign workshop for executives.

For 35 years I have advised and coached senior executives, particularly global executives, through career transitions, big and small, formally and informally. I can remember just about every one of these encounters, so lasting is the imprint that is formed during periods of intense human interaction. If ever you’ve experienced career coaching you will know what I mean.

More recently, I’ve thought deeply about how to make an impact on careers in today’s world where we are, in many respects, “contractors.” We can author our own careers, leveraging LinkedIn and other networking sites to promote and monetize the unique experience, skills, networks, qualities, and passions that set us apart and add value to organizations.

And so CapitaPartners created SpringBoard, an intensive career redesign workshop for executives. I am pleased to announce that over the next year CapitaPartners will deliver SpringBoard to executives in three cities: Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Over two and a half days, a cohort of like-minded executives will move through a series of interactive exercises designed to bring awareness and insights to their career and life plans. The approach is grounded in concepts of adult learning, executive coaching methodologies, and 30 years of practical experience in career decision-making. Through feedback and support, you will come away with fresh thinking and a concrete plan. Our goal is for these experienced participants to learn as much from each other as from the coaches. Our first workshop is in Santa Barbara from October 15-17, 2015.

Consider taking a short time-out to focus on the “why” of your career. Visit our website and consider registering. Or email SpringBoard@capitapartners.com for more information.

Charisma is a good thing, right?

Don’t all successful global executives demonstrate charisma? The answer is yes, but let’s be clear about what we mean by charisma. We are not talking about over-the-top, larger-than-life sales-types who ooze charm for better or worse. I know of no follower in any culture who wouldn’t shy away from such a leader. In true charismatic leadership we find the ability to emotionally connect with others and communicate a vision with confidence, integrity, and in a way that puts others first. Leaders do it in a way that meets others where they are, and this requires the ability to adapt their styles to the situation. They attract followers. How a leader projects himself in Japan may be different than how he does it in Sydney or New York.
In Asia, for cultural reasons, these leaders walk a fine line. A leader’s willingness to project charisma strikes many as chameleon-like, a bit disingenuous and risky. Sticking out too much seems overly individualistic, while adapting or changing our leadership style seems inauthentic. Suzuki-san, Japanese general manager, felt uncomfortable adjusting his style in order to connect emotionally with others. He felt like a salesman, a fake. He was not willing to bend his style to elicit an emotional response. He was described as lacking in vision. He felt more comfortable showing himself as solid, predictable, structured and logical, but he didn’t connect with others.
So how might Suzuki alter his approach in different situations? What if he were making a presentation to global executives in the US on the future of the business? The behaviors that feel right to him in one situation may not yield the result he wants in another situation. Creating an attractive vision for others, listening more, explaining less, and connecting with his team emotionally—projecting charisma—does not amount to compromising his values around putting the needs of the business and others first. He decided to move outside of his comfort zone and practice this new leadership skill. He realized that building an emotional connection with others makes himself and others feel good. And it’s good for the business.
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