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.
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