In my primary and secondary research for Pivot Point, I learned that when you have a plan, your chances of achieving career success is 80% higher. I scoured the country interviewing dozens of leaders in various industries, functional areas, and stages of career, and I found one common ingredient to career success – a plan. From these interviews, I learned that knowing what you want, and having a plan to get there is pivotal. Whether it’s taking your career to an even higher level, pivoting industries or functional areas, or advancing to a leadership role, high potential leaders in transition wrestle with having a solid game plan to take their careers to the next level.
I just cannot handle having problems without a solution, so through a lot of collaboration with these leaders, I developed and tested a concept: The Career Game Plan. It is a simple four-step process. It is unique to you, and defines what success looks like. It fits on one-page and is easily shared with your managers, mentors, and coaches. It paints the picture of what good looks like, with a clear road map to get there. First, you must be able to articulate what you want, and what you are uniquely skilled to do – your purpose statement. Then, you build the goals to support your purpose coming to fruition. Finally, you brainstorm the competencies and action steps to achieve your goals.
Picture a tree – its roots, trunk, branches, and leaves. In many ways the Career Game Plan process resembles a tree. Our purpose statements are the roots. Your purpose is the basis for everything you do. A strong tree grows outward through its branches, which is similar to the goals of your plan. A tree’s branches need a strong base to rest on, the trunk. The trunk is vital to the stability of the tree, just as your competencies are for your plan. Then, a tree expands with its leaves. These are the shorter terms action steps you take to achieve your longer term goals. With a strong base of roots, the tree grows from there, just as the leader grows over time.
The four essential elements of a winning career game plan are: 1) a purpose statement, 2) goals, 3) competencies, and 4) actions. Let’s start with your purpose statement.
To build your own winning career game plan, let’s start with knowing what you want. This is summarized best in a purpose statement. For this to be done well, the statement must be concise. A strong purpose articulates your passions, your unique strengths, and your essence in a single sentence.
Reflect on what makes you truly happy and excited, asking these questions:
- What types of tasks, meetings, or work do you do on your favorite days? This indicates your passions.
- How do people describe your talents? This signals your strengths.
- What subjects do people ask for your help or advice? These are your unique capabilities.
Piece it together, and if your purpose statement answers these questions succinctly, you’ve got a winner. In my own coaching business, mine reads, “Help Your Team Grow exists to develop leaders and coach high potential women in transition through building winning Career Game Plans.” Through testing it with others, and through feedback, it has continuously improved. This leads us to our next step, which is all about setting the appropriate goals aligned with our purpose statements to take our careers to the next level.
To take your purpose from aspirational to real, strong goals are pivotal. I recommend setting two or three goals, and definitely no more than three. With every potential goal – ask yourself – how does this help me fulfill my purpose statement?
To set good goals, I like the SMART goal framework – creating goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Once you have prioritized a handful of goals, I look at these like a checklist to make your goals even better:
- Specific: What specifically will happen to achieve this goal?
- Measureable: What numbers will I use to measure the successful achievement of this goal?
- Attainable: During the time frame specified, how attainable is this goal?
- Relevant: How relevant am I to making this goal happen?
- Time bound: When will this goal be achieved?
I find with my clients, that their goals often include financial measures like revenue, profitability, number of clients, number of products or services, or client satisfaction. Once you have a strong set of goals that align with the SMART goal framework, we’re ready to prioritize how you will achieve them.
Competencies are the skills, behaviors, or attributes that define who you will become. They range from leadership skills, to analytical attributes, to communication behaviors. They ensure your ability to achieve your plan, and help strike a balance between your high level goals and your purpose statement.
When you reflect on your purpose statements, it is likely that there are elements of the statements that you are not currently achieving. Your goals will help close those gaps. Even if you are actively living your purpose statement today, you will utilize goals to strengthen upon that strong foundation. Again, I recommend prioritizing three competencies of focus that have both a high impact on our purpose and goals, and also have a high ability to improve upon.
I often recommend this tool from The Nielson Group to my coaching clients – “List of Soft Skill Competencies with Description” – which contains a menu of more than 100 possible competencies to choose from. I highly recommend perusing it with your purpose and goals in mind. Select all of the competencies on the list that have impact, then, with list in hand, prioritize the list based on impact to your purpose, and your ability to improve upon it. We will prioritize activities in the final step that ensure we are building upon these skills, attributes, and behaviors to fulfill our purpose and achieve our goals.
We’re at the final step of building your winning Career Game Plan. A nice reward for taking the time to invest in a purpose statement, SMART goals, and prioritized competencies, is that this step is simple. I believe the tactical plan emerges naturally from the strong foundation.
Action plans have three key ingredients. Again, in the spirit of keeping things simple, there is some magic to keeping to the rule of three. In this case, solid action plans have: the action step name and description, the resources needed to achieve it, and a timeline for completion. Check out HelpYourTeamGrow.com to download your own complimentary Career Game Plan template.
To ensure future success, with plan in hand, I recommend asking yourself this powerful question – how will you celebrate success – every time you complete a significant task on your action plan. As with any plan, we must think of rewards and recognition mechanisms to motivate us to achieve success again. Your brain will naturally find ways to achieve that success again – it’s self-fulfilling.
Remember, those with a plan win. Now, how will you build your own winning Career Game Plan?
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