3 Great Models for Answering the Question, “What should I do for the rest (or next stage) of my life?”

Career Coaching — n. — The ultimate chicken-and-egg problem.

Much career advice has the following underlying presupposition: “First of all, you have know what you want.”   

Sure, that makes sense. Set a goal, create a plan, implement the plan, assess, revise, repeat. Yup, got it.

The problem is, many career advice seekers have the following underlying problem:  “I don’t know what I want.”

I hear this from people all the time, at all levels of experience, from the early-stage professional with limited experience, to the seasoned executive who is unsure about whether to try something new, or who is tired of banging their head against the proverbial wall.

..and I feel for them, because for a long time, I was frustrated by the “first-you-gotta-know-what-you-want” presupposition.  I often wanted to shout out,

“How the heck am I supposed to know what I want if I haven’t tried it yet? “

We’ll come back to that question shortly. To get us towards an answer, let’s look at a few of the tools that I use as a coach to guide someone through the murkiness of figuring things out:

  1. Ye Olde Venn Diagram
  2. The Logical Levels Framework
  3. The A.V.O.C.A.D.O. Model

I use these models in different ways under different circumstances to help clients gain clarity around their current situation, their desired situation, and their potential path for realizing that desired situation.

(NOTE: These models also work really well for groups of individuals as well, e.g. teams that are sorting out their goals and strategies as an organization, but I’ll leave that application out of this blog post… and recommend that you hire me via rogenSi to facilitate your team’s next group strategy/leadership alignment session.)

1)  Ye Olde Venn Diagram

This is a simple, classic approach to sorting out your “sweet spot,” in terms of your career. Answer three questions:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What do I enjoy?
  3. What are people willing to compensate me for?

The key is to find the things that get the most overlap in the middle of the resulting Venn diagram:

cf. Cheap, Fast, Good... except here, you CAN get all three

Simple?  Yes… well, sort of.

I must admit that I sometime cringe when people wave around this model as if it solves all problems related to choosing a career and/or pathway to market.

First of all, no, this Venn diagram doesn’t work for everyone.    Second, the nuance of this model comes in how each of the three questions get asked, and how the coach facilitates the answers.  For example:

  1. How good are you at doing this currently?  How good could you get at it, in the future?  How much of a differentiator is it for you, ie, how does your doing this compare to what others have to offer in your market?
  2. How much do you enjoy doing this?  Which aspects of doing this do you enjoy most?  What types of enjoyment are you getting from this: Pleasure? Passion? Purpose?
  3. How much do you need to be compensated for doing this? What forms could that compensation take?  What’s the market forecast for this area of activity?

..and so on.

Note also that when a person gets very strong overlapping between only two of the circles, certain additional questions can be asked:

Used as part of a coaching conversation, Ye Olde Venn Diagram can be fine-tuned as an effective tool of self-discovery.

Ready for the next one?   Let’s go!

2. The Logical Levels Framework

The “Logical Levels” framework, based on the work of psychologist Robert Dilts, is powerful tool for achieving clarity and alignment from an intellectual, emotional (behavioral) and strategic perspective.

Dilts built this simple-yet-elegant model for thinking about personal change, alignment, learning and communication. It brings together the ideas of context, levels of learning and perceptual position. It provides a process for organizing and gathering information so that a person can identify the best points to intervene to make any desired change.

The logical levels include:

  • Purpose – For whom or for what do I do what I do?
  • Identity – Who am I?
  • Beliefs – Why is what I do important?
  • Capabilities – How do I do it?
  • Behavior – What do I do?
  • Environment – Where, when and with whom do I do it?

According to Dilts, the effect of each level is to organize and control the information on the level below it. Changing something on an upper level will necessitate change on lower levels. Changing something on a lower level could, but would not necessarily, affect the upper levels.

One thing I like to point out when using this model for coaching is that a person’s Environment can have a massive effect on all the levels, from Behavior right up to Identity and Purpose. Some people quibble over the need for a hierarchy and draw it with concentric circles or as a networked diagram.  Nonsense.  We’re smart enough to see past the model’s oversimplifications and utilize the hierarchy as a way of guiding a coaching discussion.  Right?  We are smart enough, aren’t we?

Note also that some versions of the model split out Values as a separate step right above Beliefs, and other versions incorporate the level of Spirituality above Purpose and infuse Spirituality in and around the entire pyramid below. Powerful stuff, indeed.

Even more so than Ye Olde Venn Diagram, the Logical Levels Model requires a good facilitated conversation to be effective.

Speaking of conversation…

3. The A.V.O.C.A.D.O. Model

Yes, this green fruit native to Central Mexico — the core ingredient of guacamole and other delicious dishes — can be used to figure out a career path.

For longtime Meme Menagerie readers, you may recall a half-tongue-in-cheek (half-tongue-wagging-out?) blog post a while back…  okay, fine… maybe you don’t remember it… well here it is:  The A.V.O.C.A.D.O. Performance Model

No, I rarely “take people through it” as a model… but yes, I do use this model as a way of informing coaching conversations.  The A.V.O.C.A.D.O. has got all the elements of the previous two models and then some:

( Aspirations + Values ) + Opportunities + Capabilities + Attitudes + Disciplines = Outcomes

Some of the questions that emerge from this model include:

  • What is my ideal vision?
  • What rules do I want to play by?
  • What kinds of possibilities could be available to me?
  • What are my talents and abilities?
  • What kind of attitude / personality do I have?
  • What are my habits?
  • How am I doing?

Diagrammatically, it looks something like this, where the A + V form a core:

no joke, it works.

A.V.O.C.A.D.O. is a non-linear, systematic approach towards discovery, diagnosis and development of an individual’s current and desired state.  As such, this fruit of the species persea americana works best if you can implement it using a series of feedback loops.

In other words, it’s not a model for a single 1-2 hour coaching session, but rather, as a way of guiding and testing assumptions over the course of a series of meetings and interactions.   My preferred approach with the A.V.O.C.A.D.O. is to not approach it all at once, but rather, build up the picture over time and test that picture out with a series of assignments.

Which brings us back to the question:

“How the heck am I supposed to know what I want if I haven’t tried it yet? “

Yes, it’s challenging to implement a plan if the goal is uncertain, but sometimes you just need to go out there and try things.

Sometimes it is very much like learning to dance: All the analysis in the world won’t teach you a thing until you just start doing it.

Once you start dancing, you can start figuring it out.

That said, you tend to be more successful (and step on fewer toes) if you’ve got a model — a pattern to follow — and an experienced dance partner to hold onto.

In summary:

Maybe your dance lesson involves moving according to a series of overlapping circles… or maybe it consists of a series of steps up a pyramid… or stomping on an avocado… or maybe there’s another model you prefer. Whatever approach you take, make sure to get yourself a good dance coach… and have fun!


About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on August 8, 2012, in Business, Career, Coaching, Learning, Life, Talent and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply -- for humans only, no spambots

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: