How many times in life have you thought, “If I only knew then what I know now?”
When you think about your younger self, what do you remember about starting your career? Try, if you can, to remember how you felt. What was exciting? What did you worry about?
Think about your first “real” rung on the leadership ladder. What were your career expectations? What challenged you? What did you struggle with?
Take a few minutes, close your eyes and try to revisit what your younger self thought and felt. What specific details about your past goals and fears came to mind?
Take a piece of paper and jot down whatever comes to mind. (Pro tip: Keeping a journal to work through exercises like this and process events are proven to make you a better leader.)
Next, after you reflect on those early years, what career advice would you share with your younger self now that you’ve got some more experience? Again, write down what advice you have for your younger self.
When I did this exercise, I realized that:
- I would remind myself to imagine that everyone around me is wanting to contribute their best – even on days where it doesn’t seem that way.
- I would encourage myself to look more for jobs with people I admire, and less for jobs with impressive responsibilities.
- I would tell myself to worry less about ‘getting ahead’ by other people’s measures and more about contributing something to the world that I’ll really be proud of.
After you write out what you’d tell your younger self, I have another question for you: Which advice have you followed or applied to your career?
If you haven’t actually taken your own advice, what stopped you? Could you implement it now?
Perhaps you have actually acted on all the advice you had for your younger self. If that’s the case, well done! But you’re not in the clear just yet.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, then you’ll know that we strongly advocate that leaders add a COACH Approach to their leadership toolkit to build stronger teams.
The next time you have a team member who isn’t sure what to do with a situation, be curious. Ask them some questions to see if they can figure out what advice they have for themselves.
Many of us want to jump in and offer the solution, but encouraging people to think in this way allows them to be innovative, self-reliant, and engaged. They’ll feel more confident in their abilities and be more accountable for what they decide.
Another tool is to be a mentor – that means sharing your experiences, the good and the bad, the things you know now that you wish you’d known then – and allowing the other person to hear your experience and reflect on it, while deciding what bits they want to use for themselves. Mentoring isn’t telling someone to do this or do that, it’s sharing your own learnings for them to use (or not) as they wish.
What did you learn about your younger self through this exercise? What did you discover about who you are now as a leader? What would you share from your own experience? Where can you open up about things you’ve learned that were hard to learn? Who might benefit from this?