By Dan Shepard
You have had a successful career—public recognition, financial security, an industry presence, the respect of your peers, but you are restless and have perhaps been quietly thinking about something new, something energizing…but can’t quite identify what that is.
For the past 10 years, I have had the privilege to work with senior executives in transition. Increasingly, more and more are asking: now that I have had some career success, what is next and how can I make my new chapter a “wow” experience? The desire for something different typically goes beyond career and may expand to include other aspects of your life, such as health and fitness, learning, community, family, friends and sometimes spirituality.
Often it becomes an in-depth internal discussion of what is unlived or what one’s untouched dreams are. These are huge questions for most of us and the journey to discover what is next can be challenging. So, how do we reconnect with the core elements of who we are and what makes us special?
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) allows people to get back in touch with important parts of themselves that they have put aside or not thought about for awhile. It provides new insights or reminders of what was going on when they were having their best life moments. In essence, the process of AI uses a client’s happiest and most fulfilling past experiences as the data to help create a future.
AI was developed by David Cooperider, at Case Western Reserve University, as an organizational model for change. In a traditional model, a problem-solving approach means looking for what is broken and attempting to fix it. Instead, the AI model focuses on what works, and attempts to find more of it.
It begins with an inquiry such as, “Tell me about a time in your life when you felt most alive, energized or proud?” Typically there is some silence after this question and more often than not, the client says, “I am not sure I can come up with many examples.”
After a few moments of thinking, it is interesting how quickly the stories come to mind. It is amazing to watch how a client’s body language changes, how smiles emerge and the face lights up in recalling these special moments. These remembrances can range from thoughts of high school, college, marriage, sports, first loves, career, all the way to family. The key component comes when clients begin to identify the reoccurring themes which are present in these moments. This recognition results in the ability to select which of these themes will be most important to making their next chapter, a “wow” experience.
What do people say after an AI process?
• “It brought me back to wonderful places I had forgotten”
The AI process, when integrated with more traditional executive self assessments, which are focused on identifying individual motivators, interests, personality preferences, values and dreams, is very productive at getting to the heart of who someone is and enabling them to find their “wow” position.
Dan Shepard, partner at Essex Partners, specializes in executive job search strategy and execution.
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