Finishing the fourth cycle

A bit late, but last month I celebrated my fourth-cycle birthday. For those who may not know, a “cycle” refers to the twelve years in the Chinese calendar*, each represented by a different animal. With any luck, this fourth cycle represents the mid-point of my life and has served as an opportunity to reflect on what I have accomplished so far and what I can hope to accomplish with the time that remains.

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One lesson I learned from my great-grandfather, is that we are each responsible to reach our full potential. I also learned from my family that we are called to help others reach their full potential, too. My family is full of teachers, nurses, soldiers and others called to serve the communities around them in their own ways.

For the 32 years I have worked, regardless of what my job role has been, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow and to help others learn and grow, too.

The lessons learned thus far could fill a book (and, I hope, one day will) and started even before my first real job, when I worked a newspaper delivery route in the mornings before school. Understanding how to manage my time, throw papers so they were easy for customers to retrieve, and make collections at month’s end as painless as possible, were early lessons that have proved valuable countless times.

The opportunities to help others grow have been abundant, too: from teaching new ushers the proper way to quickly clean a theatre before the next show began, to having to manage two people who had wanted the first managerial job I was promoted to, to guiding “new generation leaders” as a leadership development consultant, I have found fulfillment in helping others grow and, with modesty, hope that I have had some success.

It may sound corny, but I do have a strong sense of purpose in my life: to help others reach their full potential and, in doing so, to reach my own potential. One commitment I made to myself, is that I will regularly assess whether my current circumstance is allowing me to progress on both halves of my purpose. If not, it will be time for a change.

Looking at the lives of my great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents – as well as so many mentors, colleagues, and friends – I have an abundance of role models whose examples I can follow.

And this is an important element of my purpose. You see, I seek to fulfill this purpose because it is part of a larger, longer legacy than myself. And it is something that, I hope, will run through me and live on in the lives and actions of others.

If four cycles are all I have, I am satisfied that I have lived my purpose. I hope, though, that I have many more cycles left because I don’t feel nearly finished.

*Also celebrated in many other East Asian cultures

What I Do

In my previous post, I wrote about quitting my job. As difficult as it is for me to quit, it is even more difficult to stay in a position where my interests and passions are not well-aligning with my opportunity to fulfill them. So what are those interests and passions?

IMG_0698My interest and passion is in helping people reach their full potential. How do I do that? Mostly through the field of “Organizational Development”. This subset of Human Resources goes a lot deeper than just training – a one-time event – and looks at the full experience of talent within your organization.

How do you find, attract, and on-board the right people? How do you get them up-to-speed quickly? How do you ensure that all of the processes, incentives, expectations, and tools align with the outcomes you expect from your people? How do you ensure they can perform at a high level? And how do you retain them, giving them new opportunities and the ability to advance? All of these fall under the “HR OD” umbrella.

IMG_0694At one level, my work still involves building and delivering workshops. I find myself in front of a conference room full of people, helping them make sense of different subjects and, most importantly, understanding how to apply those subjects in their day-to-day-work.

The workshop delivery itself is just a small part of my work. The more important part is looking at the underlying skills and capabilities people need and what those look like when applied in real life. “Communication” is a broad thing: what does effective communication look like when you are conducting a 9:00 am Monday sales meeting? By knowing this level of detail, I can design learning interventions that best help people build those skills and capabilities.

IMG_0696Ultimately, I find it very satisfying when I hear back from people weeks, months, and even years later, telling me that something I said, some way I explained things, helped make them more effective in their jobs. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from some people I worked with 15 or 20 years ago – in the late 1990s! – who thanked me and shared what they learned from me.

That’s ultimately the most satisfying part of my work, and it is the reason that I am heading to a situation that I think will better allow me to achieve more of that.