What do I really want? 7 tips on finding the answer that can make your transition a success

Nov 16th, 2020


Transition of any kind reminds us of what matters most.”

Russell Ballard


Earlier this month, the world watched as the USA began a transition to a new presidency, with a leadership that brings with it a radical change in tone, style, personality and policy.


The election was ground-breaking in many ways: the biggest turnout in 120 years at 66.9%, the highest ever number of votes for a President at over 75 million and the first-ever woman of colour to become Vice-President. Kamala Harris is a great example of how knowing what you really want can help you make the transition to achieve it – of what becomes possible if you “dream with ambition” as she put it in her victory speech.


Ambitious people in leadership roles are constantly looking at what’s next, but they may not always take the time to define what it is they really want. Yet understanding what is truly important to them can help them make the transition. I sometimes describe this as their “one-day island”, the place they go to when they think “One day I’ll…” One of my clients in the property sector has been highly successful in creatively turning the corporate she leads around, but recently realised she has been leaving herself behind on the way. We worked together on what motivates her and what was missing, and she recognised a need to bring her creativity to her personal as well as her professional life. For her, the “one day island” was a long-term creative project to build with her family and understanding that helped her find the first step towards it: a smaller, but equally creative family endeavour. Now, this new personal fulfilment has restored her energy and motivation inside and outside of work.


The rise of the entrepreneur is evident today. I have noticed a number of clients leaving the corporate world to build their own portfolio career or join a business which provides the structure to control their own destiny. One, a client with a young child, knew that she wanted to leave the constraints of the corporate world and build her own business success while remaining part of a team. She wanted the flexibility to work around her family needs: working in the evenings while the baby was asleep or on Saturdays worked perfectly for her.  This transition offered her all that, and the potential to earn more on her own terms.  She has big ambitions to build a thriving business and is taking one step at a time.


In our ever-changing times, transition may also be prompted by external forces. One paradigm shift today has been the increased importance of data – so much so, that every team now needs its analytics expert.  And people in this field are in demand as companies recognise the value they bring to their business and on client teams, and are prepared to pay for their expertise.  It used to be the big corporates that had business intelligence departments, but start-ups are now increasingly recognising the value of this role within their teams.


Are you unsure about whether or how to make a transition? Do you find it challenging to look at what it is you really want?


Here are 7 tips to help you find the clarity you need.


1. Identify what’s missing

There are times when leaders find themselves demotivated.  I encourage them to look at what’s missing for them – it could be the freedom to build their career on their own terms, a need for more creativity, more control or more responsibility for people or the P&L. Outside of work it could be more time with and family or friends or the space to exercise or enjoy downtime.  I have a useful framework to identify the sources of their personal motivation and once that’s clear, it becomes easier to clarify and reset their goals and they feel back in control again.


2. Map out your journey

Once you know what it is that you really want, take the time to focus on how you plan to make the transition to achieve it. Your ultimate aim maybe your “one-day island” but starting with small steps in the right direction can help you feel less anxious about the final goal and make it feel more achievable. Listen to your intuition and take some reflective time to visualise your journey and the stages that are important to you, both at work and at home. There are many creative goal setting strategies such as writing a future letter celebrating success.  Many people find clarity from our Vision Intensive Programme, where they build a compelling action plan towards their ideal future.


3. Put together “the board you can’t afford”

Nobody can achieve their ambitions alone, so it’s essential to identify your critical stakeholders – the people that have your back. These could be colleagues, contemporaries in other companies, or mentors, but they should also include your family. If you are dreaming with ambition, you will need a team at home to support you. And that means planning how your roles at home will function, having the critical conversations about child-care or carving out time. And you will also need to be there to support them too.


4. Your needs matter

It’s essential for all of us to invest in ourselves, but many make the mistake of seeing that as a luxury, putting their own needs on hold.  A senior executive in the finance industry acknowledged that he had built a successful career overseas by giving ‘120%’ to his company.  He decided to resign and move back to Europe for the sake of his family.  Offers are coming in which would be more of the same, but he is taking this time to really ask himself: What do I really want?  He recognised he had always had roles where he never really switched off, and time to explore hobbies and spend more time with his family is becoming increasingly important.  So he is investing in his own development to make sure he makes the right decision.


5. Be curious

A client who has had an international career with multi-national teams has been promoted within a culture that is ‘old school’ with very little demonstration of diversity.  A lot of his team are older than him with fixed views that have always led to personal success.  He recognises that to change this mindset and develop a more diverse culture he needs to bring people with him. Curiosity is an essential leadership skill, especially in times of change, and suspending judgement on those with different views while seeking to understand why they have them will be key.  There will always be agreement at some level, so start with those areas, for example, client care, etc.

As with Brexit and the USA elections the challenge for leadership will be to bring about change while unifying a diverse group of people with opposing views.  A leadership that is curious listens and has the ability to influence will be paramount.


6. Take action

Transitions can lead to growth but, often at the beginning, the unknown causes anxiety: you may be unsure of what is next and that can lead to a disruption of self-confidence, leaving you feeling stuck. During this time when nothing happens – nothing happens  – and you may feel overwhelmed.  But every time you take action – however small it may be, like speaking to a former client, a coach, or drawing up a list of your achievements – you move forward and a new way of thinking and new opportunities emerge.  And it all begins with the courage to act.


7. Keep up momentum

Momentum builds when you take action. And inevitably when clients look back at what was often an uncomfortable period, they are now grateful for it as it led them to a more fulfilled role or destination.  Several of them have valued our  ‘Just In Time’ coaching, where they invest in a bank of coaching sessions with no expiry date to use whenever they need it – for those moments when a perspective from a trusted confidante or an injection of motivation is all they need to keep up their momentum.


Next Steps:

If you or your company have recently made a transition or are thinking of doing so and would like to add a coach to your own “board”, begin the conversation by emailing me at info@potentialplus-int.com

If you would like to know more about what our clients have gained from working with us we have lots of testimonials that you might find interesting.

Sign up to our Leadership Insights & Articles here.


Related articles: 

If I say yes to this what am I saying no to? how clear priorities can bring you balance

Taking back control – because your actions today with influence where you are a year from now

Authentic Leadership – the secret to thriving in tough times