Alchemy of Org Building: Career Development from the Inside Out, Part 2

Blog Post
The AppNexus Team

Part one of this blog series proposed that career development is a process of aligning with our Purpose, rather than defining and achieving extrinsic life goals like salary and position. This approach clarifies what intrinsically matters most to us and sets in motion a process of co-creation where opportunity seemingly unfolds before us. It allows our work to become an expression of our passions, values, and capabilities.But how do we align with our Purpose, especially if we aren’t clear what our passions, values, and capabilities are? And what does this have to do with org building – the topic of my blog? We align with our Purpose through a process of intention setting, non-judgmental observation, and ongoing dialog. Let’s unpack that:

Intention Setting: Aligning with our Purpose starts with setting the intention to be our authentic best self. This is harder than it may sound. We naturally want to please and be admired by others. This can cause us to wear masks pretending to be someone we are not, or react with fear or anger when we feel judged by others. We also tend to look away when we sense we are not being our authentic best self; the mirror can be a scary place.

So maintaining the intention to be our authentic best self is in fact a true act of courage as well as a necessary step in aligning with our Purpose.

Non-Judgmental Observation: Self-observation amplifies the signals we receive that indicate what our passions, values, and capabilities are. It helps us better understand and change what is holding us back; it clears out the noise so we can tune into what we really love doing; it allows us to identify our best self and bring that to everything we do.

What are we observing? We are observing the starting place of our actions; the emotional impulse in which our actions are rooted. For example:

  • Action: I helped a new employee with a problem they had.
  • Root: A place of service and secureness.
  • Action: A colleague told me I made a mistake. I said thanks for sharing and asked for help improving.
  • Root: A place of openness and acceptance.
  • Action: A colleague was promoted. I told my manager I should be promoted because I am stronger than that employee.
  • Root: A place of envy and bitterness.
  • Action: My boss said my project wasn’t successful. I responded with the five things beyond my control that blocked me.
  • Root: A place of fear and avoidance.

Our actions are borne from two places – our lower self and our higher self. When our intentions are laced with anger, fear, pride, or envy we are acting from our lower self. When our intentions are pure of those emotions, we can act from a place of joy, safety, openness, or service – from our higher self. From this place, we can bring our very best to what we do. Our vision is the clearest. Our creativity is boundless. Our capacity for growth is limitless. It becomes possible to accept responsibly for what’s difficult in our lives.

Acting from our lower self (anger, fear, pride, or envy) is distracting and energy depleting. Plus, it's contagious. It comes back to us multifold, creating a swell of negativity in our lives. Acting from our higher self (joy, safety, openness, service) has the opposite effect. When we give the world our best, it returns the favor. So by identifying what we are doing when we are acting from our higher self, we can inspect it, elaborate on it, fill our lives with more activities like it. We begin to express our unique passions, values, and capabilities in powerful ways. We start to achieve more with greater ease. Without even looking for it, we will naturally connect with our Purpose.

Observation is most effective when it’s a regular habit and it’s non-judgmental.

Why a regular habit? Our default emotional responses can’t be altered through force of will. The only path is a gradual one. We set the genuine intention to be our very best, revisit our days like an unbiased spectator, observe our reactions, consider how we can improve, and then let go. Observe, release. Observe, release. If our intention remains strong over time, we will naturally bring less of our lower self, and more of our higher self.

Why non-judgmental? When we judge ourselves, we reinforce a false identity – I screwed up, I suck. That’s the invisible lens through which we view ourselves. Judgment becomes the distraction we focus on. It reinforces shame, which blocks self-acceptance. It instills fear, which prevents us from embracing our mistakes as opportunities to learn and change.

Ongoing Dialog: I once read, “We only know of ourselves what we are willing to tell others.” There is something powerful and clarifying about saying our thoughts out loud to people we trust. At that point it either rings true and clear in our ears, or doesn’t. So we all need sounding boards. We all need to voice what we believe our passions, values, and capabilities are in order to continually clarify our thinking. Friends, mentors, and managers are all helpful.

What does all of this have to do with org building – the subject of my blog?

As I did when I was in Poland, employees (particularly young high performers) tend to overly focus on extrinsic life goals – position, salary, etc. This is a framework to shift the focus to what matters most in career development – connecting with our Purpose by aligning with our passions, values, and capabilities through a process of intention setting, non-judgmental observation, and ongoing dialog.

In Global Services at AppNexus, we’ve launched a program called “Empowering You to be the CEO of Your Career: Aligning with Your Purpose.” Its premise is that a virtuous cycle is ignited when employees align with their Purpose. Individuals bringing their best create vibrant and strong organizations, which create new opportunities for individuals to continue to bring their best.

Many organizations think of career development as an “outside in” process. Employers define career ladders for employees to climb and provide skills training to help employees scale each rung of the ladder. It’s a process that starts outside of the individual.

Our approach is from the “inside out.” Individuals define what matters most to them. Managers offer thought partnership and facilitation. The organization provides Career Maps to help employees explore options. So our approach to career development starts with personal development. From there, amazing careers and incredible organizations naturally follow.


See all postings from Brandon’s “Alchemy of Org Building” blog here.