Where are you in your life and career? Use this simple tool to find out!
Recently, I participated in a coaching training and was asked to define my affinity group or groups. As the term suggests, affinity groups consist of people I have an affinity to: I know them, I have been in their shoes, experienced what they experience, and we share some common values and characteristics. I was quick to define my affinity groups. They are development enthusiasts, social innovators and activists.
I started my career as a development enthusiast and have more recently discovered innovation and activism as an important part of my life. Hence, I am most familiar with the development enthusiasts - and I have worked with many of them during the last 20 years. I have also trained or coached hundreds of them. Their key characteristics are:
Mostly, they are in the age group of 30-50 years.
They have high ambitions to achieve social change through their actions.
They are doers. An integral part of their life purpose is to achieve change outcomes and build sustainable organisations and initiatives.
They are optimists and keep standing up after failures.
Often, they work in mid to higher leadership positions (or intending to reach such positions) in national or international civil society organisations that work in the development sector – for instance on education, health, social security, human rights etc.
Mostly they are self-reflective individuals who feel that they are in charge of their life and their career.
If those characteristics broadly reflect yourself, you are reading the right article!
For my sessions as a coach, I have developed the following tool. I use it in one of the introductory sessions in the coaching process, so the coachee can reflect and prioritize the topics to be addressed in the coaching session. It is based on the wheel of life which is more general and used by many coaches around the world.
The wheel is essentially a self-reflection tool!
I invite you now to score yourself in each challenge or aspiration on a scale of 0 to 5. A 5 means that you are exceptional in meeting the aspiration or challenge, for instance, you are super-innovative. While rating, think about all your small and large achievements. Be honest, but don’t be too hard on yourself.
Below you can find a few explanatory notes on each aspiration/challenge – originating from my experiences as a coach and trainer of development enthusiasts:
Life with purpose: This is perhaps why you are a development enthusiast and why you are working in this sector. You want to contribute to development and social change. Is your current life in sync with your life purpose? And what is your life purpose exactly?
Achieve impact and success: Many development enthusiasts are motivated by social and sustainable impact. In your current life, are you in a good position to achieve impact and be successful?
Be innovative: This requires special effort and sometimes swimming against the tide. It requires exposure, dialogue and developing ideas and synergies with others. How innovative are you? And how successful are you in bringing innovations to pilot and scale?
Motivate and empower people: Most of us have the aim of moving ourselves, our peers and our target groups - for instance the members of a cooperative - towards becoming self-reflective and empowered individuals. However, in the contexts we work in, cultures and organisations do not always embrace the concept of individual empowerment. How well do you navigate those contradictions and how successful are you in your endeavor to motivate and empower?
Communicate well: How good is your communication and your empathy with your team members or your partners? Are you listening and asking the right questions? Are you able to build relationships toward trust, common understanding and progress?
Reflect and learn: Perspectives that are too narrow can be hindrances to learning and reflection, so are local power structures and organisational hierarchies sometimes. Meanwhile, open and systematic reflection processes are perhaps the key to personal, social and organisational progress. How good is your reflection and learning practice - for yourself and your initiative?
Effective work processes: Scattered resources, lack of continuity and the complexities of social change are a challenge to developing efficient and effective processes. How well are you mastering this challenge? Do you have sufficiently standardised processes which bring about the intended changes?
Life-work balance: This is a challenge for many development enthusiasts who devote their life to bringing about social change. Sometimes, family & friends, hobbies or even their own health takes a backseat. How good are you in combining the two?
Ok, I rated myself: What next?
The answer is: Your life is in your own hands!
A few little hints:
You are great! However you rated yourself, You will figure out what to do and where to get support if and when you need it.
Focus not only on the challenges and aspirations that rate low, but also work on the areas where you already excel. Focusing on strengths is important.
Get feedback from peers and start talking about your challenges and aspirations. Talking helps.
If you are a trainer or coach, please feel free to use this tool in your sessions as well.
About the Author:
Joachim is passionate about social justice and on a mission to support like-minded civil society actors and social entrepreneurs to become more powerful and innovative. Hence, in 2014 he left his NGO career to build the Civil Society Academy. He is an outstanding facilitator and coach with expertise in social innovation, leadership, organisational change, and advocacy. After more than 20 years in Africa and Asia, he is now based in Berlin.
If you would like to give feedback, or are interested in our courses or support.
Please contact: Joachim Schwarz