If you are the best you can be, the only way to go is down. Couple that with former Stanford Business School dean, Robert Joss’s insight that only 20% of leaders have the confidence required to be open to help and the only possible conclusion is that we’re all works in progress and we should all invest in improving ourselves – with others’ help. Accept that you’re in charge of you. Get help. Build on your current best thinking to bridge the gap between your current reality and future possibilities.

Roger Neill designed his current best thinking framework for problem solving. It’s easily applied to your own career development if you have the confidence accept that there is a problem to solve and that others can help you solve it. What follows is an adaptation of Roger’s framework to apply to your own career development at any stage of your career. First, core premises:

You’re in charge of you. Own your own career development. Certainly, get help from others. But no victims allowed. No blaming circumstances or anyone else. You are both the problem and the problem owner.

Get help. You know the value of getting diverse perspectives on problem solving. Invite and cherish those diverse perspectives on your own career development. Treat others input as gifts.

Build on your current best thinking. This is a combination of career planning 101 and gap-bridging problem-solving. Start with future possibilities, objectives and goals. Step back and assess the current reality. Then deploy the current best thinking problem-solving approach to generate ideas. Turn those into a remedy. Commit to specific actions.

1) Future Possibilities. Start with possibilities. What would make you happier? Recall, happiness is three goods. What’s the right blend for you going forward of i) doing good for others, ii) doing things you’re good at, and iii) doing good for yourself? What do you really want in terms of relationships, health and well-being, financial rewards and your own emotional state? Pull those together into long-term career objectives and short-term goals


2) Current Reality. Get help doing a brutally honest assessment of where you are now. How much impact are you really having on others? What are your current strengths and gaps? What’s the real balance of your current relational, physical, financial and emotional bank accounts?


3) Current Best Thinking. Think through potential options to bridge these gaps.

  • Pull it all together into your current best thinking around a) your picture of success, b) your current reality, and c) how to bridge the gaps.
  • Share that going-in perspective with those that have agreed to help you. Where Roger’s approach generally works better in a group so people can build off each other’s ideas, you’ll most likely want to do this one-on-one so no one holds back for fear of embarrassing you in front of others.
  • Answer their questions for clarification to help them understand context and your best current thinking, not for them to comment on or improve the thinking – yet.
  • Ask them to highlight the most positive of your best current thinking – so you start by feeling good.
  • Ask them to identify the key barriers keeping your best current thinking from working. Get all the barriers on the table at the same time before working any of them.
  • Decide on the most important barrier to work.


4) Ideas => Remedy. Bat ideas on how to fix most important barrier back and forth: WYDIS (What You Do Is.) How you react to their ideas is critical. If you’re at all defensive, they’ll hold back.

  • Pull the ideas together into a possible remedy to that barrier (testing.)
  • If the possible remedy is not strong enough, continue to work this barrier. If the remedy works, determine whether that is enough to solve the overall problem and move your forward towards your objectives and goals.  If yes, move on to action steps. If not, work the next most important barrier.


5) Action Steps: Commit to what you’re going to do by when to make this theoretical solution real changing yourself from problem owner to solution owner.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #743) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

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