We all have choices to make. How do we know if we need or want to do one thing or another? How do we objectively evaluate opportunities so that we make the right next choice – the one that we don’t second guess because we made the best decision we could at the time?
One way to do it is to find your lens. This is something that I help clients do all the time, and I am ruthless in coaching them to consistently use their lens to evaluate all opportunities.
Let me give you two examples.
1. Client one is an executive in transition. Let’s call him Mike. Mike has had a great career and been smart with his money so now he has the chance to step back, evaluate his career, and figure out where his interests and passions lie. We have done all sorts of intellectual exploration and exercises that encourage creative thinking. He is having as many informational interviews as he can get. We are finding the things that make him feel flat and bored. And we are starting to see some patterns in what he finds interesting and appealing. We are finding his lens.
Mike’s lens for work that will be a good fit for him has three components. The work he does needs to make him feel invested in that he thinks it is interesting, important, and provides great value. He also needs to have a mentoring component to his position where he is developing staff or transferring knowledge through teaching or speaking. Lastly, there needs to be some flexibility in the organization, including openness to new ideas and new business processes. It needs to be a growing and evolving organization with employees who are empowered.
Mike will evaluate any new opportunity through this lens, and it will be very easy to weed out the positions that are clearly a mismatch. If he uses his lens in addition to the usual things you would consider such as job title, salary, and benefits, he has the information he needs to make the right decision.
2. Client two is a solopreneur. Let’s call her Laura. Laura has been in business for several years and is looking to take her business to the next level. She has worked with some good clients but she wants to even out her revenue stream and work with fewer, retainer-based clients. However, like many small business owners, she hates to “leave money on the table” so she occasionally commits to projects that are outside of her core service offering, and then gets frustrated and overwhelmed without making the kind of money she wants.
Laura’s lens is to find companies who have a budget for her services, and have used those kinds of services in the past successfully so they understand their value. She needs to screen out prospects who aren’t willing to commit to at least six months and preferably a year.
This is very hard to do when you are a small business owner. But you must look at your opportunity cost. If you are scrambling doing work that is out of your sweet spot of services for a lower rate, you are not marketing and meeting your ideal clients. And I do know that bills need to be paid sometimes – but you need to use your lens as often as possible to filter opportunities that are the right fit for you and your business.
As Michael Bungay Stanier says, “What will you say no to so that you can say yes to something else?”
Taking the time to develop your lens can save you a lot of heartache and wasted time. And remember that your lens will change over time as your life changes so go back and reevaluate it periodically.
Do you have a way of evaluating opportunities or do you jump at whatever comes your way? Have you thought about your lens? I would love to hear about your process in the comments below.