What’s the best way to engineer your future?

A couple of weeks ago, I had an opportunity to visit the new Terminal (T2) at Dublin airport. It’s fantastic. The design, based on a cross section of an aircraft wing, is superb. The innovative architecture is complimented by a high quality fit out. Overall, it has a Middle Eastern feel, somewhat reminiscent of the airport in Abu Dhabi, just better.

My host for the visit was Maria Moran, the HR manager for T2. The strong connections with staff as we wandered around and the general air of positivity were an antidote to the Arctic conditions I’d battled to get to the airport.

Future Engineered: T2 is future engineered – designed to anticipate passenger traffic. Aesthetically, it puts Irish transportation on the map. Just as Singaporeans are proud of Changi airport, we can now boast a world-class facility in which travel is not simply reduced to the cheapest method to get from A to B. As the Buddha reminded us (perhaps anticipating low-cost airlines?) it’s not just the destination; the journey is also important.

Future Proof: As a management consultant, I spend a good bit of time with organizational leaders thinking about the future for their businesses. What will it look like? What will consumers want? What will trade customers be asking for? Will companies compete on price, service, product innovation or something else? Which competitors are on the horizon? And, most importantly, what can be done now to help shape this? What readiness plans need to be put in place to prepare for the changes coming down the track?

Some leaders ‘think big’. They envisage a tomorrow, which is radically different from today. They embrace the Disney philosophy: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it’. Others are more cautious, perhaps burned in the past by thinking too big and opt for more modest aspirations. Post-recession there is an inevitable reeling in of optimism, which was seen to underpin the speculation of the Celtic Tiger years. Yet, whether plans are BIG or more modest, the central point is that an effort is being made to anticipate and get ready for the future.

2011 Dream: Can we take this notion of planning from the organizational arena and apply it to our personal life? What’s your ‘T2’ – your personal dream for 2011 and beyond? Will you be in the same job or doing something different? Working with the same organization or somewhere else? In Ireland or overseas? Learning new skills or flogging the tricks you’ve picked up to date? Changing the world in what way? The key question: for each of us is: Could I plan and begin to construct a better life? While there is seldom a neat answer to this, often asking the question kick-starts the journey.

Are such questions fanciful? I don’t think so. Just as an architect can design an airport terminal which does not yet exist, so you can begin to envisage a new life. Now, this is not Pollyanna. I understand that we don’t always have 100% control and some people bear terrible burdens. Health issues and accidents conspire against perfectly constructed plans. At the lower end of the trauma scale, redundancies and pay cuts can force some of those thoughts for the future to be put on ice or jettisoned altogether. But, while all plans are subject to reality checks, this should not be an excuse to avoid planning. Unless you are getting some warped satisfaction about moaning about the present while, at the same time, doing absolutely nothing to change it.

Career Exercise: In the coaching business, I am amazed at how little time executives invest in thinking about their own career. They act as if ‘thinking’ is something that just happens- without ever setting aside time to think about their own future.

To help in this, I often propose a simple exercise, asking executives to list all of the jobs that they could do or might like to do. Anything that grabs them – from garden design alongside Diarmuid Gavin to running General Electric- goes on the list. When that initial list is completed, I get them to figure out the +’s and –‘s associated with each job (e.g. ‘love that type of work’, ‘high income’, ‘socially just’, ‘too much travel’, ‘high dependence on others’ etc.). Completing this exercise helps the fog to shift and the ideal role starts to become clearer. Skeptical that it could be that simple? Try it! Winston Churchill wrote: ‘History will be kind to me because I intent to write it’. As the CEO of your own life, shouldn’t your ambition be exactly the same?

Paul Mooney PhD.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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