Building a Long-Lasting Career Infrastructure Using Ikigai Principles
16 November, 2021
The Problem in Developing Technical Skills
Previously in my career, I joined an API company that strived for innovation using technical principles. My preconceived notion was that the only way to move forward in my career was to sharpen my technical skills and blindly optimize my soft skills without creating a goal. I needed to formalize a result; I should improve these skills to become a founder or principal engineer. Understanding and establishing a vision and learning my current strands, such as front end or infrastructure, was my goal. Picking and choosing the technical skills I needed to focus on were essential to building my career infrastructure. Later on, in my career, I struggled to implement this same technique with my teams to uplift and engage them in their work while helping them grow.
Implementing a Framework for My Team
The Ikigai Practice:
From a leadership perspective, before improving my technical skills, I established my goals using a framework called Ikigai. Ikigai is a four-sided Venn diagram that outlines life’s questions:
- What do you love doing?
- What are you good at?
- What can you be paid for?
- What does the world need?
There are different principles in each overlapping area, such as passion, profession, vocation, and mission. In the center lies Ikigai, which includes a small amount of each principle to form one’s goals in their career.
I used the Ikigai framework to determine my career infrastructure, including these principles and answers. I’ve found that using the Ikigai framework allows me to empower my team and provides me with a base understanding of how I can impact others. When it comes to empowering people, I think many leaders tend to optimize for the company rather than each individual. While this can be successful sometimes, if your team members are not growing, they will most likely burn out or leave your team. By providing this infrastructure, I can often prevent this type of burnout throughout my teams. If team members are growing in alignment with the company, it is progressive; if not, they simply may work better with another organization.
Combining Ikigai with Performance Reviews:
In the previous company I worked with, we have a performance review document and process that includes company skills and improvements. At the bottom of this document, I added a personal growth section that included these principles from the Ikigai framework. After performance reviews took place, I would match individual skills and growth (brag document) to the organization. Depending on the alignment, team members would stay with our company or suggest they move to another company. Being a good leader doesn’t mean every team member should stay on your team forever, but rather that they work on something that aligns with the company values.
Establishing Regular Check-Ins:
After these performance reviews, I started regular follow-ups based on the information in the review. Creating these regular check-ins made a more informal session than the annual performance review. I found that the informality of the session led me to create concrete connections and learn about the day-to-day troubles and successes my team was facing.
Growing Individuals in Alignment with a Company
- There isn’t one way to grow a team. Everyone has different learning styles and goals. Therefore their growth progression will be different as well. Understand how the individuals grow on your team and what you can do to support them.
- Measure team members’ alignment with the company goals. You can identify many based on the number of skills that align with the company. These can be moving teams to work with a group that values those skills the most.
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