How to unlock your career potential

Career coaching requests used to come from friends or acquaintances that I’ve previously known and more importantly know me. With more and more people reaching out that do not know me and my background I thought it would be useful to share the approach are used to coach and unlock career potential. You can absolutely follow the steps to do so yourself, Although I am here for you to be of help if needed.


My approach is quite simple. Three steps (plus a few follow-ons). What, why, how. There are many layers to each of these steps, and here is a high-level overview of what will happen.

The steps are simple. Though not necessarily easy. There may be many layers to each of these steps. And here is a high-level overview if you want to do it yourself.

Before: get some context

Before we start, I will always ask for a bit of context. Get to know you a little bit. I understand more of your upbringing, family situation, influences towards your career, key milestones, and any other experiences that were interesting so far on your career journey. The context helps me identify where you might want to be headed. As well as identify any limiting beliefs.  Those will be important to deal with in the house stage.

Step 1: WHAT

After I have a bit of context, I will inevitably ask what do you want? Sometimes it is a slight variation such: what do you want to happen?

Do you know exactly what you want? If you do know what you want and don’t know how to get there, then that’s great. We can work with that. What we want to do is get more specific. Get crystal clarity around exactly what you want. Things like timing: when do they want it to happen by? That will often dictate the amount of effort need. Perhaps inserting some measurable targets and other characteristics to make the goals “smarter” (a la SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound).  If it involves things like money, turn it into a specific amount. Just having a goal to “make a lot of money” can be challenging. Having a more specific goal to “make $200,000 in 12 months” is better to work with. Being more tangible makes it more likely to happen as you’ll be able to see your progress towards that goal. Take the goals and move forward to the WHY step.

Now if you’re in the camp where you don’t know WHAT you want, then we might need to do more. Even though you don’t know exactly what you want, you’ll often know what you DON’T want. Or know the general area of what you do want. In both cases, it’s a matter of exploring. Tasting. And reflecting on what might be right for you. If you know the general area, then create a list, and we spend some time to sequence and prioritize the exploration. If you only know what you DON’T want, then we might just have a bigger list to deal with. List the things that interest you. That you’re curious about. That excites you. Then have fun and experiment.

Make sure you take some time to reflect and learn. Reprioritize where there is more interest, curiosity and/or excitement.

Step 1B: WHAT’s holding you back?

Before going to the next step, I might ask another WHAT question: What is holding you back? There’s usually a fear in there. Fear of failure. Often rooted in the judgement of others. Sometimes it’s the fear of success. With various reasons from the amount of effort needed, to the thought of having to leave behind the comfort of their “old world”.

Inevitably, with all of these potential goals, and things to work on we pick a few to start with.

Step 2: WHY

Once you’ve picked an area of focus, the line of questioning changes from what to lie. Why are any of these goals important to you? I’ve had folks who are interested in pursuing their master’s degree, specifically an MBA and after going through the WHY line of questioning they realize that it was mainly just an expectation from their family and not something they actually wanted or needed. They did not really want an MBA  for anything other than “checking the box”. For their planned career path, a master’s degree would not really have helped them. So it was just something that they thought they needed to get.

Why is that goal important to you?

Look to go down several levels deep on the white questioning. The five WHYs Helps to uncover some of the route and true underlying purpose. Versus just some of the superficial needs. The superficial needs tend not to be an effective motivator for long-term success.

Take your first response to the previous question and ask: and why is that important for you.

Next, take your second response to the previous question and ask: and why is that important for you.

And take your third response to the previous question and ask: and why is that important for you.

Then take your fourth response to the previous question and ask: and why is that important for you.

Don’t let yourself repeat. If you do, emphasize the “for you” part. You’ll often get to some “true-isms” like for world peace or to make the world a better place. Which are well and good, and why is that important “for you

As this line of questioning is often new to you, you might get stuck after the 2nd or 3rd WHY. If so, you can let yourself off the hook and plan to go deeper down another day. It may take you time to really become honest and vulnerable with yourself. It’s okay to be selfish. If you can get to the core of your purpose, then the unlock is started and your drive becomes nearly unstoppable!

Step 3: HOW

Once we’ve selected a WHAT and WHY, we move on to actions and towards the HOW. How do we move towards any of these what goals that we just defined?

The how often starts with having them include non-negotiable time (NN-time) within their day. This NN-time will allow them to put in the effort to move towards their goals.

There are often multiple areas of focus: for professional, or personal, and self-development.  We’ll do an assessment against the FICGS (FOCUS inspired career guidance system)  which is a framework using a maturity model concept in order to take a look at the breadth of different personal and professional development areas. The goal is not to be perfect in all areas (that’s just not possible), and instead to choose the areas where they want to excel, and where they don’t mind not so good at.

Under the broader goal, we might include smaller goals and habits to develop including those related to self – care whether it be getting a better nights sleep, exercising, eating better. Many people are also dealing with some sort of anxiety or fear that they need to overcome. Fear of failure, or often a fear of success.

Will also often add reflective writing or journalling into the mix. Having them evaluate their actions for the day and their mindset. By writing them down they are able to look back on them and discover patterns. And get a sense of self-awareness in the process.

Will also often add reflective writing or journalling into the mix. Having them evaluate their actions for the day and their mindset. By writing them down they are able to look back on them and discover patterns. And get a sense of self-awareness in the process.

All of this turns into a plan of action. With small or medium size actions depending on the person.

A few pointers on the HOW:

  • Progress versus perfection
  • Small consistent actions
  • Build habits that serve you
  • Surround yourself with people that have similar ambitions


Once we have the WHAT, WHY, and HOW set;  it is now a matter of making sure the plan gets done. We set up accountability calls and meetings in order to confirm whether or not they are making progress towards their goals and personal/professional development. The unlock happens with consistent action. For my services, if you meet your goals, we keep going and continually stretch them a little bit more. If you don’t make your goals, then we would have already determined an infraction penalty, and we reevaluate whether we want to give it another shot or to do something a bit different and approach to go from a different angle. We might walk through some resources that might help them along the way. Some SIWIKE “Stuff I Wish I Knew Earlier” tactics. You can do this on your own or with an accountability partner


As you go through the accountability sessions, will include a time to reflect on the goals, which helps with the unlock. What worked, what didn’t work. And more importantly, are all of the assumptions that were considered when setting the schools still true? Are you feeling a sense of motivation and purpose when doing these things? Do you see an alignment with your intended goals as much as you did when you started the process?

If there isn’t alignment, then adjust appropriately. Sometimes we determine that the path you are on is not one you want to continue pursuing. Or you might want to narrow down their focus into a more niche area within there.

REPEAT and that’s it

The process continues from accountability to reflecting an adjustment. The process is both quick and slow. Some moments you might be catalyzed with “a-ha moments” and as if a switch has been turned on. Others times, it is a slow build and development with incremental growth. In either case, you need to stay outside or just at the end of your comfort zone. And as you do, you start becoming more of the person you aspire to be. The you that is based on your own expectations and not of the others around them.

I’ll be following this post with more details on the individual steps as I get questions and know where I need to add more clarity.

Try it for yourself!

There’s a lot more details, and thought that the high level approach would be helpful for some.

If you get stuck, you know how to reach me! Good luck!