How to give your career growth a boost and unleash your resources

Every day I am learning something new, interesting, and helpful. My ambitious goals are unlimited. My main perspective and mentality is GlassHalfFull.

Investing in your career or personal growth has never been easy or straightforward, and I think many of us have faced the reality of limited resources (time, budget, head space, mentorship, etc.) when it comes to making this happen.

How many times have you heard a colleague, friend, or family member complain that they are: struggling with finding time to learn new things, lack motivation for picking up new training or certification, have too much on their plates, lack proper mentorship, etc.  

If you are in a comparable situation yourself then at least you know you are not alone 😉, and if you have never experienced it or at least heard it from someone else, then you are a lucky bastard! 😊 

An innovative approach to career growth

Two years ago, I started an experiment with a new technique to support my career and personal growth, and now two years later many former colleagues and employers, mentees, and friends have adopted it. 

Got your curiosity running already? 😉 Do not worry, I am going to tell you all about Ecocycle Planning (see the graphs below ♾) for career growth, and who knows, maybe you will find it interesting enough to apply it for yourself or the people you coach/mentor. 

Ecocycle is a technique from liberating structures that enables you to analyze your full portfolio of activities and relationships and identify obstacles and opportunities for progress            

When I first read about ecocycle planning, what inspired me to experiment with it for career growth is this: 

You can eliminate or mitigate common bottlenecks that stifle performance by sifting your group’s portfolio of activities, identifying which elements are starving for resources and which ones are rigid and hampering progress. The Ecocycle makes it possible to sift, prioritize, and plan actions with everyone involved in the activities at the same time, as opposed to the conventional way of doing it behind closed doors with a small group of people. Additionally, the Ecocycle helps everyone see the forest AND the trees—they see where their activities fit in the larger context with others. 

The four stages of growth 

Since we are talking about forests and trees, I am going to use nature as a metaphor to explain the ecocycle stages depicted in the visual below, and how I connected them to career/personal development. At Mews we really care about trees and the climate, which you can read more about here

The first thing you notice in the ecocycle is the infinity sign, which immediately brings to mind the idea of growth being a continuous loop and continuous investment or a never-ending cycle – the more motivation and energy you receive, the more you feel that you still want to add something to your backpack. 

The second thing is that growth and investment take place on the left, while mastering and renewal take place on the right. 

Ecocycle stages

  1. Gestation (sowing)

Here it is all about the seeds that still need to be planted. Think about ideas you have when it comes to your growth, wishes, activities that you are planning to do, feedback you got and how you want to implement it, and potential opportunities that can contribute to your career growth. Remember in this stage there are no resources invested yet. 

  1. Birth (tending) 

This is where you start seeing the first growth signs of the seeds you planted and investing resources (sun, water, fertilizer, etc.) to support that growth. Think about the courses you are following, certificates you are preparing for, reading books, discovering new tools, learning a new language, and other activities or actions that can contribute to your growth. Remember that you will always have limited resources (time, budget, mentorship, head space, etc.) so distribute them wisely

  1. Maturity (harvesting)

After investing in the seeds you planted and giving them love, care, and resources, it is time to harvest the results and see the value of what you worked hard for.  

Being in control, feeling independent, and the ability to teach and mentor are all signs or indicators of maturity. Remember that many people can fall into the trap of not letting go and overdoing things they have already mastered – you need to be wise and save resources for other potential growth opportunities

  1. Creative destruction (plowing) 

In nature, and especially forests, there is occasionally the need to remove some trees to make space for new ones to grow, especially if these trees will take up extra resources with little value in return.  

Think about a responsibility you have that is becoming an overhead, a hands-on experience that no one is expecting you to do anymore, a process or activity you founded and helped shape, but it is not you who needs to own or maintain it anymore. Remember that in your career/personal growth you need courage to make decisions or trigger the renewal cycle to take place. The sooner you make that decision, the more energy you can gain for the growth cycle to continue. 

After discussing the four stages, you might now be wondering about the two traps in the ecocycle. Do not worry, they are there for good reasons and they can also help a great deal when it comes to your career growth, so let us take a closer look at them. 

  • Poverty trap 

There is a good reason why this trap is on the left side of the ecocycle (remember this is the growth area). When working on your growth plan, you will face the reality of willingness versus availability of resources to support your growth. This can make you feel stuck or unable to move an action forward, even when you know it is a crucial one that can give your growth a boost. This trap is a trigger to make you realize that you need to free some resources from other areas or re-evaluate the items that are using up the resources you have. Remember: limiting the items/actions in progress (birth) will help you avoid falling into the poverty trap. 

  • Rigidity trap 

Yes! It is on the right side of the ecocycle where the renewal cycle takes place. Over engineering, overdoing, being a control freak, and energy drain are all symptoms of not letting go when you need to enable and create space for other items to begin. Think about a tool that is not delivering that much value, but you keep investing in learning it, a routine process that you keep following while the return of this investment on your growth is truly little, or even worse, it starts to burn your resources and block the start of new activities from the gestation or birth areas. Remember: the longer you take to act on this the more burden you will feel when it comes to pushing your growth forward. The most important things to consider here are the feedback you receive about possible ‘let go’ activities, delegation, or self-reflection. 

So, now you know and understand more about ecocycle planning, but putting it into practice and experimenting with it is what will help you get the most out of it. It is also important to mention that ecocycle planning is not a solution in and of itself for career or personal growth struggles and challenges. It is rather an enabler and a great ecosystem that can boost your growth and unleash the resources you have, helping you use them wisely while keeping a balance between new things to learn and things you have mastered.  

Rasheed is Mews’ only Agile coach right now…

Great chance for you to be here before Agile was mainstream! 😅

From theory to practice

I have been teaching and applying this approach for the last two years, working with developers, leaders, new graduates, trainers, and other roles in different companies. Here are some useful tips and fun facts from the field that can help you if you are next! 

Tips & recommendations 

  • To start the ecocycle, first focus on a goal that you would like to achieve as part of your growth (e.g.: becoming a mid-level or senior in your role, switching from a developer to an architect, becoming a speaker, authoring a book, etc.). 
  • Once the goal is identified, create a numbered list of activities (ideas, wishes, actions, opportunities) that will contribute to, or that you are already working on, to reach your goal. 
  • Based on your own judgement, distribute these numbers to the ecocycle stages and traps based on where you think each one fits best (be brutally honest here). 
  • Find a mentor from your colleagues, friends, or others who can best help you with your ecocycle (ideally, your mentor will have different personality traits/qualities to yours). 
  • Involve your manager/leader as a stakeholder in this process. 
  • Prioritize the numbered list together with your mentor and leader. 
  • Schedule a monthly review with your mentor and manager to check previous actions and the impact they had on your ecocycle, as well as identify new actions to work on. 
  • Invest in visualizing the ecocycle using colors, categories, and styling. 

Fun facts from the field 

  • A couple of people who started ecocycle for career growth printed it and hung it above their beds. 
  • Frontend developers were the most creative in how they visualized their ecocycle, using styling and color coding.
  • Some people were too humble by not placing items in the maturity stage, they always said they still had something to learn there. 
  • Very few people placed something in the rigidity trap, while they found it easy to do so under the poverty trap. 
  • Roles that had leading/managing responsibilities ended up needing creative destruction the most. 

© Featured image by Natalia Bubochkina.

Every day I am learning something new, interesting, and helpful. My ambitious goals are unlimited. My main perspective and mentality is GlassHalfFull.
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