With the clear disclaimer that there are no magic formulas, silver bullets or guaranteed fast-track approaches to success in the workplace, there are a number of critical steps you can take to accelerate progress and improve your odds.
4 Key Skills You Must Develop to Succeed in Today’s Workplace:
1. Learn to See Yourself as Others See You.
Short of having a genuine out-of-body experience, learning to see yourself as others see you is a challenging task. Our own view to our strengths and weaknesses is often pretty inaccurate, based in large part on the fact that we’re human and open to a huge number of cognitive biases.
Overcoming our own self-perception biases requires good outside help. I encourage emerging leaders to cultivate a feedback group comprised of other motivated professionals interested in gaining and giving input on performance and perception. While the recruitment of your 3-5 person group is not easy, a good (dare I say it) support group is a priceless source of frank feedback and idea exchange.
Define a group charter, ensure everyone is comfortable speaking openly about perceptions, and hold people accountable for input…as well as for actions. Politically motivated members and social loafers should be quickly benched in favor of others genuinely interested in giving and gaining.
2. Cultivate Your Social Intelligence and Skills
Learning to assess and respond appropriately to the situation at hand is a core component of projecting your professional presence and building your brand. While this sounds a lot like playing politics…and it may be, it is at least being smart about how you participate. No one’s asking you to nod your head blindly…or, to compromise your morals. I am indicating that you should be smart enough and self-aware enough to adapt your style and approach to the situation. Make your point, but make it with grace and courtesy.
The inability to assess and respond appropriately in varying situations is a derailment factor for too many. We all know the person who never passes up an opportunity to stand-up and standout, often in an obnoxious and off-putting approach. You can be zealous in pursuit of your agenda, with out being a martyr.
3. Become a Network Connector
Think in terms of organizational and industry ecosystems, not departments and functions. The better you are at building connections across the broader ecosystem, the more likely you are to gain access to unique information and insight to top talent. A well-developed network where you constantly strive to connect parties (in contrast to just linking yourself into disparate groups), the better the opportunity to help others create value and for you to gain opportunities in the process.
4. Learn to Lead both Vertically and Horizontally
The most successful leaders understand that theirs isn’t just a downward facing challenge. Effective leaders apply the tools in 1-3 above and cultivate their power and influence across organizations. They learn to involve others in pursuit of vexing organizational problems and improvements, and importantly, they learn how to make heroes out of others.
Managing upwards is one of the more important and in my experience, one of the most under-pursued critical professional activities of all. And sucking up to the boss, brown-nosing and generally serving as a brainless follower are not the same as properly managing upwards.
Proper boss management requires you to invest in understanding the boss’s priorities, communication and decision-making styles and preferences. Once you’ve gained some insights in these areas, you are accountable for both providing support for the boss’s agenda, and for adapting your behaviors to better align with his/her approaches. Remember, someone chooses you to be successful, and the boss usually gets a big vote.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Self-development….it’s hard work. It’s also a full contact sport. Engage or expect to be left behind.
Art Petty coaches and trains emerging leaders and consults with B2B firms on strategy and marketing. You can reach Art via e-mail to discuss your needs for coaching, speaking or consulting,