In my consulting engagements, I am often asked by clients how best to advance their careers. My response is always the same: “It is like stacking cordwood—there is no secret to it—it just requires tireless hard work.” However, some fundamentals do exist. The following are my top ten.
#10: Credentials are the Ticket to the Dance
Obtaining the education and credentials required to be proficient in your chosen profession is very important. However, this is just the first step. That AA, EE, MBA, MD, PHD, etc. is just the admission to the club. You must get out on the floor and show your moves to win the dance. After you obtain the necessary credential, the hard work begins.
#9: Protect Your Boss from Surprises
You will inevitably make mistakes that put you, thus your boss, in a bad light. When these happen, make sure that your boss learns of them from you and not from their peers, or worse yet, their boss. This will 1) ensure your boss gets the complete story from your perspective, which will define the point of departure, and 2) position the boss to protect you and themselves when the issue rises to them.
#8: Support and Sell the Boss’ Position
Your job is to make your boss successful. This requires that you not only support, but also sell your boss’ position. If you can’t do this—for whatever reason—you need to fire your boss and go get a new one. To remain in a job that you can’t sell is a career killer. So you can execute this strategy without affecting your standard of life; always keep six months’ worth of after-tax pay available.
#7: Look Horizontally
If your boss is not moving up, look horizontally. Always keep your eyes open to opportunities throughout the organization and for the rising stars, then align yourself with them. Find a rising star and grab hold of them. That is, unless you are the rising star, then look for those in the organization that are smarter than you and convince them to join your team.
#6: Impress Your Boss’ Peers
Making your boss happy is necessary for being promoted, although it usually is not sufficient. In corporations, promotion committees will decide who is promoted and your boss will need to get the support of his or her peers to make this happen. If you have impressed them already, this will facilitate the support. Focus on making your internal customers—the boss’ peers—happy, and promotions will happen more readily.
#5: Give Employees the “How” Territory
As you move up the corporate ladder, you will want to move further away from the “how” and closer to the “what.” The motor that drives behavior always originates from within individuals and by giving your employees the “how” territory, their motor will drive harder toward mutual success.
#4: What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)
We all are motivated by what’s in it for us. Even when we give to charity or help others, we do so because it makes us feel good. This is basic human nature and the foundation of free enterprise. Thus, when negotiating the ins-and-outs of the corporate world, always look for the “WIIFM” for the other guy. This makes aligning goals much easier and results much more likely and robust.
#3: Never Question Motives; Always Concentrate on Behavior and Results
You never really know what is in someone else’s heart, but you can witness behavior and outcomes. When making decisions and taking actions, focus on the observed behaviors and ignore perceived motives. This will put you in much better stead than presuming you understand the underlying motor.
#2: Be Friendly and Never Be Negative
You have the ability to create the social reality that you want, and by being friendly and upbeat, the best of the best will want to be around you. Attract people to you by making life around you enjoyable and rewarding.
#1: Maintain Your Credibility
Decide what you stand for and remain committed to those values. Take hard stands when necessary and compromise when it makes sense, but do not lose your credibility. Remember the “Golden Rule” and live it every day. Without credibility, you won’t have trust; and without trust, you have nothing.
Dr. Greg Howes is the founding CEO of Treaty Consulting Group and the author of the smash hit book, Business Optimization: Six Steps to a Sustained Performance Culture. Find out more at TreatyConsulting.com