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Published on March 18, 2019

8 Critical Skills for Workplace Success and Career Advancement

8 Critical Skills for Workplace Success and Career Advancement

When it comes to advancing your career progress as an employee and/or business owner, there are key skills without which you’re going to hit an extremely frustrating plateau.

Whilst these skills will all help you achieve greater workplace success, what’s more important is determining which ones are most apt for you to start addressing depending upon where you are along your current journey.

1. The Ability to Persuade and Influence

To accelerate your workplace success, you need to surpass basic rapport building strategies.

Greek philosopher Aristotle coined three terms – pathos, ethos and logos – systems of communicating which connect to our consciousness through different gateways.

Each way serves as a powerful way to influence and persuade those you need to build strong relationships with to advance your career:

Pathos

Some people are inspired to respond because they were able to feel certain emotions. It’s not just about your ability to make people feel good.

It’s about using words, examples and stories which elicit the right emotion which drives them to behave in ways that serve you and/or them. You speak to their heart.

Ethos

If certain people who can help you advance give high respect to achievements, status and authority, don’t be afraid to flash the results you have achieved or mention you graduated from an Ivy League school.

Doors often open because of our professional associations, memberships and career certifications. Use them to your advantage.

Logos

Learn to be good at formulating your case based on evidence and research, and you’re likely to win the argument with who make decisions based on this foundation. Use logic and be prepared to speak in facts, numbers and figures.

Spend time learning the native language of the person whose support or trust you need, and their know-like-trust barometer reading of you will spike.

2. Improving Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is about recognizing your emotions and those of others around you.

The greater the capacity you have to attune to how your emotions drive your behavior, and that of those you lead and work with, the faster you’ll travel down the track for workplace success.

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President of Talentsmart Dr. Travis Bradberry explains how undertaking a 360 degrees to gain feedback from your peers, subordinates and up-line managers are the best measure of knowing where you stand as an effective leader and colleague.

Even though you may have strong self-awareness and a thirst for improving yourself, you will never be able to see your world through others’ eyes. Taking this test gifts you the opportunity to see through other’s lenses and learn where you are effective and where you are not.

Regardless of how high a rung you stand on the leadership ladder, undertaking 360° feedback surveys should be a regular occurrence. You may have far greater decision-making power and authority, but the fact remains you need to effectively lead people.

Your powers of persuasion and influence can always benefit from intelligence gained from the very tribe you’re in charge of. The natural consequence is you have ample opportunities to keep on learning how to become a powerful influencer.

What if you don’t lead people in any official capacity but are aspiring to? You can put yourself ahead of the pack by doing some self-discovery homework and undertake an EI test yourself .

You have to improve your self-awareness and that should encompass taking deliberate steps to see the world through other peoples’ eyes. Social awareness diminishes as you progress up the leadership ladder but high EQ leaders are socially aware and prime the awareness of the organization.

3. Transformational Conflict Management and Negotiation Skills

When you can mediate two or more feuding parties to achieve a workable resolve, you become an irreplaceable commodity with greater bargaining power.

Whether you’re one of the disagreeing parties or not, doing the following background checks before initiating invitations to start resolution-focused discussions will greatly improve your chances of a successful outcome where there’s conflict:

  • Learn the details and facts of the argument each party supports
  • Gather further information from each party to learn the perspective and personal values driving their argument

Now, set the time-frame and framework for the negotiation process.

Transparently direct and communicate that equal space and time will be given for each party to gather their facts, figures and perspectives. It’s also mandatory each party knows they will be listened to and respected. Empathetic recognition of each other’s positions and perspectives is an essential stage in the negotiation process.

Invite each party to come together to mediate but dictate boundaries as to the conduct of communication. Illustrate how the rules are to everyone’s benefit.

State how and when each party communicates with another and designate a chair to ensure the exchange stays on course. Disallow any room for personal attacks, criticism, opinions and judgments.

Make part of the negotiation process an educational opportunity which sets precedent for how those parties will communicate when future disagreements arrive. Emphasize how it’s in their best interests to conduct themselves differently going forward, so they can be empowered to manage future conflict themselves.

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Before long, you can take their training wheels away and look for yourself, to the next hurdle in your pursuit of career advancement.

Learn more about negotiation skills in this article:

How to Negotiate Skilfully to Get What You Want All the Time

4. Determine Your Career Satisfaction from an Internal Locus of Control

When you are emotionally and mentally aligned to the work contribution you are making, success will come smoother and faster. This means not just looking for roles which match the tangible aesthetic aspects (i.e. money, perks, location).

With any new opportunities, we’re forced to naturally develop new skills and knowledge from the change itself. However, when you consciously look for intangible qualities that connect with what makes you feel content, satisfied and feeling a sense of knowing you’re heading in the right direction, it will be easier to stay the path.

You’ll better know what to say yes to and what to say no to. You’ll be better able to swat away distractions and time wasting opportunities and people.

Ask yourself every day if where you feel you’re heading feels right. When you do, you’re much more likely to stay on course and take the shortest and smartest route toward your career goals.

5. Become Adept at Addressing Workplace Stress and Increasing Resilience

This should hold true for both you and your people.

The World Health Organization recognizes depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide[1] and incidences of mental health conditions in entrepreneurs[2] and senior managers are being increasingly being documented. So if you think you can – or should – burn the candle at both ends to advance your career success, you need to think again.

To guarantee workplace success means being intelligent about how you protect and manage your mental and emotional health. Avoid operating by default and trying to claw your way back from a tumble you could have avoided in the first place. Proactively work with a psychologist or therapist to learn what your alarm bells, warning signs and thresholds are.

When you’ve recognized these, develop action-ready plans for when the alarm bells start ringing. Regularly engage in practical programs which build yours and your people’s resilience. Discuss and share your experiences with them.

Prevention is always better than cure so if you’re a manager, drive a culture which promotes proactive self-monitoring and focuses on educating and supporting your people to develop optimal mental health.

With your leading by example, it will be difficult for them not to be inspired to follow suit and you’ll transform the lives of your people in more ways than you can imagine.

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6. Develop a Commercial Attitude

As your career progresses, being an inspiring leader is essential. Even more important, however, is being one which drives performance and gets results. It will not be enough to develop positive, cohesive teams of people who support each other yet cannot perform.

If you’re moving up through the ranks but don’t have a head for figures, shy away from monitoring results and reporting returns on investment, your leadership tenure will be short or you’re going to hit a progression plateau. It’s time to invest in professional development which develops and exercises your commercial mindset.

Don’t just read about concepts which advance you as a people manager. Look for research, interactive applied programs and courses which force you to look at economical impacts of decisions and activities you make in your current role.

When you can exercise and demonstrate, you can swiftly switch between different mindsets, you’ll not only become more attuned to self-assess the quality and quantity of your output, you’ll become a well-known hot commodity in the marketplace.

You’ll demonstrate a scope of thinking beyond your own individual sphere. When decision-makers higher up can see this, you’ll be invited to step up.

7. Delegate and Let Go of ‘Doing the Doing’

One of the biggest struggles solopreneurs and developing managers face is handling the transition of stepping out from doing hands-on activities. You’re no longer the marionette; you’re the puppeteer.

Your role scope and activities widen and increase in complexity but, you’re not letting go of things that you probably should start letting go of.

When you’ve established, there are people who can help you (in fact it is their role to do so) develop an inventory of things you can begin to let go of.

Letting go might be a gradual process. If you have felt purposeful and good doing those tasks and activities in the first place, severing yourself from the satisfaction you got from doing them can difficult. However, you free up energy and space to develop greater competence in other ways that will advance your career.

Start with things you know are meant to be delegated. Practice trusting others. Practice gratitude for their stepping up. Bit by bit, test yourself and test others reliability.

Gradually delegate more and more. As you do, your team gets to feel more valuable as contributors. As you let go of some of your hands-on tasks, you allow your people to widen their skills. Everyone wins.

Find delegating challenging? This guide can help you:

The Careful Art of Delegation

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8. Be Prepared to Clean, Complement, Then Create

According to board intelligence solutions provider Equilar the average CEO tenure in S&P 500 companies in 2017 was approximately 7.2 years, with a median tenure being approximately five years.[3] C-suite tenures of 15 years plus have fast become a thing of the past. That means less time to get up to speed, implement changes and prove your worth.

Outside hires have been shown to take twice as long to get up to speed.[4] Therefore, if you’re hired from outside and your average life expectancy is approximately seven years, you need to set expectations to hit performance targets in 3.5 years to keep your skin in the executive leadership game.

If you’re only now just charging out of the gate to make conscious choices to advance your career, having an accelerated-pace mindset is only going to work in your favor.

However, don’t presume this includes being promoted or gifted a pay rise upon passing your probation. Along with more challenging and rewarding workplace, challenges often come unexpected and undesirable complexities.

Expect that there might be some mop jobs where you might need to get your hands dirty. Think toxic colleagues, errors and underperforming systems and process, bad management practices. You will initially need to invest time in getting to know challenges from a hands-on perspective.

If you’re the new kid on the block, know it takes time to become familiar with people. You must also give them space and opportunity to get to know you.

In any new career step, seek to understand first….then, get your skates on.

Set yourself some goals for quick wins which don’t only increase your likeability but actually achieve noticeable results:

  • Build relationships with key people who have influence and decision-making power
  • Showcase your competence and performance within your role
  • Support others to achieve their work goals without stepping on toes and without sacrificing meeting your own first
  • Be prepared to step in and help out where system and process malfunctions (and relationships) need cleaning up but tread tentatively and carefully

Be mindful that the bull in a china shop approach to changing the status quo may not fare well when you’ve just commenced a new role or posting. Unless you were specifically hired to do this, take care to tentatively ask for permission to contribute your million-dollar ideas and strokes of genius.

Only when you’re a clear social complement to the team do you gain a license to sit at the knight’s round table, and share your ideas that could transform the business.

The Bottom Line

Whether you pick one or five of these critical skills as your focus of attention, you’re going to be on track to open far more doors of opportunity than you might have originally thought possible.

So, how did you fare and what did you choose? Are you ready to get to work?

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] World Health Organization: Depression
[2] Michael Freeman MD: Are Entrepreneurs “Touched with Fire”?
[3] Equilar: CEO Tenure Drops to Just Five Years
[4] Harvard Business Review: For Senior Leaders, Fit Matters More than Skill

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Malachi Thompson

Executive Leadership and Performance Consultant

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How Long Does It Take to Break a Habit? Science Will Tell You

How Long Does It Take to Break a Habit? Science Will Tell You

Habits arise through a process of triggering, actions, and rewards.[1] A circumstance triggers an action. When you get a reward from the action, you continue to do that.

If you aren’t intentional about actions and rewards, you’ll develop bad habits. These lead to self-sabotage, failure, and poor health. On the other hand, good habits enable health, happiness, and dream-fulfillment.

So how long does it take to break a habit? Some say 21 days, some say approximately a month. What is the real answer?

How long it takes to break a habit

There’s no magic number of repetitions that’ll get you to internalize the habits you want. Researchers have proposed several different ways of understanding habit formation.

The 21-day rule (or myth)

One of the earliest and most popular pieces of literature on the subject is Psycho-Cybernetics (1960) by Maxwell Maltz. Dr. Maltz who was a plastic surgeon wanted to understand how people viewed themselves. In particular, he was curious about how long it took for patients to get used to changes he made during surgery.

Based on observing his patients and reflecting on his own habits, he determined that it took at least 21 days for people to adjust. He used this information as the basis for many “prescriptions” in his self-help oriented Psycho-Cybernetics.[2]

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Since then, self-help gurus have latched onto the idea of taking 21-days to change habits. People began to forget that he said ‘a minimum of about 21 days’ instead of ‘it takes 21 days to form a new habit.’

Give yourself a month?

Another popular belief in self-help culture states that habits take 28 to 30 days to form.

One proponent of this rule, Jon Rhodes, suggests:[3]

“You must live consciously for 4 weeks, deliberately focusing on the changes that you wish to make. After the 4 weeks are up, only a little effort should be needed to sustain it.”

This was a generally agreed-upon figure, but the 21-day rule popularized by readers of Maltz was more appealing to many people because it was easy to understand, and it was faster than the general 28-30 rule.

If you want to know more about the myths of how long it takes to break a habit, check out this video:

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The time-frame for changing habits varies?

While the 21 and 28-day rules appeal to our desire to change quickly, a 2009 study from University College London suggests that the window for change can be much wider. The research, published in The European Journal of Social Psychology, followed habit-formation in 96 people over a 12-week period.

The UCL study looked at automaticity, which is how quickly people engaged in the actions they wanted to turn into habits. Researchers explained:[4]

As behaviours are repeated in consistent settings they then begin to proceed more efficiently and with less thought as control of the behaviour transfers to cues in the environment that activate an automatic response: a habit.

The amount of time that it took for actions to become habits varied. Participants anywhere between 18 and 254 days to form a habit. The average number of days needed to achieve automaticity was 76 days.

Make habits to break habits

Understanding the connection between forming new habits and getting rid of old ones makes the process easier.

Dr. Elliot Berkman, Director, Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, states:[5]

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“It’s easier to start doing something new than to stop doing something habitual without a replacement behavior.”

Quitting something cold-turkey is tough because you’ve wired yourself to want to do it. For example, quitting smoking is challenging beyond a physical nicotine addiction. The ritual of how a person prepares to smoke is another aspect that makes it hard to quit. In order to do away with this bad habit, the person needs to find something to fill the void left by the smoking ritual. The same goes for quitting drinking.

Look beyond time

There’s such a wide range in the amount of time it can take for someone to turn an action into a habit. That’s because time isn’t the only factor you have to think about when it comes to changing behaviors. Dr. Thomas Plante, Director, Spirituality & Health Institute, Psychology Department, Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine explains:

“One important issue is how strongly do you really want to break the habit in question. Second, how established is the problem habit? It is easier to break a new habit than an old one. Third, what are the consequences of not breaking the habit?”

It’s one thing to make a generic goal to exercise more, but if you thoroughly enjoy being a couch potato, it’s going to be harder to get into the exercise habit. If you’ve had a bad habit for a long time, it’s much harder to ditch it because you’ve had more repetitions of that behavior.

If exercising more won’t do much to change your life, you might find it tough to be active. On the other hand, if your doctor tells you that you won’t live to see your child’s 18th birthday unless you start moving, you have more incentive to change.

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Plante also notes that people who tend to be obsessive and those who struggle with addiction may have a harder time breaking habits than the average person.

Set aside time to change

The most powerful changes don’t happen overnight, and they probably won’t happen in 21 days. Set aside at least two months to change, but understand that altering habits is different for everyone. If you’ve had the habit for a long time, or you have to break an addiction or obsession, you may need more time.

We all make changes at different speeds based on lots of variables. The intention behind your actions, your ability to interrupt negative patterns, and the possible consequences of changing (or not changing) can also affect the time it takes adjust your habits.

Regardless of how long it takes, tackling bad habits and replacing them with good ones is essential for you to live your best life. Bad habits can keep you from achieving your full potential. They can make you sick, unproductive, and unhappy. The worst habits can even cost you your relationships and your life. Good habits set you up for success all-around.

Your health and wellness, your ability to connect with others, and your ability to live out your dreams start with good habits. If you’re ready to make changes, learn more about breaking bad habits by checking out How to Program Your Mind to Kick the Bad Habit

Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

Reference

[1] Habits for Wellbeing: What is a habit, how do they work, and how can I change them?
[2] Maxwell Maltz: The New Psycho Cybernetics
[3] Selfgrowth.com: Change a habit in 28 days
[4] European Journal of Social Psychology: How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world
[5] Hopes and Fears: How long does it really take to break a habit?

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