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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 April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

Reference

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