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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 January 13, 2020

7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

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Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

2. Get Enough Breaks

Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

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When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

4. Exercise Regularly

Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

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5. Get Enough of the Right Food

You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

6. Drink Enough Water

Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

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7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

The Bottom Line

Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

More to Boost Your Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

Reference

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