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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

More by this author

Malachi Thompson

Leadership & Performance Edge Strategist

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

How to Improve Memory: 7 Natural (and Highly Effective) Ways

Memory plays an integral role in our lives, both in the short and long term. If you’re wondering how to improve memory, I’m here to tell you that there are natural and effective ways to do so.

Despite what you might think, improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it.

Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve memory efficiently and reduce the risk of memory loss.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts, and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. Research suggests that the more information and distractions you receive, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory[1].

Fortunately, meditation can help.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

While any amount of meditation will do something to help your memory, one study pointed out that “8 but not 4 weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores”[2].

Therefore, if you’re looking for the most benefits, try sticking with a meditation practice for at least 8 weeks.

However, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get Plenty of Sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then it’s likely that you’re not able to remember well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities, including your memory.

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If you want to learn how to improve memory, how much sleep should you be getting?

Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation[3], you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things[4].

If you want to improve memory, get plenty of sleep.

    Maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!), but if you care about improving your long and short term memory, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

    Try these three things to naturally improve your sleep cycle:

    • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
    • Don’t eat too late
    • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

    Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

    However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory.

    3. Challenge Your Brain

    When was the last time you challenged your brain?

    I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or under-sleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and memory games.

    To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

    Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-solving ability, and memory.

    There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

    • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
    • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

    If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

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    Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it; try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

    4. Take More Breaks

    When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctly remember working all the hours under the sun—and many under the moon, too!

    At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat, and tears.

    However, if you want to know how to improve memory, taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative, and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

    Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

    One 2011 study from the University of Illinois concluded that “the brain is built to detect and respond to change…and prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”[5].

    This is based on something called the “vigilance decrement.” This can be applied to many things. For example, we often don’t notice the feeling of clothing touch our bodies because our brain becomes accustomed to the sensation. However, if you change clothes, you’ll likely notice the difference in texture and temperature for a few minutes.

    When you take a break from memorizing information, it refocuses your attention and energy, leading to increased focus overall.

    It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart, and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

    Basically, make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

    5. Learn a New Skill

    I love this quote, as it’s 100% true but frequently overlooked:

    “Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci

    From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

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    Let me give you an example of this:

    Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day, many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

    Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

    The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you rather than letting you work in your own way.

    Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction into learning a new skill (computer coding).

    It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career, and the ongoing learning made the call center job much more bearable.

    Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus, and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking out new information. When learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly becomes a habit, too.

    If you want to know how to learn something new every day, check out this article.

    6. Start Working out

    If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

    Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory[6].

    Regular physical activities increase blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. A well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

    Even if you don’t have much time, research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines[7].

    Interested in getting started?

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    Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

    • Join a gym
    • Join a sports team
    • Buy a bike
    • Take up hiking
    • Dance to your favorite music

    7. Eat Healthier Foods

    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

    This applies to your brain, too.

    The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health, as well.

    Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery, and dark chocolate. But any fruits, vegetables, or foods high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory. Here’re some ideas: 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

    Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain, leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

    If you want to improve your mental health, eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

    • Turmeric – Helps new brain cells grown
    • Broccoli – Protects the brain against damage
    • Nuts – Improves memory
    • Green tea – Enhances brain performance, memory and focus[8]
    • Fish oilFish oil supplements can increase your brain power

    Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

    Also, remember that your brain is about 75% water, so dehydration can have a huge effect on the way your brain functions. Stay hydrated if you really want to improve memory!

    Final Thoughts

    I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be helpful for you.

    You don’t need to implement them all, but you can try out the ones that appeal to you.

    But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory and avoiding cognitive decline, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested.

    More on How to Improve Memory

    Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

    Reference

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