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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

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Malachi Thompson

Leadership & Performance Edge Strategist

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Last Updated on November 3, 2020

How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

It takes being productive to get things done correctly and on time. So how do you know which tasks are essential and which can wait? The answer is in the Prioritization Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix.

The matrix took its name after Dwight David Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a general in the US army and the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. As a five-star general and a Supreme Commander in the US Army, he drafted the strategy for an Allied invasion of Europe.[1]

Eisenhower had to make tough decisions every time about which tasks to prioritize out of many he needed to focus on daily. So, he came up with the famous Eisenhower Matrix, or the Prioritization Matrix.

What Is the Prioritization Matrix?

The Prioritization Matrix is a tool for rating your tasks based on urgency. It helps you know the critical activities and those tasks that you should bypass and can be useful in project management, small businesses, or personal tasks.

Eisenhower famously said of the matrix:

“Most tasks that are urgent are not important, and most tasks that are important are not urgent.”

This quote became the maxim for Eisenhower in managing his time.

There are four quadrants in the Prioritization Matrix, which help in comparing choices of what to do first and last, allowing you to prioritize projects and create strategic plan[2].

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Eisenhower Matrix Template

    The quadrants are:

    • Do
    • Schedule
    • Delegate
    • Eliminate

    Do

    Do is the first quadrant in the Prioritization Matrix, and it incorporates important activities. That is, those tasks you need to carry out urgently — crises, deadlines, and issues that need your urgent attention and are highly relevant to your life mission.

    Hw do you know which task falls into this quadrant?

    Start by analyzing your priorities, and then establish if it falls within the ‘do it now’ criteria. If the task is achievable within a day, or within 24 to 48 hours, it’s urgent.

    Another approach you can adopt in prioritizing tasks in this category is to adopt the “eat the frog” principle by Mark Twain. This principle recommends that you do the most urgent activities as soon as you wake up.

    Here’s a practical example.

    Let’s say you need to draft a content strategy and submit a report to your manager. It’s Saturday, and the deadline for submission is Monday. Can we say the activity is urgent? Definitely!

    Schedule

    The second quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Schedule. The Prioritization Matrix classifies tasks in this category as important but not that urgent.

    They are long-term objectives and tasks with no immediate deadline. Those tasks could include meditation, journaling, studying, family time, and exercising.

    You can plan out activities in this quadrant for some other period. For instance, you should exercise for good health, but you can allocate time to do it.

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    Schedule these activities in such a way that they don’t transfer to the “Do” or “Urgent” quadrant. Ensure you have sufficient time to carry them out.

    Delegate

    The third quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Delegate.

    These tasks are not important to you but are quite urgent for others. This is where teamwork comes into play.

    You can technically perform tasks in this category, but it makes sense to delegate them. Delegating tasks will ensure you have more time to pursue activities in your first two quadrants.

    You should also monitor the tasks you have delegated. It will only amount to a sheer waste of time if you don’t have a tracking system for delegated tasks.

    Eliminate

    The last quadrant highlights your productivity killers. They are tasks that are not important to your goals and not urgent. The only way to boost your productivity is to eliminate them.

    Some examples are constantly checking your phone, watching movies, or playing video games.

    They could also be bad habits that you need to identify and delete from your daily and weekly schedule.

    Successful people have learned how to prioritize and stick to what’s important. They have learned to find a better person for a task or eliminate less significant tasks.

    Let’s consider two inspiring personalities that have designed their prioritization system.

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    Warren Buffet developed a two-list prioritization model to determine which task deserves his best attention. The bottom line is bypassing things that are important and useful but not top of the priorities.

    Mark Ford, a business advisor, marketer, self-made millionaire, and author devised his strategy:

    “Start work on the most crucial priority, take a break, work on the second most important task, take a break, then sort out the less important activities and any tasks he received from other individuals by afternoon.” [3]

    How to Use The Prioritization Matrix

    Using the Prioritization Matrix can be tricky if you’re new at it, but by following a few simple steps, you can learn to utilize it in the best way possible.

    1. List and Rank Your Priorities

    Highlight all the tasks you need to carry out in a day. Then, classify them with weighted criteria based on urgency and importance.

    Identify any activity that requires prompt action. I’m referring to a task that if you don’t complete that day, it could produce a grave consequence. For instance, if you don’t submit your content strategy, other content writers cannot work. It means you need to check for high-priority dependencies.

    2. Define the Value

    The next step is to examine the importance and assess which of them impacts your business or organization the most. As a rule of thumb, you can check which tasks possess higher priority over others. For instance, you need to attend to client’s requirements before you take care of any internal work.

    You can also estimate value by examining how the task impacts the people and customers in the organization. In a nutshell, the more impact a task has on people or the organization, the higher the priority.

    3. Take out the Most Challenging Task

    Procrastination is not a symptom of laziness, but avoidance is. The truth is that you will typically avoid tasks you don’t want to do. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, once said he would take out the most dreaded task first thing when he got to the office.

    Brian Tracy called these tasks the frogs you need to eat. That will remove the nagging dread, which mounts pressure on you when you postpone necessary tasks[4]. This is where the Prioritization Matrix can help; eat the “Do” frogs immediately.

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    If you need help overcoming procrastination, check out this article.

    4. Know What’s Important to You

    As long as you are in this cosmos, you will always encounter different choices that may be contradictory to your goals. For instance, a fantastic promotion that requires excessive travel will isolate you from important relationships. If you are not priority-conscious, you may accept it, even though your family is your priority.

    Therefore, it makes sense to identify what is important to you and to prepare yourself not to compromise those important things for immediate pleasure or gain.

    Yogi Berra captioned it this way:

    “If you do not know your destination, you might end up somewhere else.”

    5. Establish Regular “No Work” Time

    YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki established a rule not to check her emails between 6 pm and 9 pm. According to a CNN Business report, she was the first woman to request maternity leave when Google just got started. She prioritizes dinner time with her family despite being the CEO of YouTube[5].

    Is it possible to cut out time for our relationships and interests outside of work?

    Of course, and that’s why you need to set out your “no work” time. This approach will enable you to renew your energy levels for the next task. Also, you will be in the best position to introspect as you are not in your usual work zone.

    6. Know When to Stop

    You can achieve everything on your list sometimes. After you have prioritized your workload and assessed your estimates, remove the remaining tasks from your priority list and focus on your most urgent and important tasks.

    Conclusion

    It’s not enough to be successful at work. Ensure you make out time for your family and an important relationship in your life.

    Getting started and finding time may be tricky, but with some practice using the Prioritization Matrix, you’ll find that you are more productive and better able to divide your time between the things that are important to you.

    More Tips on Prioritizing

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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