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Published on March 16, 2021

How To Excel At Work And Achieve Career Success

How To Excel At Work And Achieve Career Success
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I was a teacher, coach, and education administrator for 44 years to 10 years at the high school level and 34 at the collegiate level. I also organized and directed basketball camps and clinics throughout America and in 4 European countries.

I was privileged to work with a good number of people who excelled at work which led them to successful careers.

So, how to excel at work and achieve career success?

Through the years, I observed 6 characteristics that I thought led to excellence in the workplace.

1. Humility

The most successful people I worked with were humble from their first through their last day at work. I found that people who made it to the very top of their professions in business, education, law, or medicine were humble people.

Incongruously, people who were trying to excel but had not reached the top were the arrogant, egotistical ones. This seemed to be a recurrent occurrence.

For its 75th anniversary, Fortune Magazine dedicated the entire publication to one concept – decision making. They interviewed leaders from the business, military, education, and political worlds.

I thought the most insightful interview was with Jim Collins, author of Good to Great. His comment was that the most important decisions made in the last 25 years in American boardrooms, regardless of the business, all began with the leaders saying the same 3 words, “I don’t know.”

I have worked with leaders who knew. In fact, to say I worked “with” them is a misnomer. Nobody could work “with” them because they already had all the answers.

I also worked with leaders who, when tough decisions had to be made, called in their principal people. They were not afraid to say, “I don’t know how we should handle this issue, but let’s put our heads together and find the best solution.”

I found these humble leaders to be the most secure and strongest leaders I ever worked with.

John Wooden, the iconic UCLA basketball coach, summed up humility when he wrote:[1]

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Talent is God-given, be humble. Fame is man-given, be thankful. But conceit is self-given, be careful.

2. Caring

People who excel at work care about their fellow workers.

Our basketball players at the University of St. Francis used to demonstrate for the coaches who spoke at the Chicago Nike clinics. They had to demonstrate for Indiana coach, Bob Knight, on a Saturday. They had to be nervous because Coach Knight had the reputation of being tough on players and because there were 800 coaches at the clinic.

The very first drill Coach gave our players was a disaster. Our guys totally messed it up. The coaches laughed.

Coach Knight went right over to the coaches and said, “These kids left campus at 6am to help me teach you. So, here is what we’re going to do.”

“If I hear anymore laughing, I’m going to pick 10 of you guys to demonstrate and the kids are going to sit in the first row and laugh at you.”

You never heard 800 coaches get so quiet so quickly!

Bob Knight showed he cared about our players and they were excited to work with him for the rest of the clinic.

People who care, show up. I worked with a great coach at Providence High School named Bob McAlpin. When Bob died, I naturally went to his wake. While there, our St. Francis president, Dr. Jack Orr, came into the room. I was surprised Jack was there because I knew he never met Bob. However, Bob’s daughter, Terri, was a student at St. Francis and Jack cared about her.

Successful people care.

3. Extra Mile

Successful people always do more than is expected of them.

When problems arise, people who excel at work do whatever it takes to resolve the issue. They do not have to be asked; they are always ready to go the extra mile.

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My fellow coach and great friend, Jack Hermanski, worked with Special Education students. He was a “traveling” teacher who worked with students at ten different schools within his district.

Like many school districts, budgets were minimal in Jack’s district. Jack was totally committed to teaching his students and refused to let budgets impede his serving his kids.

Having to travel daily from school to school, Jack kept all his equipment in his truck. But there was something different about the equipment in Jack’s truck. He bought all of it!

Jack went the extra mile to provide his students with the best educational experience possible.

When I worked at Providence High School, Father Roger Kaffer, who later became a Bishop, came to us as our new principal. He came at a precarious time. The year prior to his coming a diocesan committee had voted to close Providence due to low enrollment and financial problems. The Bishop at the time, Romeo Blanchette, after much urging from the Providence community, vetoed the committee and named Father Kaffer as principal.

If Providence was going to remain open, we had to increase our enrollment. Father did two things to enhance enrollment – one to attract new students and one to retain the students who came to us.

The first plan was to visit every parish school in a 20 mile radius of Providence. Scheduling these meetings in the evening, we met with the parish pastor, the principal, and the 8th grade teacher and shared the benefits of a Providence education with them. These visits definitively attracted more students to our school.

Secondly, Father did something I have never seen a principal do before or since. Throughout the school year, he visited the home of every new student who came to Providence. He continued with these visits every year he was principal. They were very instrumental in our student retention rate.

Providence went from near closure to becoming the outstanding school it is today because of one man who went the extra mile.

4. Listening

I am convinced the skill of listening can never be overemphasized. We have numerous classes in speaking in our college courses; but I believe a mandatory class in LISTENING within the General Education requirements would be of more benefit to the students.

Rather than giving you my perspectives on listening, let me share the wisdom of some Thought Leaders on listening:

  • “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” Bryant H. McGill
  • “Listening is one of the loudest forms of kindness.” Anonymous
  • “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” Bernard Beruch
  • “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill
  • “God gave us a mouth that closes and ears that don’t. That must tell us something.” Anonymous
  • “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen Covey
  • “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I am going to learn, I must do it by listening.” Larry King
  • “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do something else at the same time.” Scott Peck
  • I never thought of this before. Have you? “The word listen has the same letters as silent.” Alfred Brendel

People who excel at work have developed the skill of listening. They have paid attention to Will Rogers advice:

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“Never pass up an opportunity to just shut up.”

5. Continuous Learning

“The mind is like a parachute. It works best when open.” Frank Zappa

Much like listening, knowledge leads to respect. Whatever your profession, you must work hard to learn all you can about it. Once you have the knowledge that is great; but it’s not enough.

You must, like the parachute, keep your mind open; you must continue to learn for the rest of your life. In my coaching career, it was not a sometime thing to find another coach teaching a skill or a strategy better than me. It was quite often.

As far back as the 1960’s, I believed in weight-lifting for basketball players. This practice may have been the only time I was ahead of the proverbial curve!

We lifted two days a week during the season. We were lifting for strength – trying to ready our players for the physicality of the games.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with the Chicago Bulls strength training coaches. Like everyone else, they lifted for strength, but they took it one step further.

They also lifted for athleticism. They showed us some lifts that not only enhanced strength but also improved quickness. We kept an open mind and changed some of our weight training exercises.

We also made a change in our drills that we learned from Coach Bob Gillespie of Ripon College. He taught us the value of One Minute Drills.

We always believed this adage: Repetition is the Mother of Learning. The only way you master a physical skill is through hours of repetition. Bob’s teaching led us to ascertain the main points of emphasis for each of the fundamentals we taught.

We then developed One Minute Drills for each fundamental – drills that could be executed in a short period of time. This enabled us to repeat the fundamentals more often in practice which enhanced the muscle memory of our players.

We made other changes as we were continuously learning from our peers in coaching.

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Would there be merit for you to study your fundamentals, your principles? Could you find ways to teach them better and emphasize your primary points with less verbiage?

6. Consistency of Effort

I used to think effort was the key to athletic success. I no longer believe this for athletics or any profession. I believe the difference between good and great in any endeavor is Consistency of Effort.

No one has their “A” game every day, but the great ones develop the ability and the mindset to reach down and bring the best they have every day.

Good athletes can find their best effort periodically. The great athletes have the mental toughness, once they tie up their shoes for practice and walk onto the field or court, to reach maximum effort immediately.

I worked iron working and hot tar roofing during my college summers. The men I worked with, once we got to the work site or to the top of the roof, immediately began with their best effort and sustained that effort throughout the day.

The best teachers I have worked with walk into the classroom ready to teach because of all the effort they have put into preparation.

The best clergy I have known make time for all those in their congregations. The best priest I worked with lived his mantra,

“People are more important than things.”

Whenever people in need came to him, he made time for them.

In his famous Pyramid of Success,[2] John Wooden defines success in this way:

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.

It is critically important to accept that there are no shortcuts to success. When you can consistently bring the best you have each day, you will excel at work and have a successful career.

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To excel at work: Be humble. Be caring. Go the extra mile. Be a listener. Be a life-long learner. Bring consistency of effort.

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Featured photo credit: DocuSign via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] John Wooden: The Importance of Having Humility
[2] John Wooden: Pyramid of Success

More by this author

Pat Sullivan

Pat Sullivan is a speaker and the author of two books "Attitude-The Cornerstone of Leadership" and "Team-Building: From the Bench to the Boardroom"

Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: 5 Levels Explained How To Excel At Work And Achieve Career Success How To Focus on the Good Things In Life (When Times Are Tough) How To Manifest Abundance and Wealth in Life

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Get Promoted Fast (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Get Promoted Fast (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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“Attitude is altitude,” a famous adage tells us. When it comes to getting promoted fast, maintaining a can-do attitude conquers all. Keeping up a sunny, pleasant professional demeanor will help you win friends and influence Human Resources managers. So will good work hygiene. Show up early, work late, and volunteer for assignments once yours are completed to the best of your ability.

Realize, too, that every office newbie wonders how to get promoted fast. So you are always competing against others at the company for that spot above yours. For this reason, it’s not enough to be a whiz at your given tasks. You also need to be likeable—the type of person whom others want to work with and (ultimately) work for.

Research shows that employees with high emotional intelligence (EI), such as managing relationships, are 75 percent more likely to be promoted than employees with high IQ.[1] Teamwork matters as much as your individual abilities.

Additionally, these 10 steps will help you succeed faster than you dreamed possible.

Craft a Plan for How to Get Promoted

Step 1: Have a Plan

In this world of fast-disappearing mentors, you need to be the architect of your own plan.

Ask others in your field what they did to get promoted and how long it took. Map out a general timeline for your own advancement.

One thing to consider: think of where you want to be five years from now, then work backwards to figure out when you should receive your next promotion.

Step 2: Commit Your Plan to Paper

Studies show that writing down one’s dreams and aspirations helps them happen faster.

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One Saturday when you’re not at the office, take a few hours to capture your plan on paper. Then, separately, pen the tangible steps you believe you need to take to accomplish your dream.

Perhaps you should aim to get into the office at least a half hour earlier than your direct supervisor each day. Or maybe write, “win one piece of new business per year” as your goal. Do you know someone who could throw your company a piece of new business? Consider reaching out to that person.

Step 3: Discuss Your Plan with Your Boss or Direct Supervisor

Performance reviews are a logical time to ask your boss how to get promoted. Bear in mind that any raise you receive may be an indicator of whether you’re perceived to be on the fast track for promotion or on a slower track. (To find out how your raise compares to other workers’ raises, ask around.)

If you already are on the fast track, just keep doing the excellent work you are doing. If you discover that you are on a slower track, it may make sense to first work out with your boss the steps you need to take to get a hefty raise, and from there, make the case for why you deserve a promotion.

Get It in Writing

Step 4: Ask for It in an Email

Did a client commend your public speaking ability? Did your research report exceed your boss’s expectations? Did your colleague profusely thank you for pitching in over the weekend? In the most gracious way, ask that person to send you an email thanking you and to please copy your boss on it.

When it comes to discussing a potential promotion with your boss and the powers-that-be, glowing emails really help bolster your case.

Be sure to bring those emails with you into your performance review meetings. The emails can help you prove you deserve a promotion.

Step 5: Put Any Interim Managerial Tasks in Writing

If you are ever asked to fill in for missing supervisor, ask your boss to write an email to the whole team about the process to be followed.

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This one step will help clear up confusion among your teammates and smooth the way for you to demonstrate your managerial talent. You’ll spend more time managing people and less time trying to manage the process.

The Casual Check-In

Step 6: Check In with Your Boss Now and Then

If you happen to have a boss who gives you a lot of feedback, consider yourself lucky. You will already know how you are doing long before any performance review. You can also use any negative feedback to help you make micro adjustments so that you can bring up your performance before it’s officially rated.

However, if you happen to have a boss who doesn’t offer up much feedback, make it a habit to casually check in with him or her. Wait until a calm moment, knock on the door or cubicle wall, and ask if he has a minute or two. Then, simply sit down and ask what he thought about your contribution to the latest project. (See Step 7.)

But take care. The casual check-in should be used sparingly. Do it too often, and your boss may start to consider you a bit paranoid (and then wonder why you are).

Step 7: Accept All Feedback (Positive and Negative) Gracefully

When you ask your boss for feedback, you will receive it. And you may not always like what you hear.

Maybe you thought your two-minute introduction to the new product launch was phenomenal, but your supervisor found it uninspiring.

Perhaps you thought the client meeting was a smash success, but your client said otherwise after you left the room.

Those who get promoted fast demonstrate an ability to receive positive feedback gracefully and bounce back from negative feedback equally gracefully. Even if you don’t like what you hear, thank your boss for sharing her feedback and promise her that you will work to improve. Then, draft some action steps you will take to keep your promise.

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Solve Problems

Step 8: Remember You’re There to Solve Problems, Not Create Them

Try to be easygoing and flexible. Strive to receive the plum assignments, but realize that everyone in the firm also wants the better assignments. So, be gracious when you receive a terrible assignment, and just do your best to finish it professionally.

If you find yourself with a lot of free time, volunteer for extra work, but be judicious about what you volunteer for. It’s important to be perceived as poised and professional, not desperate and clamoring.

Prove you deserve to be promoted, instead of nagging your associates about how to get promoted.

Step 9: Work Hard

Today, business moves at the speed of technology. It’s important to keep up with technology as it evolves. You may need to take additional classes or get additional certifications and digital badges just to stay ahead of change.

Be the person at your company who embraces change rather than shunning it. Do things the new way, and prove that you love to learn.

By showing your willingness to change with the times, you’ll prove that you’re an employee who’s worth keeping around.

Invest your time in learning about the business, your company, and your clients, and your investment may well pay off in a promotion.

It’s Not Just What You Know

Step 10: Get Along with Everyone

Bosses tend to promote those whom they like faster than others on staff—regardless of their talent level.

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So first and foremost: get along with your boss. But don’t kiss up because that will make your coworkers turn against you.

Strive to be known for being nice to all, fair to all, and coming up with creative solutions to problems.

To boost your popularity, try to attend some of the outings, all of the office parties, and as many office showers and office birthday celebrations as you can without sacrificing your work product. Occasionally offer to organize one of these events if you have the time.

Getting along with everyone is one is a surefire way to get ahead and be promoted faster.

The Bottom Line

To get promoted faster, it’s important to understand that ambition coupled with camaraderie wins.

When your supervisor notices that you take criticism well and learn from mistakes, and that you keep emotions in check and get along well with others, you will earn respect.

The most important mantra for those who long to get ahead: be professional.

Solve problems, so that you can be promoted to tackle and solve even bigger problems.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

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