People skills play a huge role in your success.
6 min read
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There comes a point in your career development where advancement is no longer purely about becoming a technical expert. You’ll hit a crossroads where pursuing career goals that you want now requires you to play a different game strategy in your career version of Game of Thrones.
Technical professional development should always be on your radar. However, you’ll find higher levels of workplace success will come to a standstill if you lack skills to find and build alliances with those who can help you get to where you want to go. These critical people skills won’t just earn you the right to sit at any table; they’ll give you license to steer your career successfully and more easily in any direction you want it to go.
1. Persuasion and influencing skills.
When you invest in learning the native language of those whose support or trust you need and can respond to them in that language, doors open, people listen and respond favorably. They grow to know, like and trust from you creating for them a feeling of safety.
A quick lesson from Greek philosopher Aristotle can deepen our understanding of how to create this safety in our key business relationships. Pathos, ethos and logos refer to three different parts of our consciousness we need to learn how to recognize and speak to when it comes to building key relationships in our work or otherwise.
Pathos alludes to how we need to recognize many people’s communication channels are opened through accessing their emotions. Charitable organizations know that flashing heart-string pulling hero stories compel some of us to let the moths out of our purses and wallets.
Then there are those of us who value authority, rank and qualifications more highly than anything else. Illustrate to us a history of the hard yards and stripes you have earned. We’re likely to feel impressed, assume that competence goes hand in hand with the professional titles and certifications and be open to listening to and agreeing with your proposal, even if we don’t fully understand it.
Others of us are not interested in your previous accomplishments or who else has endorsed your recommendations. You’ll earn trust by referencing numbers, facts and figures. Objective empirical evidence is the most natural path to gain our listening ear.
Work out the pathos/ethos/logos combination that is typical of someone in a particular context and match your communication accordingly.
2. Develop a commercial attitude.
Making concerted efforts to develop a commercial business perspective will truly fast-track your workplace success. Invest in programs and education which expand your thinking beyond excelling in your role. Broaden your awareness of wider aspects that make your organization run.
When you demonstrate an appreciation of the other essential cogs which turn in the engine room of your organization (e.g. financial, social, policy, environmental and mental) you illustrate higher contributive value. You’ll be recognized as having expansive thinking and capacity to perform and manage responsibilities at higher levels.
Wider possibilities, valuable connections and ideas that could advance your career in ways you have not yet been able to fathom will become more available to you.
3. Transition to commanding your own direction, not asking for permission or affirmation.
Reflecting upon his transition from chief financial officer (2002-2007) to chief executive officer of Korn Ferry, Gary D. Burnison advised mindsets need to shift to that of a leader commanding direction, not waiting for it. When transitioning to c-suite roles, he states the difficulty is often in the mindset and the ability to make this shift
Start risking making decisions based on your own knowledge, experience and intuition. Counsel with mentors to mitigate risks in saying yes to opportunities that primarily serve your career advancement and secondarily serve the people or business you’re using as a stepping stone. In fully committing to choices which serve your career advancement first, your personal brand will start to take shape. You’ll start being deemed as someone to watch and follow. Be warned that some will like you more and there will be others that like you less.
There will always be less senior managers than there are frontline employees so there’s a strong likelihood you’ll run into familiar faces down the track. Value every level of working relationship you’ve had. Step into being the leading man or lady in your own career movie as you move onto perceived greener pastures, but don’t unduly burn your bridges if it’s not necessary.
4. Be prepared to clean-up, complement and then create.
Unless you’re new workplace has deliberately engaged you to cause a human capital hurricane, remember that regardless of the position you hold coming into a new role and environment, you are the new kid on the block. Looking to achieve quick wins will accelerate your passing initiation with the existing business team.
If there are existing projects that have come to a standstill, see if you can participate in accelerating their resolution. Volunteering to takeover tedious assignments will likely earn you more brownie points but use the opportunity to work in congruence with the original champions. Offer to share the reins not take them over completely.
Only when you’ve completed some hard yards have you earned your right to suggest new and unfamiliar initiatives. Demonstrate to the existing team they need and deserve time to adjust to you, just as you do to them, and you’ll hit the ground running paving a clear pathway for new success in that workplace from the outset.
5. Become adept at addressing workplace stress and increasing resilience.
The World Health Organization recognizes depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide and incidences of mental health conditions in entrepreneurs and senior managers are being increasingly being documented. When you can demonstrate, teach and support those you lead or work alongside that success can be achieved without burning the candle at both ends, you’ll quickly grab the attention of progressive predecessors.
Proactively working with a performance psychologist or therapist will greatly enhance your own mental and emotional resilience in the face of heightened work stress. Seeing you accelerate your performance capacity, others are likely to cheerlead their own career success by following your shining example. As you advance, so too do they.