Inspired by this article reviewing ‘Power’ by Stanford Business School’s Jeffrey Pfeffer, I wanted to think about a few tips for success in your career that weren’t so personality-driven (as not all of us have the required schmoozing skills/desire). Some of these have been contributed by Deb Cutts, FedUni’s awesome Careers and Employment Manager, and we’ll also be looking at how they relate to your leadership journey. Although it can be easy to think of these as pretty corporate-centric, I believe they would be equally applicable to any organisation.
Do a good job
Depressingly not a pre-requisite for success in any organisation that I know of, but you still can’t underestimate its importance. It might not get you noticed at work (although I bet it does, just not always openly), but if you can’t do your own job properly, the people above, around and below you are going to have a hard time believing you could do someone else’s. Leadership is partly about image, and do you really want anyone to see you as the person who can’t get it done?
Keep up-to-date with Professional Development
Your competitors (both outside and within the organisation) will be making sure that they are at the forefront of professional knowledge and training and so should you. Don’t get complacent, you can always do things better (see above) and spending time with other professionals, listening to new ideas can only be of benefit to you. That said, be selective and use your own judgement – not every new idea is worth the time and money spent on it (Braingym anyone?) and again with the image thing – people don’t respect leaders who peddle something one minute then quietly brush it under the carpet the next.
Sometimes our view of what it takes to succeed can be skewed by what we see on TV, rather than the reality. Shows like The Apprentice or Hell’s Kitchen by their nature paint a picture of career progression as a competitive sport, with bonus points for alliance-forming, backstabbing and tactical sucking-up. I’m sure there are some organisations like that, but would you want to work for them? Most organisations want the real you, the one who has off days but is essentially a pleasant human being, who wants to help others to do their job better, and who will do their best to get along with people for 40 hours a week. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but would you follow a leader who would sell you out for a promotion or bitch behind your back?
Tricky balancing act with the one above, but honesty really is the best policy. Don’t be afraid to have hard conversations – if you shirk it you’re letting everyone down. Be honest with your managers too – a good leader will be open to different points of view, even if they end up not going down that route. The key of course is how you express yourself, don’t be rude, but don’t be apologetic either – assertiveness, evidence, a results-focus and couching it in the language of the organisation is the way to go, and make it clear how what you are saying benefits the organisation – it’s not all about you!
It’s really not all about you
So important we said it twice – Leadership does not (necessarily) equal dictatorship. Hopefully, you got where you are now by hard work, good ideas and the ability to see them through. This does not make you a genius or an expert. Listen to other people, acknowledge expertise outside your immediate circle, and encourage autonomy. People will work hard for you when they feel valued and can get on board with your direction. That said, you still need to know what’s going on, and be prepared to take action if things aren’t working because ultimately you are accountable for what goes on in your area – ignorance is no defence!
What are your top tips for career success? Please let us know below!
– Luke & Deb