I’ve been fortunate to have an amazingly successful career. Success, for me, has been defined as enjoying what I did every day (well, most days anyway – LOL), engaging in challenging work, experiencing career development and advancement, having the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of wonderful people, achieving desired results (more times than not) and receiving financial and other rewards to support the lifestyle and experiences I desired. It’s been a great ride, and I feel very blessed to have had the support of many people over the years, coaching, mentoring, and guiding me along the way. So, to those of you who may have played a part in my life – THANK YOU!
As I reflect upon my life, I want to take the opportunity to note and share the behaviors that I tried to exhibit (with various levels of success) and I believe made a real difference in my 30-year career, so you can reflect on your own career, past and future, to define what behaviors you want to exhibit to achieve the success you desire. I looked at it through two lenses. The first is through MY lens and personal life perspective. The second is from the perspective of a leader within the organization, evaluating the behaviors I would want to see in individuals on my team so I can help me them achieve their career success while we achieved our organizational objectives.
As a result, here’s a list of the top 20, what I call, “Guiding Principles for Career Success.” You may have others, and you may think some of these aren’t important, so take some time and create your own list of behaviors you want to exhibit to drive your success.
- Have a Plan: Take control of your future and adjust or transition as necessary. Having a plan is critical. Knowing where you want to go allows you to chart a path and be intentional about how you spend your time, where you work, what you do, who you meet, and who you associate with. If you need help building your plan, check out the “Leader’s Dashboard” on my website blaisplus.com for assistance.
- Know and Live Your Values: Don’t settle. Ensure that the organizations you work for and the people you surround yourself with share the same values that drive you. If they do, your engagement level will be high and your chance of success will dramatically improve.
- Be Humble and Help Others: It’s okay to be confident; in fact, it’s essential. However, don’t be arrogant or unkind. Always be willing to help others on your team, regardless of whether it’s in your job description or not. And as you advance, don’t forget about the little guy; remember, you used to be one of them.
- Be a Lifelong Learner: The speed of change keeps increasing. To stay relevant, continuously find ways to learn. Even if your formal education is complete, keep learning. Attend conferences, seminars, read books, meet new and interesting people – do whatever you can to be a continuous learner.
- Network: Build relationships. Intentional networking can bring tremendous value to you personally and to others. Be a super connector by helping introduce others to solve their challenges. A key here is to meet people outside of your industry, not just within it. Expand your network widely and always be willing to meet or have a coffee because you never know where it will lead or how you can help the other person.
- Develop Executive Presence: Act like you belong even before you get there. Be confident, dress for success, listen before you speak, show concern for others, and more. In the sports world, you often hear someone say, “They act like a pro.” To be a “professional,” you need to act like one, so understand what that means for your business, position, industry, and work to emulate it.
- Be Coachable and Coach Like: You don’t have to have all the answers if you’re open to connecting, surrounding yourself with good people, and listening. Three core behaviors that will enable you to become more coach-like are: being more curious, actively listening, and asking good open-ended questions.
- Listen First, Speak Last, and Ask Good Questions: You may have heard the saying “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” It is very true. If you practice the skill of active listening, you will reap many benefits, especially as a leader.
- Lead by Example, Be Transparent and Accountable: Everyone is always watching how you behave, so lead by example. Show people what you expect by exhibiting the behavior yourself. Be transparent by sharing your thoughts and opinions without hidden agendas. And, by all means, be accountable. Do what you say you’re going to do, and when something doesn’t work out the way you wanted, own it.
- Be Confident, Courageous, and Action-Oriented: Believe in yourself, you can achieve greatness! Take calculated risks, even if they are small. Keep taking small steps forward toward your vision and goal, and I promise you will get there.
- Be a Strategic Thinker and Innovator: You can often achieve more than you think, so don’t be afraid to think big and outside the box. Details matter but thinking about the big picture with critical thinking skills is crucial as a leader. Remember that innovation includes small innovations, as well as big game changing ideas.
- Accept Change and Be a Change Agent: Change is inevitable, so you must learn to deal with it. Better yet, thrive on change and be the agent of change in your organization. Try to see the good in change, support it, and volunteer to help others adapt.
- Be a Problem Solver and Proactively Take on New Assignments: Don’t just talk about the problems around you; be the leader who helps solve them. Be the utility player as well as the specialist, the go-to person that the organization can count on to take the lead in solving problems, whatever they may be. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers yourself, but if you know how to approach problem-solving using the resources around you, you will be extremely valuable. Step up and take on new assignments as often as possible to improve yours skills, visibility and value to the organization.
- Have Grit and Determination: When you get knocked down, and you will get knocked down, get back up, dust yourself off, and get back in the game better and stronger.
- Work on Your Emotional Intelligence: Understand how your emotions impact others. This is difficult but crucial. You may not realize how your exhibited emotions impact others both positively and negatively. Developing self-awareness through assessments and 360-degree feedback, is the first step in creating that awareness.
- Maintain a Positive Attitude and Be Fun to Work With: No one wants to work with a wet blanket and someone who is always negative. Be a glass-half-full person and have fun. Attitude is everything! I always I hired attitude first and skills second. I can teach people skills, but you are the only person that controls your attitude.
- Be Reliable and Do What You Say: This is so simple, just do what you say you’re going to do. If you’re reliable and people can count on you, you will have an advantage and you will be invaluable to the organization.
- Embrace Personal Financial Discipline: Most of us desire financial independence at some point in our lives, it’s one of the main reasons we work. This is easier than most people think but requires planning, discipline, starting early, and living within your means (and debt-free, especially credit card debt). While I’m not a financial planner, I recommend finding one who can help you in this area. A great read is “The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+ by Suze Orman.” You might think this book is only for the 50+ crowd because of the title, but it’s even better for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s because it discusses key topics that we should be aware of at an early age so we can act as we move through life stages.
- Find Your Work-Life Balance: This is your balance, not someone else’s. So, if you like to work a lot, great. If you want to work less, that’s great too. Regardless, find your balance based on what success means to you. However, it’s always good to find some downtime to recharge and maintain positive mental health.
- Be a Leader Today, Don’t Wait: After some leadership training in my career, I created a my own rubber bracelet that I still wear saying “Be a Leader Today.” I created this as a constant reminder that it’s my responsibility to be a leader, and there’s no better time than the present. So, whatever situation you’re in, “Be a Leader Today” and make it happen.