Here are 17 tips that are derived from the experiences of professionals who started out at the bottom of the hierarchy chain and are now at responsible managerial positions. You can pick at least 3 of these tips and put them to use right away. Once those become your habit, come back, pick another 3, implement them, and so on. Do not try to change everything at once. Brain welcomes simple changes – you can feed the whole mountain to it, as long as you do it one rock at a time.
Let’s dive in:
1) Say Yes: This deceivingly simple tip has literally made or broke lot of careers. The underlying principle is that when an opportunity knocks your door, in many instances in disguise of additional responsibility or added hours or leading a project, you say yes. Lot of people expect to work their ascribed hours and still progress in their careers saying no to each opportunity knocking on their door. This expectation is improbable. Only caveat to saying yes is to impractical deadlines.
2) Prioritize – the top 5 model: This is my favorite. I have read this somewhere but forgot the source. Prioritize 3-5 things each morning. These are the things that you will complete before leaving the work. If it takes you 2 hours, good, you can work on less important tasks later. If it takes 20 hours, doesn’t matter, you chose to complete and you will complete. This will be particularly handy as you move up the ladder because then you will have 100 things on your plate and your ability to prioritize will be of pivotal importance.
3) Be open: Observe anyone who has made a mark in their careers and you will notice that their careers are marked with ‘variety’ and they invited diversity in their career by being open to new challenges. Challenges stretch you and help you grow.
4) Be Flexible: To paraphrase Jack Welsh (GE’s ex-CEO) “there is no work-life balance, there are work-life choices and we make them everyday”. Be flexible to the needs of the organization and the organization will be flexible in accommodating your circumstances.
5) Keep learning: If you think the days of learning are over with your college then think again. Those who are on fast track in their careers are the ones that continue to learn throughout their lives. People who always keep abreast of their field by continuously updating their skills are the ones who will be asked to take new responsibilities. As you grow high in your career there is a tendency to leave a gap between what is hot in the market and what you know – trick is to keep this gap as short or inexistent as possible.
6) Be honest: Honesty in communication goes a long way. People who perceive you to be honest will remember you, not just in this job, but in their other roles too. If someone goes out and starts working for a different company and when an opportunity arises there – in most certainty they will remember people with talent and honesty. In a way, this character not only helps you progress at your current position but also opens doors in other places.
7) Right mindset/attitude: To paraphrase a quote I read somewhere “One man experiences nirvana in a 7 days fast while another dies of 7 days hunger, attitude defines everything”. This is true in almost all aspects of our lives, especially, work. If you think what you are doing is not important (at least to you) and that you are doing just because you have to – then that colors everything you do. When you are doing it, do it with right attitude.
8) Communicate in advance, avoid surprises: If you are taking a vacation with your friends, I am sure you are not going to book your flight tickets a day before your trip, will you? No, you know damn well that you have to book in advance to get a good deal and in some cases, get a ticket at all. There is no excuse under the sun that can justify you notifying your management about your vacation a day or week in advance when you book your tickets way earlier. Exceptions are emergencies, those are understandable.
9) Meet promises and follow up on your promises: If you say you are going to complete a task by Friday, it has to be Friday – even if it means staying back the whole night or missing your long awaited party or whatever. Make promises that you can make happen and make them happen. This builds trust in your abilities and that is a key requirement before you can be made in-charge of a higher role. If you need information or clarification to meet your promise – follow up – it can be from your manager or client or whoever, follow up and push to ensure that you do everything in your capacity to keep your promises. If you are not able to keep your promise your management should be aware of the reasons, and that reason better be not you.
10) Consider perspectives: Work place is a conglomeration of not just different people but different ideologies, different upbringings, different orientations, different cultures, different hopes and more, anything but same. It is very important that your decisions always take into account different perspectives.
11) Speak slow – people cannot catch up with your mind: People perceive those who speak ‘slowly and articulate’ to be intelligent and tend to pay attention. People cannot follow you at the speed of your thought (which feels natural to you) but they can definitely follow you if you speak slowly and articulate well. Also, it helps to give brief moments of silence when you shift into new sentence/thought/idea, this lets people know that you are giving thought to every word you are speaking (don’t leave out too much gap either, that is a sign of fading memory).
12) Keep updated with developments, and share, so people know that you know: How is learning different for keeping up to date? Say for example, there is a new technology that your firm wants to implement in the coming year, getting acquainted with it is learning. However, because you enrolled in the newsletter of the forum that deals with the software related updates, you come to know that the this software recently introduced new features and those features can help tackle a problem your firm is currently facing and that it may be beneficial to move to the new software sooner, that becomes keeping up-to-date. You need to share this kind of information so that people at the top know you are on top of things.
13) Ask, don’t be shy: Even bible teaches us “ask and it is given”, true, we agree. If you don’t ask, people don’t know what to tell you. Especially if you are new to the job, company, task, idea or all of these, it is expected that you ask questions. Make good notes (in your mind first and in writing later).
14) Don’t ask the same thing: If you read the previous paragraph, we said make good notes: why? People love to help you, the first time. They are not thrilled to help you with same thing second time, but they don’t mind. Third time, they are annoyed. To ensure you never get past the second time – making notes helps. Even if you have a slow learning curve, people don’t need to know. If you make good notes for yourself, you can refer to them without asking people, more times than you should (and hinting them that you are dumb).
15) Don’t repeat mistakes: Mistakes are expected. Mistakes are how you learn. But once you learn, there is no use for mistakes, so don’t commit the same mistake again. Again, keeping reference notes for yourself (whichever format works for you) always helps you avoid avoidable mistakes.
16) Carry a note pad: When invited to a meeting, carry a pen and a notepad. Jot down important points in your conversation. When you carry a notepad/pen with you – it gives a sense of importance to you and the person who is organizing the meeting. Don’t be pretentious about it though.
17) Be ‘in’ time: Obvious one for the last. Being on time means coming at 8’0 clock for an 8’0 clock meeting. Being ‘in’ time means coming at 7.55 for an 8.00 clock meeting. Other than that – the title is self-explanatory.
So there you have it, a list of things that you can implement immediately and reap benefits. If you have questions or comments or suggestions or additions on this article let us know.