At any given point in your career, people will be forming opinions on whether you’ve “got what it takes” to make it to the next level.
When the right people think the answer is yes, your career zooms ahead.
But when it’s a no, you’re going to be stuck, at least for a while.
And it’s hard to know when and how people are forming those opinions. They may not even be conscious that it’s happening. But when questions come up about who should be paid, promoted and recognized, those opinions come to the forefront.
That’s why I’ve put together this set of capabilities to help you take matters into your own hands.
3 Areas to Focus On
I’ve found that most of the time, it’s a combination of how you perform in three broad areas that determines whether you’ve “got what it takes”: how you work with People, on the Business, and on your Self.
And within each of those areas are three main capabilities to consider.
As you read through these 9 Capabilities, hone in on the one or two that would most help you if you take action. Don’t try to work on all of them at the same time.
Focus on the ones that will most move the needle for you right now. And then take action.
Working with People
This capability is about building and maintaining constructive relationships with key people who have a say in your business and career, irrespective of whether you “like” each other.
To handle this well means knowing who the stakeholders are, assessing where you stand with them, and creating a targeted game plan for the ones who matter for your career and business.
This capability is increasingly important as you get more senior because the stakes are higher and the relationships become more complex.
At the heart of Team Leadership is building and maintaining a high-performing team. This means being able to attract a diverse group of talent and get them to collaborate toward a common goal. It also requires you to develop the talent you have and build a bench of leaders beneath you.
Most of us start our careers as individual contributors, but to rise in most organizations, at some point you’ll need to show you can lead other people as well.
Great team leaders know how to bring out the best in the team, keep out the worst in themselves and become a magnet that attracts others to join the team.
Communication that Connects
Great communicators are clear, engaging and effective in getting their point across. They also take time to understand the audience, tailor the way they deliver their core message, and create a feedback loop so they can keep improving.
Being an effective communicator helps you to be seen, heard, understood and respected. And in a work context, it allows you to engage people and create buy-in for the initiatives you lead.
Working on the Business
Vision and Strategy
As you progress in your career, you’ll be expected to develop a bigger vision for your business coupled with having a strategy for delivering on the vision so that it’s achievable, despite being bold.
When you have an inspiring vision and a credible strategy for achieving it, you can attract resources to your cause whether that’s people, financial and other assets. This, in turn, increases your likelihood of success.
Whatever stage you’re in in your career, take the time to work on your vision and strategy. What it entails is understanding the business and where you and your group fit in, asking questions to generate insights, and taking a more strategic approach to your current work.
Decision-making is about moving past the analysis stage to action-taking, even when no one can be sure of the outcome. Doing this well requires knowing how to frame key decisions to get to the best outcomes, and preserving your decision-making capacity so you can crisply make the ones that count.
The more senior you become, the more decisions you’ll be asked to make. As the stakes get higher, those who are known for making sound decisions with imperfect information will be the most respected leaders, producing the best business results.
Creating New Business
Creating new business means producing results and outcomes that are tied to what matters most to your organization. I think of this as being a “rainmaker” – someone who makes great things happen for the organization that can be seen, felt or heard.
The best Rainmakers understand the most important outcomes for the organization and how they (and their group) can contribute. They need to create a safe space to test their ideas, and they have a network they can turn to for brainstorming.
By having a “rainmaker” mindset, you’re more likely to be perceived as truly valuable at the next level and advance in your career.
Working on Your Self
This capability is about knowing who you are and what you stand for and being confident about the value you bring.
When you’re self-aware, you have a better chance of being able to manage yourself in the moment rather than fall into unhelpful habits/patterns. When you are aligned internally, your opportunity to contribute is exponential.
The most self-aware people I know have a system for noticing, managing and changing their mindset and behaviors. They are constantly striving to learn, grown and improve.
Presence and Profile
Presence is how you show up when you’re in the room: being able to command a room and make yourself seen, heard and respected.
Profile is how you show up when you’re not in the room: being known and recognized by others beyond your immediate circle.
You need to have both. Having both presence and profile makes you more likely to be able to influence outcomes, which is essential if you want to advance to more senior levels.
Building Your Community
Building your community of supporters means being strategic in developing your network of relationships beyond the people you need in order to get the job at hand done.
It’s about having a robust set of relationships so that you have the kind of support, advice and connections you’ll need to keep advancing to the next level professionally.