In Order to Move Ahead You Have to Differentiate Yourself.
By Steve Schumacher
If you are in a situation where you want to keep moving up in your organization, broadening your scope of influence, you are in competition with other people who have the same goal. That competition, in most cases, is not overt but it is there. Executive leadership is always looking for high potential employees, ones that clearly fit into a succession plan that will keep the organization thriving.
Some leaders, like GE’s Jack Welch, made competition overt and no surprise to anyone. Regardless of whether your company has formalized fast-tracking programs or not, it is important you implement some practices at work that will show that you are above the crowd and should be considered for advancement.
Get results. It may seem obvious that results are important, but I see a number of people who feel they should get advanced because of their tenure with the company or because of who they know.
One of the common behaviors of high potential, fast-track employees that I have worked with is they get the results that are expected of them. If something happens and they falter a bit, they take full ownership for any shortfall and do whatever it takes to get back on track. Business is about results, period. If you want to set yourself apart at a fundamental level, get results. Under-promise and over-deliver.
Volunteer. When the senior leadership team asks for volunteers, step up and raise your hand. Everyone is busy, that is a given. You will set yourself apart if you can show that you can not only manage your regular work, but you can take on ancillary projects and do them well.
Yes, it will cost you some added stress. How you manage that stress will set you apart from your peers also. Being willing to volunteer is different than achieving the necessary results. When you volunteer, you run the risk of things not going well. Still, if the project falls apart, you will have scored some points by raising your hand.
Collaborate well. Show that you can work well with other employees, within your team and cross-functionally. Senior executives know that, to be successful, everyone must work together and keep conflict to a minimum.
Finger-pointing and throwing people under the bus are destructive behaviors. If you want to move ahead and stand apart, speak highly of everyone in the company, not matter your personal feelings about them.
Keep your skills up-to-date. The skills that got you to where you are today will not necessarily get you to higher positions. Always stay in-tune with new ideas and practices regarding the technical parts of your job. Take time to understand the big picture of your organization.
Know who the competition is and what the forecasts are for your industry. Do whatever it takes to keep your interpersonal skills sharp and the best they can be. I have seen many great careers derailed by the inability to give effective stand-up presentations. Attend some Presentation Skills workshops and practice. Learn to write emails that get read and responded to. Become an outstanding trainer by attending a Train-the-Trainer workshop.
Manage your time well. Understand that everyone is overloaded and short on time. Most likely, everyone feels short-handed also. In order to differentiate yourself, you need to show that you can manage all of those components well. Everyone gets 168 hours per week, what separates people is how effectively they use those hours.
Do what you say you will do. If you take on a task for some
one else, make sure you follow through and live up to those expectations you have set with that person. Reliability is a key ingredient in whether or not you are seen as a person that should be advanced. Do not be one of those people that is full of excuses as to why they did not complete something.
Your executive team is always on the lookout for people to move up in your organization. By putting just a few common sense practices in place, you will be one of those people.
Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].