If you’ve been unsuccessful in climbing the corporate ladder, perhaps you don’t come across as promotion material. Hone your leadership skills to start impressing the right people.
Getting ahead in business is no longer about brown-nosing and being related to the boss. In this tough job market, companies are promoting from within – while that’s good in the sense that you have a shot at a promotion just by virtue of the fact that you work there, it also means that you must constantly come across as promotion material.
Leadership skills are the number one thing employers look for when a management position opens up, even more so than experience. An inexperienced leader can be groomed for the job, but an ineffectual leader will be a dismal failure no matter how experienced he is. By polishing your leadership skills and putting them out there for everyone to see, you’ll catch the eye of the powers that be, and your name just might come up in the next board meeting.
Don’t be Bossy
Showing off leadership skills does not mean bossing people around. You probably don’t have actual authority over your coworkers (yet), so don’t pretend that you do. You’ll come across as an officious jerk, and you’ll be the opposite of an effective leader. Think of yourself as the office cheerleader, guide, and keeper. Your goal is to make people care about what they’re doing, give them what they need to do it well, and put out the fires that arise along the way.
Learn to Listen
Don’t assume you know what someone else is about to say, and don’t just mentally rehearse what you’re going to say next when someone else is talking. Whether it’s a team meeting or a one-on-one conversation, focus on what is being said. Repeat it back to the speaker if necessary, both to straighten it out in your own mind and reassure the speaker that you understand the issue. When you reply, don’t just jump in immediately with empty jargon and verbal stalling – if you don’t have a good answer ready, say something like, “That’s a good question. I’ll look into that and get back to you this afternoon.” And do so.
Learn to be Business Social
Everyone knows the saying about mixing business with pleasure, but there’s a fine line to tread. Gossiping is a no-no, as is sharing personal details. Never share something with a coworker that you wouldn’t want divulged at a board meeting. On the flip side, don’t be an emotionless drone, either – leaders must be able to connect with those they lead, and doing your best android impersonation won’t allow that to happen.
Avoid gossip and intimate conversations, but know the milestones. Set up calendar alerts for birthdays and anniversaries, and keep an ear out for who has a new baby, who just lost a family member, etc. Send a card or a brief email on these occasions – just enough to offer congratulations or condolences. People will appreciate the effort, and it will reinforce the notion of you being on top of everything.
Mind Your Manners
Chances are you fall somewhere in the middle of the corporate ladder. Too often, people make the mistake of only turning on the charm when dealing with someone from an upper rung, and dropping the manners act with those below. Wrong. A bad attitude never impresses anyone.
A good leader treats everyone with the same courtesy and respect, from the janitor to the CEO. Appreciate the value in every employee in your company, and recognize that each piece makes the puzzle. You would be surprised how those on the lower rungs can influence the top brass, and being the only middle-management type who greets the doorman by name makes you stand out in a good way.
If leadership is the most important trait to cultivate, successful delegation is the most important leadership skill to have. It’s what makes your team effective, drawing on the talents of each to produce a stellar finished product. Don’t delegate based on personal feelings or because someone “really deserves the chance” – know the strengths and weaknesses of each person on your team.
Your job as leader is to play up the strengths so well that the weaknesses disappear. If Jane is really great at client relations but not so great at tracking expenses, make her the public “face” of your team and hand the expenses over to Sally, who minored in accounting. Chris has great ideas that need a bit of grounding, so pair him up with John, who thinks logically if a bit stodgily. Play your team members off one another, and fill in the gaps yourself. It’s an instant recipe for success.