Recently I talked to a young leader who works for a large organization as a lead engineer. She graduated from an Ivy League university, which she assumed would provide her with the tools to rise within her organization, but still, she felt professionally lost. As part of our coaching, she wanted to know how to create her career blueprint. She said, “My career feels like a vast ocean of opportunity with infinite possibilities, yet I don’t know what to do or how to maneuver in the ocean. You must have followed a blueprint.” She assumed everyone else had a plan they could follow and wanted to know what it was.
I didn’t have a blueprint as I rose in my career and struggled to find my way. The truth is executive roles require skills that are assumed but not taught. I wondered, why is something so vital to success not addressed directly?
Based on 30 years of executive experience, I realized that in addition to competency in one’s area of expertise, there are seven skills that rising leaders need to master for career success. I teach them in my new Intrapreneurship Academy course, Intrapreneurial Leadership. Briefly, here they are.
1. Lead with your strengths.
Leadership combines learning core competencies, emulating best practices through observing strong leaders, and finding what authentically works for you. The best way to build a unique leadership style is to amplify your natural strengths. Strengths-based leadership amplifies your natural approaches so you can be the best version of yourself as a leader.
2. Take the time to clarify your purpose, vision, and values.
Focusing on the responsibilities of your role is essential for professional success. Yet, focusing just on expertise in your role does not promote self-development over the long term. It’s important to define your purpose, vision, and values so that you can be clear about your objectives and opt in to opportunities that align with your long-term professional goals.
3. Take control of how you are perceived.
How you intend to be understood and how people around you or within your organization see you can be very different. Considering how others view you can help you be more intentional and increase your internal influence. It is not as simple as asking for feedback; it is paying attention to the signs that are not always obvious and considering how you may be unintentionally perceived.
4. Corporate politics isn’t about manipulation.
Corporate politics is often viewed as a negative and something to be avoided to be true to yourself. In reality, it is not about manipulation but rather understanding your boss’s objectives, so you can understand what they need from you. It also helps instruct how to maneuver internally to accomplish things in the business and build influence as an advocate for the business.
5. Don’t be afraid of feedback, both giving and receiving.
It’s natural to avoid hearing criticism, so intentionally asking for feedback seems like asking for trouble. But how else can you learn about your blind spots without understanding how you are perceived? Don’t wait for performance evaluations. Ask for feedback regularly, in agreed-upon ways based on truth and kindness. The best way to invest in your future self is to gain insights from many individuals (not just your boss). Feedback should be an expression of investment in what already makes us strong, and done in a way that strengthens the individual and the relationship.
6. Self-advocacy is essential to achieving goals.
You can’t assume anyone knows what you want and will reward your hard work spontaneously.
Understanding the art of advocating for yourself and your team is the only way to get what you believe is deserved. From creating a plan and framing your ask to anchoring your ideas, having a plan for advocating will ensure the right people say “yes” so you can get where you are going.
7. Building a strong network makes you a valuable resource.
We often hear that having a solid network is imperative for every successful professional, but we often back-burner networking or do it without a strategy. Intentionally building a network, internally and externally, is essential to promote professional growth and provide a way to help others. When implementing a plan, individuals find networking rewarding and create relationships where both sides reap benefits.
In summary, no competent professional should have to stand back and watch the naturally savvy few succeed while your career remains stagnant. It is your responsibility to build your blueprint for career success.
Developer & Facilitator of Intrapreneurial Leadership
Susie Tomenchok is a connectivity industry veteran, successful entrepreneur, author of The Art of Everyday Negotiation without Manipulation, and an executive coach, specializing in helping people identify their superpowers and advocate for themselves. For more information on Intrapreneurial Leadership, visit www.intrapreneurshipacademy.org.