Succeeding in the
There is no one way to succeed in the corporate world. There are multiple paths to success. While you cannot ensure success, you can guarantee failure and that is by trying to be someone you are not. Therefore, as you receive advice from others, you will need to adjust it to your own personality, strengths and weaknesses.
Here I will speak about what I have observed about successful people at the companies I've worked in and what has helped me in my own career. My comments will centre on behavioral attributes. That is not to say that technical skills are not important--indeed that is the minimum price of admission. Once you join the company, your path upward is determined more by your softer skills than by your technical ability.
I'm going to cover six traits. First is accountability. There is a phrase I use often, "Be stingy with taking credit, and be generous with taking blame." It has always been my philosophy that if something goes well in my area, it's because my team did a good job. If something does not go well, it is because I did a bad job.
Everyone makes mistakes. The key is to accept responsibility, learn from the mistakes and move on. Another aspect of accountability is to make sure your work is in final form. You should expect that your work would go straight from your desk to the CEO. So, make sure it is perfect. Do not expect your manager to correct your work.
Finally, be a subject matter expert. No one should know more about your area than you.
The second skill that is important to acquire is leadership. You should be looking to add value not just to your own area or career but helping your department or company as a whole. Even if you are not in a leadership position, you can demonstrate this trait by volunteering to work on special projects or helping to train new hires, etc. The point is that you should be helping others, not just yourself.
Thirdly, there is the issue of work ethic. You should expect to work hard. I believe in work/life balance. I have two young kids and I try to spend as much time with them as I can. However, being successful does require sacrifice. As you compare your own workload to that of your peers, you should find yourself doing a disproportionate share of the work; otherwise, it may be a signal that something is wrong. There is always a shortage of good people, and managers will always funnel more work to the better performers. Be one of those better performers and take on extra workload.
The fourth attribute is business maturity. Life in the corporate world is not fair. You may find yourself working for a lousy boss or doing work that you don't enjoy and finding yourself frustrated because your peers have better situations. If you focus on that, you will not be successful. You have to deal with the way things are, not the way you think they should be. You have to make the best of every situation. Every time I have come to a fork in the road, I always look back and say, "Boy, I'm glad that I chose X versus Y. It made me more successful." But that's a product of having a good attitude. If you work hard and do the best you can, every decision will work out well.
The fifth once is continuous improvement. No matter how successful you become, your expectations for yourself and others' expectations of you are constantly rising or should be rising. So, take pride in your accomplishments, but do not be satisfied. You can always do better. You can always do more to help others.
Finally, it is a noble goal to make your boss look good. Remember, your bosses are just like you. They want to be successful and advance in their career. If you help them succeed, they will be in a better position to help you succeed.
More than anything else, a supportive boss can really help your career.
The writer is a Managing Director of Delta Air Lines in the US.
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