Let’s admit it—most days we all work really hard. We grind through it. We blood, sweat and tear it. And the next day, we get up and do it all over again.
So why is it that others seem to be magically advancing their careers, scaling their businesses faster, struggling less and getting more?
It might very well be because they are having the tough conversations with themselves that most people avoid.
The No. 1 differentiator between good leaders and brilliant ones is self-awareness. Meaning, you know your strengths and weaknesses. You know how to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and you know how to use this awareness to manage your behaviors and relationships.
Self-awareness, the backbone of emotional intelligence, requires an honest assessment of your skillsets, your attitude, your motivations and drivers. It also requests vulnerability and the willingness to acknowledge that you might need to step up and play better. It’s not about beating yourself up; it’s about creating an action plan for moving forward faster and more effectively.
Too many of us think that if we avoid these self-reflective and evaluative conversations, we’ll somehow magically just get better with time, like a fine wine. The problem is that ignored wines can turn to vinegar when left un-monitored. Instead of moaning about your sour grapes, take a moment to ask yourself these three career advancing questions before you meet with your boss.
Conversation with yourself:
If you left your current position, what are the first three to five things your successor would do to create a highly profitable impact?
Sometimes we pretend to not know (or know and ignore) the very things that must be done to drive progress, create momentum or propel an initiative or project forward. We make excuses or tell ourselves stories for why these actions can’t be done. But bright eyes and an eagerness to prove oneself can blow many of our excuses out of the water.
A new hire doesn’t “know” all the cultural barriers, all the challenging personalities, all the unspoken rules, the limited resources, so they walk in and make things happen. Their ability to see possibilities with fresh, unpolluted eyes is something we can choose to do right now in our current situation. Not only can this renewed plan of attack re-energize us and our team members, it can exponentially boost the business in the process.
What roadblocks, both seen and unseen, may be preventing your advancement?
It’s easy to look outward and identify the external barriers to our success. We can all point to a person, a timeframe or a rule and generate a long list of blockades that we need to bulldoze through if we’re ever going to “make it.”
However, it’s just as important to look inward and be honest with how we might be sabotaging our own success and advancement. Perhaps there are skillsets you need to improve (leadership, communication, technical), relationships you need to mend or enhance, boundaries you need to re-establish or stories you need to rewrite in order to advance your level of play.
Too often we go through our day depleted of energy. Our motivation levels are low, our focus inconsistent and we’re not even sure why. We adjust outwardly, see a small improvement and think we fixed it. In actuality, we’ve just delayed getting to the root of what really fuels us and propels us forward. Taking a moment to be honest with yourself and assessing the internal roadblocks you’re experiencing can open a floodgate of renewed enthusiasm and opportunity.
Suppose there are thousands of people who could do your job. Why should your company retain you? Why should they actively seek out your brain, your energy? Taking an honest look at your gifts, the distinctive combination of traits that you uniquely contribute to the company’s vision, will help you confidently speak up, tackle the roadblocks above and appropriately share your awesomeness instead of hiding behind a cloak of humbleness.
None of us will move forward faster if we don’t clearly see how our own special gifts and talents significantly contribute to the greater good. There’s room for all of us to play bigger and bolder, but no one is coming to rescue you. You must choose to actively engage and commit, you must choose to play all-out.
Then, when your energy and efforts have sincerely advanced the greater good, the nobler cause or the bigger vision, it’s absolutely appropriate to shine a light on your own brilliance and explore how you might advance in serving the next, even bigger challenge.
Once you’ve gained clarity from your answers to the above three questions, then it’s time to have the conversation with your boss about your input and impact on the business. Remember to leave arrogance at the door, and confidently navigate between your strengths and your desire to contribute even more going forward.
Conversation with your boss:
When talking about future opportunities with your boss, remember to make it as much about their future as yours. Too often people start this conversation by requesting a promotion, a salary increase or both. This approach may be perceived as selfish. You can more effectively get that raise and promotion when you focus on future contributions, growth and increased responsibilities.
The following questions will guide the agenda and ignite a more profitable career-advancing conversation with your boss:
- Here’s where I got super passionate about driving the business forward (insert examples here). How might I become an even more successful, integrated team player?
- Based on these accomplishments in the last six months [insert successful achievements], how might I best demonstrate that I’m ready for even more responsibility?
- Here’s how I specifically used my skillsets to advance a project in the last quarter/year (insert examples here). How might I contribute my unique gifts and skills going forward so I may add even more value to our projects and initiatives?
When it comes to furthering your career, it’s imperative that you take the initiative for leading specific conversations about your future advancement rather just participating in talks about your present-day performance. The first leads to a much more profitable future. Yours.