If your career is going nowhere, maybe it’s you that’s the problem. Here’s what you might be getting wrong and how to fix things for the better.
You’re an excellent candidate, but you keep missing out on promotion. The bad news is, there’s clearly a problem, the good news: it’s probably trivial. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Elena Lytkina Botelho and Katie Semmer Creagh explain that the further your career progresses, the more the little things matter.
Based on their analysis of the careers of 20,000 CEOs and other top execs, the authors present their findings. Here’s what might be interrupting your upward trajectory, and what to do about it.
Leaders must inspire, not perspire. Small issues often mask deeper problems – if you find you’re perspiring profusely, is it because you’re nervous? Research shows that confident execs are two-and-a-half times more likely to get the job. If you’re lacking self-belief, how will you inspire others? Get yourself some coaching and exercise stringent personal hygiene.
Check your communication style: “Down to earth storytelling, drawing on memorable results, is vastly more powerful than a cerebral, academic style.” Cut to the chase and focus on “we”, not “I”. True leaders know team performance matters most, so stop bragging and tell the interview panel how proud you were when your team excelled. Only then can you benefit from explaining your part in that success.
Do you have a strong accent? Get yourself some elocution lessons – hirers associate incomprehensibility with incompetence and are 12 times less likely to give you the promotion you crave.
If your peer group don’t like you, word will spread and your career prospects will suffer. True, it’s hard to be a team player when “powerful corporate incentive systems often reward achievement of individual targets”, but, “stronger candidates for leadership positions are more effective at persuading others, including their peers”.
Similarly, high achieving CEOs are better at treating others with respect than low performers. Treating others well is worth the effort, not only because you’ll enjoy better relations with your peer group, but because your reputation will grow as a result.
If you think all your boss cares about is your ability to deliver on your targets, you need to think again. Advancement is as much about the little things as your headline achievements. As a leader, you must share candid but tactful feedback with your subordinates, but when it comes to your turn, be prepared to take the same medicine. People who listen to constructive criticism and mend their ways always do better than those who don’t.