A general concept in the business world is the concept of it is not what you know, it is who you know. Everybody wants a promotion or to be recognized when an opportunity presents itself. As a manager, there are things I look for in future staffing plans. Normally I prefer to promote from within whenever possible. This allows our department to experience higher morale because we make all efforts to provide a career path internally. When employees get into an organization where there is no upward mobility, they may lose motivations for being proactive or stop being optimistic at chances to develop professionally. In most cases, employees can greatly benefit their chances by following the following leadership practices in their daily routines as work, even though they may not be in a supervisory or leadership demanding position.
1. Don’t Hang Back & Show Initiative
People who are eager and do not hesitate will have more opportunity to learn new and exciting things. If there is a new project on the horizon, individuals who are proactive may get more opportunities, which will translate to marketable skills. Building new skillsets is a good first step for moving up within an organization. If they have a good idea or a way to improve current processes, individuals who are proactive and share this information will stand out more. This does not mean they should voice opinions about every aspect of the operation all the time, but need to be used in key situations that have the greatest impact. By volunteering early and often, as well as taking on some tasks that others may not want, can demonstrate a willingness to do what is best for the team and organization, which is a foundation for high quality leadership. The basic premise is to identify a problem and what can be done to correct it. Many times individuals who can save the organization money will find their efforts rewarded in some capacity. By humbly sharing credit when deserved and taking blame when necessary will carry tremendous amounts of weight.
2. Take Responsibility
By taking ownership of their roles and responsibilities, employees can demonstrate their ability to get the job done with high degrees of quality. If an employee always has to ask how to do their job, or needs to re-work part of what they have produced, it leads to lower quality and lessens efficiency. Requiring others to stop and help, check for quality, or to correct defects will quickly lead an employee to at best remain static in their current position, or at worst be terminated. Employees who can take responsibility for their own actions can set themselves apart from others. Also taking responsibility for the good of the entire process or organization will demonstrate a willingness to put forth extra efforts to benefit the organization as a whole. This includes eliminating the idea of something is “not my job”. If something is within an individual’s ability, and not a violation of a policy, the “not my job” excuse is a quick way to be excluded from any future advancements within the organization.
3. Open and Honest Communication
The importance of being able to articulate ideas and vision to others cannot be understated. Employees that can communicate with their peers, management, as well as customers can lead to opportunities within the company. Communication needs to be positive and honest. Employees that overstate successes or are often seen speaking poorly of co-workers, the organization, or its customers will not be seen in a positive light by everyone. Understanding that being positive, even in light of organizational challenges, will keep others on track and spread enthusiasm. Management can and will see people that build up the company and their co-workers, and will most likely want these individuals to be the future leaders of the organization. A person who can send a vision and ideas to others, and who focuses on the positives can win many supporters at all levels, which will lead to further successes and opportunities.
4. Believe in Future Possibilities
Employees are required to follow directives from upper management of an organization. That does not mean they are excluded from developing a vision or grasping the concept of believing in what is possible. Take an IT service desk that is overworked and understaffed. It would be all too easy for members of the staff to not see the possibilities of what lays in front of them. They may adopt a mindset that it does not matter how hard they work, at best they may think of their situation as treading water. One member may see an opportunity to not simply work harder, but work smarter. They may research and identify software tools that can eliminate half of the routine work orders that come into the system on a daily basis. This individual will stand out from all others and would most likely be in consideration for higher levels within the organization. Perhaps a company has seen a downturn in their performance, or through unfortunate natural disasters, the company’s supply chain has experienced catastrophic problems. Sure employees may see negatives and suffer accordingly. However, an employee that can understand the problem at hand, and develop alternative plans will prosper.
Leadership traits such as these are not defined only for management level positions. The important concept for any employee to understand is that visionary and quality leadership behavior is open for anyone who embraces it. Sometimes organizations may suffer from weak management, and employees are precluded from many of these processes. For all employees that adopt some minor personality changes, and with a focus on demonstrating future leadership qualities, the chances for future opportunities will increase significantly. Not every decision or idea will be entertained, nor bear fruit, but by being proactive, owning responsibilities, developing good communication skills, and being optimistic and seeing opportunities, individuals may not only excel at their current job, they can actually be laying a rock-solid foundation for future leadership positions.