How To Be The Leader of Your Career in 3 Easy Steps
I’m so excited about today's topic. And the reason is that I've always loved studying leadership. I've read lots of leadership books. It's something in my corporate career that I loved to focus on because I was always very interested in helping other people achieve their full potential. And as I think about it, I think there are so many parallels with being a leader and managing and leading your own career.
And actually, this even works for a job search because, in the end, you're in control. And whether that's a job search or the next stage of your career, your promotion, however you want to elevate it, you must become the leader and you must take charge of your career and particularly in a job search, it gets a little crazy because we're so used to doing things for other people.
We're so used to leading, collaborating, and doing all the things. And it's so much easier when we're doing it on behalf of our employer. That when you get to be in a job search, or when you really set your sights on the next stages for your career, you now actually have to move into the space where you are doing this stuff for yourself.
So, I'm very excited to share some thoughts on this with you today. I do believe that it's going to change what happens in your career (and your job search) from this point forward.
Let's get started.
I was inspired by a book by John C. Maxwell called “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader” In it, he lists the traits that make great leaders in the workplace. Things like:
I've picked 12 out of the 21 here because I think these are very key qualities to have when you're leading your career. And let's just assume that I'm talking job search throughout this article as well because your job search is just a moment in your career and all of these qualities matter.
As the sub-title of the book indicates, when leaders exemplify these qualities, they are "becoming the person others want to follow."
When you're leading your own career, you're becoming the person others want to hire.
So, consider these characteristics and qualities. Think about ways that you display these and really hold yourself accountable to them. Because these are the qualities that are going to truly make a difference in where you go from here.
But this isn’t about the 12 things you need to do. It’s about becoming the leader of your career in three easy steps. What are the three steps?
#1 Being clear on your value
#2 Practicing targeted constraint
#3 Being consistent at every level
Let’s dive into each of these in greater detail so you understand how to apply them.
First, get clear on your value.
What I mean by this is being clear about your innate behavioral strengths. This is the “how” that helps you produce the “what.” This is so important because “the how you do things” goes with you everywhere.
So, whether you're in an entry-level position, middle management, senior management, or executive, when you're clear on your “how” it's so much easier to understand how to produce the “what.”
Your “how," your behavioral strengths, your transferable skills, if you will, they all come together with your practical experience, your hard skills to produce the “what” consistently and successfully.
Let's talk a little bit more about the behaviors that will help you succeed. I've listed 30 transferable skills below, there are many more. But this is a good start and the list I include in my transferable skills discovery worksheet.
7. Big Picture
17. Detail Oriented
19. Follow Through
All of your transferable skills are the behaviors that help you succeed.
Are you analytical? Are you attentive? Are you flexible? Is follow through one of your qualities? Are you innovative? Knowing these things about yourself and how they show up for you in the workplace is key because this knowing your value.
When you understand these strengths and the value that you bring to the table, it makes it much easier to describe why you are capable of that next level in your career when you're in an interview or proposing a new role or promotion for yourself.
This is how you'll be able to create the dotted line between your “how” and your accomplishments.
When you create that dotted line, you're now creating a picture of what you look like in your next role, whether it's getting hired or whether it's the next stage of your career; that forward movement of elevating your career from one role to another. And the reason why someone will hire you.
So, dive into the list of transferable skills, download this worksheet to help you. When you deeply understand what all of this looks like for you and what it means about your ability to create great results and successes of the past, you'll easily create belief for yourself and the person on the other side of the table about the success that you'll create in the future.
This is what knowing your value is all about.
Next is practicing targeted constraint.
I love the image of a curving railroad track when I think about practicing constraint. We have a lot of curves, a lot of winding roads in our career path, but the image of a track is constraint. It's keeping the career train on a path within constrained rails; keeping a train doing what it does best - steadily moving in the direction of the desired destination.
Constraint is about knowing and staying in your strength zone. When you know how to do constraint, that's where the joy, the genius, and the magic is.
That's how you create new opportunities for yourself.
Practicing targeted constraint is aligning with your strengths (value) with your mission. Your mission is bigger than a goal. And it's fed by your strengths. It provides momentum. Your target may change as your career progresses. Your target may be to land that job to become a director, to move from director to VP. Your targets change, but it's always aligned with your mission.
I really love the way Donald Clifton puts it in his book, “Soar With Your Strengths,” so I'm just going to quote a little passage here:
“When strengths are driven by mission, a circle is created. Strengths feed mission. For example, a salesperson's desire to contribute to the world by selling medical supplies is a mission. But it's put into practice by his or her sales strengths.”
Sales strengths come from your innate behavioral strengths. We know people who are great salespeople because they naturally exhibit the behaviors that help them sell.
Back to the quote: “The successful use of these strengths creates a pleasant feeling of satisfaction in the salesperson, which reinforces the sense of mission.”
Now, what's so interesting is this is your brain chemistry at work. When you are using a strength and you feel the pleasure of using that strength, you are tapping into your brain chemistry, which helps reinforce that action, which again, reinforces the strength.
And it all comes together to help you move within your bigger mission from target to target in your career.
I love the way that works. This is practicing constraint.
It's knowing your strengths. It's understanding your mission and staying on target, staying constrained to doing the things in your strength zone.
When you know how to do that, then the opportunities that present themselves are amazing because now you can see yourself moving from place to place, making greater contributions, in the workplace.
The third step is being consistent at every level.
Now, you may think being consistent has to do with being disciplined or with being persistent. Some of those qualities may come into play, but this is actually more about managed thoughts.
Managed thoughts are the origin of how you feel, act, and everything you create.
So, so powerful, my friends.
Now let's talk about creating results and moving forward by being consistent.
As we know, we've learned from lots of great thought leaders, Tony Robbins, and others that moving forward is about taking massive action.
But we all get to this place where we feel undisciplined. Our actions are not consistent with our desire. Then we think there's something wrong and that we can just will ourselves into it or apply grit to taking more massive action. But that only leads to burnout.
It's because we're not addressing the real issue.
The real issue is the thoughts you're thinking. Or as Victor Frankl puts it, the meaning that you're attaching to a circumstance.
So, when you don't like your actions, when your actions are not what you want them to be, I want you to reverse engineer that back to your feelings and thoughts.
Say for instance, you have a goal to reach out to your manager or reach out to another group inside the organization or apply for that job. But it means that you've got to step out of your comfort zone. You've got to talk to somebody about what you want. And you just find that you're not able to do it no matter how much you think about it.
You can stop beating yourself up because it has nothing to do with your lack of discipline or persistence. You can't make yourself do it because of how you're feeling.
Maybe you're feeling discouraged, maybe you're feeling apprehensive, maybe you're feeling a bit of imposter syndrome. Or maybe you're feeling inadequate.
All those feelings are being driven by thoughts. So, when you have a feeling of inadequacy or imposter syndrome, take it on another step back.
What is the thought that's creating that feeling?
A thought that is creating a feeling of inadequacy might be:
“Who in the heck do I think I am to apply for this job?”
“I've never done anything like this before.”
“No, one's going to take me seriously.”
Definitely not thoughts that are serving you.
When you think a thought that no one's going to take you seriously and it makes you feel inadequate. Why would you take action?
Your brain is protecting you from taking that action because it's projecting failure. But the lack of action only results in feeling worse and perpetuating feelings of inadequacy. A vicious cycle that will never create the career result you want.
So reverse engineer it back.
The great news is that our highest power lies in our ability to choose our thoughts. So instead of thinking something like “nobody's going to take me seriously,” choose a thought that makes you feel better. Choose a thought like:
“This is the perfect move for me.”
“I have all the experience I need.”
“This is exactly what I want to do.”
Those types of thoughts will create empowering feelings, a sense of ease, a sense of certainty. Those are some of my favorite feelings. Choose thoughts that make it feel easy to take action and make you feel certain about the result because certainty also feels like adequacy and sufficiency.
And those feelings drive positive, massive action.
They’ll give you what you need to step out of your comfort zone.
So, when you need to move forward, keep trying on thoughts until you find a feeling that drives action. Don't feel like you must get over complicated with it. You can pick the same feeling over and over again, and the same thought over and over again, whatever works for you. Thinking something is going to be fun always helps me :)
Pick the thoughts and feelings that work for you. If it helps you take action, go for it.
It's about managing your thoughts because our thoughts do create our results.
It might sound a bit “woo woo” but it's a principle that actually works because it taps into your brain physiology. Thoughts create feelings that drive actions to create a result.
When your thought is “I can do this” and you feel good, secure, and optimistic, you’re motivated to take action. And guess what your result will be?
You ARE doing it.
So, how do you be the leader of your career?
You get clear on your value. What are your strengths? What are your transferable skills? The “how” that creates the “what.”
Practice targeted constraint. That means aligning those strengths to a mission that serves one target after another, along your career path
Be consistent at every level, starting with managing your thoughts in such a way that they create feelings that drive positive massive action… so you can create the result, the career, you want.
What’s your next career move?
Are you leading your career with intention?
And the qualities that make a great leader?
You deserve to lead your career like you would lead a team or a project at your company.
Now you know how to do it.
P.S. When I teach these principles, a certain percentage of people want to work with me directly. If you’re tired of career disappointment and want to have the career you can’t stop thinking about, then take advantage of a customized career coaching program.
I have a 7-week program for that lightning strike transformation, a 3-month program, or a 6-month program for a more comprehensive strategy and career direction change.
All customized to your specific needs so that you can create the career you want.
If that's you then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me a little bit about yourself; what's working and what's not working, and we'll put a plan together in a way that helps you absolutely transform the trajectory of your career or of your job search.
I'm here for you and I will help you so that you can create that career you want.
Imagine what your life looks like three years from now when you apply these principles, take control, and become the leader of your career.
Wow. It's going to be awesome.