Do you have the three key skills to advance your career?
There are three essential skills that professional women and men must master to advance their career. The good news is that all these skills can be developed and improved. The biggest obstacles are limiting mindsets, lack of deliberate practice and exposure to the right mentors.
The big three skills are 1) Public speaking 2) Networking and 3) Business Acumen
Chances are you might be fighting a gag reflex. Likely you feel good about at least one of the three. Which means, you are actively fighting and resisting the other two. I know what you are thinking. I can get by on just the one, maybe two. Wrong! I don’t care which function or the type of organization. These three skills will either ignite your career or hold you back. The choice is yours. If you doubt me (big mistake), then ask a senior leader (c-suite) for her perspective. If she disagrees with me, I will pay you a nickel. But it won’t happen, I promise.
While these are not the only skills needed, they do form the triumvirate of executive leadership skills.
The purpose of this article is to plant the seeds for the skills you need. In subsequent articles, I will focus on the best ways to develop these skills and how to push past limiting mindsets. For now, I am going to make the case for why these three are so important and how mastery of each will improve your career and leadership brand.
# 1 Public Speaking
This is a required tool that you must become proficient in to move your career forward. No one is born a natural speaker. There is no personality that pre-disposes a person to be a good speaker. Proficient public speakers are shy, extroverted, introverted, tall, short, loud, and soft-spoken. The other myth about public speaking and for that matter all these skills is that you must enjoy using them to be effective. Wrong. The truth is you get better at public speaking by deliberate practice and feedback.
Through public speaking you secure resources for your department or function and get to share the good work that you and your team are executing. Internal and externally, public speaking is how your constituents get energized by your work. As a leader, you galvanize your troops to get behind important organizational initiatives. Public speaking is at the heart of transformational leadership. In business development, it is public speaking that energizes your ideas and turns prospects into clients and philanthropist into donors.
To improve your public speaking skills actively seek opportunities to speak inside and outside of your organization. One of the best and most cost-effective methods to improve your public speaking is Toastmasters International. If your organization has facilitation, presentation skills or executive presence training, sign-up. The pathway to improve public speaking is through practice, practice and more practice. Of course, make sure you are getting feedback from someone who is a skilled orator.
# 2 Networking
Networking is the ability to form and strengthen relationships inside and outside of your organization. Relationships are bridges to advance your career. Through better relationships you improve your impact, reach, and service. Like public speaking, your comfort with or desire to network is irrelevant. What matters is that you carve a little time each week to reach out and extend and build relationships.
Work from inside out
My recommendation is to start with the people who are peers on your team. Start with those you like and are most curious about and work your way through all your peers until you have spent some time with each of them. A starting goal is to carve out one hour a week in this outreach. Continue to build connections from the inside to the outside of your organization. Make use of your organization’s formal and informal networking channels. Research suggests that the teams with the most communication channels are the highest performing teams.
Be a spy for your organization
Attend industry networking events with the goal to learn and meet new people. Look at yourself as a spy for your organization, going out into the industry to find out the latest and greatest intelligence. Bring those ideas back to your organization. Finally, as you are networking, look for ways to be of service by connecting people and ideas that might not happen without your introduction or suggestion.
# 3 Business Acumen
Business acumen is simply your ability to understand the internal and external systems where your organization operates. In other words, what makes your organization function? If it is a for profit organization, how does the organization make money, where does it stand compared to competitors and who are the clients? In not for profit organizations it is understanding the funding and the budgeting process. No matter what type of organization, business acumen is the ability to understand your clients at the granular level.
Master the numbers
One of my favorite TV shows is Shark Tank. In this reality show about entrepreneurship, participants, must demonstrate their business acumen by reciting the essential numbers of the business: revenue, cost of goods sold, profit margin, and customer acquisition cost to name a few. As an internal entrepreneur you also should understand the numbers for the overall organization.
Additionally, you should be aware of how your department impacts the overall system. What separates those who get stuck in middle management from those who rise into senior and executive level leadership is their command, control and communication of key metrics. For my female readers, Susan Colantuono in her Ted Talk, Career advice you probably didn’t get, suggest that business acumen and strategic leadership are keys to advance your career and breaking the glass ceiling.
Be a strategic leader
Those who can master all three of these key skills show up in their organization as strategic and worthy of rising to the next level. I suspect that you have one or two of these skills mastered. I encourage you to really “lean in” and master all three so that your brand is synonymous to strategic leadership.
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