This is the second part of the article on having basic professional skills before aiming for leadership positions. I will list more skills:
Basic Professionalism Skills List
- Remain organized. At all times.
This applies to everything from your cubical to the notes you take, your files (easy and fast to find anything), your email, and even your purse.
- Problem solving.
You can build your reputation and become irreplaceable by becoming a problem solver. Research, learn, talk to others and be willing to help anyone at any time. This never goes unnoticed and facilitates management’s trust and faith in you.
- Know people’s names and how they look.
People love hearing their names. Don’t deny them this opportunity and make friends quickly. It is also helpful if you are stuck in an elevator with your senior executive and you start talking to your colleague about him/her without knowing how he/she looks and that, at this point, he/she is actually furiously staring at you.
- Firm handshake.
This shows your confidence and enthusiasm. Make your body language work for you.
- Be willing to learn.
You cannot move up if you are not willing to update your qualifications. You need to know about new trends in your field, improve your skills to make them more relevant for today’s era (technology innovation happens every 2-3 years, for example, the knowledge that computer engineers develop in their first year at the university becomes outdated by the time they enter their third year). You also meet new people and make valuable connections in graduate schools and at management courses.
- Help others whenever they ask. If you can’t help them, find a person who can.
People will be thankful to you and will be more than happy to return a favor when the time comes.
- Address your weakness.
Some say that you can increase your confidence by focusing on things you do well. I disagree. You cannot develop and become better if you do not address your weakness. They will always come back and bite you, regardless of where you are and what you do. The easiest way to address your weaknesses is by taking the time to reflect on the recent work you’ve done, ask friends or family members and develop a list of your weaknesses. Then write down 1-2 actions to address each of your weaknesses and set a deadline. For example, let’s say your weakness is being late. You can try to understand what triggers your being late – going to sleep late, not planning your route in advance, not leaving home early enough to catch a bus, spending a lot of time preparing breakfast or not having a watch? As soon as you know what causes your so-called “weakness”, write down a few tactics that you can use to address it. Nothing is as liberating and nothing makes you feel as good as addressing your weakness, once and for all. Also, do not ever use your weakness as your excuse. People won’t buy it. They will remember you and, when they think about you, in their mental “Facebook” profile of you there will always be your weakness right below your image. -“I am too lazy to read this proposal fully”- you’d say to Jinny, thinking that you are being funny. She will remember it and when she emails you her or somebody else’s proposal, she will think or say “Katherine most likely won’t read it. She is lazy, you know. She told me that herself”.
- Have resources you need.
When doing any kind of job, sometimes you need extra guidance or tools to make your job easier. Unless you are short for time, seek your sources and build a toolbox for yourself that you may use again. Making PowerPoint presentations every week? Develop a library of images by saving symbols and images you use in one place so you can reuse them later and save yourself time. Your boss gives orders faster than you can sneeze? Keep a notebook handy.
- Know where to look for answers and who to ask.
If you do this you will become the best problem-solver in the world. It also helps to do your job faster and seeking help (not all the time) shows your boss that you are good at relationship management (that is, if you do not forget to thank them).
- Read news
Things change all the time, every day. And if not, there are still times when your boss mentions a word you’ve never heard of, or tells you to do something you’ve never done. Don’t guess, just use Google to your advantage.
- Have an opinion.
Your boss and colleagues will respect you when you have an opinion on a matter. In fact, this is what makes great advisers. However, to have a good opinion you need to constantly update your qualifications, read news, talk to people, and understand company’s priorities and how everything works.
Everyone who graduated from high school is officially required to be punctual. It is a sign of respect to your colleagues, boss, customers, clients, partners and everyone’s else whose time is wasted by waiting for you.
- Understand company’s priorities.
You cannot be a good captain of the boat if you don’t understand where your boat is headed and the direction of the wind.
- Don’t alienate anyone.
You never know if this quiet girl in the corner is a niece of your CEO who is just gaining experience before becoming your manager.
16. Take notes/type them. Don’t rely on your memory (it also looks professional)
17. Security. You need to demonstrate that you take all possible measures to protect company’s intellectual property that can be easily stolen from your desk or your computer (e.g. Log out, hide documents, use shredder, lock doors, etc.).
18. Understand your manager’s priorities and preferences and make things easy for him/her. Some directors hate when you put your presentation folder on their chair. Some become irritated by catching small imperfections like grammatical errors and they lose focus. You also need to understand what your manager wants to accomplish and what’s important for him/her. This is how you become reliable (to your manager), when he/she sees that you get it.
19. Never borrow money.
20. Say thank you.
21. Come to the meetings ahead of time and be prepared (do your homework, read all attachments). When you went to high school, only nerds did all their readings and came to class prepared. As you become older, you suddenly realize that not reading materials prevents you from understanding what this meeting is about and you can’t really contribute.
22. Stay cool (don’t let your emotions affect your judgement at any time).
23. Be interested in others.
There is an easy way to do this – remember a key thing or two (trip they are about to take, their kid, what’s going on in their lives) and follow up on it. It will give your colleagues that warm fuzzy feeling that they will feel every time they see you.
24. Don’t forget about birthdays/important dates
25. Speak clearly and loud enough.
In fact, invest time and effort into becoming a good speaker. Real leaders know how to talk and what to say at any point. They also seem more intelligent.
26. Understand your job, your responsibilities and your role.
Did not receive a full job description listing all skills and responsibilities you need to do when you got hired? Develop a list of questions and clarify with your manager. It is better than assuming responsibilities and offending your co-workers.
27. Know strengths and weaknesses of yourself (and manage them) and of others (know when to help and with what).
28. Understand your work and your projects and research/ask around if you don’t.
29. Positive self-talk.
This one is especially relevant for us, women. We tend to let our fears take over our feelings. You can never be successful if you are not sure that you can do it. As Disney said, “If you can dream it you can do it”. Become your best friend and be your own coach.
30. Know what you want to achieve eventually.
One of the tests sometimes used during the interview process to see if a candidate has a leadership potential is by asking about his/her career plans for the next 5-10 years. Just saying.
31. Find time for career development (skills, training/education, networking, experience, etc.). What, you wanted to move up and become a manager or a CEO without doing these things?
32. When presenting, focus on the message.
If you know what you want to say and communicate in the end, you are more likely to be able to answer any question and continue presenting even if someone skips a couple of your slides. Directors never lose sight of why they came to present to higher-ups; that is why they are successful in managing their projects and can push for the outcome they want.