I have a harsh truth to tell you…
Your company is not responsible for your growth. Learning and self-improvement isn’t a formal requirement in most organisations but it is an unwritten one. No matter the position you hold in your company, taking responsibility of your own development is always a good idea.
The best part about taking charge of your learning and growth is that you can do it in your own time and learn the skills that you believe you need most. Here are 6 skills that you can (and must) improve regardless of where you are in your career.
Mindfulness is the ability to notice your emotional response to events, without reacting to them. In stressful or high stakes situations, those who practice mindfulness are able to pause for a beat and look at a what’s happening impartially.
For example, let’s say you’re in a meeting with your bosses and your colleague shares your idea as their own. How would you react? Would you immediately jump in and try to take credit? Would you stay quiet and let your idea be stolen? Or would you create a scene and accuse your colleague of stealing your idea? It’s natural to have that initial moment of “OMG, this person is stealing my idea!” But how you react after that is what matters. A person who practices mindfulness will be able to control that volatile emotional reaction, take a beat and objectively examine the situation. Not only will this save you and your colleague a lot of embarrassment, but it will also help you analyse and diffuse the situation.
You can start practicing mindfulness today by taking an extra breath and trying to examine events from an objective point of view, rather than letting your emotions take over.
2. Collaborating across differences
Being a team player is an important skill but it is not always easy to collaborate across differences. In a world where diversity is encouraged, learning to work with those who are not like you is an important and timeless skill. Learn to celebrate the full spectrum of uniqueness and difference in those around you.
If you wish to be at the front of the pack, you must learn to collaborate and work effectively across differences like gender, race, religion, politics and age.
You can start developing this skill by becoming aware of your subconscious biases about people who are not like you.
There are people who take feedback and even failure well. And then there are people who let setbacks slow them down. The ones who take feedback well and are the ones who are resilient.
Failure, setback and hardships are a part of life. It’s how you respond to them that sets you apart. The strongest people neither avoid feelings of failure, defeat, and rejection nor do they become paralyzed by them. When they are faced with obstacles, they grieve but they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and jump right back in to deal with the situation.
So what if you messed up once? So what if things didn’t go as you had expected? So what if you couldn’t handle the situation? It happens! And it will be okay.
Here’s the secret though, to become more resilient, don’t feel less, feel more. Don’t pretend that things didn’t go your way, don’t pretend like everything is okay because it won’t work. Instead, be honest with yourself that you’re upset, then focus on learning from your mistakes and moving past them. We are all resilient. It’s just a matter of putting it to good use.
4. Striking a balance
Everyone’s work involves simple, repetitive tasks and complex ones that take months and years to complete. Focusing on the most complex, long-term tasks on your plate is the sweet spot where you produce the most value. But what happens to most people when they are engaged with a complex task that requires a lot of their attention and focus?
They tend to forget about the little everyday tasks they are responsible for.
You can’t solely focus on the long-term task at the expense of the short-term requirements. You must be able to complete the daily tasks you are responsible for while working on the long-term projects. Balancing your responsibilities, both the long-term and the short-term is a skill that will serve you well.
The most important thing you can do is not get lost in either one: don’t neglect your everyday responsibility in the hope that you can add value to a long-term project because if you can’t handle something for one quarter, why should you be trusted with something that will take more time and resources? Find the way so you have time for both.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and look at a situation from their perspective. If you are empathetic you will certainly stand out at work.
When you are emotionally intelligent, people around you feel seen and heard, which is a key ingredient in developing trust with your peers. Believe me, your co-workers are not looking for sympathy. Telling someone “I’m sorry you feel that way” usually just makes them angrier, but saying (and meaning), “I’ve been frustrated when something doesn’t work as planned, and I understand why you’re angry. Let me help…” almost always works.
That is the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy will result in the other person feeling even more frustrated while empathy will make them feel better and result in trust building.
“Know-how” is a common phrase in the world of business. How about you replace it with “learn how?”
The hardest problems in the world are going to be solved by people who ask questions, people who are curious because only when you ask questions will you look for answers and find solutions. People who are curious have the ability to discover new things.
Let’s face it, we all know a few know-it-all’s and sometimes we become one. It’s really no fun being a know-it-all because the moment you say, “I know it”, you shun your growth. Whereas asking questions can get you answers you never expected. Questions help you grow, learn and innovate.
A fine example of asking questions and seeking answers are Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia who could not afford to pay their rent. They asked themselves how they might use the additional space in their apartment to lodge tourists and make some money. The answer to their question led to the founding of Airbnb.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – at work, to yourself and of your career. Asking questions will ensure that you are always growing.
Whether you wish to reach a C-level position someday or simply wish to grow in your current role, self-improvement is for everyone, at every career stage. Working on these skills is a journey with endless possibilities for growth and insight, not a destination or a box to check so you can move on to the next one. Focusing on them through the course of your career will help you move up the corporate ladder and keep you at the top of your game at all times.