The Three Essential Skills to Drive Your Success
I am convinced of two things; most people know a lot, and some things you know are more important than others.
For instance, I know that turning up to work on time is important. I also know that Kangaroos cannot walk backwards. Each of these are important, but only one is useful.
In this vein, there are things that can help you at work, and then there are things that can help you skyrocket your career.
If you are after the first, Google it, there are heaps of listicles available; 15 Quick Tips for Excelling at Work, or How to Excel at work — 14 Tips for blowing your boss’ mind.
These articles will tell you to have a positive attitude and get to know your colleagues, these are really important, but you don’t need a list for it. I want you to know the three skills you need to know to excel in any job.
If you have all three of these, and can show that you are developing in all three areas, you will continue to progress at work. But, it isn’t easy.
You need to work out the exceptionally difficult task of linking vision, strategy and action. You need all three coupled together. If you can do all three, you are truly valuable to your organisation, and you will progress.
I struggled to effectively join all three, but when I did, I accelerated my career.
These three skills are all related and essential. You need to be able to work out how to couple them.
Like a child learning to draw; firstly you learn the pattern of movement that make the right shapes and colours (you learn the actions).
Then you learn the techniques of composition, the concepts of perspective and shading (you work out the strategies).
Finally, you work out that you are in charge of the final image, it is your ideas and creativity that builds the final piece (you define the vision).
Action, then Strategy, then Vision.
This is how you learn to become a better artist, it also applies to any job you will ever have. Any life-skill you need to master. It is also why I bought myself a sketch pad and a set of drawing pencils two years ago.
We all need to learn how to connect these three skills. For each of these essential skills, I’ll give you three tips to grow that skill.
People follow footprints, not butt-prints
If you want to be good at something, then start. Nobody really learnt something without doing it. Action is the first step. You need to learn how to do your job. If you are leaving footprints, you are making progress. If you are leaving bum-prints you are leaving nothing. Be active, be in motion.
I am not talking about physical movement if your job does not require it, I am talking about moving your tasks forward, even when you don’t feel like it. In fact, most importantly, when you don’t feel like it.
Action creates energy, action gives momentum, action creates wins.
I want you to know a few things though;
- If you just do what you’re told, you are in reaction, not action. I am not talking about showing up and doing the minimum. I want you to focus on seeing a need, beyond your job, and then acting.
- If you are in a role where you are being instructed, and do not have the freedom or knowledge to see what needs to done and take action, you need a different type of action. This is the pro-active learning type of action. You listen, reflect and ask a follow-on question. Understanding faster and better is an action.
- If you are faced with a company or team that does not support you doing either 1 or 2, then it is on you. You need to work out how to progress yourself and the role bit by hard-earned bit. This is the getting-shit-done type of mentality you need to learn if you want to nail this skill.
Action is the easiest and the hardest of these skills to master. Easy in the fact that you can just start, hard in the fact that you have to keep doing it even when you really don’t want too.
Action is all on you, your powerful coupling of intent and purpose.
Work out why you want to be good at the job, then channel everything you have into making it so.
Strategy is a fancy word for coming up with a long-term plan and putting it into action — Ellie Pidot
How do you get from here to there? That’s all strategy is.
What are the steps you need to take to move yourself, your team, your organisation — from where you are now, to where you need to be.
So, imagine you wanted to get good at strategy, what do you need to do? You make a plan, then take action on that plan, and see what works. This is great, because nobody says to has to be a long-term strategy, it can just be a plan. It allows you to discover how to plan and then how to execute. Do this well, and pick a plan that takes some time to implement, you now have a strategy.
Here are some tips for getting better at it;
- Have a conversation with your peers and colleagues, or even better with your Personal Advisory Board. Talk about what it is you are trying to achieve, and tell them your plan. Ask them to quiz you on the plan. Ask them to focus on the process and the underlying assumptions. They will make you think about things from a different perspective and your plan will be better for it. They will help you acknowledge constraints and obstacles, this will help you be more successful more often.
- You cannot race from finishing one thing to starting another. You need to reflect on how things went; could you describe why you were successful, or why you failed. If you cannot, you did not really succeed. Hold an after-action review and discover what worked and what didn’t. Do not attribute blame but work hard to discover why you succeeded or failed.
- Seek some opportunities to watch others plan before a task, or dissect their plans at the completion of the task. Exposure to this will help you grow, you will learn what worked and what did not work without doing it yourself. This is great, and a powerful learning tool, but you must still do. Don’t just watch.
Strategy is just a complicated or far-reaching plan for getting stuff done, for moving something forward. It is the coupling of action to a plan.
Your strategy is just your powerful coupling of intent and purpose, with a plan
This is your way of getting the important shit done. If you get good at this and you will be an exceptional employee or boss. One being noticed, one growing and getting better.
If you have made it this far, and have worked on how to consistently execute in line with the plan, you are already becoming a really important member of the team. You are being noticed, you are achieving things and in doing so re-enforcing the good that you have learnt.
The thing you need to excel, I mean really excel, and set yourself up to earn that promotion or move the organisation forward, is vision. To really succeed you need to make one more connection, you need to work out how to connect action and strategy with a vision for a successful future.
A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power — Brian Tracy
People tend to imagine those with vision as those looking far into the future, with grand ideas and amazing creativity. That may be true in small numbers, but it is not what I am talking about. This should not be your starting point.
To have a powerful vision, all you need is a small amount of additional clarity and surety, just enough to see around the corner first. You need to be able to provide confidence to those around you that you have seen a different possibility. One that it is possible to achieve.
This applies to a personal vision, but equally as important for us is that you can still be successful on a much simpler path.
All it takes is to understand someone else’s vision.
If you are in a job, your boss or your company will have a vision for what they want to achieve. If you want to be successful, if you want to thrive in your job and any other you take in the future. You just need to work out how to understand it, how to sense that additional clarity and surety.
You can find it a few ways, but it helps to be understanding how you would come up with a vision for the future as well. Here are some tips;
- Those people you see that have a vision for something new, something different, something better. All they have are lots of ideas. They have more ideas than most people, and they then work out their filter for deciding the good ones, and the ones worth doing first. You want to improve your vision for possible futures, start by writing five ideas a day. Literally anything, it does not have to be about your job. You just need to start your idea muscle. Do it. Then at the end of the week select a few of them that are good. Keep these, they will be useful at some point.
- Seek opportunities to increase your breadth of knowledge and awareness. Vision only comes when you consider something from various angles. You need breadth to get good at considering alternate angles, at empathising with other members that will be involved, to work out obstacles to your success. The most important thing for me in this was exposure to other peoples thought process. I gate-crashed (nicely) as many meetings inside my organisation as possible. I did this to understand how someone would approach an idea or a plan, what they were struggling with. If you take this attitude, everyone has something to teach you, stay curious.
- A vision is nearly always the coupling of something familiar with something novel or new. If it is something completely new and novel it is unlikely to succeed, no one has a reference point for what success looks like. Imagine I told you I had a vision for the future of the company where I wanted to make longer-form advertising clips for television that drew on the creativity and production value of a Disney animated movie. This isn’t even one new or novel thing, it is two known things put together in a novel or new way. Start making this part of your idea generation task. Because, if you have a vision for the future of a business, it is nearly always starting with the current company with some new twist in strategy or execution. You are defining a new possibility, but you have to start somewhere.
Vision seems like some mythical attribute that the rare and gifted have, but us poor muggles will never have. This is crap, you have a vision for your own future already, it is why you are reading to the bottom of this article. You have a vision for an improved version of you or future success that you are chasing.
You can do it for yourself, you can do it for work. You are more capable than you realise.
There is no elevator to success, just the stairs
I have given you a piece of knowledge that is exceptionally powerful. Work out how to couple these three things; action, strategy and vision, and you will shine. But reading this is not enough, as written in the first step of this article, you need to take action.
Imagine that I have given you a vision for your future.
One where you are indispensable, highly valued and seen as exceptionally competent. You have earnt the platitudes of many and have been acknowledged for your successes.
Can you imagine that?
I can, I can see that for you. All you need to do is start. Take action, work on your planning and strategy, and find out how you create the details of your own personal vision.
Then start climbing the stairs. Climbing the stairs sucks, you see others taking the elevator and skipping steps, but they will get stuck somewhere in the future when they haven’t worked it out. They skipped something important while you were grinding, honing your skills, and climbing those stairs.
You have the framework, you have some tips, now you need to climb.
You can master these three skills, and if you do you will have the tools to succeed at anything.
I am a writer with a passion for leadership, growth and personal development. I try and create a spark, a little idea that nests inside and kindles your aspirations. Reach me at leonpurton.com
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