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Build a Ladder

Over the last seventeen years, I have been blessed to work with some of the most talented people in the Canadian and US banking, energy, high tech, retail and real estate industries. As I moved through these experiences, I realized that success is not easy and involves both hard work and others occasionally opening and holding the door for you. I learned that a true leader internalizes the obligation to spend a good portion of their time building a ladder so that they may help those who are travelling with them climb the next rung in their career.

If you’ve done well, please remember to pass the good sentiment to those coming up behind you.

For all those senior leaders who took the time to listen, understand, coach and mentor me – I am truly grateful and forever indebted.

To all aspiring professionals – the tips included within this article are intended to help you climb that ladder.

Speak Powerfully

The words of your voice represent your brand – the values that are important to you. How you will think, feel, and act are all proven through the words and tone you select. The words out of your mouth have both the power to open and close doors for you. Be conscious of the effects they may have.  Your accompanying body language, tone, and aura are critical so that when you speak people will listen.

To speak so that people will listen, one must speak powerfully. Speaking powerfully requires avoiding the trap of conforming to negative communication traits. Such traits include gossiping, judging, complaining, and confusing opinions for facts. Avoid these at all costs.

Speaking powerfully also requires adopting positive communication traits such as being concise, clear, laconic, authentic, honest, and kind.

Related Article: Leadership Lessons: 5 Ways to Build a Box

Build Social Connectivity

Social connectivity is truly an organizational asset. It is the foundation of an open and transparent work environment that helps build a culture of helpfulness and avoids competitive rivalry and ill will. Social connectivity allows protectionism to be abandoned, and ideas to be shared, connected and eventually transformed into masterpieces.

Positive and direct human interactions breed social connectivity. When engaged in work activities with others you must demonstrate a high degree of social sensitivity. To do so you must believe that everyone has value and something useful to offer. You must also exhibit empathy and understanding for all opinions. One way to do this is to ensure equal time is given to all individuals to express their views and knowledge.

Social connectivity is the capital that enables a united group of individuals to challenge and motivate one another. Most importantly it avoids group think and allows a collection of people to truly make change possible. It is imperative that you are seen as a creator and promoter of social capital.

Form Thinking Partnerships

A few years ago, while working as an independent consultant, I was fortunate to work on closing a large acquisition made by a Canadian firm. I was paired with an individual named Tim. Tim was also an independent consultant. The scope of our assignment included day one operational readiness and regulatory deal approval. Tim and I were each assigned different work packages. The scope of work was estimated to take 20 weeks – we were given 12 weeks. Tim was assigned the technology work package and everything non-technical was assigned to me.

Immediately I wanted to build a bond with Tim. I knew that together we were much stronger than two separate entities working against each other and in a silo. Cultural norms between the technology team and the other business segments at this firm can best be described as a competitive rivalry. As Tim represented the technology team and I every other business segment, we decided to challenge the establishment and collaborate.

Tim and I shared our work package objectives and needs and immediately reached consensus on how best to meet and exceed them. We decided to be mutually accountable for both work packages and the success of one another. We understood that this was not a zero sum game. We could both win.

Openness and collaboration within a fiercely opposing culture were not the only great thing we accomplished. Tim and I used conscious conflict to ensure we stretched our cognitive abilities needed to exceed expectations. We challenged each other and looked for ways to break each other’s models, code, analysis, and conclusions. We were thinking partners.

Our thinking partnership meant that we constantly questioned one another with the intent to improve the quality of our outputs. Because it was an open and accepted system of conflict with a clearly understood altruistic intent there was no competitive rivalry or ill will.

Dedication and an intense desire to help one another succeed and solve this seemingly insurmountable task was the fuel we needed. Our thinking partnership helped us deliver our mandate in 10 weeks. Tim and I were rewarded for our success and understood that had we worked in silos or not formed a thinking partnership that we would never have accomplished what we did.

Tim and I enabled each other to do our best thinking – and achieve one of our greatest successes.

Thinking partnerships allow the discovery of more insight and progress. Ensure you actively seek to form as many as you can.

May you all achieve success.

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