What makes people successful? I’m sure that the list is long – from doing what you love, to being creative to being in the right place at the right time.
Based on 30 years’ worth of working experience, here is my list of characteristics that I have found you need if you’re going to be successful.
- Bias for action. More than anything, the ability to get things done is the key skill in my book for success. I had a colleague who called himself an “ideas person”. He was a visionary, a great thinker and would come up with amazing ideas. But he struggled to bring them to action. And without action, the ideas would stay in his head. That’s why we worked so well together. I had the ability to get things done. I learned how to identify what needs to be achieved, then break it down into smaller tasks, and focus on getting these done. And that lead to the success of implementing the ideas.
- Touch everything once a day. When I was in corporate, I would be involved in projects that would take many months – and sometimes years – to get done. I learned from an empowering manager early in my career to touch every project at least once a day. That discipline allowed me to keep up with the progress on each project, and at the end of the year, I would be able to see what I had achieved. Things don’t happen automatically – you have to push them forward. And touching each project once a day and getting that one action done that will move it forward, helped me to achieve great goals at the end of every year.
- Able to work with people. Relationships with people is critical for success. No man is an island and working in teams is a critical skill. That means that you need to understand yourself first – your own preferences and triggers – and then understand other’s preferences and strengths. In that way you can be deliberate about the way that you interface with people, and the team can use their strengths in the best way to achieve their goals.
- Learn about your industry. Understanding the technical details of the industry that you’re working in is critical to understand the impact of various elements. Ensure that you know the value chain, what happens at each step and what influences on your situation. Keep up to date by reading periodicals, attending online classes and conferences to keep your knowledge relevant and up to date. Don’t rest on your laurels – commit to being a life-long learner.
- Make the hard decisions. Really great performers realize that they need to make difficult decisions sometimes. Decisions that will make other people unhappy, but decisions that need to be made for the company to be successful. Don’t shy away from these decisions – it needs a strong stomach and some grit to make them, communicate them and implement them. I have found many executives who stumble in this skill – the need to be liked by others can be very strong. Successful people understand that they don’t have to be jerks, but that they would need to be unpopular sometimes.