—If by Rudyard Kipling
Work is hard! If it’s not, you’re probably not working hard enough. Every good employee who pushes to higher levels of success goes through major challenges in the pursuit of worthwhile work. There are dreams and shattered dreams, hopes and hopes deferred, projects launched and projects crashed. The one easy certainty in today’s workplace is that nothing is certainly easy.
Compound that challenge if you’re an individual contributor with little to no decision making authority—no corner office, no big budget to use at your discretion, no direct reports to delegate to. Yet deep inside every good organization are good individuals who rise up to meet these challenges, greeting the impostors of triumph and disaster with equal tenacity.
In fact it is here, in the process of leading oneself through the pitfalls, set backs, and politics of the workplace that great leaders are born. Tomorrow’s great leaders are born out of today’s challenges, victories and defeats, on the front lines of organizations all around the world. They are the individuals that Lead Up when the going gets tough, rising above to meet the vision and values of an organization, by influencing others, without decision making authority, through effective habits and skill sets.
Four Basic Skill Sets to Lead Up
Every effective individual within an organization shares some common habits or traits that make them successful. There are four basic skill sets for individuals to engage in regularly, in order to effectively Lead Up within an organization.
Excellence begins with understanding what is within your realm of capabilities, experiences, knowledge, and skill. Continually defining, refining, and reviewing Key Responsibility Areas (KRAs) is the first step to meeting daily and weekly challenges at work. Getting agreement on your job description with your manager and members of your team will ensure clear understanding and expectations of your role, as well as help you define your day-to-day priorities.
Everyone goes through learning curves at work. Each new project, goal, or task produces a whole new set of variables. Knowing who you are and where you’re at on the learning curve of any given goal or task will help you understand where you are going. Managers and other colleagues aren’t mind readers—they usually don’t know what you need to get the job done successfully. That’s why being aware of your own needs by assessing where you’re at in the learning process is a vital skill in Leading Up successfully.
Once you know where you’re at, you have a better idea where to go to get the direction or support you need to successfully negotiate the gauntlet of daily challenges. Ironically, being proactive in seeking the right type of leadership you need, makes it easier to work with you. Proactively seeking out the leadership style you need, rather than reactively waiting for someone to give it to you, creates stronger relationships with your manager and other colleagues.
Even the most successful individuals need to continually be held accountable to something higher than themselves. Accountability works best when you as an individual take the initiative to Lead Up by having consistent and effective One on One Meetings with your manager. Consistently scheduling and conducting short, half hour, meetings not only keeps you and your manager on the same page, it creates an intimate opportunity to communicate your development levels on critical goals, tasks, and skills—ensuring that you receive the right type leadership to help you achieve excellence at work.
People don’t wake up Excellent—it takes hard work and consistent routine. The Four Basic Skill sets to Lead Up at work should be a part of your daily and weekly routine! The effort is minimal, but the reward is exponential. When you’re ready to Be Responsible, Be Aware, Be Proactive, and Be Accountable—you’re ready to excel to higher levels of meaningful work and satisfaction in a job well done.
The world needs effective leadership, and you need to Lead Up, by beginning with the most obvious source of leadership—Yourself. Jason Diamond Arnold Consulting Associate, The Ken Blanchard Companies Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action