Recently, I was speaking with a group of professional women about the skills they see as essential to “getting to the top.” CEO of Pure Performance Communications, Deirdre Breakenridge, put together an article, “Climbing the Ladder to Success: Five Thought Leaders Weigh-in with Advice,” collecting their answers, and I wanted to share mine with you here.
For me, the answer is three-fold: persistence, a willingness, and openness to always be learning, and a strong tribe.
Persistence is the obvious one – because of that, I don’t think I need to say much about it, but I will say that alongside of it, you need to have a clear understanding of what you want, and why. Because the journey will be a long and frustrating one, full of challenges and set-backs, and necessary failures. These aren’t things to be afraid of, but without that understanding of what we want and why, we may not use them as fuel to light the fire of our goals, and persist in achieving them.
Being a lifelong learner is important too, and along with that comes a humility (I hope!) that I don’t have all the answers, and not only does that mean I’m willing to seek them out, but also that where I’m not as strong, I’m open to surrounding myself with talented people who will bring their strengths to bear in those areas to ensure success for all of us. I’ve seen a lot of people, current and future leaders alike, who believe that they’re already experts and have all the answers and don’t have anything left to learn. For me, that means I’m not doing a service for my company, because I’m not open to improving the way we do business, to new ideas that my add value, and to new people who may have exceptional talents. It often makes me hugely uncomfortable, but getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is something that makes me better at my job.
And finally, I’m speaking for women especially because I am one, I see a strong tribe as necessary too, because success is never a solo project – we don’t get to the peak of our careers without help, and without a strong network of support that is willing to be brutally honest with us when we need it, share their lessons and triumphs along their journeys, and delight in our wins alongside us. Good counsel is invaluable – this goes along with the idea that we need to be lifelong learners, and should be surrounded by people who have something to teach us. The adage that you should “never be the smartest person in the room” should apply to your network as well. Seek out varying networks of support, from inside and outside of your industry, of people you can trust implicitly for their honesty and advice. Be equally willing to be generous with your time and counsel. We are all made better by lifting each other up.
I highly recommend reading Deirdre’s article, and taking on the suggestions of the other thought leaders included. What are your suggestions for “getting to the top?”