1. Hold the mindset that change provides opportunity.
There is an ancient wisdom etched into Chinese vocabulary. The Chinese ideogram for crisis consists of two separate characters. One means danger; the other means opportunity. The proper translation is that a crisis is a dangerous opportunity. When confronted with a crisis, you need to recognise both the danger and the opportunity. Often the danger is more readily apparent, while the opportunity can be deftly concealed. The thing to keep in mind is to look for the opportunity as well as the danger. Crisis holds the potential for both.
In studying hundreds of famous people, whether politicians, sportspeople, business people, or spiritual leaders, I have found that crisis comes to every person in some way. Those who rise in the midst of crisis and see it as an opportunity to change and grow become greater and more powerful. They reach heights that they would never have attained had they never experienced that crisis. As masterful innovator Walt Disney put it, “You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth might be the best thing in the world for you.”
When change is imminent, hold the mindset that change provides opportunity, remain positive, and don’t dwell on the danger but dwell on the opportunity.
2. Do not overfocus on the next job position but rather on the skills to be developed.
I think that most people today are aware that the company does not have the same amount of loyalty to you that they used to a few years ago. There was a time the company would have a track for your life. You could go and meet with your manager and they could tell you where you are going and when you will get there.
Today, you are your manager and you need to plan out your own career path to your dream job. Therefore, it is important that you are not focused on the job position, but rather on the skills required.
I like to say it like this: “You have to do the job before you get the title.” In other words, if you want to be the CIO, then you need to develop the hard and soft skills required for a CIO; you need the education of a CIO, you need to start dressing like a CIO, acting like a CIO, speaking like a CIO, and then one day, when you have had the right amount of experience, someone is going to say, “I think Jessica would make a great CIO!”
3. Building relationships with key decision makers.
It’s not only what you know but whom you know. I have seen people scoot all the way up the ladder of a company through being connected closely with key decision makers.
Think of football coaches: they build their team and work with players for years, and then they get headhunted to another club as head coach, and what is the first thing they do? They try to get their key players to move to the new club, as well. They are like a positive cliché. Where one goes, they all go. Some coaches and key players move together all the way through their playing life.
Why? Because just as the players think that the coach has made them succeed, the coach thinks that the players have helped him or her succeed. They are a powerful team, and they feel powerful together. Sir Edmund Hillary needed Tenzing Norgay to climb Everest. We all need to find an “internal coach” whom we can work with and who would support us to climb our Everest.
4. Exhibit the ability to get ‘stuff’ done.
How do you build these key relationships? You build them by working on projects with key stakeholders, complimenting their skills, and making them look good.
As one senior manager put it to me, “Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work for some great ‘blue sky’ leaders, but they couldn’t project-manage their way out of a lunch bag. While I’ve probably not been the best at brainstorming new and creative ideas, in many situations I’ve been able to take their ‘kernel’ of an idea, pour some fertiliser on it, and make it grow and flourish into a great program and actually implement it.”
In projects, there are two key parts–the front end and the back end, people and tasks, marketing and operations, talkers and doers. If the key stakeholder is a talker, then you need to be a doer. If you are the key doer to the key stakeholder, then you ain’t going nowhere fast! They need you to keep making their projects succeed.
5. Treat everyone with genuine respect.
It’s not just about managing well, but also about how you treat your peers, team members, and vendors alike. You never know who you may be working for or with some day, so treat everyone as you’d want to be treated and keep confidences when someone confides in you and wants some advice. As one senior manager in a global I.T. company put it to me, “I believe in creating good karma with those you interact with.”
Along with the other things I have mentioned, this will stand you in good stead with decision makers and bring you allies and supporters in the organisation. When business takes a turn for the worse and they’re considering who to cut, you often won’t make the list if you have built those relationships and have shown the ability to deliver with quality over and over again.