9 Success Factors at Work

man with business cardA college education is important, but learning from real life experiences is more.

Fifty executives at a large pharmaceutical company went through an assessment center to help the company develop its talent pipeline. They were assessed on sixteen competencies, or success factors. “Technical expertise” (what you learn in college) was just one factor; being socially agile, building strategic relationships, influencing others, maintaining composure under pressure, and driving change were among the fifteen other critical factors that are not taught in college.

Here are nine real life factors that typically contribute to an employee’s success in a job.

  • Leadership, courage, and decision-making ability
  • Social agility, being a team player, and building relationships
  • Communication and influence
  • Creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurialism
  • Planning and execution
  • Facilitating and adapting to change; resilience
  • Drive for results
  • Self-awareness and self-development
  • Integrity and organizational values

Joanie teaching at NU 3How do we learn these skills, if not in college? By taking on responsibility, venturing into unchartered ground, and taking time out to reflect.

What are some actions that you are taking to develop these skills? I’d love to hear your comments.

man on computerThe factor I’m learning the most on right now is communication and influence. I’ve broadened my reach to social networking. Learning how to communicate on the internet and how to be heard are two important skills that I certainly didn’t learn in college!

11 thoughts on “9 Success Factors at Work”

  1. Social agility. I just watched my boss land a huge multi-million dollar deal, right out from in under an S&P 500 company who was willing to give more, because the innovator in this particular deal liked my boss better personally. The innovator just saw a future of working together that was much more satisfying personally. The defining issues were character, values and personality. I am trying to learn this ability to connect. Didn’t learn it in college.

  2. All these factors are really important at work. I’d say the one I’m focusing on most now is “Facilitating and adapting to change; resilience” because my field (patent litigation) is in a period of significant flux. The law is changing (as courts and Congress try to balance protecting innovation with stopping baseless lawsuits), and clients’ expectations and budgets are also changing. Firms like mine have to adapt to remain successful. I’d go farther than to call it “resilience” though because to me that implies staying the same but surviving (the way a tree bends in the wind). What we’re having to do is evolve.

    1. John, that is deep! Thanks for sharing your experience. Your comment about change is relevant to us all. The world is changing rapidly and most of us have to update our skills or turn into dinosaurs. Speaking of evolving, resilience is clearly needed to stay in the game of the survival of the fittest.

  3. For me it is leadership, courage and decision-making ability. As a graduate student completing a program in social sciences, I learn to be team player to maintain strong relationships with fellow clinicians-in-training. While I’m currently building my experience in consulting however (venturing out in unchartered ground), I am learning to stretch myself in leadership characteristics, such as assertiveness, speaking confidently about my skills to others, and making tough decisions. For some individuals these skills can come naturally, but I think individuals such as myself have to remind ourselves that “you learn by doing.” I think actively pursing feedback from trusted co-workers has also been key to shape my skills.

    1. Amalia, kudos to you for having the courage to solicit feedback from peers. What a way to grow quickly. Also, assertiveness comes with confidence. The more experience you gain along the way, the easier it will be for you to reach out confidently. You probably do already assert yourself in the domains you feel more confident in. Thanks for sharing with us. Your insights are valuable to the rest of us.

  4. I am finding at this stage in my life I am focusing on self-awareness and self-development. I am at the infancy stages of starting my own business, so many of the categories above hit home. However, until I really looked within, and became more self-aware, I was stuck and didn’t have the self-confidence to move forward. This is where self-development comes in. Any time that fear or doubt washes over me now, I do not let it paralyze me. I tell myself that I can do whatever I put my mind to, even if it’s not done perfectly. Just keep moving forward with the next step.

    1. Maia, you have hit the key in starting a new business! Self-awareness is critical in any job, but it is particularly important when you start a business. Entrepreneurs will tell you that. You have to know your strengths and limitations to know what you can do yourself and when to get help. No one can do it all. I love what you say also about not letting fear paralyze you. Great advice to the rest of us.

  5. Everyone has great comments to share!
    Right now I am also focusing on self-awareness and self-development as I am once again…job hunting. I find the most important issue is “how to stand out from the crowd.” It makes you re-evaluate yourself…what is your passion? Who are you? and what do you want to accomplish? It helps to talk with family, friends, and colleagues; but self-development mostly comes from past work experiences and self-evaluation.
    Some things I have learned along the way….I am better recognized “in person” than “on paper”. So, I STILL drop off a well-written cover letter and resume at the offices I have researched thoroughly, and have something to offer them, (even if I apply on-line) It works for me, not only that I get to meet people and make a good impression, but the administrator will have something handed to her to read, rather than go through emails… I already had one interview!
    For the follow-up interview I have spent hours preparing by researching not only the company and similar type companies for comparison, but also the various techniques that I want them to use at this facility. For this next interview I expect to leave information about senior care in other facilities along with links; resources for activities,(internet, books), a brochure of a pertinent workshop that will be in our area in 6 weeks, and a list of places where brain research is being studied in other states. And,I just realized I should bring my Montessori teaching portfolio! I have basically done work ahead as the facility has not opened yet, and therefore they should be quite amenable to learning new ideas.I have never been so proactive before, but have learned it is necessary to get ahead!, Good luck to anyone job-hunting:)

    1. Cynthia, thanks for sharing! Standing out above the rest certainly is hard these days because there are so many qualified people. You raise a good point about making a personal connection. You’re right that swinging by and dropping off a resume already sets you apart from the others who just email. It’s interesting to note how you self reflect to stand out as well. Who are you really and what do you want to do? That not only helps you stand out but also figure out which jobs to apply for and where to not waste your time. Good luck with your interviews!

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