Understand what's expected of you
It seems obvious but you'd be surprised how many people don't comprehend the layers of expectations on them and therefore think they are delivering. In fact they can be missing critical expectations.
Most people are pretty clear on their role based expectations (e.g. delivering on a sales or productivity target, leading their people well) but there are less-obvious ones too.
For example: universal expectations such as acting in accordance with the company's corporate values and with honesty and integrity. These should be obvious but are often overlooked in the rush to deliver on the very explicit role based expectations.
These universal expectations also tend to reflect the 'how' rather than the 'what' of performance which is an important component of any balanced performance scorecard.
Then there are expectations that are quite specific or niche to your manager and other key stakeholders and which characterise their management 'style'. I'm sure we've all encountered a manager who has a pet hate or likes things done a particular way.
While these can be the enemy of diversity and we should be careful when advocating adherence to them, they are nevertheless real and an awareness of them can often be critical to career progression.
Understand what's important to your boss and help them
Managing your boss is as important as managing your team but is often overlooked.
It sounds political and sometimes people over invest in “managing up” at the expense of managing other key stakeholders but it is an important factor in the career management equation.
Understanding what's important to your boss and the expectations and pressures they have on them is key to helping them be successful. And if you've helped them deliver on their expectations they will generally reciprocate.
Develop and maintain a positive profile
Linked to the point performance alone won't get you promoted, it is crucial people in a position of influence over your career know who you are and what you are doing.
By developing a profile within your organisation you will make yourself visible to those who have the influence to help you progress towards your career goals.
Many people struggle with this concept as they feel it is self-indulgent - and there is no doubt profile building can be overdone. Like everything it is about striking a balance but the number of people in my experience who fail to promote themselves and their achievements far outweighs the number of inglorious self-promoters.
Network to build mutually beneficial relationships
Like profile building, lots of people view networking negatively. The word 'schmoozing' springs to mind.
A slight re-framing of this important activity though and you can see it as connecting and building mutually beneficial relationships which are critical not only to your career success but also to that of the organisation.
When networking though it is important to remember it's not all about you. Healthy relationships involve give and take.
A good question to ask yourself in relation to the person you are looking to connect with is: “what can I do for them?” rather than “what can they do for me?” By putting your agenda to one side like this you will build connections authentically which will help form the basis of mutually beneficial relationships.
Understand the political landscape in your organisation
All organisations have it but few like to discuss it, I am of course referring to 'politics'.
Most people will say they like to avoid the politics in their organisations. Sadly this puts them at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to getting ahead in their career.
A small minority of people will immerse themselves in the politics and inevitably they will get burned. Some may appear to get ahead in the short-term but most will come unstuck in the longer-term.
So how should one approach politics? The key is to be aware of and understand the political landscape around you and then manage it by maintaining a sense of perspective, not taking things personally, not sweating stuff that is beyond your control and above all being ethical.
In my experience over many years of helping people manage and develop their careers, as well as attempting to manage my own, I've come to believe managing these elements together with ensuring you perform will materially improve your chances of achieving your career goals in a constructive and sustainable way.
Jonathan Harvey is Group General Manager Executive Development and Resourcing at ANZ.
Photo: Arsineh Houspian.