How do you get ahead in your career? What are the areas to address and work on? Who better to answer those questions than Dr. Cindy Wahler, leadership consultant and author of ’20 Effective Habits for Mastery At Work’, her recently published book (February, 2021).
Her book covers 20 key habits that we should all focus on, starting with collaboration – “you can’t be successful by yourself” – and ending with the impact and the influence of communication. “From the start of our careers as individual contributors all the way to the C-Suite, we should all be lifelong learners, no matter where you are, regardless of sector or size of company or whether you’re an entrepreneur,” she told us from her home in Toronto.
Dr. Wahler covers many important attributes that she has worked on with her clients during her distinguished career as a leadership consultant. One of those key habits is covered in the book is ‘critiquing’. “Even at C-suite level people are reluctant to give feedback or critique, but if we’re not told, how can we improve? It’s difficult to know how we come across. The most valuable thing is what I call ‘just in time’ feedback where for example your manager might make a suggestion to you after a meeting. But the feedback must be specific, so go back and ask them to define it if you’re not sure what they mean.”
Getting input all the time is crucial to success and if you are curious and open to suggestions, you will grow and develop. As Dr. Wahler says, “Those leaders who really are successful demonstrate what I call ‘humble confidence’, they know where they’re going, but they have the humility to ask good questions when they don’t have the answers. They always want to learn and it’s that combination that’s so powerful. If you can master ‘humble confidence’, not only will you benefit but those around you will be inspired.”
From ‘pivoting’ to ‘believing’, there are many different areas that we should all seek to develop. For those of us lacking in confidence, she advises, “Many of us can be afflicted with impostor syndrome, which can affect our self-esteem. But this is usually a lack of alignment between our self-image and reality. In order to believe, you have to look at the facts and your track record. Remember also that failure provides an opportunity to chart a better course. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t learnt.”
And what about stepping out of our comfort zones, which can be a challenge for many? “One of the things you can do is seek out a ‘buddy’, someone who can encourage you and help you be accountable. This person can create that platform for you to take those risks. In this way, you can socialise ideas in advance so that you have those early adopters who will support you. It’s important also to share vulnerabilities, as that normalises it – no one’s career is a straight line, they probably messed up too! That will give you the courage and confidence you need.”
For those looking for work and perhaps feeling discouraged, Dr. Wahler is adamant that your time will come as long as you help yourself along the way. “I strongly believe every person lands, however you must broadcast as widely as possibly what you want to as many people as possible. Don’t assume they know, let every person know and don’t be shy about it! You’ll get amazing suggestions and advice from what I call your unusual cast of characters – you don’t know who their connections are and that piggy backs onto others.”
Dr. Wahler’s top 3 career tips
- Willingness to take risks
“To what extent are you as an employee prepared to fail? I call it ‘failing up’. Every time we take a risk, the likelihood is we’re going to fail but by absorbing failure you learn and end up having greater skills.”
- Collaboration and partnering
“We all start our careers as individual contributors and then we jump to working with others. The key is to staying aspirational but partnering with others. You have to incorporate other people’s perspectives – you have to excel at partnering skills.”
- Communication and listening
“One of key aspects is listening, so actively listen, be more inclusive and take on board different perspectives. Organisations that foster D&I create more robust solutions.”
You can learn more about the other habits you need to succeed in her book, '20 Effective Habits for Mastery At Work'.
And here is the podcast where you can listen to the full interview with Cindy!