Set yourself up for career success by incorporating these critical building blocks.
Figure out your values and who you are, and be true to both. Trying to be who you aren't will impede your company and your career progress.
Dare to follow a path unique to you.
Take risks and be curious. Build specific skill sets and gain unique experiences each step along your career path. You will stand out from the "cookie cutter" crowd and have more--sometimes unexpected--opportunities open up to you this way.
Work with or for a great mentor.
I can point to five incredible mentors who had a huge impact on my career learning and trajectory. Find mentors who are willing to let you stretch beyond your comfort zone, and then review how you can improve the next time around. The greatest learning comes from these gray zones of discomfort.
Rally people behind a compelling vision.
Get others to buy in and be excited about your mission through strong, positive visuals, anecdotes, and storytelling. Say the words or sentence that you want others to repeat; say it enough times, and it will catch on, amplifying your message. People want to feel part of something big and compelling.
Make sure that your board or boss knows what you have accomplished. When possible, be helpful to others and let them shine--publicly--for great work that they do. Encourage others to do the same for excellent work that you do.
Ask for what you want.
Ask respectfully and directly. Keep your ask objective and based on the merits. Be proactive. Use constructive body language and words. Don't make it personal. No one but you will take care of your career steps or propel you to success.
Learn to say no and let go of the things that don't matter. Figure out which tradeoffs you are and are not willing to make for work versus your life. In some cases, 80/20 is the best it's going to get (especially when it comes to replying to email).
Meet your commitments. Then expect the same from others.
Get your own house in order before expecting it from others. You'll be respected more--and be more effective at your job--this way.
Be self-critical first.
Look first at how you contributed to a particular situation and what you can learn from it and do differently next time. This continual improvement in self-awareness and professional skills will set you apart as a leader over time.
Listen and understand.
Take a break from telling. Great power comes from understanding your counterpart, and from building a solution that bridges the gap between you and that person.
Problem solve creatively.
Apply creativity to negotiating, influencing, deciding, and problem solving. Avoid getting stuck in black and white or zero-sum thinking. Don't get distracted by having to be "right." What are the interests or concerns of the parties and which creative options might address those interests or concerns?
Strive to be respected and trusted versus just being liked. Trying too hard to please other people and be "friends" with them above all else is not the trait of a true leader.
Unplug and get inspired.
Schedule breaks and vacations. Recharge. Pulling your head out of the weeds on a regular basis will help you get a better perspective, solve problems more effectively, and worry less.
Show real empathy. Look people in the eye and smile. Offer levity through well-timed humor. Human connection and the goodwill that it creates are powerful forces that can help push you along a successful career path.