What helps people to get ahead at work? Four skills

Posted on February 5th, by Dr Rob Yeung . 1 Comment

How To WinWe all know that smart, technically-skilled people don’t always make it to the top.  So what does help people to succeed and get promoted?

Research tells us that it’s about people skills – being able to build, maintain and use relationships to achieve outcomes at work.  I call this skill organisational savvy.

So what is organisational savvy?  And how can you get better at it?

Social astuteness

Published research tells us that there are four components to organisational savvy; the first is about reading body language and feelings and trying to work out people’s unspoken agendas.

If you want to get better at it, practise.  Next time you’re in a meeting, pick one person to watch.  Observe their body language.  Listen to the tone of their voice.  And try to work out what they are not saying.  The more you do this, the more socially astute you will become.

Interpersonal flexibility

This is the extent to which you’re willing to change your style to meet the needs of different people.  Are you the same with everyone?  Or do you take a gentler approach with some people and become more assertive with others?  People who pride themselves on being consistent – on being the same all of the time – tend to be less influential.

So think about adapting your style for different audiences.

You already probably don’t act the same in front of your in-laws as you do with your closest friends.  So apply the same rule to the colleagues and customers you deal with too.  Be the person they want you to be.

Networking for diversity

We all know that it’s important to have a network of contacts, advisors and friends to support you.  But it’s not only how many contacts you have – it’s also about their diversity.

Say two people John and Jane both have 100 contacts each.  John’s contacts are within 40 different companies.  But Jane’s contacts are in 60 different companies.  Chances are that Jane will have access to more new, different information, advice and other resources than John.

How dispersed is your network?  Could it be more diverse?

Demonstrable sincerity and integrity

The fourth component of organisational savvy is about being demonstrably sincere. Without being able to show your sincerity and integrity, you could get labelled political or manipulative.

But it’s not good enough if you feel that you have integrity and good intentions.  Intentions are invisible.  You need to demonstrate your intentions by constantly explaining your actions.

Never assume people know why they should do what you ask of them.  Take the time to explain, explain, explain why your suggestions and recommendations are good for the team and organisation.  Use the word ‘because’ a lot and often.

Onwards and upwards

To find out exactly how you score on each of the four components of organisational savvy, take a look at ‘Chapter 5. Winning the Race’ in my book How To Win: The Argument, the Pitch, the Job, the Race (Capstone).

And you can watch me talking about the science of winning arguments on TV too.

One Response to “What helps people to get ahead at work? Four skills”

  1. David P says:

    The message that I should be doing more networking is not new. But I do not have the time to do this! My job already takes up 8 to 10 hrs of my day and the last thing I want to do is to spend more time away from my desk having further meetings and conversations with other people.

    I understand the need but i find it dispiriting to think that I must also be spending time doing all of these things on top of my core role.

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