Career Advice, Now + Beyond

I know why some people succeed in life – and why others fail. Here’s the secret.

I’ve asked myself what the best people have in common. Why do they succeed where others fail?

I’ve been an executive coach for 10 years and I’ve run my own business for 7 years. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with people from all different backgrounds in many different countries and in lots of different languages. I’ve worked with senior executives and the people who were being groomed at mid-level to take on those senior roles.

Because of my role, I often build lasting relationships with clients and I’ve watched them grow and develop their careers, taking on more responsibility, leading and managing more people and, yes, earning more and I’ve asked myself what these people have in common. Why do they succeed where others fail?

As I pondered this I realized that many of them have one thing in common: they see themselves as a business. By that, I mean that they understand that they are, from their organization’s point of view, a mix of skills and assets, relationships, qualities and experience and needs to be constantly managed.

I’ve asked myself what these people have in common, why do they succeed where others fail? Click To Tweet

They may not use the metaphor I have chosen but they do tend to all 5 of these areas.

1. Skills

man sat at desk gesturing with the caption "I have people skills: I am good at dealing with people. Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?"
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This is probably the most easily understood. Clearly, we are hired because we bring certain skills to an organization. It’s probably not the only reason or even the most important as we’ll see but it remains true that all else being equal, the more highly skilled you are the more likely you are to be able to find employment. Of course, this means the successful invest time, energy and money in learning new skills and keeping those they have honed. If you’re a business then it makes sense to invest in the future.

2. Assets

Rihanna giving interview in pink suit with caption "I got tons of work to do honey"
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The great thing about having assets in a business is that it gives you choices. You can leverage those assets in different ways and you can have different asset classes. Your IP or your portfolio, your little black book might be an asset depending on the job you want. Similarly, your marketing collateral e.g. your CV or LinkedIn profile can be a poor or well-performing asset! Again, depending on the organization and industry you’re in, your title may very well be an asset. The winners in the workplace realize their title is an asset and use it wisely. They use this power for good where possible, thinking deeply about their decisions and questioning their decisions. They do this because they know the importance of the third area.

The great thing about having assets in a business is that it gives you choices. Click To Tweet

3. Relationships

The Office clip with many in suit and caption "Sorry I annoyed you with my friendship"
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The best don't think of networking as an ability to promote themselves but instead try to help others. Click To Tweet

If you think of yourself as a business then of course relationships are important to you. Businesses contract with other businesses. This means that employment contracts are just that: contracts. You owe the organization hiring you your very best work and they owe you a number of important things but they don’t owe you loyalty. The best understand this and work hard on building relationships with others outside their organization. They do this because they realize networks need to have both depth and breadth. They don’t think of networking as an ability to promote themselves. Instead, they try to help others. Perversely, thinking of themselves as a business probably makes them kinder as they realize you never know where people are going to end up.

4. Qualities

lost and found clip of man shaking his head with caption "My reputation precedes me"
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If you think of yourself as a business you understand how important your reputation is. Yes, you could argue it’s an asset but I prefer to think of it as a bundle of all the qualities you show others. It’s how people feel about you – do they like you? trust you? Your character is important, it’s a small world and as we become ever more connected your reputation will precede you. People talk. You talk, right? So, of course, people are talking about you. What are they saying? That’s who you are.

5. Experience

The hills clip with man on phone in office and the caption "You need to have a lot of experience"
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Experience is only experience if it’s relevant. You can be the best tomato juice in the world and I won’t care. But if you’ve been fishing before and know how it’s done, and I’m hungry on a lake, then I’m all ears. The people I see succeed are those who take the time to understand the other person, so that they can then frame the experience they recount in a way that makes sense. They hit the right tone and get the level of detail correct. They understand that different people need to hear things in different ways.

It’s a small world and as we become more connected, your reputation will precede you. Click To Tweet

What do you think? Does the idea of thinking of yourself as a business appeal to you? fill you with unease? disgust? Even if it does, can you see the merit in considering these 5 areas?

the office Dwight shaking his head in agreement with caption "It's True"
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Dawn Metcalfe

By Dawn Metcalfe

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