When faced with numerous choices, prioritise what will make a difference to your career, says CoreLogic CEO Lisa Claes.
I often liken the leadership journey to conducting an orchestra: you need to make timely decisions with the instruments (tools) at your disposal, and ensure everything is working in harmony so that you can deliver an exceptional performance.
It’s likely you’ll be faced with myriad decisions in your career, as opportunities present themselves simultaneously. But with several forks in the road, how do you know which to choose, and which to pass?
1. Stay close to the critical path
In business, the most valuable players are those who positively influence the bottom line so be selective with your choices. Find out which roles contribute to that outcome and which projects are business critical, and direct your energies accordingly.
Ultimately, it’s those who are capable of driving the business forward that are best placed for advancement. You need to be recognised as making a difference, in addition to being good at your job.
2. Lead large, trump tricky
If you’re going to take something on, go for impact. Volunteer for the difficult tasks, and use them as a chance to shine. Think ahead, what are the trends in your industry, what skills will help you thrive in the future, and how can you try and master them now? Or better how will your business be impacted by these trends and what can you do to position your business?
If you can’t find an opportunity, create one. Look at voluntary work to gain experience, or take on side projects to hone your skills and develop new ones. My career is a rich collection of experiences: I’ve been a Barrister, Senior Banking Executive and now CEO in data & analytics. There’s no set path; one thing can easily lead to another.
3. Focus on strengths
Some of the most successful people I’ve met haven’t been high performers in the academic sense, but they use their strengths to their advantage. Know what you excel at, articulate your value proposition succinctly and leverage your strengths appropriately.
You can’t be good at everything, and you don’t have time to do everything, do what you do well yourself and outsource or delegate whatever you need to.
4. Choose your sponsor wisely
Your sponsor is more important than your manager, so choose them wisely. They are usually someone senior or influential in your organisation who advocates on your behalf at pivotal moments in your career – perhaps during discussions around future opportunities when you’re not even part of the decision-making process.
Your sponsor believes in you and helps you navigate your career, so share your successes with them and prioritise nurturing this relationship.
5. Take some risks to push yourself out of your comfort zone
Challenge is the crucible of change, enjoy being uncomfortable and seek out opportunities that push you. If you want to better yourself, you have to take a few risks.
Tackling difficult things allows you to re-baseline, and builds confidence. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? It may not be such a big deal after all.
The leadership journey is a unique and personal one, which can be as diverse and fulfilling as you want it to be. So grasp opportunities that advance you, and pass on those that don’t.
Think strategically, consider options carefully and march to the beat of your own drum.