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Lessons From Top 40 Under Forty Leaders

November 8, 2013

Recently, I was thrilled to receive a Top 40 Under Forty Award at a beautiful luncheon hosted by Business Link Media for the winners, their employees, family and media. As I mingled with some of the other recipients, I asked them about the characteristics they’ve developed that have led to their business success. Interestingly, I saw some common themes emerge. I wanted to share these Top Career Tips from Top 40 Under Forty Business Award leaders with you.

1.Don’t Compete. Collaborate. Instead of focusing on surpassing the competition, concentrate on being your best. Not only will this remove some pressure but when you focus on your own work as well as helping others, you are building an invaluable network. Anyone who has been in business for a few years will tell you it is a small world and you don’t want to burn any bridges. Take the time to help others and build partnerships. This is the true path to success.

2.Authenticity. Don’t try to be someone you are not to impress others at work. At the end of the day, you will do the best job when you are speaking and acting in line with who you really are.

3. Set Boundaries. When you love your job, it is easy to become addicted to it. But, it is important to take the time to completely shut down work so you can give yourself a break and time to connect with other people (and yourself!). I also find I am the most creative when I give myself some quality downtime. Do you work to live or live to work?

4. Be Passionate. Life is too short to perform your job on autopilot or even worse, to dread going into work each day. If you are committed to your job, it is time to get fully on board. When you are enthusiastic about the work you do, others around you will become more excited to be a part of your team. The result often leads to greater employee engagement and productivity. You owe it to yourself and the company you work for to be passionate.

5. Focus (While Going With the Flow). There was a study done on who performs best while playing the carnival game ’Whac-A Mole.’ This is the contest where the individual holds a hammer-like tool and waits for the creature to pop out of one of the many holes. The goal is to try to make contact with the stuffed animal before it pops back in the hole and comes out another. The more hits equals higher points.

So in the study, who do you think performed the best? One might think it was those who stood with intense focus while remaining extremely vigilant over the hole. But in fact, the highest scores went to those people who showed focus, but had a more relaxed posture with slower breathing and were often smiling throughout the game.

How does this translate to us as leaders? Next time you are emerged within a big project, try taking a few deep breaths and relaxing. Have fun and laugh with your team. Think of the project like putting together a puzzle. Take it step by step. Remember, your work is very important but likely you are not solving world hunger. Keep it in perspective and do your best.

6. Drive. Anyone who knows me well would tell you I have a lot of drive. For me personally, I think this has been responsible for a lot of my career success. My drive to make a difference. My drive to build my business into a success. My drive to make the world a better place. I find that my drive is often what kicks my other characteristics into gear. Knowing this about myself helps me to leverage that part of me, but it also helps me to see that there are other characteristics I need to continue to work on.

7. Go For it! If there is a promotion that comes available, don’t wait for your boss to notice your good work and automatically give you the job. It generally doesn’t work like that. You have to let your intentions known. Tell people (and the right people who can influence the decision) that you want the job. Put everything you have into going for it. Don’t worry about feeling like a failure if you don’t get it. If necessary, you can deal with that later. Just think positively and put yourself all out there and be prepared to back up why you are the best. Life is too short to not live on the edge!

8. Vision. Every leader needs to know where they want to go. And then once you know where that is, be prepared to be flexible! Sounds like tough waters to navigate at times. But, it is about having focus and then taking what life throws at you and looking for the opportunity within every experience.

9. Confidence. A lot of my clients come to me for help around developing their confidence. Confidence really comes down to believing in yourself and having the courage to put yourself out there. When talking to my clients, I tell them building confidence is like building a muscle at the gym. The more you work it and put yourself out there, the more you are building your belief in yourself. Of course there are always little tricks like posture, power suits, voice tone, etc. But real confidence needs to come from inside.

10. Desire to Serve. To me this is probably the most important characteristic for success. When I worked as a Vice President in a corporate role, I had my goals and wanted to achieve them which in turn helped the company grow and develop. Then I was rewarded accordingly. Notice the focus on ‘me?’

But something inside of me started to transition while I was in that role (perhaps spurred on by the birth of my first child), and I realized it wasn’t all about me anymore. I started to look at how I wanted to serve others. I realized I wanted to help others succeed in their careers and that became more important to me than my own success.

Once I took the focus away from me and put it on helping others, ironically that is when I actually started to achieve a greater level of success. My tip to you is to look at why you are working? Beyond the money or prestige, what is the essence of the work you perform? And most importantly, how can you help others in your role? Put more focus on serving your customers to the best of your ability, and you won’t go wrong.

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