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Habits to get you to the next level

You can't give yourself a promotion, but you can set the stage for what's next.

5 min read




It can be difficult to really stand out, but with a little planning and a new mindset you can elevate yourself to be considered for the next leadership position. The side benefit is that while practicing these habits you build new leadership skills in the process. Here are five habits to elevate you to the next level:

  1. Ask for feedback
  2. Focus on the future
  3. Be a resource to others
  4. Keep emails to a singular focus
  5. Document your successes

Ask for feedback

Most bosses are not that great at giving performance feedback. If they were, there wouldn’t be any surprise firings, and you wouldn’t be doing more than your fair share to cover for the poor performer. Therefore to make sure your performance is as good as you think it is, ask your boss for feedback. Don’t catch your boss off guard or you won’t get the truth. Instead, ask for a 10-minute meeting for the purpose of evaluating your current project and the results you have so far. Send your boss an “agenda” ahead of time with three points:

  1. What am I doing well?
  2. Where do I need to grow?
  3. Suggestions.

Yes, you are the one doing all the work and setting the agenda, but your forward thinking will put you miles ahead of the other employees. And, if there’s anything you need to work on, you’ll know it before the “real” evaluation instead of afterwards. Finally, this skill will take you to the next level when you decide you want a leadership position.

Focus on the future

Sounds easy enough, but most of us are a broken record of the past. We talk about what someone should have done, what went wrong, what we don’t want, and who’s to blame. Master your communication. Instead of talking about what someone should have done, ask for what you need now. Instead of talking about what went wrong, talk about what you learned and how you envision the future if everything goes right. Instead of talking about what you fear, and what you don’t want, talk instead about what you desire and what you do want.

Example: Instead of saying, “I don’t want to argue,” say instead, “I want us to come to an agreement.” This skill takes practice, but will help you become a visionary leader instead of a micro-manager.

Be a resource to others

Instead of hording information, become the “go-to” person. This does not mean you do other people’s work for them. What it means is that you can guide others to the next step; share a tip on how to do the job more efficiently; or offer to mentor for a short period of time. You become a bridge to their success rather than a barrier.

To build this habit, you have to come from an abundance mentality and trust yourself to deal with consequences if someone takes your credit. You will also have to know how to set appropriate boundaries so that you are helping but not rescuing. 

Keep emails to a single focus

One reason people don’t respond to emails is because they have to work too hard to figure out what is being requested. Haven’t you ever gotten a long complex email and made a mental note to get to it later but out of sight became out of mind?

 Simple, short emails get results. Ask one question. Address one subject. Include your action item at the end of the email instead of at the beginning, and you make it easier for others to respond quickly.

Document your success

There are many ways to document your success. For example if you have asked for feedback from your supervisor, and you got better results, why not send your supervisor an email thanking him or her for their advice, while reporting the results. If you have helped a co-worker by being resourceful, follow up and ask how they used your advice.

Once again, you are taking credit and letting others subtly see your success without having to brag. In both examples you have created a paper trail.

Take the time to keep track of your successes using a simple word document as an electronic journal. It may seem cumbersome or time-consuming but the benefits outweigh the work. You can use these successes as “case studies” if you need to remind your supervisor of your superior performance.


Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of “Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley, 2011) and “No-Drama Leadership” (Bibliomotion, 2015). Visit her website, and connect via Linked In, Facebook and Twitter.

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