Workers who get promoted don’t merely demonstrate consistent proficiency in their own jobs. They show the potential to rise up through the leadership ranks by making a habit of thinking like leaders, even before given the opportunity. If you want to advance into a management role at some point in your career, it pays to improve the transferable “soft skills” that are in such high demand today – and you can start doing that in your current role.
Practice Eager Listening: The willingness and capability to listen intently is one of the most under-appreciated management skills. The average person enjoys conversations as much or more for the opportunity to be heard than to listen, but strong managers are invariably good listeners. They listen primarily to understand a point of view or learn about a subject, rather than to formulate a response. Practice listening intently to your peers in professional conversations. Then write down the key bullet points from what you heard. As a manager, you will find that this practice leads to people to be more receptive to you when you do have something important to say.
Refine Communications and Interpersonal Skills: Future leaders are able to promote a feeling of unity among their peers and contribute to collaborative relationships. They can help to resolve disputes when necessary, and help to bridge divides in perspectives. Their leadership enables others to develop close-knit working relationships. They are masters of the nuances of interpersonal communications, whether in person or through email, direct messaging online, or other channels. They are effective in speaking to groups and in public settings as well. You can develop each of these communication skills in your work, or through other business and networking opportunities. Meetup groups and Toastmasters are great places to start.
Use Feedback Constructively: You may be surprised, but you will receive even more feedback as a manager than you do in your current role, and this is a positive development. It will signify that your employer is investing more resources in your development as a leader. However, that feedback won’t necessarily feel complimentary at times, or even constructive. So take the opportunity you have now to develop the skill to use feedback as constructively as possible, even if you feel you are being unfairly critiqued. Demonstrate humility and coachability and practice honest self-reflection. You are not a finished product, but one worth improving, and that is something that successful people demonstrate consistently on their way up.
Think Big Picture: In your current role, you may execute on specific projects and tasks, and you may not be challenged to think about the broader initiative or strategy. A key trait in future leaders is the desire and ability to understand the importance of one’s role within the larger context of corporate visions. Make a habit of considering how your work contributes to organizational objectives. Consider volunteering for inter-departmental projects to gain exposure to different perspectives from within the organization. Ask for a mentor if you have a mentoring program in your organization. Mentoring is invaluable in helping you develop as a leader, because it provides someone with the skills you need who has a vested interest in your development.
Develop these practices into regular habits and you will develop yourself into a candidate worthy of promotion in your organization, or by one of your choosing.