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Essential qualities of promotable employees

By Sospeter Opondo | November 15th 2013

One of the most common questions asked by an employee of his or her company is, “What can I do to get promoted?”

The thinking behind the question is obvious. Employee assumes there are some key initiatives, some specific actions, some high visibility project and some critical role the employee should take on. If they do, promotion is almost guaranteed.

May be, that is occasionally true. But there’s a much better approach. The key to advancing – whether professionally or personally – is not based solely on what you should do.

Though important, the key to advancing is based on what you should be. This is because attitude informs action and behaviour.

Attitude is the driving force behind every achievement, accomplishment and success. It also encompasses attitude and performance. Below are some of the attitudes and perspectives that inform the actions of incredibly successful people – in all walks of life:

They are humble, not arrogant: Arrogant people think they know everything; humble people are always learning. Humble people ask questions. Humble people ask for help.

Humble people share credit because they instinctively realise that every effort, no matter how seemingly individual, is actually a team effort.


They are willing to take on any job, no matter how menial, because they realise no job is beneath them, and in the process they prove that no job is above them.

Ultimately, success is not limited by how high you can stretch… but by how low you are willing to bend. Are servants, not self-serving. No one accomplishes anything worthwhile on his own. No one. Great teammates make everyone around them better. Take an unselfish basketball player: He makes his teammates better by delivering pinpoint passes in space, by boxing out, by setting solid screens, by rotating on defense… all the things that don’t show up in the statistics but definitely improve the standards of his teammates.

Great leaders focus on providing the tools and training and culture to help their employees do their jobs better – and achieve their own goals. Even great businesses serve their customers first; they know that by serving their customers they ultimately serve the interests of their business.

The good employees are optimistic, not pessimistic. Optimists add energy to a situation, or meeting, or business; pessimists suck energy away. Optimists try more things and take more intelligent risks simply because they focus on what can go right. Pessimists never get started because they’re too busy thinking of what might go wrong. Optimists don’t feel they need to wait – to be promoted, or accepted, or selected, or “discovered” – they feel they can, if they work hard, accomplish almost anything.

Optimism is infectious. They think execution, not just planning. Planning is definitely important, but countless shelves are filled with strategies that were never implemented.

The best employees develop an idea, create a strategy, set up a basic operational plan… and then execute, adapt, execute, revise, execute, refine, and make incredible things happen based on what works in practice, not in theory.

Success starts with strategy -- but ultimately ends with execution. Employees who advance are good at planning. they are also awesome at execution.

—Sospeter Opondo, Business Development Consultant, iSource Business Links.

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