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Characteristics of Success

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Success does not just happen. It usually results from being positive and tenacious enough to achieve a desired goal. It may start with a very small achievement that leads to others; small successes are the foundation of bigger ones.

A success-oriented attitude is essential. Show pride in your position, in the company, and in the product or service it renders. Be a company person and a team player. Dress for a management leadership role, and project an aura of competence and confidence. If you have a poor attitude and do not care, no one else is likely to care either.

Modern managers operate in a high-pressure environment. The pressures of the job increase as managers strive to function within the economic, legal, and social limits of their market environment. Some pressures are generated by the personalities of the managers themselves: drive to achieve, to gain ego satisfaction and social status.



Achievement provides self-confidence and the inspiration and energy to go after new goals. Few individuals possess the entire range of characteristics attributed to great leaders. If you are lucky enough to possess one or two characteristics of strength, develop them.

To be successful, you must care enough to make the big effort. Start by making a list of success factors, set some goals, and monitor your progress. Accumulate a few guidelines that are especially meaningful to you. Refer to your guidelines often.

Some characteristics of success are as follows:
  • optimism

  • interest

  • industry

  • creativity

  • team participation

  • diplomacy

  • loyalty

  • integrity

  • diversity of skills
What do these characteristics mean to you? Are they just words? Write definitions of them on three-by-five cards to carry in a pocket or tape to a mirror at home, and review them from time to time.

Optimism: It is easy to be optimistic; optimism is a point of view. Merely take a positive rather than a negative point of view when you meet unfamiliar situations. Optimism is contagious. It spreads from you to others and, given other factors such as ability and knowledge; it helps you reach career goals more easily. It is better to be optimistic than to always shake your head and say, "We tried that once before, and it didn't work."

Interest: How can you be successful if you are not interested in the work or the company? Interest is an attitude; to become interested, learn all you can about your job. Understand how your work relates to that of co-workers; find out what procedures they use. Learn about the company; read company manuals. Ask questions when you do not understand a situation. Why feel embarrassed about asking for explanations? Would you rather learn after the work is done incorrectly?

When you ask questions about your work and company, you take the first step toward creating a successful environment for yourself. Try wording job-related questions as follows:
  • Can you give me more detail about that point so that I understand it better?

  • Can you give me an example of what you mean?

  • Would you repeat what you just said so that I can get it straight?

  • May I repeat to you in my own words what I think I heard you say? I want to be sure that I understand.

  • Could I try that while you watch to be sure I really understand what you have been showing me?
Ask questions, yes, but ask meaningful ones. It is important to know what kind of questions to ask, where to ask them, and how to recognize when you have asked too many. When you ask unnecessary questions, questions unrelated to the situation at hand, or questions whose answers are easily found elsewhere, you plant seeds of doubt about your ability. Therefore, think about the questions you ask before you ask them. Are they necessary, or can you get the information elsewhere? Do they relate to the task at hand? Also, when you ask a question, listen to the answer. You may want to take notes or ask clarifying questions about the answer given.

Industry: Are you looking for a soft job, or are you willing to work hard? Real achievers-those who do something beyond the ordinary-are hard workers and usually spend more than the minimum forty hours a week at work. They do more than the minimum necessary to perform the job and seek out challenging tasks. They volunteer just for the experience. Studies show that people are happiest when working, especially at something they like to do. Willingness to work is a trait that identifies an emotionally stable and well-adjusted person.

When things need to be done, why not get into the act, cooperate, and do them? Willingness to lend a helping hand during pressure periods is noticed by co-workers as well as by supervisors. It wins points for you that, when accumulated, may earn goodwill and promotions. It also helps you grow in job responsibility. Seek new responsibilities; ask for new duties you think you can handle. Willingness to work and to assume new responsibilities mark you as a "comer" and identify you for future successes. Don't wait to be asked; show interest and give that little something extra.

As you assume greater job responsibility, invest your time carefully to achieve your goals. You need not put in overtime or carry work home every day. Instead, learn to concentrate during working hours, avoiding idle chatter and other time killers.

Creativity: Creating and implementing new ideas is the essence of progress. Some people are naturally creative and easily find ways of putting their ideas to work in simplifying procedures, developing projects, or weeding out nonessentials. These people are innovators and managers need this trait, but innovation can be overdone. It is unsettling to work with people who are always changing things. Seeing things in a new light and looking at alternative plans is good, but do not start big changes until you have been on a job for a while. And when you do start to put your creativity into practice, consider others. Be tactful about how you introduce new ideas. Try not to impose your ideas on others.

Team Participation: Recognize the importance of relating well to people, both on and off the job. The enthusiasm for teamwork of success-oriented people rubs off in several ways. It affects your attitude, which in turn affects the way others work with you. It is surely better to work in a friendly environment than with complainers who try to explain their own shortcomings by blaming others. Be practical, and if you want to be a success, find successful friends. Show respect toward your colleagues, even if you don't always agree with them. Today's managers are often judged by their ability to motivate others and for their contributions to their respective groups or departments.

Diplomacy: Some people generate bad personal chemistry and feed their egos by tearing down others. Avoid associating with these people because they invite trouble. Everyone likes to be respected. Successful leaders recognize this need and build team spirit on it.

The diplomatic manager knows how to resolve conflicts or differences between employees. He or she also knows which clients or senior management to present differing ideas to.

Like team participation, diplomacy is based on respect for others and shows itself in many ways. For example, in business, diplomacy shows itself in such things as tone of voice, not interrupting, the way you address others, and the way you react to what they say. Discourtesy (rudeness) often results from impatience and irritation when things are not going right. Unfortunately, rudeness makes enemies and hurts people's feelings. No one likes to be pushed, interrupted, or treated brusquely. Hurt feelings often never heal.

Loyalty: Do you criticize your company and gossip about its methods or personnel? If a company has enough confidence in your ability to hire you, you owe the company and its other employees loyalty. If you cannot be loyal, find another job. Otherwise, in time you will acquire a negative personality that will make you a tiresome person and detract from your career opportunities.

Working in an environment where you cannot feel loyal will ultimately destroy you. You may not agree with everything the company or your associates do, but then you may not have all the facts either. So be fair. Do not overreact to situations and rumors when you have only secondhand or partial information. Keep an open mind and have confidence in the judgment and ability of your co-workers. Be loyal to them. It is a good idea to learn what you can about your boss, the boss's boss, and your co-workers so that you can better understand how to work with them.

Integrity: If you try to be honest, patient, and fair with associates, they learn to trust you, and that will bring out the best in them when they work with you. Subordinates must be able to depend on their leaders, or the whole organization will fall apart. A sense of trust among co-workers creates a climate of confidence and harmony. A reputation for fairness, dependability, and honesty must be earned, but once achieved, it can be one of your best assets when you are evaluated for promotion or assigned new responsibilities. Integrity provides a firm foothold from which to climb in an organization.

Diversity of Skills: Today's managers wear many hats. In the corporate world, managers must have good analytical skills, financial abilities, and information technology skills. The greater the number of computer skills you bring to a firm are, the better your writing skills are, the more tuned your research and analysis skills are, the greater the asset you become. The same holds true for small businesses, where managers indeed wear many hats.

Other attributes of successful managers are ambition, adaptability, ability to communicate, ability to organize, decisiveness, and personal dynamism.

Many of us have known successful managers who were impatient and outrageously demanding managers: individuals who were excessively opinionated, indecisive, unable to delegate, and so forth. On the whole, however, successful managers display the more desirable management attitudes, skills, and characteristics described above.
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