As a leader in the credit union industry, I love having the responsibility, and privilege, to help shape the next generation of leaders. Anytime I have the opportunity to talk to emerging leaders, I try to share experiences that have helped me grow. One thing that I always share is attention to detail matters more than you know. Sure, hard work and persistence are vital. However, whether you are developing your own business, planning a successful career, or enhancing your personal life, little details make all the difference.
Here are two easy ways to make a small, but crucial difference.
Don’t Just Find Problems, Find Solutions
The first way is how you approach a problem. Most people are good at identifying problems. Not just the normal, opinionated comments about a certain deficiency—we are talking about a real problem in the organization. Some will even be able to isolate the root causes and origin of the problem. However, it is not enough to simply identify the problem, you have to help create the solution.
During my military career, I was always impressed with the officer or NCO who didn’t just bring me another problem. The really bright ones always brought me a recommended solution along with one or two alternatives. The recommended course of action demonstrated these emerging leaders were fully thinking things through, weighing the risks along with second and third-order effects. While bringing me alternatives demonstrated “thinking-outside-of-the-box” and always having more than one option.
I was also impressed with officers and NCOs who did their homework. I would always challenge my squadron commanders to show me the regulation—both the constraints and authorizations. That part is easy. However, the real standouts also read the section/chapter before and after the relevant paragraph. Sure enough, there was usually a caveat or another reference that helped illuminate the correct resolution in accordance with the regulation(s).
Finally, obtaining the views of others is another crucial step in coming up with the best solution.
Seeking the views of others offers a way to check your assumptions against the collective experience of the team. It also builds consensus towards a recommended solution. Finally, it also demonstrates essential leadership traits in forging alliances, synchronizing actions, and moving on to bigger and better opportunities. It was no wonder why these individuals seemed to get the choice assignments, recognition, and promotions to the next higher grade. Everybody already knew who they were!
Establishing a Personal Presence
Early in my career, a well-regarded general officer offered me some sage advice as I advanced in rank. She mentored me to treat each day like I was on a crucial job interview. This meant every personal engagement, meeting, or conference—it was vital to maintain my personal presence at all times. As you already know, not everybody does this.
I highly encourage emerging professionals to learn the art of establishing personal presence. Everything from how to properly enter a room, greet attendees, taking your seat, and holding your focus throughout. Even knowing how to ask and answer questions is important. There are many “soft skills” that too many people simply miss. Check out my earlier podcast interview for a book I highly recommend reading.
Here is the thing–if you examine the motions of CEOs and senior executives, you start to recognize many of these soft skills. These skills are second nature to them, which is why they often go unnoticed to the uninitiated. Yet, once you learn more about establishing personal presence, you start to see them everywhere. Why shouldn’t you learn these same skills and habits?
Again, attention to detail matters more than you know. There are other habits to help you along the way. However, master these first two, and I guarantee you will be well on your way to distinguishing yourself from your peers and moving into greater leadership roles. I wish you all the best in your individual journeys and always keep striving to build successful habits that really make a difference.