Climbing the career ladder doesn’t happen though hard work alone. But the skills it takes to reach the C-suite might not always be that clear.
Krisi Rossi O’Donnell, chief recruiting officer for the staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network, has cracked the code. She started at LaSalle 11 years ago as a temporary office assistant and has been promoted 10 times.
Over the course of her momentous climb to the C-Suite, she has developed five strategies, including self-criticism and self-awareness, that have worked well for her and that she now shares with fellow employees (she currently manages about 60 people across multiple offices) as well as with job candidates who use the Network’s career counseling services.
O’Donnell explains that “in order to make sure you are doing your job as best you can, without being constantly supervised, you need to have some checks and balances to ensure you are not only doing your best at the moment, but that you continue moving forward and do it better the next time.”
Ask yourself how you can contribute. “What do you know?” O’Donnell asks. “How can you position yourself to have value? It is not how can I be important.” An offshoot of consistent self-criticism—in addition to helping to enhance your capabilities over time—is that you will experience less micromanagement from your boss(es).
Knowing where you need to improve is vitally important to continued growth and further steps up the career ladder. In other words, being self-critical does not work unless you are also self-aware. Being self-aware is a process, she adds.
“It is not a single moment in time. You have to think through things entirely by looking at the beginning, middle, end, outcomes, relationships, and interactions. People who are more self-aware, who can read across the table and know when somebody is not paying attention, or when what they are saying is not hitting the right spot, these people are more capable and take full advantage of being self-aware and self-critical.”
How do you know more precisely where you need to improve when you are already fully cognizant and dedicated to high levels of work fortitude through self-criticism and self-awareness? “Encourage and gather feedback,” O’Donnell says. This means, in addition to frequently evaluating yourself, actively seek out ways to improve through other peoples’ suggestions.
For example, if you make a presentation at a meeting, don’t wait for one of your colleagues to offer a reaction to how well you did. “People intuitively want to be nice to each other, so when you are in a meeting in which you messed up, the person you are with may not tell you. They may tell other people,” however. So don’t be afraid to sincerely ask for substantial feedback. “You would rather know the truth and be able to overcome it instead of living a lie and never being able to max yourself out.”
An outgrowth of being self-critical and self-aware is that you start paying closer attention and gain a better understanding of how to be prepared for any given situation. “Even when you win, look back and say is this the only way I could have played it, are there other ways that I may be less comfortable with that I could have played,” O’Donnell explains.
Understand that perhaps your first inclination to do a job right is more than likely coming from your comfort zone, says O’Donnell. But, simply executing instead of thinking a bit more out of the box and even taking some risks to come up with alternative (and possibly more creative and interesting) solutions, can hold you back. “Speak to your manager about multiple options,” she says. “Your career will change if you are bringing in solutions as opposed to just executing.”
“The minute people think they no longer need direction or feedback because they do their job perfectly is the minute they slip and fall behind,” O’Donnell says. “Continuously questioning your process keeps you from developing an ego.” Always be receptive, and if you don’t agree with what some of your colleagues might have to say, “learn from it and recognize that, while you don’t agree, somebody else in the room felt that way and perception matters.”