4 Simple Steps to Create a High Performing Career

By People Leaders | People Leaders Podcast

While being part of a high performing team is great at any time, it’s even more powerful if it’s in the context of having your own high performing career. Many take a passive approach to this, waiting for opportunities to arise then exploring them as they go along. While this is fine to do, we advocate a more proactive approach, most specifically through career planning.

Listen to the podcast here or continue reading below. 

We cover the subject in this week’s People Leaders Podcast episode but if you prefer to read, follow on for 4 simple tips for anyone looking to spice up their careers, whether it be with their current organisation, or with a view to taking on roles in other organisations.

One thing to keep in mind is that we often underestimate what we can achieve, so we frequently ‘settle’ for where we are at in our career (or in life for that matter).

The trouble with this approach is that we end up stagnant. We don’t only become disheartened with where we are at, but we also become resentful of those that do move ahead, especially if we see them as being less qualified to do so.

The headline promised you 4 simple steps and that’s exactly what we intend to deliver. This doesn’t require a perfectly planned and executed campaign (though you are welcome to launch one if you like), it just requires these simple steps.

You have nothing to lose by trying them but you have everything to win. We hope you have a crack and would love to hear what outcomes you achieve as a result

Step 1 - Know Yourself

While you can no doubt find exceptions to the rule, most of us underestimate ourselves. We spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to others but how often do we really sit down and take an honest look at our skills and behaviours, values, talents and even our personality?

One resource that is super helpful for this process is our career planning exercise. This asks a series of exploratory questions that help drill down and explore your personal capabilities in ways that you may not otherwise do.

And if you have taken any of the major profiling tests, take some time to find out more about your profile, in particular, what your strengths are. Common profiling tools include the Myers Briggs or MBTI (our favourite), DISC, LSI, the Enneagram, Gallup StrengthsFinder or any other tool that may have come across your path. You’ll know the right tool for you when the profile resonates with you and you ‘recognise yourself’ as you are reading it.

Knowing your profile can not only be illuminating but research also indicates that those who work to their strengths are 6 times more likely to be satisfied in their work. That’s a pretty compelling proposition!

Another tool to know yourself is to explore your values with our values card sort tool. Your values are what’s important to you, and while most of us have ‘aspirational values,’ the best indicator of your true values are where you spend your time, money and energy. It may end up being a reality check but separating your aspirational values from your true values by using the tool can be an enlightening exercise.

One final tip on knowing yourself is to keep a journal. While we all self-reflect on an almost daily basis, there’s something about journalling that takes it to a new level. If you haven’t tried journalling we can assure you it will add to your confidence and give you fresh insights into what your real competencies and desires are.

Step 2 - Explore Your Options

Included in the Career Planning Exercise mentioned above is a section about knowing the ‘world of work’. The world of work is changing at lightning pace, with some studies suggesting that as many as 50% of jobs today won’t exist in 10 years time. While some may perceive this as a threat, it’s actually an opportunity.

If you stay set in your ways you’ll get left behind for sure, so we encourage you to regularly explore what’s out there for you. Even if you are a seasoned professional, exploring options is both relevant and critical. With rapid developments in artificial intelligence and computing, complacency will leave even the best of us behind.

This requires us to not only keep abreast of occupational opportunities, but also learning opportunities. Ask yourself what you need to learn to stay ahead of the curve. And if you don’t know the answer to that, ask others in your field.

Look at people in your organisations you can relate to. And if you aren’t in a big organisation, look at people outside the organisation, reach out on LinkedIn, read biographies of other high achievers and see what part of their journey resonates with you or excites you.

Resonance is actually a subtle form of ‘agreement’ so shouldn’t be ignored as it will surely point you to the path of least resistance.

Step 3 - Narrow Your Focus

Now that you know yourself and have explored your options, it’s time to narrow your focus. Are you in a position to start setting a course that moves you forward? It may involve aiming towards another job or another organisation or it may simply be a decision to become masterful at the role you currently have.

Either way, start comparing your options and narrow them down. Spend some time exploring the following questions:

  • What are my best work options?
  • What are my best training options given the resources I have available to me? (And if I don’t have the right resources, what can I do to get them?)
  • How do they match my skills, interests and values and will this be the path of least resistance?
  • Is there a growing need for people in this field?
  • How do these options fit with my current situation or responsibilities? e.g. if you’re a new parent is the learning and execution path compatible with your new role?
  • What, if anything, is preventing me from moving forward right now?
  • What are the barriers, real and imagined?
  • What are the opportunities that I can take advantage of in my organisation, my industry or my community?

You may well find that this process throws up too many options and you become overwhelmed by the possibilities. If that’s the case for you, just choose one option and explore that before exploring another.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, ask yourself what the next most logical step might be. You’ll need that for the next step...

Step 4 - Take Action

While it might seem like a cliche, the final step is of course to take action.

Once you’ve explored the possibilities, the temptation might well be to accept the status quo and leave things as they are but we invite you to refer back to our earlier point about allowing your career to stagnate. Ultimately it’s up to you of course, but if the idea of a more high performing career is appealing, it’s up to you to take action on that.

The first part of action is to make a plan. While a plan is no guarantee of success, at the very least it gives you a reference point to keep you moving forward. You can of course change your plan as you go but without it you can be pretty sure that nothing will change.

By setting a clear target of what you’d like to achieve in the next stage of your career, you can at least have a sense of direction, even if you don’t know the exact steps to take.

One thing you can do, even if you don’t know the actual steps, is to ‘act as if’ on a daily basis. Imagine yourself in the desired state of your career: your new role; your new organisation; or having mastered your current role in your current organisation.

The more time you spend imagining this state, the more likely you are to adopt the required behaviours and characteristics, the more likely you are to make decisions that lead you in the direction you want to go, and the more likely it is that others will recognise your latent qualities and invite you to ‘step up,’ so to speak.

Regardless of where your plan might lead you, it must definitely include a component of networking. Be sure to vocalise your goals to those close to you. Be sure to reach out to anyone who can help you on your journey. You know from your own experience that people like helping people so be sure to give others the opportunity to do that for you.

Are You Tempted To Step Things Up?

As we mentioned earlier, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain from taking a few simple but bold steps towards creating a high performing career for yourself. We’d love to hear your success story and help with any challenges that might come up along the way.

If you have any questions or feedback, let us know in the comments below what’s on your mind. We’d be glad to help.

There’s nothing to lose from taking a few simple but bold steps towards creating a high performing career for yourself

Click to Tweet

How Can You Increase Accountability In Your Team?

Enter your details to access our free Above-the-Line Accountability Infographic to get your team operating 'above the line.'