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3 Skills That Are Critical to Success


The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Beth Brady, CMO of Principal Financial Group, has answered the question: What are three skills that are critical to success?

The question most commonly asked of leaders in any organization: “How did you get to where you are today, and what did it take to become so successful?”

And while all of our answers are sure to be different, the response to this straightforward question is important. The first step in reaching success is to not only define it, but to be able to articulate what success looks like, and then work nonstop to achieve it. It gives us a vision. It provides clarity. It helps us focus. It makes us better. Then, you must have the right skills to achieve that defined success, which is the second step.

And even though everyone’s goals will vary, the skills needed to conquer them typically won’t. Here are three skills that have helped me find success at work. I call them the three L’s:

Be curious—in everything you do. Having a curious spirit and nature will change your mindset. Willingness to learn creates a sense of open-mindedness and ultimately allows you to reach further and dig deeper to move forward toward a goal. It helps eliminate negative feelings that may hold you back.

The best way to learn is to listen. As Lyndon Johnson once said, “You aren’t learning anything when you’re talking.” Instead of always thinking of your response, focus on listening in order to understand. You don’t have to have all of the answers, so open your mind to other views. And don’t just act like you’re listening. I love this Ted Talk, which emphasizes that learning how to show you’re paying attention is unnecessary when you’re already paying attention. Challenge yourself to really listen to what others have to say.

Set a vision, then inspire yourself and others to go for it. Make sure those around you can see and feel your passion. Passion is contagious and will lead to happiness, which is a strong motivator for success.


This is the bonus skill, and it’s a game changer. When you can positively influence those around you, it makes all the difference in getting done what you want to achieve. And though it can be difficult, it’s important. It is the one skill that will really make the other skills work well—and usually faster.

And while most of us have mastered setting business goals and turning those goals into success, we must also take the time for step 3, which is to visualize and verbalize what overall success in life looks like—both professional and personal. This is typically more difficult to do because it means prioritizing and balancing a lot of different—and sometimes competing—goals that lead to life success.

My definition of success has always been living my best life. It’s where my professional and personal life work together in tandem. I feel fulfilled. I am happy. I have passion. I am enjoying the best of both worlds along the way. It’s not so much about specific numbers or dates. It’s about how I feel each and every day. Yes, I have goals and work to achieve them. But true success lies in how well I balance my priorities. That is work success, which ultimately has positive implications in my personal life.

Reflect on the successes you have achieved, and then allow those achievements to continue to drive you to even more success—professional and personal—in the years to come.