The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you prepare for a management role? is written by Ravin Gandhi, cofounder and CEO of GMM Nonstick Coatings.
If there is a universal truth in business, it’s that everyone wants to get ahead in his or her career—and quickly.
As the CEO of a technology company with hundreds of employees, I spend a tremendous amount of time on hiring and promoting staff. Below is a list of impressive personal and professional traits that, if done well, can help you go from anonymity to “rising star” status very quickly:
Whether you are a summer intern or an entry-level employee, there are many small ways to show you have what it takes to be a leader. Be decisive and passionate. Exude confidence and integrity. Always be curious, and understand where your job fits into the greater mission of the company. CEOs are constantly scouring the ranks for people who demonstrably want to be leaders, because it’s better to promote internally instead of bringing in outsiders.
Be a team player
People are the lifeblood of organizations, so if you’re not able to successfully work with others, you’re going to fail—regardless of how smart you are. Machiavellian behavior might work in the short run, but in the long term, being selfish and manipulative is a disaster for your career. When I do annual performance reviews, anyone who has recurring problems with teamwork is red-flagged for demotion or termination. The opposite is true for great team players.
Execute, execute, execute
A great rule of thumb for any employee is: Work your tail off to make your boss’s job easier, and good things will happen. How do you do this? Simple: Crush every task with tremendous execution and never, ever have a lame excuse. When in doubt, remember the iconic Nike slogan: “Just do it.”
One of the hardest things to learn (at any job level) is that you simply can’t do everything yourself. People who are control freaks and don’t trust anyone usually burn out at some point. Obviously, sometimes you have to take charge of a project personally, but the brightest employees quickly learn how to delegate certain tasks so they are free to take on more challenging assignments.
Do your homework
In company-wide meetings, I have been blown away a few times by low-level employees who make remarkably insightful comments about the business in areas like competition, pricing, or technology trends. Usually, these people have studied up at home on areas far outside of their job descriptions. I have personally promoted secretaries into sales roles, truck drivers to customer service managers, and lab assistants to R&D chemists when it was clear that these folks had knowledge breadth and depth. A great resume might get you in the door, but character dictates how far and fast you rise.
Give the bad news
Everyone hopes to deliver the great news that they’ve achieved goals on time and under budget. But unexpected problems constantly screw up the best-laid plans, and one of the biggest impediments to advancement is when staffers don’t give management bad news quickly. CEOs and senior managers need utter candor from their staff when things go awry so we can figure how to stop the bleeding and get back on track. If you whitewash the problem, you are hurting the company and making it obvious you’re not cut out for a manager role.