Business and career advancement: How to maintain your leading edge


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Business or career is a social and commercial exchange. The social aspect deals with the ability to work with, and through, people. The commercial side is related the exchange of product, ideas and services profitably.

A below average performance in any of these two areas is seen as a deficiency. This has the capacity to undermine the prospects of career advancement and entrepreneurship.

Therefore, in bolting and belting the bottom-lines of any business long term, the sociability and commercial acumen of the business executives, or CEO, must be strengthened via relating ideas and services to people and environment. This is essentially marketing. Meanwhile the case is also valid for career development.

Succeeding with people is the most important requirement for growth. Any Chief Executive Officer or Managing Director would stall and begin a swift descent the day he or she stops succeeding with people. Careers with the prospect of meaningful traction would stagnate, as well, the day the man or woman stops succeeding with people.

Career and business intelligence is a border with two highways, yet both ways are mutually dependent. While you can’t take both ways at a time, you must be armed with adequate skills in travelling up and down each.

After over three decades, we saw Sir. Martin Sorrell tumbled the day he stopped succeeding with the people at WPP – though his exit was tied to some impropriety. We witnessed Steve Kalanick’s descent when he was percieved to have mismanaged people.

In contrast, we witnessed Oprah Winfrey transform from a broadcaster to an entrepreneur; Marissa Mayer scaled career from Google to being CEO of Yahoo! Without starting any company of her own, Mayer’s net worth, as at 2017, was US$540 million. These two brilliant women, operating in a business world dominated by men, still rose to prominence, not just by sheer hardwork but because they basically understood how to succeed with people.

James Waldroop and Timothy Buttler provide insight into business and career intelligence in the book The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back. According to James and Timothy, “Having the right knowledge and will to succeed are not enough”. They added, “You must also be able to take perspective: consider any given business situation from the point of view of the other individuals involved”.

Possessing sufficient business and career intelligence demands the understanding of the motivation of the people within our organisation. It requires the knowledge that not everyone is shaped like oneself; and that not everyone is motivated by what motivates one. It also involves accepting the fact that the supports given to one by organised individuals have great impact on the outcome of one’s ideas, proposal and aspirations.

That of course underscores why continuous success requires empathy.

Empathy equals interest in people. In sum, if you are going to keep growing in career and business, you must learn to stimulate the goodwill of the people who are directly and indirectly connected with your success. Often time, these people are the locus of one’s power.

More, it takes patience and humility to get sufficient glimpse into the world of the other person – to know how to tap their emotions in other to draw favourable response from them.

Assuming you are proposing an idea or making a presentation to a board – your banker, your shareholders, your co-workers etc. – which has the capacity to bolt or knock off your proposal, you will need to understand the expectations of the most influential cult among the board. Why? Each person on the seats would weigh your proposition based on its impacts on their expectations. The department head would consider how the proposition would help meet his or her target; the finance department would weigh the proposition based on cost and revenue; your other colleagues may be thinking about how your proposition would draw attention away from their own propositions, mop up available funds or place a demand on their own personal schedules.

Understanding each person within this value chain is a tough task but factoring the feeling and objection of this impactful organisation aiming salvo or applause on your effort would require findings. That is where looking through the eyes of those that would determine your success is essential.

Therefore, you may need to answer these questions about each person that is likely to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for or against your proposal:

  1. What role roles excite person A, B, C…?
  2. What is currently on the desk of person A, B, C…?
  3. What is the strength of person A, B, C…?
  4. What is the style of person A, B, C…?
  5. What rewards motivates person A, B, C…?

Thinking everyone works for the same reason you work is a damning belief. Everyone has different ‘work-reward’. Some people work to bolster their experience; many are in business because they want to contribute something in the world; some others may be in business or working for financial security. For others, it may the pride of working for a prestigious corporation. The first rung to succeeding with these sets of people is to know what these ‘work-rewards’ are. In contrast to popular belief, never think everyone works for the money.

A career or business that is not built on the recognition of fundamental human values, and unfeigned respect for individual talents, has no long term prospect. That is why business and career intelligence must rank first in building a business and prospecting for career advancement.

Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka writes with simplicity and insight. He aims to enrich the Nigerian small business landscape. Through Hustle24 he connects entrepreneurs with information about new policies, enterprise solutions and opportunities that will aid their 'hustle'. He has written extensively for CobraReview, a product review portal, and served as a lead project manager for MarketingMix where he consulted as PR consultant for MTN Project Fame and Business Next Titan etc.


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