Many finance professionals aspire to become a senior executive and leader. To gain such a role, and to then excel, is tough. You can optimise your probability of success by developing the following proficiencies:
Being healthy is a foundation of effective performance. Eating well, exercising, and gaining sufficient sleep increase your productivity. They also help combat the anxiety associated with job insecurity in banking. And, if you neglect your health now, you might not be in good shape to enjoy the future rewards of your labour.
Look around you. Across the floor are ultra-competitive, highly-motivated people. One way to maintain your drive is to have a clear vision of the future you want. From this, generate SMART goals that are stretching, measurable, attractive, realistic, and time-framed. Consult your goals each day to stay on track.
Your first sale is always to yourself. One way to increase self confidence is to create an achievement diary that details career, academic and other successes. It is like a CV, but broader and deeper. Note ongoing victories and when you overcome adversity. Such a diary will help you persevere when you have the inevitable challenges and setbacks.
Most people in banking are more persuaded by an emotional rather than intellectual connection. Charismatic leaders are attentive and truly listen; they make others feel worthwhile. Before meeting people for the first time, imagine liking them, warmly shaking their hand, and being friendly and comfortable in their presence. Practise open body language and using a confident voice.
5) Time management
Productivity is increased by spending 10 minutes prioritising the most important tasks for the day. Clump together similar jobs such as responding to emails. You can liberate time by accepting things you cannot change and limiting office gossip. Work bingeing and multi-tasking is unhelpful. Find your peak times, often early in the morning, and work as if you are under exam conditions.
Take responsibility for your own learning. Listen to the feedback of colleagues and seek well-intentioned mentors. Complete relevant qualifications such as the CFA as early as possible in your career. Shorter programmes such as AMPs are attractive alternatives to an MBA. Use the internet to gain access to everything from TED talks to lectures at Stanford.
7) Rational intelligence
High IQs do not inoculate you from irrational beliefs. Many people elevate sensible preferences into absolutist demands (eg “I want to receive a bonus” becomes “I must be paid a bonus”). Question your thinking: how probable is the disaster you fear, are you being hubristic, is the situation really black and white? Read Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” to improve investment and general decisions.
8) Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a good predictor of who will be promoted. Resist the temptation to display anger or despair. Pause. Choose to model the emotion that will be most helpful to you (often calmness). As you gain seniority, you will have responsibility for managing the mood of your team. Optimism and enthusiasm are contagious.
9) Systems intelligence
A bank is a complex system. Systems intelligence includes the ability to avoid group-think, build human networks, and foster innovation using bounded chaos. It is important to understand the role you play in the system. Be the emerging star not the jester.
Leaders increasingly use coaching skills to facilitate change in their direct reports. A solution-focussed, goal-oriented approach is effective. This includes questions like, “Ben, what would need to change to lift your engagement from 6 to 8 out of 10?”
If you dedicate a few hours each week to develop these proficiencies, you will perform your current role better and be prepared for promotion.
Luke Heath coaches executives throughout Asia Pacific and runs the search firm Chandler Heath Recruitment.