two common traits of high-achievers


By Chris Andrews – Director and Head of Advisory

Interviewing for a C-Suite, Executive, or Management position? Which one are you?…

When we interview for more demanding roles and potential leaders, there are certain traits that we look to identify, which help to ascertain that the applicant is at the right level for a key position. These qualities can often be viewed in terms of their attitude to certain aspects of professional life. 

I have looked at two below – one is the approach to political awareness in the workplace and the other is around managing your career. These are both huge, exhaustive topics so I have aimed to provide some succinct pointers based on the common missteps we see, as averse to the definitive guide to all areas.      

Attitude towards internal politics 

High potentials understand the political landscape of their organisation and take a proactive role in navigating it. They will be prepared to take risks and are continuously evaluating opportunities and alliances as part of their role. They leave emotion out of their response when asked about scenarios they have experienced and they view internal politics as a fluid state and just part of the job. Candidates who are not yet at this level will often view internal politics as a static situation in which they are a passive participant (often a victim), with a ‘them and us’ mindset. This makes it difficult for them to move beyond a situation and brings more emotion into their perceptions. They see politics as a waste of time and operate on the belief that their work ‘speaks for itself.’ They will sometimes see it as a badge of honour that they do not get involved in company politics, as to them it is a grubby world where arduous work is replaced by favours – while this can sometimes be the case, the concept of removing yourself from internal politics is a sure-fire way to limit your growth within a company – just because you don’t want a part of it doesn’t mean it is not happening regardless (just like personal branding).    

Managing your career proactively 

One of the great questions in an interview is ’how have you managed your career to date?’ Those people who are self-critical and can give examples of mistakes and learnings are generally stronger applicants, as are those who have made tough decisions for a longer-term goal – they would be the kids that could wait for two marshmallows, rather than eat one now. The concept of having a career plan and certain goals shows a greater level of high-level planning and focus, while the ability to objectively critique your own track-record shows the self-awareness and level thinking that is needed for continuous improvement. In that sense, candidates who made a bad decision for the right reasons are often a better bet in the long term than those who made the right one but cannot explain why.      

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