This article originally appeared on September 16, 2019 in the San Francisco Business Times and Silicon Valley Business Journal. To view the original article, click here.
When searching for the secret to a thriving career, it makes sense to turn to those who have already achieved success in their industries. The advice these leaders have to offer sometimes comes from their own mentors, and sometimes from experience — whatever the source, it’s proven wisdom that almost any professional can build on.
Below, nine members of the San Francisco Business Times Leadership Trust share their favorite professional advice.
1. Stop complaining.
If you see every challenge as an opportunity to help others or yourself rather than something to be complained about, it is very empowering. I received this advice in my early 20s, and it has made for a very satisfying career. Complaining about something rather than making the intellectual effort to address it in a positive way sends the message that you are not a strong leader. Complaining spreads negativity and creates an unpleasant environment for others that can ultimately isolate you from the positive-change agents and leaders who can teach you the most about success. No one ever complained their way to greatness. If you suspect that you might be a complainer, stop yourself and focus on positive communication — it will change your life for the better. — John Sensiba, Sensiba San Filippo LLP
2. Be an owner, not an operator.
The best career advice I have been given has been twofold. One: Always hire the best people, and two: Be an owner, not an operator. I have learned the value of leveraging and have surrounded myself with the best of the best. I have successfully transitioned responsibility and decision-making to all department heads. This has created our ultimate desired result: Premier actually runs itself, because all the right people in all the right roles make well-thought-out decisions on behalf of the whole. — Sara Menke, Premier Talent Partners
3. Focus on the success of others.
My dad was the CEO of a publicly traded lumber company for many years. He taught me most of what I know about how to build a successful career, including the value of hard work. The most important thing he taught me was that in order to be successful, you need to focus on helping others. By helping others achieve what they desire, you’ll naturally end up becoming the person that you most desire to be — including achieving your personal career goals. Whether personally or professionally, this advice has always led to my success. — Jim Wallace, BPM
4. Don’t worry about rejection.
“The worst they can say is ‘No.’” If you’re ever doubtful about a pitch or promotion, keeping this advice in mind helps you to quell doubts and just go for it! I have been astounded over the course of my career by how many wonderful collaborations and positive outcomes have been created by my taking this advice to heart. Keeping this advice in mind allows you to focus on the upside instead of worrying about rejection. By preparing well and then confidently moving forward with your ideas, there are many exciting possibilities that can come from hearing “Yes!” or “Tell me more!” — Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
5. Push beyond your comfort zone.
Continue to learn and push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Jump in and offer to help even when you’re not sure you can do it, and ask for help when you need it — there are mentors all around you. Embrace technology and be unafraid to jump in to learn things that are new. Never just do what you’re told: question and think critically. And read, read, read: It will keep you abreast of advances in your industry, opportunities and current events that will give you innovative ideas. — David Landis, Landis Communications Inc. (LCI)
6. Bring out the best in your team.
“Don’t try to be the smartest in the room.” My favorite boss, mentor and now close friend, John Krush, told me that. He explained that our job as leaders of teams isn’t to be the smartest in the room but to get the best knowledge, experience and ideas out of everybody else in the room and get them engaged and interactive. I often think about that. He wasn’t saying to not be smart — he was saying that as leaders, we should always strive to get the best out of our teams. — Chris Rivielle, Plant Construction Company, L.P.
7. Answer two critical questions.
There are only two critical decisions you make professionally. First, “Are these the problems I want to solve?” Second, “Are these the people I want to solve them with?” As an entrepreneur, this helps remind me of my “True North” when it feels like there are so many decisions that have to be made every day. — Jana Rich, Rich Talent Group
8. Just keep swimming.
The development process is a bit like an open-water swim in the ocean when there’s an uncertain weather forecast. You don’t know what the conditions are going to be like in the water — choppy, rainy, windy, whatever — but the key is to keep pushing on till you hit land. You’ll get there, ultimately. — Patrick Kennedy, Panoramic Interests
9. Start with being good at what you do.
It sounds like a very simple concept, yet it’s surprising how many people either don’t know what they are good at or ignore that in favor of what they think they should do as a career. Understanding your value and competencies is key in business. The path that unfolds when you do so might not look like the path you envisioned, and there could very well be people telling you it’s the wrong direction. However, competence will eventually trump bias. Go for what you know, and the rest will fall into place. — Christina Seelye, Maximum Games