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25 Skills for Success

As we celebrate our 25th anniversary at HPG I reflect on the thousands of successful people I’ve met over the years, and reflect on those skills and capabilities that have contributed to their success. In keeping with the theme of our anniversary I’m summarising my observations as the Top 25.

In alphabetical order…Successful people are:


Action-oriented people are motivated to get results. They are confident, believe in themselves, and are actively involved in everything they do. They set goals, prioritise activities, are disciplined and carefully manage their time.


Adaptable people more easily accept new ways of working. When faced with uncertain situations they devise effective solutions to achieve their goals. Staying calm under pressure, adaptable people can tailor their behaviour and actions in response to changes in their environment, and they can respond quickly.


Agile people easily adapt in constantly changing environments. They respond to disruptions with ease; pivot rapidly when required; embrace collaboration; and proactively seek out opportunities where they quickly deploy resources.


Successful people understand the importance of creativity when finding new solutions. They allow themselves the space and time to think; immerse themselves in problem solving; encourage brain-storming; encourage the discussion of different approaches; ask ‘What if?’ questions; and are open to new ideas and new ways of working.


Having credibility is technical expertise plus ‘presence’ – ie how someone looks, acts, reacts and talks about their technical expertise. Credible people illustrate, rather than assert – through their actions they establish credibility.


Commercially astute people understand the broader world of business; are knowledgeable about current and possible future policies, practices and trends; appreciate the impact of competitive forces; and have an awareness of how business strategies can enhance commercial success.


Successful people focus on meeting and exceeding their customer’s needs. They understand their wants and desires; their pain points; and how to provide solutions that add value.


In today’s world, successful people have a high level of digital acumen. They understand the digital world, have digital know-how, and have enough insight to realise emerging opportunities. They understand all the different digital channels and embrace technological leadership.


Central to good time management is to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time and for the right length of time. Good time management means focusing on results, and staying focused on what’s important.


Successful people have high levels of EQ – they know their strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and impact on others; they are great empathisers and listeners, and are very perceptive of others' feelings and what they are thinking.


People with empathy understand the emotional make-up of others – they know what they are feeling; and they are attuned to subtleties in body language – they can hear the message beneath the words being spoken. As such they make excellent collaborators.


People with a flexible mindset embrace change and adjust to unexpected challenges and obstacles. When considering a range of options in given situations they are comfortable changing their opinions as they gather new information.


People who are driven to do better track progress and often keep score with hard measures such as KPIs and results. They prioritise what’s important, set achievable goals and practice good time management. They focus on excellence, not perfection, as the goal – and in this way they achieve excellent results.


Good negotiators outline value propositions, discuss positions and seek win-win solutions thereby achieving mutually beneficial negotiated outcomes.


Operating successfully requires energy, and successful people adopt a range of healthy behaviours to build their energy levels – they eat healthy foods, exercise, and understand the importance of getting a good night’s sleep; and to relax they have a range of outside work interests.


Successful people embrace continuous learning; read widely; follow blogs, podcasts and news feeds; attend conferences; network; embrace new ideas, new ways of thinking and new approaches; and understand current and emerging issues. In doing this they accumulate the intellectual ‘fuel’ to handle complexity and ambiguity.


Motivated people have a passion for the work they do. They understand the importance of their role and the contribution they are making, and are forever raising the performance bar.


Successful people focus on improving their visibility and continually build their networks, through face-to-face meetings and online activities. They provide insight to their communities to enhance their credibility.


Optimists expect success, not failure; and they pursue goals despite obstacles and setbacks. They remain optimistic when situations are against them, and can manage their emotions to overcome any frustration and depression that may come after a setback or failure.


Successful people see opportunities, not obstacles. And when they can’t see the positive side of any situation they look harder, they look longer and they look at it differently, to uncover the opportunity.


Successful people are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. They are comfortable talking about their limitations and strengths. They focus on ‘controlling the controllable’ and understand that there are situations that can be controlled and others that can’t be. So they don’t waste time and energy ruminating on what can’t be changed.


Reliable people can be trusted to behave in consistent ways. They follow up on promises with actions, and focus on due dates and quality levels.


Successful people are resilient. They have the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, to spring back and to pick themselves up.


Successful people get results by seeing the ‘big picture’, spotting opportunities, and mobilising resources. They understand the potential impact of risks and threats to their organisation and know how to balance risk with opportunity.


Successful people build trusting relationships. They focus on other people rather than themselves. They have enough self-confidence to listen without prejudging; enough curiosity to inquire without supposing an answer; a willingness to see the other person as a co-equal in a joint journey and enough ego-strength to subordinate their own ego.