TIME Careers & Workplace

The Perfect Way to Introduce Yourself (in Any Setting)

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Make your introduction about your audience and not yourself

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

While I have no soccer skills, I once played in a fairly competitive adult soccer league with my then-teenage stepson. I was terrible, but I played because he asked me to. (When your kids get older and ask you to do something with them, the first time you say no might be the last time you get asked.)

As we took the field before a game, a guy on the other team strutted over, probably picking me out because I was clearly the oldest player on the field. (There’s a delightful sentence to write.)

“Hello,” he said. “I’m Louis Winthorpe III, CEO of My Company Is Better Than Yours Inc.” (Not real names, but accurate in spirit.)

“Hi, I’m Jeff,” I said, shaking his hand.

“Didn’t think I’d make it on time,” he said. “Had to finalize a big contract, rattle a few chains at an overseas facility, and inspect a property we’re going to buy.”

How do you respond to that? “Wow,” was the best I came up with.

“Ah, not really,” he said. “Same stuff, different day.”

I was trying to match the drollness of my “Wow” when my stepson stepped in, half-smile on his lips and full twinkle in his eyes, and rescued me by saying, “Come on, we need to get ready.”

Was Louis cocky? Certainly, but only on the surface. His $400 cleats, carbon fiber shin guards, and “I’m the king of the business world” introduction was an unconscious effort to protect his ego. His introduction said, “Hey, I might not turn out to be good at soccer, but out there in the real world, where it really matters, I am the Man.”

While he introduced himself to me, he was his real audience.

And that was a shame.

On that field, for that hour, he could have just been a soccer player. He could have sweated and struggled and possibly rekindled that ember of youth that burns less brightly with each passing year.

How do you introduce yourself? When you feel particularly insecure, do you prop up your courage with your introduction? Do you make sure to include titles or accomplishments or “facts,” even when you don’t need to?

If so, that makes your introduction all about you and not your audience. Instead:

  • Decide that less will always be more. Brief introductions are always best. Provide the bare minimum the other person needs to know, not in an attempt to maintain distance but because during the conversation more can be revealed in a natural, unforced, and therefore much more memorable way.
  • Stay aware of the setting. If you meet another parent at a school meeting, for example, just say, “Hi, I’m Joe. My daughter is in third grade.” Keep your introduction in context with the setting. If there is no real context, like at a soccer game, just say, “Hi, I’m Joe. Good luck!”
  • Embrace understatement. Unless you’re in a business setting, your job title is irrelevant. If you’re asked what you do and you do happen to be the CEO of My Company is Better Than Yours Inc., just say you work there. To err is human; to err humble is always divine.
  • Focus on the other person. Ask questions. Listen. The best connections never come from speaking; they always come from listening.

After the game a few kids from both teams were teasing me about one of my passes they felt should win the informal “Worst Pass of the Season If Not in the History of Soccer” award. I was more than cool with that, because the banter signaled a camaraderie and acceptance that is never given but earned.

I glanced over and saw Louis, alone as he packed up his gear, and felt a twinge of sadness.

He never let himself just be a soccer player. He never gave himself a chance to be a teammate, to fit in and enjoy a shared purpose, however momentary or meaningless that purpose might be.

When you introduce yourself, be who you are. Embrace the moment and the setting for what it says about you in that setting and not in comparison with titles or accomplishments.

Just be yourself: skills and triumphs and struggles and failures and all.

Always trust that who you are is more than enough.

Because it always is.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How Doing Work You Hate Can Benefit Your Career

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Here are three things to cling to when you think nothing good will come of it

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

I started taking pictures to capture quiet moments. Little details. Good light. Untold stories. I didn’t get into picture taking to make goofy faces (and bad jokes) to keep a hangry lil’ toddler smiling through an afternoon family session. But a girl’s gotta eat. And people love flattering photos of young love at golden hour. So, smile!

When I first started taking on work that I didn’t love, I felt like a total sellout. I would call my mom and wail that I was “compromising my artistic integrity” and that my work would never be the same. Lots of question marks and existential questions about purpose and truth filled the pages of my mind (and my journal). But, after a few months of doing work I hated, I began to see growth in the work that I loved…and hated.

Now, I’m not trying to encourage you to seek out work you dislike. If you can accept work that fits with your mission and vision 100% of the time, then by all means—be the exception to the rule. But, in the off chance that you might have to take on work you dislike (or even flat-out loathe)—here are three things to cling to when you think nothing good will come of it.

1. Doing Work You Hate Forces You to Stop Dreaming and Start Making

In a perfect world, you would only write, design, and strategize for the projects of your dreams. All the beautiful ideas floating around your head would be shaped and formed in everything you got paid for—your dreams actualized in yourportfolio and your bank account. What bliss!

But, let’s be real. Creating the work of your dreams doesn’t come along every day, and if you wait to create when the light hits just right, then you probably won’t make anything. Author P.D. James says, “don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.” So, when you get discouraged about doing work you hate, remember that actually making something is better than dreaming about it.

2. Doing Work You Hate Challenges You to Think Outside of What is Comfortable

We create from what we know and what we love. And even the most innovative creators and makers get stuck in ruts and rhythms where they create the same work over and over. One of my junior high photography students, Nikita, loves surf photography. For the first five weeks of Photography 101 class, he would only take pictures of the water, waves, and surf. After five weeks of filtering through hundreds of images of the ocean and amateur surfers, I challenged him to do a portrait series of a family member.

No water, no waves, no surfing.

He hated it and took every opportunity throughout the week to remind me. Despite his reluctance, he came to class with the most beautiful photos of his sister, Tsungi. During class critique, one of his classmates said, “you should stop taking pictures of water, ’cause you’re way better at taking pictures of people.”

Leave it to a 12-year-old to tell it like it is. So, who knows. Maybe the work you “hate” will actually force you to create something better than the work you’ve been hiding behind this entire time. I’ve even found that trying something new entirely (like learning how to code so I can update my website or taking a photography class) helps challenge what I know and grow what I don’t.

3. Doing Work You Hate Pushes You to Pursue the Work You Love

The argument behind doing work you love is that if you love it—well, it isn’t work. But, when you spend multiple family sessions engaging moody teens to “look” like they love their parents, then you will crave one session of doing something you love. Doing work you hate pushes you to seek out the hours (and even minutes) in which you’re doing work that fills you up—and reminds you why you started making that thing in the first place.

So, if doing work you have forces you to create, challenges you to be uncomfortable, and pushes you to seek out the work you love—keep your chin up! You’re on your way.

More from The Muse:

TIME career

10 Ways an Interviewer Prepares to Meet a Potential Employee

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A successful interview requires completed homework from both sides

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Preparation by the interviewer is the key to successful interview. While you are evaluating the candidate, they are evaluating you. Just like you’d ding the candidate for not doing homework on your company, the candidate will ding you if you do not do your interview homework.

Here are ten tips for how to best interview a potential employee:

  1. Review the resume and thoroughly prepare your questions before the interview. You should never walk into an interview without first spending 5-15 minutes thinking about the person and the questions you ask.
  2. Set an agenda for the interview. “We only have 30 minutes for our meeting and here is what I’d like to cover.” Give the person a clear understanding of what you want to get out of the interview. Leave ample time for questions because most mid-career candidates (and 100% of good executives) will come prepared with questions for you.
  3. Do a problem solving exercise with them. Give them a scenario from your work and ask for their input and advice. For instance, you can ask a potential sales executive: “I’m putting together the sales comp for our different salespeople, how have you designed sales comps in the past? Given what you know about our company, help me design a better sales comp.”
  4. General bio questions are not great. No need to just ask a question that can be answered from their resume. You can instead ask a probing question about the business metrics in their last company. One question I like to ask about: what a past company they were at could have done differently to be more successful. You might also want to ask the candidates about why they left a particular job.
  5. Dive into their technical knowledge and learn something. Dive really deep into an expertise area of the candidate. Get them talking about something they are passionate about. Get them to teach you about a new area — have them explain something really complex to you so you learn the basics. I once interviewed a sales guy who was also a chess master — he clearly taught me the core strategy of chess [we hired him]. Even in the scenario where you determine the candidate is not right for the job, at least you learned something.
  6. Know the flow of who at your company interviewed the candidate before you and who is coming after you. This will give you a sense of how the candidate understands the company and what questions have already been asked.
  7. Make sure they have a good experience. A surprising number of referrals for other candidates and for customers will come from the candidates you interview. Make sure they have a really good experience.
  8. Let them do the talking. While you want to clearly answer their questions, make sure the interviewee is doing at least two-thirds of the talking guided by your questions.
  9. If the candidate is not right, end the interview early. You’re not helping the candidates by wasting their time. If the person is clearly not the right fit, end the interview early so they can use the saved time to pursue other awesome companies.
  10. Afterwards, input your feedback into your shared hiring system. So that you can gather all the feedback on the interviewee in one place for quick reference and decision-making.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are important keys to remember when preparing as an interviewer?

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME career

10 Behaviors to Avoid if You Want To Be Successful

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Success is not just about you

Answer by Brandon Lee on Quora.

These aren’t hard and fast rules, there are always exceptions, caveats, and nuances to lists like these, but here are a few things:

  1. Don’t take advice from people who do not have the results you are looking for (e.g. Asking Michael Jordan for tennis advice or getting financial advice from your broke friend). Study those who have the results you are looking for.
  2. Don’t instantly believe everything you hear. Trust but validate.
  3. Don’t feel like you need do everything by yourself; you don’t have to be the best or the smartest. It’s far better to have the support of a team, mentors, and friends who will watch your back.
  4. Don’t underestimate the power of rest, play, and fun in the midst of all the hours you spend working — there is a place for both.
  5. Don’t neglect your physical, emotional, and spiritual health in your pursuit of financial wealth.
  6. Don’t be a bridge burner — don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t circumvent, don’t backstab, don’t take advantage of, don’t deceive, don’t steal credit — unless you want your future bridges to come pre-burned because of your reputation. Build and continually build bridges and others will help build them for you.
  7. Don’t build a reputation of overpromising and underdelivering. Underpromise and overdeliver.
  8. Don’t focus on having the biggest slice of the pie. Focus on growing the pie so everybody wins.
  9. Don’t rush yourself. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Think decades, not month by month.
  10. Don’t forget to thank those that have helped you along the way.

Bonus: When you make it, give back and help those that want to follow in your footsteps.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some universal things we should not do to become successful?

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

These Are the 25 Best Places to Be an Intern in 2015

Based on an analysis by job review site Glassdoor

Glassdoor, a website that allows employees to post anonymous office reviews, has released its 2015 list of the best places to intern in the U.S. Facebook leads the ranking, which is based on the highest-rated reviews of each company. Tech dominates the list more than any other sector, with 12 companies represented.

The round-up is a promotion for the site’s new Glassdoor Students, a job search resource specifically tailored to college students.

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LIST: 5 of the Best Companies for Working Moms

LIST: Best Places to Live 2014

Read next: The 25 Absolute Best Workplaces in the World

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Behaviors That Will Hinder Your Success

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Success is not a matter of characters or habits—it's about your behaviors

When you spend decades working with executives and business leaders, you really can’t help but observe what works and doesn’t work over the long haul. One thing I’ve noticed, it’s not intrinsic characteristics or personal habits that determine whether you’re successful or not. It’s your behavior.

What do I mean by “behavior?” How you react under long-term stress. Whether you meet your commitments or not. How you interact with others. Your attitude toward customers. How hard you’re willing to work to do the job right. Whether you’re focused and disciplined or scattered and distracted. That sort of thing.

Now, I admit to having known some pretty dysfunctional founders and CEOs who did well for themselves for a time. But sooner or later, usually when the pressure is on and things aren’t going so well, they exhibit self-destructive behavior that bites them in the behind. Sadly, they often take their businesses down with them.

Related: Want to Be Successful? Quit Being So Positive.

If you want to make it big over the long-term, you might want to take a good, hard look in the mirror and see if any of these career-limiting behaviors describe you.

Naivety. Granted, we all start out sort of wide-eyed and gullible, but the sooner you convert that to savvy and skeptical, the better your chances of coming out on top. The reason is simple: suckers and fools don’t win. Learn to question everything you read and hear and always consider the source.

Panic. High-pressure situations are common in the business world. Things almost never go according to plan and oftentimes they go terribly wrong. It comes with the territory. If you can’t override your adrenaline response and remain calm in a crisis, you’re sort of screwed.

Fanaticism. Passion is a big success driver, but when you cross that line and become over-the-top fanatical, that works against you. I’ve seen it time and again. It leads to a skewed perception of reality, flawed reasoning, and bad decision-making.

Laziness. Those who are driven to achieve great things also know one fundamental truth: It takes hard work over the long haul. That’s why they’re always so focused and disciplined. Most people are slackers. That’s why most people don’t achieve great things. Simple as that.

Quick-fix mentality. Steve Jobs said, “Half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance” and if you’re not passionate about what you do, you won’t stick with it. Too many people want instant gratification these days. That’s not going to cut it.

Related: Considering an Online Business? Read This First.

Acting out. Whatever feelings you have trouble dealing with – jealousy, shame, inferiority, entitlement – transferring them to people you work with and acting out in anger won’t just make you and everyone around you miserable, it’ll kill your career, too.

Selfishness. If you act like the world revolves around you, you’d better have the talent to back it up. Even so, being overly self-centered will diminish your effectiveness. Business isn’t about you; it’s about business. It’s about your customers’ experience with your products. Remember who serves whom in the relationship.

Living in the past or future. Granted, we can learn from the past, but dwelling on it is self-destructive. Likewise, you can plan for and dream about the future, but if your actions aren’t focused on the present, you’ll never achieve your plans or your dreams.

Lighthearted indifference. You hear phrases like “whatever works,” “it’s all good,” and “no worries” a lot lately but you’ll rarely hear them from highly accomplished people. They may be a lot of things but apathetic is not one of them.

Oversensitivity. If you’re so thin-skinned that any criticism makes you crazy and every little thing offends you, you’re going to have a rough go of it in the real business world. There’s a good reason why business leaders usually have a good sense of humor and humility. It’s sort of a requirement. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

One last thing. If any of this offends you enough to want to write an angry flame comment, you’ve got at least two or three issues to work on. Then again, look at the bright side. At least you’re not indifferent.

Related: You Don’t Need a Cause to Do What’s Right

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How Not to Answer ‘Why Are You Interested in This Position?’

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Maintain a good balance between talking about yourself and relating to the company

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Hiring managers don’t always say what’s on their minds, and sometimes this results in a less effective interviewing experience for you, the job candidate. But, regardless of how good or bad your interviewer is, you’ll very likely still get this question: “Why are you interested in this position?”

The reason for that is because your answer says a lot about all of the most important things the interviewer will be evaluating: your skills, your cultural fit, and your interest. In other words, this is definitely not a question you want to screw up. Here are four common mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. You Never Talk About the Company

I recently had a conversation with a recruiter, and she shared this great tidbit with me about what she considers to be the kiss of death for interviews. When people answer, “Why are you interested in this position?” with something about being passionate about programming, writing, or some other skill with no mention at all about the actual company, it’s immediately a red flag. Think about it this way: You can bring your skills anywhere. The trick is explaining why you want to use them for this particular company.

2. You Only Say What’s in it for You

This mistake is particularly common because, well, this is what the question is asking for, isn’t it? Maybe this job would give you the chance to learn a lot about marketing, or it’s an opportunity to grow your quantitative analysis skills—that’s great, but it’s not what your interviewer really wants to hear. At the moment, the hiring manager isn’t the most invested in what’s in it for you; he or she wants to know what’s in it for the company. The solution? Align your interests and say something about your enthusiasm for using your skills to contribute to the company’s greater goal.

3. You Bring Up Points That Aren’t Relevant

In the heat of the moment, it can be really tempting to reveal that the office is actually quite close to your daughter’s school or how the company’s flexible hours policy would make it easier to carpool with your roommate, but don’t give in. These are nice perks, but (hopefully) they’re not the only reason why this position is exciting for you. Plus, you’ll be giving up an opportunity to share the more relevant ones.

4. You Answer the Wrong Question

Have you ever gone on a date with someone who wouldn’t stop talking about his or her ex? Well, turns out this happens during job interviews, too. Don’t be that person who can’t shut up about why you need to leave your old job, stat. Even if the reason you’re job searching is directly related to your previous position, focus on the future. Bring up the skills you’ve developed for sure, but no need to dive into the history of how you acquired them.

This seemly innocuous question is a surprisingly tricky one, especially if you try to answer it without first thinking about your audience. Read this to learn more about how to answer this question strategically. Then, get your story straight, and remember who you’re talking to. It’s just one question, but it can completely shape the way an interviewer views your candidacy.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Guaranteed Ways to Gain a Mentor

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Remember that mentoring relationship is a two-way street

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Question: What’s one thing you can do now to encourage older/more experienced entrepreneurs to WANT to mentor you?

Don’t Just Be a Taker

“Find a way to give back to the more experienced entrepreneur. Also, when you ask for 30 minutes, only take 30 minutes. They will appreciate your attention to their time.” — Andrew Howlett, Rain

Remind Them of Themselves

“Every week I receive emails from individuals wanting to have coffee or ask questions. The ones I tend to meet with often remind me of a younger self. Whether they went to my college, hail from my hometown or have the same passions I had in college, I (like most people) gravitate toward like-minded people. Showing an entrepreneur that you have a common thread can go a long way in securing a mentor.” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

Add Value to Their Business

“I’ve found it’s easier to start a new relationship by giving rather than taking. Do research on your perspective mentor, and find out what they’re working on. Study their process, and come up with an innovative way to improve it. Then, share your findings with them. This will demonstrate that you are worth their time, and it won’t become just a one-way relationship.” — Anthony Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Don’t Come Empty-Handed

“Show that you are capable of executing to some degree on your own, whether that is by gaining some traction, some buzz or just building a great product. The worst is when someone comes to me with nothing and expects me to do too much of the work for them. I only want to surround myself with A-Players, and that goes for mentors and mentees alike.” — Danny Boice, Speek

Find Similarities in Your Situation

“People will want to help you if they understand and trust you and see a little bit of themselves in you. Older, experienced entrepreneurs almost feel a need to reinvest back into the karma that has made them successful. As people grow older and acquire everything they think they need, they figure out that life is about giving. Ask Bill Gates about that one.” — Andy Karuza, SpotSurvey

Be Professional

“No one wants to help someone who isn’t professional. Keep your emails (especially those with requests) brief. I don’t want to see more than a paragraph when you’re asking for information. Respond when my assistant emails you to confirm an appointment. Be prompt and friendly, and it doesn’t hurt to take notes. Afterward, send a thank-you email or, even better, a handwritten note!” — Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media

Give Them a Reason

“As with any investment, older/more experienced entrepreneurs are looking for an opportunity with promise. If you want someone to mentor you, show them why they should, and demonstrate to them that their efforts will not be wasted.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

Be Available

“Make yourself available, and be humble and teachable. The men and woman who have gone before us have a wealth of knowledge and experience, so we need to sit at their feet, listen and learn. However, it’s not enough just to listen to them; it’s about acting on the advice. When mentors see their advice impacting your business, it encourages them to keep teaching and the student to keep learning!” — Adam Degraide, Astonish

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

1 Trick to Getting What You Want When You Negotiate

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You won't believe how easy it is

Conventional wisdom says that, in negotiations, it’s better to offer the other party a firm number rather than a range. The thinking is that a hiring manager who hears, “I want between $40,000 and $45,000″ will focus on the lower number, or somebody you want to buy a car from will jump on the higher number if you tell them, “I can pay between $8,000 and $8,500.”

That conventional wisdom is wrong. New research finds that people who offer a range really give themselves a better chance at getting the number they really want — but you have to do it the right way.

Columbia Business School professor Daniel Ames says there are a couple things going on when you negotiate with a range as opposed to a single number. For starters, there’s the psychological concept of “tandem anchoring.” When we hear a range, our minds are predisposed to take both numbers into account, not just the one that we want to hear.

“Our research shows that people receiving a range offer are often influenced by both ends of that range in estimating their counterpart’s limits,” Ames says.

The other psychological component at work is what Ames calls the “politeness effect.” While we generally think we drive a hard bargain when we negotiate, we’re not really as tough as we think we are. “We tend to think of negotiators as being reasonably shrewd and skeptical and self-interested,” Ames says. “But across multiple studies, that’s not what we found… When we look at the counteroffers that negotiators made, it was partly predicted by how rude or polite they thought it would be to make that proposal.” Even in cases where a negotiation is anonymous and buyer and seller don’t expect to cross paths again, most of us are still reluctant to be overly cutthroat.

The key to turning this into a number you want to hear — whether you’re landing a job or buying a car — is to give the other party what Ames calls a “bolstering range;” in plain English, tilt the numbers in your favor. If you want a salary of $50,000, tell the hiring manager you’d like between $50,000 and $55,000.”Range offers tend to shift what offer-recipients think about the offer-makers’ limits,” Ames says. “Adding a higher number… tends to tug assumptions about that limit higher.”

Now, Ames points out there are a few limits to this. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they assume the limit is the mid-point of the range,” he says. In one experiment where subjects were asked how much they would pay for a hypothetical catered event, those who heard the caterer’s estimate of $100 countered with an average of $77, although even those who heard an estimated range of $100 to $120 only offered an average of $83. “They didn’t all necessarily end up inside the range itself, but they tended to end up with more than they would have gotten with just the point offer,” Ames says.

So aim high, but keep it reasonable, Ames warns. “Range offers have some limits,” he says. “[They] tend to work best when they start at assertive, but not outrageous, levels and when they span a modest width.” In other words, if you want a $60,000 salary in a job offer, don’t suggest a range of $75,000 to $80,000. And don’t make the range so broad that it can damage your credibility, he cautions. “Range offers that go beyond normal widths, which tend to be 5-20%, tend not to bring extra value.”

Read next: 4 Subtle Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Chances for a Promotion

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5 Ways to Transform Yourself Into a Leader

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Successful people are simply willing to do what other people aren’t

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

After months of effort, you finally land the promotion you’ve had your eyes on. On paper, it’s your dream job: You have a bigger team under you, more exciting responsibilities, a direct line of communication to the big boss, a salary that’sactually competitive, and of course, the highly anticipated corner office.

But the day-to-day reality isn’t unfolding quite as you’d hoped.

You’re getting apathetic vibes from your employees, and you don’t know why. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing—managing projects, directing traffic, juggling deadlines and budgets. You’ve even tried bringing cupcakes to the office, but your team’s energy seems to evaporate as soon as the sugar high wears off. You’re left wondering: What more could they possibly want?

Data tells us that today’s employees want a lot more out of their jobs. In our increasingly educated workforce, employees are no longer satisfied to punch a clock and collect a paycheck. They don’t want to blindly follow instructions handed down from the manager; they want to feel empowered. In fact, recent research shows that teams managed by motivators perform better than those that are too heavily controlled by a designated supervisor.

In short, employees want a Tony Robbins, not a Donald Trump.

No one is saying you need to convene a daily kumbaya circle, but there are some practical steps you can take now to up your game and elevate yourself from a manager to a leader.

1. Leaders Know How to Listen

Leaders listen to everyone, even those who might not have as much “experience” as other people in the room. In my last corporate job, I worked for the CSO of a Fortune 100 company. At team meetings, he would sit back quietly while the VPs jockeyed loudly for his approval. He would let them monopolize the forum for a little while, and then he would turn his attention to someone who hadn’t bothered to try to compete with the dog and pony show. “What do you think?” he’d ask, giving that person all of his attention. It brought out the best in the quieter people, and it humbled the louder ones.

The best leaders treat brainstorming as a democracy of ideas. One way of getting more invested participation from your employees is to introduce a weekly team meeting where new ideas are solicited from each person. This is a great way to strengthen the team mentality, showing your employees that you want and welcome their brilliance. (Here are a few more strategies for listening better.)

2. Leaders Know the Difference Between an Amateur and a Pro

Leaders earn their stripes through consistent displays of professionalism, not by taking the shortcuts we so often see from amateurs. According to Steven Pressfield, author of Turning Pro, “the difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones.” The amateur calls in sick when he’s had too much to drink the night before; the professional shows up early and does his best work, even if his physiology is hating him. If it means he has to give 150% to get the job done, that’s what he gives it. The leader takes full responsibility for his actions and, by doing so, imparts the message to those around him that they need to do the same.

3. Leaders Leave Their Egos at the Door

A true leader does whatever is required to get the job done. If that means manning the copier, making the midnight coffee run, or assembling folders, that’s what the leader does, even if his paycheck and title suggest such jobs are “beneath” him. This approach not only guarantees that the work gets done; it also does wonders for the energy levels on the team.

One way to implement this is to pay attention to the unique brilliance of each employee on your team. If you see that people are exceptionally good at something, offer to take some work off their plate so you can free them up to make better use of their skill set. If you’re coming up blank on ideas for them, ask them what they’d like to do more of. They will respect you for getting your hands dirty, and they’ll appreciate you for making them feel seen and heard.

4. Leaders Live Outside Their Comfort Zone

Playing a big game doesn’t always feel natural or comfortable, but it’s a choice that true leaders make again and again. As kids, we are often conditioned to go with the grain and to avoid disrupting our environment. We often keep ourselves from really being seen, and from being different. The problem here is that this encourages us to grow into very average adults who only feel comfortable when we’re playing small.

I’ll never forget the moment I stepped backstage at TEDxBerkeley. As the least seasoned speaker at the time (hello, I went on after Guy Kawasaki), I thought I’d definitely be the most nervous in the room. Boy, was I wrong. The whole group backstage—best-selling authors, innovators, serial entrepreneurs—were all panicked. Nothing this rewarding can possibly exist in your comfort zone, and it’s the leaders who are willing to wake up daily, stepping outside of theirs.

5. Leaders Have Emotional Fitness

Emotional intelligence—the ability to read and connect with just about anyone in the room—is great, but it doesn’t sustain you in times of uncertainty and instability. It wasn’t until I became a career coach that I learned the importance of emotional fitness. Emotional fitness is your ability to flexibly endure the ups and downs of business and life. The difference between managers and leaders is the way they react to and process the failed deals, the lost clients, and even the busted refrigerator in the break room. Managers freak out, sending tiny ripples of panic and chaos through the rest of the team. Leaders tap into an inner Buddha, an unwavering stillness that empowers them to take a deep breath and keep moving forward.

If I could impart one final insight on you, it’s this: Successful people are simply willing to do what other people aren’t. In exchange for giving more of themselves, they reap much bigger rewards.

They are also patient. Pressfield says, “our work is practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days is nothing.” If you are committed to becoming a true leader, don’t be discouraged if the situation doesn’t change overnight—leadership, like all forms of self-improvement, is a journey, not a destination. True leaders understand that it’s not about where they go; it’s about who they become.

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