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What your boss did to get ahead of the pack

If you ever want to be like your boss – or at least become your own boss – think about the skills your boss has acquired to get that job.

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    A worker pulls a chair past an electronic boards displaying the carbon trading index on the left, at the Beijing Environmental Exchange office in Beijing, China on May 12, 2015. If you ever want to be like your boss – or at least become your own boss – think about the skills your boss has acquired to get that job.
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Do you ever look at your boss and wish you had his or her job? Or maybe you wonder how in the world they got to where they are, given the fact that you are struggling with your own position.

The fact of the matter is, somehow your boss got ahead. They stood out from the rest. Here are some of the skills that helped them land that big promotion — and that can help you, too!

1. Cut the Negativity

No one likes being around someone who is always negative. It's hard, and eventually you either get dragged into their negativity, or you have to put distance between the negative person and yourself. So don't be that person!

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Yes, every workplace probably has something to be negative about. Maybe it's a rough time of year, or you're currently being asked to do someone else's job on top of your own. But keep the negativity to yourself.

Being negative drags everyone down, and companies don't promote people who are going to make teamwork harder. When your boss got promoted, it's likely that he or she was known for being positive or, at least, for keeping negative comments in. Do the same if you want to get ahead.

2. Line Up the Right Support

Most of us can't be the lone wolf at work. We need some sort of support to be able to do our jobs successfully. When we aren't getting that, we won't perform as well and, therefore, will be less likely to get ahead.

In today's work environment, it often falls to the individual to find the support he or she needs to get the job done. Be proactive and ask your boss for a meeting. Go over expectations, especially if you feel like these aren't clear. Ask your boss how they prefer to manage and work from there. For instance, a boss who prefers weekly check-in meetings may be willing to let you have two weeks between meetings, especially if you've proven yourself trustworthy and can show how the extra time would help you do your job better.

Getting the support they need is something your boss most likely excels at, and one of the skills they used to do their job well enough to get ahead. Figure out what you need in order to exceed expectations and ask for it.

3. Take on Challenges

Taking on something that is new, different, or difficult is scary, especially when you feel like your livelihood may depend on it. However, being willing to take on a challenge, being the person who steps forward and says "I'll do it!" makes a huge difference when it comes to getting ahead.

Think about it this way: When you are considering who you want to lead something, do you want a person in charge who isn't daunted, who can outthink and outmaneuver obstacles, or do you want someone who is afraid, stuck in an old way of doing things, and who can't think outside the box? Most of us want the first kind of person.

Even if your boss seems stuck in her ways now, it's likely she was once willing to innovate and take risks. Be the person who steps up to the challenge, and you can be the one who gets ahead, too.

4. Understand the Current Goals

If you want to get ahead, make sure you understand your organization's current goals and how your job fits into those. See your work as part of the whole and make sure you are doing your best to make the whole function well.

It's easy to get lost in the details of your job and to forget about the role you are playing in the overall company. It's also easy to misunderstand where your company is currently focused. For instance, you may think that your company is trying to land new accounts, when the current focus is actually on giving existing clients a better experience.

Most people who get ahead in a company do so because someone thinks they will be able to help the company achieve their current goals. You boss probably focused on these when he was working to get ahead, and doing the same should help you, too.

5. Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes

It may seem counterintuitive to think that owning your mistakes will help you get ahead. However, taking full responsibility for yourself and your actions generates trust, and so it helps you build stronger relationships with both your coworkers and your clients/customers.

Before you can take responsibility for any errors, you need to know your own role. Make sure you really know it, inside and out, so that you can honestly tell someone whether a mistake was yours or whether it occurred elsewhere. If you did make a mistake, be sure to apologize and, if necessary, change the way you do things so that it doesn't happen again.

Most managers have, at some point in their career, demonstrated their ability to own their role, including any mistakes that are made. If it helped your boss get to where she is today, it can help you get ahead, too.

6. Find the Right Communication Style

Different people communicate in different ways. We use different words, different tones, and even different body language when we talk to one another. When you use your boss's communication style, you are more likely to get ahead because you'll be more likely to persuade him of the points you try to make and because he will see you as compatible with the overall company.

Before you do this, you have to determine how your boss communicates. Listen to the words he says, whether he speaks quietly or loudly, quickly or slowly, and how he uses his hands, face, and body when he is speaking. Then try to do some of these same things when you are communicating with him and with your team.

Matching communication styles probably helped your boss get ahead, and working to do it will help you, too. Don't worry about being false, because the ideas you want to communicate will be the same as they would be if you were using your natural communication style.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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