Different careers require different skills. How confident are you that you have - or can develop - the skills you need to succeed in different careers?

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Most of us have weaknesses that will not interfere with our career success in any way, and that we simply don't care about changing. On the other hand, if you recognize something as a weakness and see that it can hold you back, you may want to try to strengthen that skill.

These are skills in which you are significantly less confident than other business professionals, and suggestions for strengthening these skills. (Please note: We may recommend reading materials, courses, websites, etc., to help strengthen your skills. CareerLeader has no affiliation with, nor does it receive any benefit from, any of these services (excepting material written by Drs. Butler and Waldroop). Our recommendations are exclusively intended to help you.)

arrow Ability to Compromise:able to compromise when the situation calls for it.

When you have a strong ability to compromise, you're able to make concessions -- when the situation calls for it. You don't let your "ego" get in the way of giving something now to get something later or to preserve an important relationship. It may seem like a paradox: strengthening your ability to be "weak." But weakness has nothing to do with it. Being able to compromise is another item in your career success "toolkit."

Here's an example: You're working with colleagues to get an important project done. Anil, a member of the project team to whom you owe a data report as part of your contribution to the project, comes to you one day and says, "I'll need that report early -- next Wednesday instead of Friday. The guy who's doing the graphics has to go out of town on Thursday and Friday, so he wants to do the work on Wednesday instead."

You're annoyed: You had made other plans for the early part of the week. But you decide to cancel those plans so you can get the report to Anil on Wednesday as he's asked. Your reasoning? If you didn't change your plans, the project might fall behind schedule -- which would make the entire team look bad. Also, you expect to be working with Anil on additional projects in the future. If you compromise on this situation, you tell yourself, perhaps Anil will be willing to do you a favor when you need it on a later project.

Here's another example: You've started up a small consulting business and have begun building your client network. Sharon, a potential new client whose own well-regarded business is growing fast, phones you one day to see if you'd be interested in doing some work for her. You're excited about the opportunity -- until you and Sharon start negotiating your fee. Sharon states that she has a very limited budget for the project and can't really offer more. When you realize that you'd earn a fraction of what you expected to charge for the work, you decide to turn down the opportunity.

But then you begin thinking about your other interests in this situation. You remind yourself that if you compromise on your fee in order to win this particular assignment, you may get additional business from Sharon as her company continues to grow. Also, she's very well connected and might be willing to send other new clients your way. Steady business and an expanding client network have immense value to you, so you agree to the less-than-ideal fee.

Compromising when the situation calls for it can help you build mutually beneficial relationships in every arena of your life. How to strengthen this skill? Consider these recommendations:

  • Read a book on the subject. Potential useful titles include Harvard Business Review on Decision Making, Conflict Resolution: Communication, Cooperation, Compromise by Robert Wanderberg, and Harvard Business Essentials Guide to Negotiation.

  • Take an online learning course on how to decide whether to compromise. Examples include the "Making Business Decisions" module in the Harvard ManageMentor series, developed by Harvard Business School Publishing. Your company may have purchased a site license for such e-learning programs. Or, you may be able to buy a CD containing modules of interest as well as participate in them online or download them from the developer. Some developers charge a fee for participation in the courses they offer; others offer modules for free.

  • Consult an expert. Find someone who you view as having a particularly strong ability to know when to compromise. Ask this person how he or she has strengthened this skill.

  • Attend a workshop or course in negotiating, making decisions, managing projects, and other activities in which compromising may come into play. Your company may offer such learning opportunities or may be willing to reimburse your tuition if you take such a course through another organization. Local university extension programs, as well as continuing education programs, may offer such workshops and courses.

  • Identify and challenge assumptions that may be getting in the way of your ability to compromise when appropriate. For example, did authority figures in your early life tell you that anyone who compromises is a "wimp" or a "loser"? As you've seen, compromising is actually a valuable business skill. Experiment with viewing it in this new light -- then practice making small compromises to begin appreciating the positive results you can gain when you make concessions in situations that call for it.

  • Remind yourself that no one gets what he or she wants in every situation. Compromise is a part of life. The key is to know when to make concessions in a particular situation.

  • To determine when it's appropriate to compromise, identify what matters most to you in a particular situation, and let your answer guide your decision about whether to compromise. For example, if maintaining a positive relationship with a particular person in the long run is important to you for professional or personal reasons, making a concession in the short run may help you achieve your goal. On the other hand, if the relationship simply doesn't matter to you, you may decide to hold your ground rather than compromising -- because you have nothing to lose.

Strengthening your ability to compromise takes practice. But the results are well worth the effort. The recommendations listed above can help you hone this important life skill.

arrowAction-orientation:action-oriented: makes sure that decisions are implemented.

arrowAssertiveness:able to defend a point of view and to confront others appropriately when necessary.

arrowComfort with Risk:takes risks when appropriate, isn't afraid to innovate and experiment.

arrowGaining Trust:inspires other people's trust.

arrowLeadership Confidence:comfortable taking a leadership role.

arrowPersistence:doesn't get discouraged and give up on things easily.

arrowPower-orientation:comfortable asserting authority and using power.

arrowQuantitative Analysis:skillful in using quantitative analysis to understand business issues.

arrowQuick Thinking:picks up new ideas and processes new information quickly and easily.

arrowResilience:handles pressure and stress well.

arrowRespect for Others:respectful of other people's points of view, as well as their time and priorities.

arrowSelf-control:does not act or speak impulsively; does not easily lose composure.

arrowStrategic Thinking:a strategic thinker: able to grasp the big picture and think long-term.

arrowWritten Communication:a good writer, expresses ideas and positions clearly.

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