May 20, 2024

Congratulations! You’ve been promoted. You finally got a handle on your last role, and now you’re expected to shift gears and change your focus. Whether you’ve just gone from analyst to associate, associate to VP, or VP to Director, here are three skills you should keep in mind to make the most of your new role.

Get comfortable asking questions.

Asking questions takes courage. No one likes admitting that they don’t know everything. It makes us feel vulnerable, and sometimes we can mistake vulnerability for weakness. On the contrary, asking question is your greatest tool in establishing relationships and building trust in your new role.

When we ask a colleague or manager questions, we invite them to share their perspective. The more questions we ask, the more perspectives we hear, and the richer our understanding becomes. Asking questions also sends a very important signal – that you are someone willing to learn.

Now, you need to ask, “What are the right questions?” No matter your role or level of experience, your questions should be open-ended, and focused on your audience. You want to start a conversation. If your question begins with “What,” “Why,” or “How,” you increase your chances of launching a conversation.

Here are two questions you can use in response to an inquiry from a client or potential client:

  • How can I help?
  • What would be he most helpful to you?

Notice the common thread between these questions; the word “Help.” When you ask a question and offer your support in the same breath, you start the conversation with the affirmation that you are both working towards a common goal. It’s a great way to build trust.

If the person to whom you are speaking seems lost or really floundering, you can use a leading question that offers a solution, but doesn’t push forward without checking in:

  • Would it be helpful to you if I_______?”

Offering direction with the caveat of “only if helpful to you,” gives your colleague or client the chance to weigh in on the helpfulness of your offer.

When you contribute in meetings, particularly early on, have a clear message.

You’ve done the research, compiled the facts, and organized your content. Now, it’s time to clear your throat, (or turn on your mic) and add something to the meeting. What are you going to say? More importantly – what is your audience going to remember?

Your main message should be brief, other’s focused, simple, and solution oriented. In short, think like a BOSS.

B: Brief – Your message should be 10 words or fewer. Remember, your audience needs to be able to repeat your message after your meeting is over. The shorter and punchier, the better.

  • “Approving the agreement will push us over our goal.”
  • “A new team member will boost productivity.”
  • “This putter will shave a point off your handicap.”

O: “Other’s focused” – Show that you care about the other people in the meeting. How is your main message going to benefit them? Time, money, and feelings are “universal motivators.” How is your message going to save your audience time, save or make them money, or make them feel good about your idea?

S: Simple – Eliminate jargon and clunky words from your message. “Our new software will maximize productive outputs and streamline B2C profitability.” Is much harder to remember than “This new app will save us time and increase sales.”

S: Solution oriented – When the subject of a meeting revolves around a specific issue, your main message should address that issue directly. Often times we feel the need to bury our main message under a mountain of context. Like high school math class, we feel that we need to show how we arrived at an answer. Flip the script. Lead with your conclusion, then back it up with the rich details.

If you follow the BOSS guidelines, your messages will travel far beyond your meeting and inspire greater action.

Convey that you’re open to feedback.

Feedback can be difficult to seek out. A feedback meeting can feel like being put on trial. In reality, asking for feedback shows you are invested in improving yourself and helps you build healthy working relationships. It is an opportunity to hone your skills and develop a positive reputation. So, what’s the challenge? It’s very difficult to know when and how to ask for feedback. Here are some tips to demystify the process.

Ask for feedback frequently and consistently before or after you leverage a new skill. Whether you’re drafting a memo, participating in a meeting, or speaking with internal or external stakeholders, seek feedback from colleagues whose skills you wish to emulate. This will help them identify your strengths and areas of growth. It also lets them know you are working on your own development.

Ahead of an opportunity to practice a new skill, ask specific questions that prompt conversation.

  • “I’m trying to not overtalk in meetings. Can you give me some feedback in this meeting we’re going into.”

You can also ask more general questions to broaden the scope of your feedback.

  • “I noticed you’re great at {my growth area.} What advice would you give me?”
  • “How can I better support our team?”
  • “What would you suggest I do differently next time?”

Once you ask for the feedback, you need to be prepared to receive it. When someone gives you constructive feedback, don’t be surprised or get defensive. Let them know your request for feedback was genuine and valued.

Asking questions, developing clear messages, and signaling that you’re open to feedback will help you establish a reputation as a flexible, open-minded, and dynamic professional that others will want to work with.

About the Author Sam Sullivan

Sam Sullivan is a Learning Consultant for Exec-Comm, a training firm based in NYC. He helps professionals develop skills to communicate with greater impact. You can email him at, or link to him on LinkedIn here:

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