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Age is just a number – it’s the foundation building that matters

A foundation of attitude, confidence, competence and knowledge will ensure you're judged on your abilities rather than on age or length of service

When it comes to progression, times have changed.

Once progression was a clear ‘ladder’. Now, however, it has become far more flexible, with individuals of all ages and backgrounds able to move up, down and sideways at a pace that works for them. As a result, people are now exposed to multiple layers of an organisation, gaining experience and skills that enable them to progress more rapidly, if they so wish. This also means we’re now seeing real diversity among the leadership levels.

But these people are not doing this by chance. Instead, they have built solid career foundations and are using these foundations to apply themselves, make a difference and get results. They aren’t waiting for the organisation to develop them. They are taking it upon themselves to champion their own learning and remain flexible to move around to drive their progression.

By doing so, these people have beaten the critics – the ones who question whether you’re too old, too young, have been in the business long enough – and become the ‘go-tos’. They are the people who you look to for advice, a different view and overall support. They are the individuals who inspire others, holding just the right combination of traits to excel.

Based on the experiences I’ve had so far in my journey, holding a solid career foundation consists of four key elements: attitude, confidence, competence and knowledge.

When building your foundation, the starting point should always be your attitude. Without attitude, the other three traits cannot be fully formed. The attitude we hold, and the mindset we set ourselves up with, shapes our ability to gain knowledge, to be trained and become competent in our roles and in our remit, which in turn allows us to build confidence.

Building these foundations does take time. It’s not something that can be built overnight and that’s important to realise. It requires commitment, honesty and dedication. It needs continual work, defeating the challenges such as imposter syndrome and the critics.

Importantly, you also need to take the lead on your own development. At Dorchester Collection we’ve made this a priority for our people. It’s their careers, so let’s develop them together. We’ve created a suite of learning experiences and our people can now choose as many, or as few of them, as they like depending on their interests, role and desires at that time. Our teams no longer wait for us to provide them with development; they can take a personalised approach to learning which works for them and helps them to add to their knowledge and competence foundations.

While not all organisations can adopt the learning approach we have, there are other ways we, as employers, can help our people build these foundations. Regardless of their dreams and ambitions, having attitude, confidence, competence and knowledge will ensure people can deliver effectively and perform to the best of their abilities. At the heart of developing these elements is enabling our people to have open coaching conversations and genuine relationships with their leaders.

Achieving this takes time. It takes time to get to know the full person, not just the person who comes in and delivers each day. Get to know the person outside of work – the parent who now has to finish work and make a costume for the school play, the fitness enthusiast who’s about to complete their first Ironman, the person who leaves work and drives two hours to care for their sick relative...

It’s also important to remember that once built, these foundations should not remain static. As we develop, change roles, take on new experiences, the foundations should evolve and develop with us. Regularly checking in on these four areas should be prioritised. This can be done with the help of a mentor, or by constantly building in time in the week to reflect. Only by consistently reflecting can we further strengthen our foundations, learn and progress.

One of my favourite authors Stephen Covey once said: “If you want small changes in your life, work on your attitude. But if you want big and primary changes, work on your paradigm.”

When you’ve got these foundations, when you’ve changed your pattern – and potentially the patterns around you – you’ll have the elements required to build genuine relationships and credibility. And you will be judged on your abilities and attitude, rather than on age, length of service or where you are on the organisational chart.

Yasmin Boromand is global director, people and organisational development at Dorchester Collection