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5 Habits of the Most Successful People (and 4 Habits to Drop)

What are the unique qualities that will get you a top spot at work? Here are the five traits that will help you get ahead (plus four that won’t).

Photo: The Nest / Thinkstock

Be an “Ideas” Person and Know How to Execute

Seeing the bigger picture is great. But making that picture a reality? Even better. Throw around great ideas, but also take time to execute them -- especially if they involve other departments, people or resources. Set deadlines and try to foresee any bumps in the road that you can address now. Anyone can talk, but it takes a resourceful worker to get results.

Communicate Clearly

Tailor your ideas to your specific audience. It’s a principle of psychology: People respond to those who mimic their own gestures. Try watching a boss, coworker or manager who’s an effective communicator in meetings; then -- yep -- mimic their style. It’ll eventually become second nature to give clear, concise directions and suggestions.

Be Proactive

Successful people get ahead by taking the initiative. They see a void in the department, and they ask to fill it. They understand what sets them apart in their line of work and use their skills to make a difference in their company. Being direct and asking for more projects, doing more work on your own and generally pitching in are the best ways to make a lasting impression on your clients, coworkers and your boss.

Know the Value of Your Work

To succeed, you need to know how your work affects your company or clients. This means not only knowing how you fit into the larger scheme of things task-wise, but also how those tasks translate into real dollars. In short: Always know what you’re worth. (Don’t know where to start? Use to compare salaries.)

Be Adaptable

Adaptability is the number-one asset in any job environment. Really consider your options when presented with a problem and always be ready with more than one solution. Don’t say, “But that’s not my job,” especially if there’s a need. If you’re too stuck in your ways, you can be replaced by someone who can go with the flow.

DON’T Do This:

Be Too “In It”

Sometimes, employees lose sight of the bigger picture. You’re so into the legwork and so deep in the trenches building something of value that you forget what it is you’re working so hard for. Keep your eye on the goal.

Be Afraid to Delegate

Taking on more than you can handle is hazardous to your productivity. If you’re the only one who knows the answers, you may think you’re preserving your job, but really, you’re hurting your company, your projects and your sanity. Trust your coworkers and team to take on some of the work.

Just Do What You Did Before

To succeed, you have to be flexible. Moreover, you have to understand that precedent only influences so much. To achieve, you must be open to new ideas, new challenges and new ways of handling situations that you might have handled a different way in the past. If you don’t, you (and your job or company) will never grow.

Think You're Irreplaceable

This one’s simple: If you don’t work hard and don’t further the company or cause, there’s no reason to keep you around. It’s important to keep this in mind, even if you’ve been super-successful in the past, have risen through the ranks in a company or are climbing the corporate ladder. Make yourself indispensable to the company.

Nestperts: Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; and Sydney Finkelstein, author of Why Smart Executives Fail

-- Samantha Leal