Guest blog post from Debra Benton, author of The CEO Difference: How to Climb, Crawl, and Leap Your Way to the Next Level of Your Career.

I asked over one-hundred CEOs and C-suite executives these three questions:

  1. “What causes someone to positively stand out in your eyes?”
  2. “What do you look for in people you promote?”
  3. “What did you do in your career to get to the top?”

The answers can be summarized into six words: Learn how to exceed among exceeders.

You see, others are working just as hard as you with goals and dreams of success just like you. 

If you want to be uber-marketable and have a potent impact, while staying ahead of hyper competitive colleagues — not only in your own company but also outside of it — you have to set yourself apart from every other overachiever to whom you compete.

People who excel always do things different and better.  Why?

  • That’s how your boss chooses among comparably talented people to promote.
  • When all candidates look good on paper this is what recruiters look for.

Though most people like to believe they are singular, unique, and one-of-a kind in their assignment, few are.  Across the world we are more similar than dissimilar. Yet, as fate would have it, that is exactly what your boss is looking for – someone singular who outshines the rest. 

You see, right now, private conversations in secret sessions, behind closed and locked doors with shades drawn (both online and offline), management muckity-mucks sitting in high back leather chairs are thinking hard about you and a smattering of your competition. One person is being enthusiastically singled out with the confirmatory statement of, “He’s different.”  Someone asks, “What do you mean?” and the muckity-muck answers, “He fits in but he stands out from the rest, too. He does more, gets more out of others, knows more, cares more, and is more….”  (Author note: The use of man and he is generic; it also means woman and she.)

Those few words carry significant ramifications in your work life and they usurp the university you attended, companies you’ve worked for, titles you’ve held, and any other personal or professional pedigree attached to you.

Not everyone is going to be able to move up. They are scrutinizing your skills and talent; performance and results; the continuous competitive advantage you furnish the organization; and your affect on others.

You want to be the one to “echo beyond the room”, meaning keep the conversation going about you after you’ve left.

As one female friend put it, “The often quoted Coco Chanel said it well, ‘In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different’.”

There is a lot you can’t control in life, but there is one area you can exert more echo in — and that is what my new book The CEO Difference is about. To help you:

  • Find what differentiates you.
  • Do regular things in a different way.
  • Do different things than your competitors….all to add value as you compete.

If you take the position that all you want to do is to hang onto your job, you won’t be in the game long. You cannot turn in average, mediocre, lackluster results at any stage or you will be racing to catch up forever. You have to fight extra hard, kick and scratch to more-than-measure up; climb, crawl and leap to move up.