“What do I need to do to I move up in the organization?” Whether I’m mentoring people just starting out in their careers or coaching an employee one-on-one, that is an often-asked question. Many assume learning a new product or service, earning certifications, or going back to school is the answer. I encourage people to always look for opportunities to learn more about life, work, and the world around us, and while that is well and good, it may not be the best way to move up the ladder in your career if that is your primary reason for learning.

Often it is not what you do, but rather how you do it that makes you successful and gives you new opportunities.

Yes, it is important to be competent and knowledgeable about your job and your industry. That’s the cost of admission. Unless you are entering a company or a role as an intern or in a training program, you must have the basic skills to perform the job or build upon them. And you should continue to grow those skills as you mature in the role.

If you don’t have the expertise needed for the role you hold and training doesn’t help, you won’t be in it very long – if your manager is doing his or her job. I contend that most people have the ability to learn and become proficient in new skills too and to move to new responsibilities within the organization that are different from the role in which they started. A younger worker may try out several different roles in different companies before discovering his gifts and passion.

So, if most employees have a set of applicable skills, why do some seem to move forward in their careers while others stagnate? The ones moving forward have figured out that attitude matters. That’s right – how you do your job is as important as what you do in your job.

Say what? Clocking in and taking care of my responsibilities isn’t enough? No, not if you want to be more valuable to the organization. Think of the people you admire at work and the ones who get ahead — what do you see in them? I expect you see people who do some of the following:

They have integrity. Their actions are always above board. They don’t do or say things that make you question their character.

They hold themselves and others accountable. They plainly say what they will do and then do what they say.

They lend a hand. If they can pitch in and do something to help someone else, they do. Everyone needs help sometime to meet a ridiculous deadline or deal with an urgent issue.

They realize that everyone in the company is on the same team. Everyone in the company is trying to do their part to make the company successful regardless of their role.

They know that every job and every person in the company is important. And they treat everyone with respect because of that fact. If the job weren’t important, it wouldn’t exist.

They volunteer. They take on special projects that aren’t necessarily part of their job. They teach others. They plan the next company outing. They decorate the office for the holidays and bring breakfast for the team.

They have a winning attitude. And it’s contagious.

They make mistakes. They make mistakes because they are trying hard and looking for better ways to do things, and they won’t always get it right the first time.

Take an inventory of yourself at work. If you want to move your career forward, are you focusing on what you do or how you do it?