By Stuart R. Levine
Published in Forbes

If you are smart, you are already thinking about what you can do to lock in your year-end bonus. If you follow these five fundamentals through year end, you will put yourself in a great position to succeed.

1. Stay Positive

Everyone is going to be under pressure this year. Staying productive and constructive is going to be critical. While it’s easy to fall prey to the blather of office politics, it takes much more discipline and restraint to train yourself to stay above the fray. Each time you travel down the path of negativity, you distract yourself and run the risk of eroding the trust that will be important to your career progress.

Here’s a perfect example that shows the impact of negativity even at the highest levels of a publicly traded company. I was once picked up by a car service set up by our client to take me from the airport to the hotel. The driver’s chatty comments made it clear that someone in the executive suite had complained to him about the new leadership in the company, and the driver was passing along these highly negative opinions. When I arrived at the office the next day, it was easy for me to see who regularly used that car service and it became very clear who the source of the negativity was. Even if you are venting to someone who doesn’t directly work at your company, you still run the risk that your negativity can get back to the wrong people. Make a conscious decision not to swim in the pool of rumors and innuendo.

2. Prepare And Strategically Communicate

Every communication with your boss has to very clear, very crisp and easy to navigate.  This only comes from taking the time to create messages that are well thought-out and easy to read. Make sure to re-read your emails before you hit send. If you write an email in the middle of the night, don’t hit the send button then, but wait until morning, as there will invariably be typos and miscommunication from messages sent when you’re tired or moving quickly.

If you prepare for every meeting, you are going to win huge points in a very visible manner.  It’s important to prepare not only for large group meetings, but also for every one-on-one conversation, as well.  This requires hard work.  When I was CEO of a global company, I regularly gave salespeople the opportunity to come in for 15 minutes to make their sales presentation.  Often people would spend this time asking me to tell them about the company or discussing the nice family photo on my wall.  They wasted 10 of their allotted 15 minutes and they never got to the point. The people who connected truly understood what I was trying to do with the company and focused on helping me to achieve my goals.  Preparation is one of the key determinants of success today.

3. Continue To Learn To Add Value

Read about new technologies in your industry, and go to conferences that expand your knowledge of current and future trends.

For example, I stretched myself when I was invited to attend a governance conference at Harvard Law School. Prior to the seminar, they distributed 50 articles and legal briefs. I read each one of them to ensure that I could participate in the conversations in a current way. It also helped me formulate my thinking about what regulatory trends were coming. A week later, I was called into the office of the General Counsel of my client at a publicly traded company and I was able to share content with him that was very helpful to his thinking. By learning things that are important to your clients, your boss or new relationships, you can share findings that are interesting and relevant, and clients will trust you and have confidence in your thinking and knowledge.

4. Surround yourself with good people

Values are extremely important. Those with whom you surround yourself both inside and outside the office are a direct reflection on you and these interactions will not go unnoticed by your colleagues.

If you associate with people who don’t share your values, at the end of the day it will impact on your ability to build better relationships with people. If you go to a seminar or participate in professional associations, make sure to gravitate towards and hang out with the smartest people in the room, not the underachievers or wallflowers.  If you push yourself to be in groups where you may not be completely comfortable, over time you will develop the skill set to navigate effectively and will learn a thing or two about how various people conduct themselves, how they express themselves and the confidence they express.

5. Prioritize And Execute

Prioritizing your energy and where your focus goes is something you can control. Make sure you understand what’s on the boss’s dashboard and know how you can assist in achieving these objectives. Helping your boss attain his or her corporate goals is good for your career. Even if your boss doesn’t keep a formal dashboard, ask how your work fits into the metrics of what needs to be delivered. When your priorities are not clear, get your boss’s input to focus on what matters most. Effective managers not only work hard, but work smart. They do this by making the right choices about where to focus their energy and their time at any given moment.

I get nervous when I go into a company and see a 400-page strategic plan.  What you need to do is create a plan for what you want to achieve in a given week, month or quarter, and it’s a good idea to get alignment from your boss as you go forward to make sure you are both on the same page. Remember that once your strategic priorities for the organization are established, working collaboratively through challenges, with clear accountabilities established for next steps and who is responsible, can energize people and provide exceptional thinking that can take you to the next level.

Basically, by following the precepts of staying positive, prioritizing and executing, communicating strategically, adding value and surrounding yourself with good people, you’ll help assure that your career is on track and that a bonus is in your future.