What’s Getting in the Way of Your Success?

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As you know, I specialize in working with high performing managers and leaders (especially women) to help them get even better results. So, the people I work with are typically very talented, have done well in their careers, and are striving for more.

As they move up the corporate ladder, the skills they need to be successful are much less about their technical knowledge and much more about their ability to work with and through others – which really gets to the heart of interpersonal and leadership skills.

Marshall Goldsmith, a well-known executive coach and author of the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There compiled a list of common habits that limit an individual’s success. Take a minute to read through this and put a check mark next to any that apply to you.

1. Winning too much: The need to win at all costs
2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add your two cents to every discussion.
3. Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose your standards on them
4. Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty
5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly says to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are
7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool
8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked 9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others
10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to praise and reward
11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success
12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it
13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else
14. Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly
15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others
16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues
17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners
18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us
19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves
20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are

As Marshall says in his book, the good news is that it’s hard to find successful people who embody too many of these. Usually, a person is guilty of one or two of them. Even if you put a check mark next to six or eight of these habits, all of them may not be significant enough to worry about. So, distill your list down to one or two key things to start with.

The other exciting part is that these issues can be simple to correct because you already have the skills to do so.
For example, I have a client who had difficulty being fully present and listening to others (#16) in meetings because she was constantly distracted by her BlackBerry. So, she came up with a simple solution, to put her BlackBerry away during meetings. Another client noticed that he failed to give proper recognition, and decided to carve out 15-20 minutes each Friday to send emails or notes to 1-2 of his staff to acknowledge their contributions.

Remember that we all have habits that get in the way of our success. To start, just focus on two that will make the biggest difference to your effectiveness as a leader, and identify and implement 1-2 small steps you can take to address them.

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