5 Fatal Flaws that Can Halt Your Career ‘Flow’

This week has been filled with serendipity.  Yesterday, I spoke with a prospect who found me on the internet and created a new friendship. I invited her to join me last night at an incredibly fun ‘girlfriend’ clothing swap party where we all ‘shopped’ with discarded but wonderful ‘treasurers’ from each others closets.

I ended up having conversations with some of the women about a business opportunity with someone else they knew and that woman called me first thing this morning!  We had been scheduled to talk next month, but her business timeline has been escalated and she needed to talk with me sooner.  It’s really exciting!

While I’m all about driving for results, sometimes I have to remember to just ‘go with the flow’.

When we go with the flow and ‘allow’ (rather than force) life to unfold, amazing things happen.

There are however, some things we do that stop the upward flow of our careers.  Make sure you’re not doing these.

1. Complaining about your boss or colleagues at work
First of all, complaining about anything to anyone who isn’t in a position to fix the issue is a huge waste of time and energy. Key #4 in my book, 6 Keys to Dissolving Disputes: When ‘Off with their Heads!’ Won’t Work is “Convert complaints to requests”. This means if you have an issue about something, rather than whine about what you don’t want, figure out specifically what you do need that would correct the situation.  Then identify the person who has enough power to grant your request. Framing it terms of how giving you what you want will help them will dramatically increase the odds that they say ‘yes’.

If the complaints are about your boss or co-workers, talk directly to them!  Gossiping behind their back might give you some temporary relief and even help you ‘bond’ with other people who are similarly suffering, but in the long-run, it won’t do a darn bit of good.  And in fact can completely backfire on you.  You don’t always know who’s friends with whom and how quickly word could get back to the person you’re complaining about.  Best to nip it at the bud and talk with them directly before they hear about how you lambasted them with someone who didn’t need to know you even had an issue with them.

Offer the person constructive feedback (there’ll be an article about this in the future) and ask directly for what you want.

2. Blaming other people or circumstances for your short-comings
Nothing makes you look like a loser more than not taking responsibility for your actions.  People who are unable to make things happen because someone else or something else got in their way have completely abdicated their power.  None of us is perfect.  We’re not equally skilled in every behavior, talent, competency.  Know what you’re good and and what you’re not.  Be honest with people about where you shine and where you don’t.

Flip Wilson’s comment (for those of you old enough to remember) “The devil made me do it” was funny but at work, it just makes you pathetic.  Don’t be a victim of anything.

3. Covering up your mistakes
Worse than blaming others is hiding and lying about mistakes when you make them.  It takes courage to admit that you messed up, especially if you messed up in a big way.  You might be afraid that if you own up to your mistakes, you’ll suffer severe consequences, get reprimanded, maybe even fired. And that is a risk you run.

However recognize that it’s likely that your mistake will be discovered anyway.  It will be so much better if you bring it to the table yourself rather than sweeping it under the rug.  Fall on your own sword rather than having one thrust in you by the person who discovered the gaffaw.  Honesty about your big blunder may actually save your job not lose it.

4. Underestimating your talents
Some people are good at promoting their skills, abilities and results.  Some are actually obnoxious about it. So I’m not suggesting you be one of the obnoxious ones but I am encouraging you to make sure you’re getting proper credit when you do something good.

Women are especially humble about this and need to get over it.  While you may think that if something comes easily to you (whether man or woman) that it must be unimportant or easy for everyone, you’re dead wrong.  Recognize and appreciate your gifts.  Make sure you’re in a job, company and culture that appreciates them as well.  If they don’t, they don’t deserve you.  Find another job.

Keep a list of the things you’ve accomplished along with the positive impact those accomplishments created for your department, boss, company, community and industry. Quantify the impact if you can (increased sales, decreased processing time, increase in pipeline/prospects, etc.)  Allow yourself to let in the contribution you make to the world around you.  Remind your boss at review time just how valuable you are by providing your list of this year’s big wins.

5. Reminding your boss you’re smarter than they are.
While smart bosses do hire people that are smarter than them, few of us want to be reminded of that on a regular basis.  While it’s important to communicate your value to your boss, you must do so in a supportive, not holier-than-thou way.

If your boss asks you for something and you have a better idea, tell him or her you’ll get it for them right away.  Say ‘oh by the way, what if we did it this way?’ and then let them decide. They are the boss.

Works the same for clients.  Several years ago, when I was working in HR, an internal client asked me for some information.  I thought I had a better way to present it and so gave it to her in that ‘better’ form.  She didn’t say anything to me but later went to my boss to ask for what she had originally wanted.  My boss suggested that in the future when I have a better idea, to give the client what they ask for and also give them my better idea.  It gives them a choice and leaves them feeling valued while still showing your value.

In a recent call during my Leaders without Limits group coaching program, almost all of the participants were dealing with bosses that were in some way, paralyzed and not taking the necessary action to move their organizations forward.

My suggestions to each of them were to:

  • pledge to the boss their complete support and commitment to making the boss look good,
  • engage the boss by asking what’s most important to them,
  • ask what the boss’s biggest concerns are about the project and
  • find out what the boss would most like to see happen.

Then go forth and make it happen.

If you avoid these career limiting moves I’ve identfied here, your career will soar and you will not end up looking like a…donkey.

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