20 Habits That Could Be Holding You Back

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By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

Our daughter graduated from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, one of the schools described in the book, Colleges That Change Lives:  40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges, written by Loren Pope and edited by Hilary Masell Oswald.  She received an excellent education from Eckerd College, and, like many college graduates, wasn’t sure about her career path.  As she has traveled down that career path the last few years, she has realized what she DOES want in a career, and also what she does NOT want in a career.  We have had several conversations around the importance of knowing what you do NOT want, which is just as important as knowing what you DO want.  The same is true to being an effective leader.  It is important to know what behaviors and skills will help you be a top performing leader and is also just as important to know what behaviors and skills will prevent you from being a top performing leader.

bad habits

Marshall Goldsmith, in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There:  How Successful People Become Even More Successful!, lists 20 habits that hold you back from the top.  Leadership development needs to encourage leaders what to do, and it should also include letting leaders know what they need to stop doing.  Here is Marshall’s list:

  1. Winning too much: the need to win at all costs, when it matters, when it doesn’t matter.
  2. Adding too much value: always adding to the conversation or telling others what they need to do, regardless if that input is needed or wanted.
  3. Passing judgement: always imposing your standards on others.
  4. Making destructive comments: using sarcasm and cutting remarks to make you sound sharp or witty.
  5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However:” these words immediately tell the other person he/she is wrong
  6. Telling the world how smart we are: the need to tell others you are smarter than they think you are.
  7. Speaking when angry: using emotional volatility as a management tool.
  8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work:” sharing your negative thoughts when your opinion isn’t necessarily desired or wanted.
  9. Withholding information: not sharing information destroys trust.
  10. Failing to give proper recognition: the inability to praise others.
  11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: overstating your value while annoying others.
  12. Making excuses: re-positioning your annoying behavior in an attempt to have others let you off the hook.
  13. Clinging to the past: allows the blame to be placed on other people and circumstances.
  14. Playing favorites: everyone wants to be treated fairly.
  15. Refusing to express regret: the equivalent of not taking responsibility for your actions.
  16. Not listening: shows disrespect to others.
  17. Failing to express gratitude: this is simply bad manners.
  18. Punishing the messenger: more often than not, the messenger is trying to be of help.
  19. Passing the buck: the practice of blaming everyone except you.
  20. An excessive need to be “me:” using “it’s just the way you are” as an excuse.

Recognize anything from this list?  Do you know a leader who has any of these habits?  Do you have any of these habits?  As your career advances, changes in your behavior is often one of the few significant changes you can make.

If you identify with any of the habits listed, pick the one that would make the greatest impact for you and your organization if you changed it.  Focus on that one habit and the related behaviors.  Ask those around you to help you as you work on that habit.  Ask them to give you feedback.  Openly accept that feedback.  It won’t be easy, but you can do it.  It will help you become a more effective leader.  It will help you become the leader you want to be.

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