The 6 Habits That Could Derail Your Leadership Career

Tell me… What’s the difference between the people who succeed at work, maybe even beyond their own expectations, and those whose careers don’t seem to progress?

When we study the people who fail to achieve and compares them to those who do have success, some patterns emerge.

To help you find out if a negative habit is getting in the way of your success, I decided to write down a list of the 6 habits I see getting in the way most often.

1. Micromanaging

Micromanagement is one of the habits that are most damaging to managers’ careers.

The reason is that it hurts both the relationship with your team members and the relationship with your boss.

Starting with the basics… Nobody likes being micromanaged. So the people reporting to you will surely resent being micromanaged. They will quickly get the feeling that you don’t trust them to be able to do anything right.

So why should they try to do the best job possible, bringing their own best judgment to the task at hand, and give maximum effort? None of that will be appreciated or (even accepted!) anyway.

You, the boss, have shown that you want the job done only one way – your way – and nothing else will be tolerated.

The likelihood is that, if they are talented employees they will soon become disillusioned and look for opportunities elsewhere where their dedication and talents will be more appreciated.

Now, micromanagement also hurts your relationship with senior management, the people you report to. If you’re too much into micromanaging your team members, you waste your energy and time on the small stuff and are very likely ignoring the big picture and more impactful strategic work.

What your boss wants to hear from you is how production could be increased, how costs could be reduced, how new ideas and opportunities could help the business, how engagement and overall quality could be improved and so on.

They want to see that your mind is on those kinds of big-picture issues, not on the minutiae of operations.

2. Not Taking Responsibility

Most leaders find it very difficult to work with people who constantly find someone else or something else to blame for their own shortcomings.

If it’s never your fault, it’ll probably never be your time to get promoted, either.

Nobody’s perfect and everyone will show less than perfect judgment from time to time. We’re all human and we need to own that.

People who can’t admit that they made mistakes are doing more bad than good for their career. Blaming a co-worker, the weather, unanticipated consequences, a sudden absence of a team member and so forth can quickly become a habit.

While it may all be true it doesn’t change the fact that you, as the manager, were responsible for making it happen and it didn’t happen.

It’s your job as a manager to anticipate what may go wrong and prepare accordingly. And if that’s not possible, then it’s on you to take responsibility for the residual risk you took.

What she might want to hear from you is something like the following: “The project was delayed and it was my responsibility to deliver on time. I have analyzed everything that went wrong here, and I have determined that I underestimated the effect that X would have on the timeline. This mistake has taught me to expect unanticipated consequences and plan in more buffer time in future projects.”

3. Cutting Corners

Effective managers give maximum effort and don’t cut corners.

You want to set the tone and the example for the whole department and it’s not only a matter of putting in the time. It extends to doing the best job possible.

As a manager, “good enough” is probably not good enough anymore. People who don’t go the extra mile have a way lower chance to get promoted to the next level than those who do.

Think about it… if the organization can’t trust you to put forth maximum effort in your current management position, how can they ever feel confident that you will handle bigger responsibilities requiring even greater effort?

4. Negative Attitudes

Nothing is as toxic in the workplace as a negative attitude.

Negative attitudes sap the energy out of any team.

If you hear yourself say any of these sentences then pay close attention to the negative impact you’re having on others:

  • “We’ve never done it that way before.”
  • “Things used to be so much better around here in the old days.”
  • “I can’t talk to that guy.”
  • “Other companies are so much better at this than we are.”
  • “We never get the resources we need to be able to do our jobs.”
  • “We’ll never be able to do it by that deadline.” “We’re too busy.”
  • “That’s not my job.”

There’s probably always a good – or at least halfway plausible – reason why something cannot be done – and people with negative attitudes are good at finding those reasons.

What you want to practice instead is a ‘can-do’ attitude.

Consistently showing a negative attitude, and coming up with reasons why something can’t be done, or not within a certain timeframe will likely slow down your career.

Senior managers probably know most obstacles. Most often, they don’t need you to point them out. They need someone resourceful enough to find the best way to overcome those obstacles.

5. Indecision

Some managers, even those who have been in the job for a considerable amount of time, suffer from indecision. They’re often fearful of making a mistake which is why they’re having a hard time to decide in situations where no option is a clear winner.

The problem is that not deciding at all is often much worse than making a mistake.

If you made a decision that turned out to be the wrong one, but you did it fast and you monitored the outcome, you may have learned a valuable lesson in the process on what didn’t work and why – and you might still have time to correct the decision and head down the correct path.

Indecisive managers are also quick to lose the respect of the people reporting to them, plus many find it frustrating to work with an indecisive boss.

Effective managers comfortably make decisions all day long – and don’t “over-worry” whether they could have been wrong.

They do monitor the results of their decisions, however, and if the outcomes aren’t as expected, they own their mistake, take responsibility, and quickly course correct.

6. Failure to Prepare

Being unprepared may be the last, but is certainly not the least, of the career-derailing habits I wanted to share with you today.

Here are some ways lack of preparation can show up:

  • You may not have read the agenda and memos distributed in advance to an important meeting
  • You may not have thoroughly read the resume of a job candidate and you just “winging it” during the interview
  • You may not have prepared for a presentation and so you just make it up on the fly (and likely ramble on…)
  • You may not have a Plan B in place in case someone gets sick or quits unexpectedly 

Being prepared shows the employees that a calm, prepared person is in control which inspires them with confidence that everything will come out OK.

There’s no excuse for lack of preparation.

Being unprepared may be due to laziness, to a lack of time management skills, or to just plain lack of respect for your audience or your colleagues that you are scheduled to have an important meeting with.

Does it take time to be prepared? Sure it does. But a lack of preparation is a career-wrecking habit; always showing you’re adequately prepared, on the other hand, will boost your career.

Is there one or the other habit that you may be falling victim to?

The good news is that it’s never too late to change. Habits can be corrected – as long as you’re aware of what’s getting in your way, and are willing to take the necessary steps to fix things.

If you notice habits in your behaviors that might not be serving you then let’s course correct right away and get you back on track with habits that will accelerate and (not slow down!) your career as a leader.

Click HERE to schedule a call and together, we’ll get crystal clear on what’s getting in the way and how to turn this around for the better.

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