PsychologyatWork Logo
Succeeding as a Leader

Bad Habits that can derail your career - and what to do about them
August 2009
Succeeding as a Leader
None of us are perfect, and as managers and people we could all be better.

I have some tips here that Marshall Goldsmith has gleaned from his experience coaching Fortune 500 CEO's.

I hope you get value from reading this list of bad habits, and maybe print them off to use as a checklist for improving interpersonal effectiveness.
Kind regards,

0409 207 8
Susan's 2009 Photo
Succeeding as a Leader

This is for people who have technical and leadership skills . . . but who have some interpersonal habits that are restricting higher performance and promotion.
Neutralise these and great results may follow. 
These are not flaws of skill, intelligence or personality, but challenges in interpersonal behaviour.
Bad Habit 1:Win at All Costs 
The first bad habit Goldsmith identifies is the need to win at all costs, and in all situations. Aim to win only when it really matters.

Bad Habit 2:Adding Too Much Value
Goldsmith's second bad habit is the need to add our two cents worth to every discussion. It's difficult for successful people to listen to others tell them something that they already know without communicating somehow that (a) 'we already knew that' and (b) 'we know a better way'. Speak only when we really have something of value to add. Employee commitment is raised when they develop/own the ideas.

Bad Habit 3:Being Judgmental
The third bad habit is unnecessarily judging people or imposing our own standards on them. This is largely a waste of time and counterproductive; it's much more valuable to appreciate people's good points. 

Bad Habit 4:Making Destructive Comments
Goldsmith says we are often needlessly sarcastic because we think it makes us sound witty. Ask - will my comments help the person or situation?
Bad Habit 5:Constant Rebuttals 
We often start sentences with words like 'no', 'but' or 'however'. The overuse of these negative qualifiers secretly says to everyone "I'm right. You're wrong."

Bad Habit 6:Shameless Self-Promotion
Another common mistake we make in our interpersonal relationships is to brag about how good we are. Few things get people offside more than this.

Bad Habit 7:Responding in Anger 
This is a biggie. If someone is angry with us, we often respond back angrily. This is a big mistake.  In almost every case you'll find that the root cause of your rage is not 'out there', but inside yourself.

Bad Habit 8:Excessive Negativity 
When someone comes up with a good idea, we are often threatened and need to tell them why it won't work. Next time someone does this, let them explain their idea in full instead of cutting them off.

Bad Habit 9:Withholding Information
Another common bad habit is refusing to share information in the workplace. This will only frustrate those around you. Being bad at sharing information doesn't mean we consciously or wilfully withhold it.

Bad Habit 10:Not Recognising People
If you want to be successful you need to recognise those around you for their efforts. Of all the interpersonal slights we make in our professional or private lives, not providing recognition may be one of the most enduring in the minds of the slighted.

Bad Habit 11:Wrongly Claiming Credit 
Don't claim credit for work performed by other people. Instead, recognise the contributions of others. 

Bad Habit 12:Making Excuses 
We often make excuses for our own bad behaviour instead of trying to change it. Don't let this be you. Try to recognise your faults and don't make excuses when you are responsible for a problem.

Bad Habit 13:Blaming the Past
Instead of blaming everyone and everything else for our mistakes, take responsibility for them. Stop blaming others for the choices you made.

Bad Habit 14:Playing Favourites
Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.  If we're honest with ourselves, our recognition of people may be linked to how much they seem to like us rather than how well they perform.

Bad Habit 15:Not Saying Sorry 
The inability to take responsibility for our action, admit we're wrong, or recognise how our actions affect others. If you have made a mistake or hurt someone, say so and apologise promptly.
Bad Habit 16:An Inability to Listen 
Don't listen to what people say to you with half an ear, or think you know what they will say. This is the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for your colleagues. It's not only rude and annoying, but it's sure to inspire your employees to find their next boss.

Bad Habit 17:Not Saying Thank You
Always acknowledge the hard work of others by saying thank you. Don't just take people and their efforts for granted. 

Bad Habit 18:Shooting the Messenger
If you receive bad news, don't take it out on the person delivering the news. Instead, work out the cause of your concern and address that instead. 

Bad Habit 19: Buck Passing
If you've made a mistake, don't blame someone else - cop it on the chin.
Bad Habit 20: Too Much Ego
Don't exert your personality too much and don't turn your faults into 'personality quirks'. They're not. They're faults and you should fix them.
Source: 2007 Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, Page 40-41 Hyperion Books.
If you're willing to hold up the mirror and take an honest look at yourself read these 20 habits and identify any that apply to you.

Work on just one each week and you will have solid material for personal advancement and improvement.
You'll also do well if you're willing to let others comment on what they see.
It could be exactly what you need to step up to the next level. 
Goldsmith makes a convincing case that these career-damaging traits can't be changed by taking courses or reading books.
He argues that permanent behaviour change requires nudging by an experienced executive coach. 
You are welcome to click here to forward this article to a colleague who may find it useful, Thanks, Susan