10 Habits That Prevent Career Success

Until relatively recent times it was believed that success is based on excessive exercising of willpower. That is, a person is aware of what is necessary to do to accomplish tasks or avoid troubles and so he or she takes these steps in full awareness of them, each step being directed by a firm decision and determination. However, as psychology delves deeper into functioning of truly successful people it becomes clear that they actually use little of their willpower to regulate their daily activities. Rather, these people develop sets of habits that direct them in necessary direction and allow performing tasks efficiently without giving a second thought to this process.

Willpower is indeed a great driving force but overusing it for managing minute daily routines exhausts its capacity and drains energy needed for really important things. So developing habits that make you productive and successful is a good thing to start with.

However, often habits form without our direct involvement and awareness, and only after facing a failure or troubles do we start reviewing how we do things and how we can do them better. So it is also important to track your unproductive habits that prevent you from career success and to replace them with productive ones. Just as successful people do necessary things without even noticing it so can they take wrong steps and then wonder why on earth everything turned out the wrong way.

To mitigate your task and spare you troubles of fault finding with yourself we offer a list of habits that successful people try to avoid. Read them, then ask anyone who knows you well to read and tell if anything applies to you, then try to analyze your own routine behavior without excessive self-defense and denial and finally set to changing these habits if you do happen to have them.

1. Trying To Control Everything, Including Things Beyond Control

This habit plagues beginning entrepreneurs and employees with perfectionism. Beginners are too afraid to lose their grip on the pulse of their cherished business entity and so they try to foresee everything that may happen. They make detailed plans and stick to them no matter how conditions change. Experience and some time spent on the market let them shed this habit and develop more agility that is priceless in modern unstable environment. But some people just cannot let it go and still try to be responsible for things that just cannot be managed, like strikes, climatic perturbations or sudden drop or fall of fuel prices, for example. Employees with perfectionism also believe that they can control every circumstance and any deviation from their plans is taken by them as a personal failure.

For both kinds of people (and for every other person who have this destructive habit) this condition is a key to demotivation. Life supplies a constant stream of surprises that cannot be accounted for in advance and just cannot be prevented. Desire to control them and inability to do so immobilizes and frustrates. A couple of occasions when this feeling arises and a person is ready to quit for good.

This habit is deeply linked to human psychology and simple advice of the kind ‘just stop doing it’ will not work. But you can try and mitigate its consequences for you: compile a list of circumstances that you will not try to control and will not blame yourself for. It may include 3 to 5 points, like weather, prices fluctuation, a counteragent’s failure or other people’s subjective opinions. Keep this list always at hand and look at it when in doubt or trouble. Or ask a friend to remind you of it. It may not stop you from worrying but it will keep you from ultimate frustration and defeat.

2. Not Being Able To Delegate

It closely relates to the previous habit. Actually, it is linked to the next one and together they form a dangerous trio that can cast down into depression even the most weathered person. Inability of leaders to delegate tasks to people who were hired specifically for doing these tasks indicates distrust in their team. Leaders are drowning in tasks to accomplish, cannot get anything done and people wonder what they are hired for.

If you are afraid that employees are not competent enough then fire them and recruit better ones. Offer a lucrative salary and bonuses and the best talents will come to you to do the job.If you are unsure what to delegate and what to do personally then hold a management meeting (or employees meeting) and ask who can and will do what and what they need to do it. Meeting investors or planning the company strategy or goals is your task anyway. But running sales, designing marketing campaigns or managing supply chains are not your jobs.

If you do not have people who can professionally do it then you have to open positions and hire them. If employed people cannot cope they are either incompetent or they do not have enough authority and resources for doing the job. When you find out what stands in the way and fix it you will feel better letting these tasks fall directly into laps of these people. Once it is delegated, forget about it until the set deadline or enquiries that people need to make from you to move on with the task (give the required information but do not try to do more that asked of you). And always remember to give praise for good job – it motivates people to work even better.

3. Not Setting Priorities

It may seem that every aspect of your job or duties is important and it is tempting to try to fit everything into a single day. But this is a direct path to failure. Whether being a floor worker or a CEO, setting priorities for a day and for a long term prospective is a key. Workers may have it easier since they know what is expected of them and so they orchestrate their work around it (although they also can drown in useless meetings and emails instead of doing the productive work). Leaders who handle much greater responsibility tend to plan for one day too much of everything, which does not boost productivity either. In any case this unfulfilling multitasking does not do any good to job and career prospects.

Not Setting Priorities

Instead, get a habit of compiling lists of priorities for the day. Do it in the morning or in the evening (for the next day), use apps or paper notebooks but just sit down and do it. Several times it will be exercising willpower at its best but with flow of time it will become a habit. When the habit sets in try to set priorities for a month and then for a whole business year or your career path for the next couple of years.

4. Taking All The Credit For Teamwork

This is one of worst habits one can have in their workplace. It combines unfairness, meanness, total lack of principles and absolute unreliability of a person in possession of this habit. Betraying the teamwork and appropriating achievements of others will earn you enemies in no time at all. This habit poisons the environment around you and kills productivity in others.

Hope you do not do such thing but sometimes it is impossible to detect it personally. So ask people whom you trust what they can say about your teamwork and credit taking and then draw conclusions. If you do not have people you can confide in that means that you are already in big trouble. But if you are a boss and no one dares to tell it to you openly, run an anonymous questionnaire and take the results seriously.

If you do have this habit it will take plenty of willpower to focus on giving proper credit every time you discuss team work accomplishments. But practice makes the master, as they say.

5. Expressing Anger Or Irritation At Work, Especially For Petty Reasons

No comments required on that. Anyone who lashes out on fellow colleagues is detested and avoided (and hardly ever promoted). A boss who lashes out at subordinates risks losing them all and never recruiting others (social media make it easy to track companies and bosses that are recommended or unrecommended by employees).

Expressing Anger

This habit deeply depends on temperament and psychology, so you will need to take anger-management classes or visit a therapist. At work you can try to avoid or remove irritating factors so that you did not flame up every five minutes, but as discussed before you cannot control everything around you but you can try and control yourself.

6. Unreliability, Inability To Stand By Your Own Word

Whether you are a manager, a CEO or a part-time worker, it is hard to make good impression and prove that you are competent and productive if you do not do what you have promised. It may be not coming to a petty meeting or failing an important project, not paying the promised bonus or cancelling a promised vacation, but if you do it regularly they your business success and career are in danger. Assuming that you just cannot manage your time properly or cannot set priorities I can hint that you need to focus on your job and on things you promise to fellow workers or subordinates.

Set lists of priorities, schedule meetings in a way that will make them memorable to you, ask people to remind you of things you promised – pick any tool but stick to your word.

7. Unwillingness To Listen To Others And To Hear Them

It directly harms your productivity, productivity of other people and success of an enterprise in general. You may be 100% sure that you are right and have all necessary information but not listening to others will not add you bonus points. Listening and hearings means interaction and attention to other people and it is a great way to win allies and build successful teams.

So develop a habit to let people have their say, just listen and do not interrupt. There are chances that they will share some valuable input and facilitate your job, or at least they will know you appreciate them and will repay you in the same currency.

8. Not Doing Necessary Communications

No matter how great you are at planning, innovating or teamwork, lack of clear and sufficient communications can nullify your efforts. Delivering your suggestions or accomplishments in accessible form is invaluable since it helps other people learn what you know and what they have to do in relation to it. Whether it is your boss or teammates they will be grateful for concise and easily digestible speech or writing. If you are a boss you are bound to learn to deliver your thoughts and plans equally accessibly. What is the value of your vision and strategy if no one can understand it?

So take training in oral presentations or in succinct and clear writing and master the selected kind of communication. Use this channel to communicate consistently, and people will appreciate it – and help you move upward.

9. Rudeness That Is Masked As Outspokenness

Sometimes this is considered not a bad habit but a laudable trait of character. Yet as always, put yourself in shoes of other people. Would you like to work or contact with a person who is outwardly rude, ruins your mood, poisons your day and expects to be respected in exchange? The answer is obvious. So make a habit of asking yourself why you want to say a thing to a person in this very mode of rudeness. You can say it softly or ignore altogether, so maybe it is not about these people but about your attitude towards them. So either change this attitude or avoid contacts with them as much as possible.

Here the principle of three sieves should be at work: if a thing you plan to say is true, if it is positive or at least reasonable and if a person really needs to know it. If your potential speech is stuck at least in one of these sieves discard your words altogether. Make a habit to think of everything you want to say with these three sieves in mind and it will significantly improve your social skills.

10. Too Much Attention Given To Distracting Activities Like Emails Reading

Yes, emails are essential part of doing the job and they often carry valuable information. But many employees and managers observe the trend that sending endless emails and forwarding them to the whole team and team leader or a department head often serve as a replacement of real actions and are an attempt to cover one’s back in case of any troubles. It’s like ‘everyone was informed thus everyone takes the blame.’ Checking, reading and even responding to this kind of basically worthless emails really kills any focus and inspiration for work.

Too Much Attention Given To Distracting Activities

It also steals the most valuable asset, that is, time. It is especially harmful when it is a manager’s or division head’s time is wasted. Instead of solving higher level problems and supervising how overall strategy is implemented, leaders of all levels waste their time on mail. Please stop that. This habit persists in many successful people, and so here is a very sound email management suggestion from Beth Ford, CEO of Land O’Lakes. She confesses that she deals with a lot of emails and text through the day so she devised a system for people who email her. She insists that in the subject line people write a topic and what is to be done about it. Namely, it can be a decision to make right away, something to take into account or something that she can have a look at some time later. So when she opens her email list she immediately knows what to open now and what can wait.

This very system can be applied in any company that has lots of emails circulating among workers. If you are one of them you can set this habit of mentioning the priority of email to a recipient in the subject line, and set yourself time points when you will check your own mail. So even if you cannot avoid opening the mail you still can harness this process and help others to harness it as well.

Afterword: Where To Look Further

This article recommends to develop good habits for success instead of bad ones. Okay, but how to do it? How does one cultivate positive behavior? Harvard Business Review –concisely describes inbuilt psychological mechanisms that can do the trick and recommends the book by Gretchen Rubin that will deepen your knowledge on the matter (if you have time for reading it). If they can do it, you can do it, too.

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