Want to Succeed in Your Career?
Step 1: Get Out of Your Own Way
by Mark Goulston
People who have addiction problem with drugs or alcohol have a much greater
chance of success in beating the habit when they recognize, admit, accept,
and correct their self-defeating behavior. You can't move forward or
achieve your goals, if you become sidetracked by self-defeating behavior.
Any repetitive behaviors that block your efforts to accomplish your
long-term objectives are self-defeating. You also lose your competitive
edge if you're always meeting your challenges in a self-defeating fashion,
while your competition confronts and masters stressful situations head-on.
By definition, any repetitive behaviors that block your efforts to
accomplish your long-term objectives are self-defeating. Here are other
common behaviors that may not be as self-destructive as an addiction, but
are every bit as self-defeating if you don't overcome them:
- Procrastinating. A perfectionist graphic designer kept turning his work
in late, not appreciating that his timeliness was every bit as important as
the quality of his work product. One person's work sometimes cannot begin
until someone else gets his or her job done first. If you're always late on
completing things, people stop relying on you, start resenting you and begin
to bypass you.
- Not preparing well enough. The belief that what you want to sell is what
people want to buy is a sure road to disaster unless you've thoroughly
researched the market. A well-made buggy whip is a thing of beauty, and it
sure is nice to hang in your den. Just don't hang your hat on it, if your
customers don't share your love for a horse and carriage.
- Not following through. A manager of a moderately successful fitness club
told me he no longer goes to seminars on managing. He said that the
information is always great, but implementing the suggestions and trying to
convert his employees to the new approach seldom works. If something new is
important enough to learn, it's important enough to schedule company time
devoted to the purpose of planning how to implement it.
- Not learning from your mistakes. Successful people don't make fewer
mistakes than unsuccessful people -- they repeat fewer mistakes. Truth be
told, we learn more from mistakes than our successes, and it's a shame to
miss out on this valuable education by not owning up to your errors.
Unfortunately, you need to admit you have made a mistake before you can
learn from it.
- Being competent, but uncharming. Know-it-alls who don't know what
they're talking about are jerks, whereas know-it-alls who do know what
they're talking about are merely asses. As people get older, they prefer to
deal with capable but affable people, rather than brilliant but obnoxious
people. One of the brightest management consultants I know was resentful
poor interpersonal skills had cost him so much success. He kept ranting and
raving, "Judge me by my results, not by my bedside manner. I'm not one of
those brown-nosing game-players." He missed the point that charm is more
about putting people at ease than it is about being phony and obsequious.
He also missed the boat when it came to the success his competence and
talent truly did deserve.
- Saying yes when you want to say no. If you sacrifice respect in order to
be liked by saying yes all the time, you won't be respected or liked. It's
difficult to continue to like someone when you lose respect for him or her.
At times, commanding respect starts with saying no to something that you
disagree with, and then being flexible enough to work through the issue with
the other person. I know a headhunter who says no to prospective job
applicants, because finding out how they respond to "no" reveals so about
their ability to cooperate and be a team player.
- Having unrealistic expectations. When you confuse what is reasonable
with what is realistic, you set yourself up to fail. It's reasonable to
re-engineer your business; it's unrealistic to do it all at once. A
stationary supply store in Los Angeles decided to revamp its sales,
operations, and compensation policies (all of which were in need of
modification) all at the same time. In six months, it filed for Chapter 11.
- Getting involved with the wrong people. A "nice guy" chief executive of
a hardware chain hired a chief operating officer he thought was strong and
tough. His grave error was to confuse stubbornness and rigidity for
strength. By the time the timid CEO galvanized enough courage to remove
the difficult COO, it cost him several valued employees. Yes, there are bad
people in the world. If you keep giving them the bene fit of the doubt,
you'll be the one who has to clean up the mess.
Dr. Goulston is a UCLA psychiatrist, management consultant specializing in
psychological ergonomics, author of Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming
Self-Defeating Behavior ©1996, available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.
Contact Dr. Goulston: 1150 Yale St., #3; Santa Monica, CA 90403; Tel:
310.998.1150, fax: 310.998.1988.
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