Many people focus on high visibility actions to project their talent. They look for grand strategies, innovative products, and other marks of distinction. What they often overlook are the personal attributes – how they do things – that can undermine even the best of intentions and the loftiest of initiatives. You can be sailing along at high speed and not notice habits that undermine you.

It only takes one bad habit to torpedo your career. Here are some negative habits that can take you down. Accompanying the discussion of each are key actions you can take to break these habits and boost your success.


  1. Not listening effectively — People don’t want to follow leaders who don’t understand them. They won’t know that you understand them unless you have listened to them and take the time to reflect back what you’ve heard and confirm that you’ve really understood. Enjoy the power of reflective listening with these easy steps.


  1. Jumping to conclusions — We each see things through our own lens of personal perspective and experience. Check out your interpretation of the situation before you make judgments or take action. Look for several possible explanations for what you observe.


  1. Letting things that don’t feel right fester — Don’t let the sun set on something that doesn’t feel right to you. If it’s a team member’s behavior, address it immediately. Waiting allows misunderstandings and negative consequences to expand rapidly.


  1. Betting against yourself, especially on personnel issues — Would you bet your money on something that you didn’t think would be successful? Certainly, not! Well, everyday people hold onto situations that aren’t working, things that they know in their gut will probably never work. See effective ways to refocus on what will work here. Problems arise most egregiously with leaders who keep people on their teams whom they know don’t really fit. Why waste your time and money? What’s more, if you feel someone really isn’t a fit, you probably won’t feel motivated to act in ways that will help them do better. Too many leaders drag their feet on personnel actions. If you feel reluctant to act because you haven’t papered your case, consider a “no-fault separation” that will humanely and effectively enable you and the employee move forward. Find ways for dealing with employees who don’t fit here.


  1. Confusing being a doormat with servant leadership — It’s great to be a servant leader who helps bring forth the best in others. Problems arise, however, when leaders try to make everything work for others and end up not having the conditions to do their own work effectively. If leaders don’t get the conditions they need to do their best work, everyone else will suffer. Identify your needs (types of information, support resources, etc.) to be optimally effective and ask others to help you get those needs met.


  1. doing your most important work when you’re not at your best – Would you want an exhausted or distracted surgeon operating on you? Amazingly, many leaders give up their days to meetings and external demands and then try to tackle important projects in what’s left of their days. Often, that’s late at night. While few leaders face life or death issues, they do face the life and well-being of their missions and organizations. Be sure that you’re scheduling and protecting your most productive time for your most important work (strategy, coaching key people, new product development, etc.). If you’d like some proven techniques to accomplish this alignment, see here.


  1. Succumbing to fear – In today’s fast-moving world with rapidly changing circumstances, it’s easy to succumb to fear. As a result, many leaders run on adrenaline. They keep on alert beyond healthy working hours, multitask when they should focus, and run paranoid. While fear can alert us to issues that need attention, driving ourselves and our organizations on fear destroys best thinking and undermines sustained efforts to execute effectively. Acknowledge your fears and keep refocusing on your hopes. You’ll find more creative solutions and the ability to inspire others for the ongoing work needed to realize your objectives. For ways to redirect negative thought patterns, click here.


Which of these habits would you like to break? Whom can you enlist to help you shift to patterns that are more productive? Both you and your organization will benefit.