A few days ago, I was introduced to a talented executive I’ll call Edward, who was brimming with potential.
He was a results-oriented, driven self-starter who had aspirations to advance in his career.
He was bright, attractive, and able to come up with innovative, yet practical ideas with ease.
However, while he had a lot of strengths, it quickly became evident that he overplayed some of them into weaknesses.
For example, he was so focused on winning that I began to feel as though every interchange we had was a competition in which he was trying to show me how intelligent he was. The more I talked to him, the more I realized that unless he was open to some serious coaching, his attitudes would make it difficult for him to realize his vast potential.
In my role as a corporate psychologist, I work with a host of talented professionals like Edward who are eager to make the most of themselves in order to grow their businesses and advance in their careers.
And, while there are many people I work with for whom the sky is the limit, there are probably a greater number of others for whom the sky should be the limit. However, because they shoot themselves in the foot with certain self-limiting attitudes, they prevent themselves from reaching their potentials.
See if you recognize yourself in any of these attitudes:
1. It’s a Dog-Eat-Dog World
People with this attitude believe that the work world is filled with cut-throat behavior and people who will stab them in the back at the drop of a hat.
Because of that perception, they believe they need to get ahead by taking advantage of others before they fall victim to others’ negative behaviors. Manipulating others, getting involved in office politics and getting ahead at others’ expense are just some of their many strategies.
Unfortunately, what these people don’t realize is that behaving as a “Taker,” as Wharton professor and author Adam Grant puts it, catches up with them. People will no longer trust them and actually start hoping they will fail.
In reality, the research shows that people who approach work with a more giving attitude are the ones that can eventually come out on top. Taking a more collaborative and unselfish approach to work is key to getting ahead.
2. Never Let Them See You Sweat
These individuals believe that they should appear competent at all times. They try to limit themselves only to those projects and experiences for which they feel entirely well-equipped. If they do find themselves in over their heads, they are reluctant to ask for help, as it might let the world know that they do not, in fact, know everything.
Because they are never willing to admit vulnerability, they can come across as inauthentic, making it difficult for others to connect with them.
And because they don’t push themselves or receive the assistance that would greatly benefit them, they don’t grow as effectively as they would if they would be more humble and leverage the resources around them. Being willing to stretch yourself and ask for help are important strategies for success.
3. I’m Just Being Honest
This is the favorite saying of people who like to drop verbal weapons of mass destruction, then walk away shrugging innocently in response to the carnage they leave behind.
Instead of considering that there are effective ways to assertively get a point across in a way that people can actually constructively hear, they take the lazy and harsh route, and in the process, firmly ensconce themselves in the role of the jerk.
This approach causes them to inadvertently burn bridges, lose respect and increase turnover amongst those who report to them. A better approach is to combine candor with compassion, so the people around you can truly benefit from your communications.
4. Never Mix Business With Pleasure
These well-meaning people have probably been told that the personal and professional are separate, and never the twain should meet. So, they go about their work diligently, connecting with people only around tasks but never taking the time to get to know others on a deeper level.
Even if they are skilled at their jobs, the people with this attitude tend to miss out on the relational aspects of the work world, and as a result, also miss out on important opportunities for networking, mentorship and influencing through informal channels.
To maximize your success, focus not only on tasks, but also on relationships. You will see the difference it makes in your ability to get things done.
5. I’m Just Not Wired That Way
In the competition between nature and nurture, these individuals believe that nature is the hands-down winner. “Being disorganized is a family trait,” they say, or “Public speaking is just not my thing.”
Because they perceive themselves as genetically limited in certain areas, they don’t put in the effort to attempt to round out their skills in the areas in which they are weak. As a result, they stay stagnant and underachieve relative to their potentials.
While leveraging your strengths is important, recognize that you can improve in any area with effort. Being well-rounded is critical for being your best self in the workplace.