Image of pencil being sharpened. - 5 Career Killing Moves

We recently came upon some great research that describes the 5 habits that can derail a career. We thought this was a great list to help you as you lead and manage others.

David Maxfield of VitalSmarts interviewed managers from different industries who identified the five top career killers they’ve witnessed in their employees:

  1. Being disorganized and unreliable. This person doesn’t spend the necessary amount of time planning, organizing, communicating, and coordinating with others. They fail to follow through on commitments and are difficult to rely upon.
  2. Doing too little too late. This person procrastinates, misses deadlines, and cuts corners rather than going the extra mile to produce great work.
  3. Deflecting blame. This is the person who says, “It’s not my job.” They don’t take responsibility, cling to their job description, and are unwilling to sacrifice personal interests for a larger goal.
  4. Being unwilling to change. This person is stuck in the past, complaining about the future, and repeating the same mistakes. They expect others to accept them as they are, dragging their feet in taking on new approaches.
  5. Having a bad attitude. This person suffers from cynicism and negativity. They are often the contrarian, finding fault before looking for benefits.

We bet that you read this list and said, “No surprise there.” You’ve probably seen or even experienced at least one of these behaviors in the last 48 hours. Many managers see these career-ending behaviors in others, but they have no idea how to manage in the face of it.

We worked with a client who had inherited a high functioning department and so climbed high in the organization. When he was faced with a new department that wasn’t very high functioning, he floundered.

He came to us dumbfounded—nothing that used to work with his highly functioning team was working here. He was failing as a manager because he had no idea how to manage a team and was overly worried about being labeled a micromanager.

We’ve found that too many managers today are so afraid of being called a micromanager that they fail to manage at all. We’ve coached numerous managers and leaders who’ve said that they see the bad behaviors of their staff—including many of the behaviors listed above—but they have no idea what to do about it, so they do nothing.

Getting someone to see their bad behaviors and then to take action to correct those behaviors is not easy. But it can be done with consistent feedback that is actionable and fair.

Telling someone once that they need to “stop being disorganized” will do nothing to change that person’s organizational abilities. You have to manage based on the behaviors—determine what success looks like for them and coach to that goal.

Management is not ‘one size fits all.’
You have to be willing to get to know your direct reports and to work with them to grow their skill set.

As a manager, you’re in a great position to support the growth of your direct reports by developing the skills they need to succeed in your department or group. If they want to work at it, great! But if not, don’t be afraid to manage them out. Maxfield reported, “(In our research we found that) 70% of employees who were aware that their boss was unhappy with their performance, couldn’t tell you what they were doing wrong or how they were going to change it.”

Remember, being a great leader and manager doesn’t mean letting your team do whatever they want. It’s important that they’re just as invested (if not more) in their career than you.

By giving them regular, consistent, and specific feedback on how their behavior is affecting the team, department, or organization, you’re letting them know that you think they’re of value enough to try and help them grow. And don’t only give negative feedback! Your team also needs to know what they’re doing right.

Think about this list of bad habits and consider if anyone on your team is exhibiting these types of behaviors. If so, it may be time to sit down with them and provide them with some key feedback. (If you see yourself doing any of these behaviors, it’s time to own it and to take the steps necessary to work with someone who can give you actionable feedback on how to address them.)

Let us know how it goes. We’re rooting for you.
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

If you’re a new manager and would like 1:1 coaching to help you be a kick@ss leader with your team, we’d love to talk with you.
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