Avoid These 5 Career Success Derailers

I was doing some coaching work with one of my corporate clients recently.  As we were chatting she showed me a list of career derailers that her company had developed.  It was an interesting list – and one that has universal applicability, not just in the company that developed it.  There is some great career success advice in this list.

Career Derailers

  • Unable or unwilling to adapt and grow.
  • Excessive self-interest.
  • Lack of courage and conviction.
  • Overly controlling style.
  • Saying one thing – doing another.

Let’s take a look at each of these derailers in some detail…

Unable or Unwilling to Adapt and Grow

The world changes rapidly.  Successful people have to adapt and grow with these changes.  In 1859 in his seminal book, On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin said…

“Looking to the future…which groups will ultimately prevail, no man can predict; for we well know that many groups, formerly most extensively developed, have now become extinct.”

You don’t want to become extinct.  Tweet 82 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Learn faster than the world changes.  In a world that never stops changing you can never stop learning and growing.”

In order to adapt and grow, you need to become a lifelong learner.  All of the people I know who are committed to lifelong learning have several traits in common.  They all…

…Are humble.  They admit what they don’t know.  This is the first step in learning what they need to know.

…Question the status quo.  They realize that because something is right today, it may not be right tomorrow.  They know that doing things “the way we’ve always done them” is not good reasoning.

…Are intellectually curious.  They truly want to learn and find learning fun, interesting and stimulating.  They see life as a journey in which they are constantly learning.

…Are willing to try new stuff.  They experiment and see what works.  When things work, they use them.

…Are not afraid to fail.  They see failure as an opportunity to learn.  Just as they incorporate what works into their repertoire, they use failures as stepping stones to other experiments.

…Are tolerant of ambiguity.  Learning creates ambiguity.  These people are willing to let go of past ways of doing things in order to come up with new ways of doing things in the future.  The gap between the past and future can make for an uncomfortable present.

…Focus on staying ahead of the pack.  They are early adopters – of new technology and new ways of thinking.  They realize that knowledge has a short half-life today.  They keep learning to stay ahead.

Excessive Self-Interest

Business is a team game.  You can’t succeed if you don’t build strong relationships.  Helping others is the best way to build strong relationships.  Tweet 128 in Success Tweets says, “When meeting someone new, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to help this person?’  You’ll build stronger relationships this way.”

The next time you meet someone new, ask yourself, “What can I do to help this person?”  Most people ask the opposite question, “How can this person help me?”  By thinking “how can I help” first, you’ll be better able to build strong relationships that will pay off and help you create life and career success.  Way back on January 20, 1961, in his inauguration speech as President of the United States, John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.”  These words – with a slight twist — are true today and will help you become a life and career success.  Ask not what others can do for you.  Ask what you can do for others.
Lack of Courage and Conviction

Sometimes you’ll be called on to make tough decisions.  Often these decisions take courage.  Your personal values will help you find the courage to do what’s right.  Tweet 18 in Success Tweets says, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.  Your values help you make decisions in ambiguous situations.”

If you know your rock and roll, you know that the first sentence in Success Tweet 18 is borrowed from a John Mellencamp song – one of my favorites.  And it’s true.  You, me, all of us, need to stand for something if we’re going to create the life and career success we want and deserve.  Your personal values are what you stand for.

Here are my personal values: common sense, simplicity, optimism, human potential, value, trust, individuality, hard work, the power of 1.  These values are the foundation on which I have built my life and career.  They guide my decision making.  I turn to them when I need help figuring out what to do.  They have served me well.

In April of 1988, I was facing a major life and career decision – stay in a good, secure, albeit somewhat unsatisfying job with a top-notch corporation, or strike out on my own as an independent career success coach, speaker and consultant.  I looked to my values.  Optimism, human potential and hard work jumped out at me.  I am an optimist.  I believe in human potential, including mine.  I have always been a hard worker.

Reflecting on my values – especially these three – made the decision easy.  An optimist, someone who believes in human potential, and a hard worker would take the chance and start a small business – which is what I did.  I became The Common Sense Guy many years ago and have never looked back.  My values guided me through the decision-making process.

Overly Controlling Style

No one wants to work with an ego maniac.  If you want to create the career success you deserve, you have to learn to work with people.  The best way to do this is to listen to them.  Don’t always push your ideas.  You will build stronger relationships by listening to what other people have to say and responding appropriately.

Tweet 107 in Success Tweets says, “Listen more than you speak.  Pay attention to what other people say; respond appropriately.”  Listening is the key to avoid becoming known as someone with an overly controlling style.  Learn to listen well.  Listening, like a lot of career success advice, is just common sense.  Show the other person you are engaged.  Focus on understanding, not on rebutting points with which you don’t agree.  Don’t get distracted by words that trigger your emotions.  Ask clarification questions to ensure you understand what is being said.  Repeat what you’ve heard.  Most of all, get in the habit of listening more than speaking.

Saying One Thing – Doing Another

In my book, Your Success GPS I suggest that everyone you meet rates you.  I have created a little model about your ratings:

  • R stands for Responsiveness
  • A stands for Assurance
  • T stands for Tangibles
  • E stands for Empathy

When you do what you say, people see you as responsive to their needs.  They feel assured that they can count on you.  They know the tangibles you promise will be there when they need them.  Finally, when you do what you say, people know that you are empathic.  That you put yourself in their shoes and do what you say you’ll do.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  If you want to create the life and career success you want and deserve you need to avoid the following five career derailers: 1) Being unable or unwilling to adapt and grow; 2) Excessive self-interest; 3) Lack of courage and conviction; 4) Overly controlling style; and 5) Saying one thing and doing another.   To put this career advice in a positive way… 1) Change and adapt as the world, business, and your company change.  2) Focus on what you can do for other people – not just what they can do for you.  3) Know your personal values.  Let them guide your decision making.  Stand up for what is right and the things in which you believe.  4) Relax, let others take the lead on occasion.  5) Do what you say you will.

That’s my career advice on how to avoid common career success derailers.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site last September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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