Being on the right career track takes some savvy knowledge. You’ve essentially worked for years through advanced education, training, and have finally landed the dream job that has you on the road to a bright future. Keeping your career trajectory on the course for upward mobility requires constant vigilance and skill. Don’t think for a second that as a mid-level executive you aren’t being judged constantly. The corporate environment can be a cutthroat world, with everyone around you looking to move up as well, so you must stay sharp above all to come out ahead of the pack.
You certainly don’t want to derail your career in any way with some simple mistakes, or the success you are looking for will be elusive and impossible to achieve. Here are some career derailers to watch out for, even if you are not the smartest guy/gal in the room, so you can achieve a high level of success in your field.
Strengths Can Actually Become Weaknesses
If you are the type of person who gets things done at any cost, that might become a problem. It may have worked in previous jobs, where tasks were freely given out that you had to do on a timeline, but executive life is different. Interpersonal skills must take precedent over barreling over other people. The adage that you should step on some bodies to climb your way to the top just isn’t the right thinking anymore.
This is especially true when you have a significant portion of Millennials who are joining or already in the workforce. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 1 in 3 workers today are Millennials, between 18 and 35-years-old. This accounts for around 53 million people, outnumbering Generation X and the Baby Boomers. These Millennials were raised in schools that promoted anti-bullying tactics, and working together with their peers more effectively. It’s ingrained a sense of consideration for others in them, which is a beneficial trait to have.
Having a high level of intellectual humility is important. This skill or character trait means that you’re able to look at the truth and the data correctly. You can think and reason, but on the adage, that you don’t just solely care all the time about being right. In an executive climate, this will make you a stronger leader when you are able to look objectively at all situations.
A good example of this is Google’s Vice President of hiring, Laszlo Bock. He has said that this is one of the main qualities he looks for in candidates, because it allows people to learn and grow. He authored the book, “Work Rules! Insights From Inside Of Google That Will Transform How You And Lead.” Forbes Magazine voted this book the “Top Creative Leadership” book in 2016. So take this advice to never stop learning, and let one of your main strengths be being able to work well with others. This sheer fact alone will help you excel in the workplace.
Not Being Open to Mentorship
When your weaknesses become underdeveloped or ignored, you are bound to make consistent mistakes. If you aren’t open to listening to the people above you, who can effectively become a mentor to you, it’s going to hinder your progress. When you are unapproachable and difficult to communicate with, because you feel as though you know everything, that’s a problem.
Remember the story from childhood about the “Emperor’s New Clothes?” No one wanted to tell the emperor in this fable that he had no clothing on. They all just played along like he was fine and clearly he felt like he was the smartest person in the room. That wasn’t the case however. The lesson learned is to be open to constructive criticism and feedback from others, especially those in higher levels of positions than you. Always allow for the fact that life is a learning process. Accept all advice and education gracefully as it comes your way.
Seek out exceptional mentors to guide you along your career. Their expertise and experience can become valuable for you to have in the long run. They can give you the keys to a treasure map for success that you can rely on again and again in your quest for upward movement. Employees at all stages of their work life can benefit from being open to “honest, timely, and useful coaching,” as stated by the Harvard Business Review.
Don’t Let Success Breed Arrogance Or Cockiness
Letting a promotion or landing that coveted role at a new company make you arrogant or ignorant is a bad idea. Just because you have an important title doesn’t mean that you should bully people into following everything you say. Even those under you deserve a chance to be heard. It’s not a life of servitude exactly for them, just because you’re the boss.
You are not the only authority on everything, simply due to the fact that the plaque on your corner says “Vice President” of something. Sure, it does boost your ego to land in a place of upper level management, but think about what it took for you to get there. Being humble about your worth is important. It’s not the time to dump on everyone under you. People will notice if you are micromanaging them and it doesn’t bode well with the higher ups, if you are difficult to work with.
With that being said, you still need to have confidence. Just don’t let it turn into ego and arrogance. In her book, “Lean In,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg famously said that men are naturally more confident than women in business roles. She went on to say that women sometimes downplay their accomplishments in order to appear more humble and be accepted. Men usually don’t have to do that; they can puff out their chest and boast of their accomplishments without fear of being looked down on. The take-away conclusion here is that women’s roles in leadership have stalled partly due to this root cause in a lack of confidence.
That could be why, according to the Institute For Policy Research, only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Still, it’s important that either gender doesn’t confuse confidence with arrogance.
No One Is Untouchable
Another serious breach in workplace etiquette, that could derail your career is thinking you are untouchable. This is worth repeating. No one is untouchable. Everyone even up to the highest level of the company usually must answer to someone. Whether it’s a board of directors, shareholders, or investors, there is always someone looking to have you accountable for your position in the company. Even Bill Gates answers to someone, granted the billionaire owner of Microsoft might only have to answer to his wife Melinda, but he’s not untouchable either. Alright, he’s close, but everyone else in business is fairly vulnerable, even c-suite level executives.
Even if you feel like you have a stronghold on your executive level position in the company, things could change on a dime. You must be ready to defend your position with a strong work ethic at all costs. Prove your value and worth. Never take it for granted. That feeling of being untouchable can deceive you into becoming complacent at your career. Always stay energized and engaged with your position to make yourself as invaluable as possible.
Unchecked Biases That Can Catch Up to You
This is a tricky one to talk about. When you harbor an unchecked bias against certain types of people whether they be about gender, culture, demographics, or race it can set you up for failure. In all aspects of the business world this is a very bad issue to have. More companies are setting out to educate their employees and management staff with “unconscious bias” training. What that aims is to increase diversity in the workforce on all levels. It’s just not okay anymore, or ever really, to favor certain types of people based on these factors. Those factors are all beyond their control. What people can control is their education, skill, and willingness to grow. Those are the types of employees you want to look out for if you are in executive management. Model those good behaviors yourself by not having biases. Being aware and having this level of cultural intelligence is your first step towards an all-inclusive work environment.
David Livermore, the President of the Cultural Intelligence Center is all about providing research based solutions to companies in making them more culturally diverse. When you aren’t on board with this idea in your own company, it could seriously hinder your advancement. Derailment based on your bias could bite you in the “you know what” someday, if the wrong upper level person gets wind of this fact about you.
The “Damn the Microphone Is Still On” Mistakes
This is part of a bigger conversation about making serious errors in judgment with the things that you do or say. Your actions, language, and what you put out in the business world are constantly being judged. Don’t derail your career at any point simply because you forget who you are talking to. Being lackadaisical about what you say and your actions speaks volumes about who you are as a person. This includes what you put out into the world on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Don’t think for a second that upper management executive level employees aren’t checking you out on these sites on a regular basis. For example, that trip that you took with your buddies for a Las Vegas bachelor party weekend is not a private event, once it gets posted on Facebook. You’ll come off the wrong way if there are videos, words, or action shots of you doing things you shouldn’t be doing in public. This is a major career derailment moment, when you are looked at like a careless fool, even in your private life.
Always be aware that the microphone is on. Making simple mistakes that you didn’t mean to make, just because you were carelessly caught in the moment is not an excuse. Present yourself to the world always like you want to be taken seriously. Total consciousness of what you put out in the world will make you more aware of the person you want to be and how you want to be perceived.