It's March already. Can you believe it? The years seem to be going by even faster these days, as someone commented to me the other day. It's as true now as when Ferris Bueller said it when I was 16 - Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look…
Do you know your derailment factors? Part two.
Last week I published Do You Know Your Derailment Factors, Part One. I wrote this piece specifically for women and the issues that relate to them, but the article seemed to resonate with as many men as it did women. And it clearly hit a nerve because the post went a little bit viral, especially on LinkedIn where it had more than 40,000 views in just a few days. To recap, the first six derailments factors were as follows:
1. Not building effective relationships
2. Lack of leadership competence
3. Using behaviors that don’t serve you
4. Inability or unwillingness to manage up
5. Making it all about the work
6. Not adapting to change
In this article I look at the next six. Now remember, there are potentially hundreds of derailment factors. But these are ones I see as particularly relevant at the moment. I’d love to know in the comments, which of these resonate, and what other factors are you facing that could potentially derail your career?
7. Not understanding how your work contributes to organizational objectives
Do you understand how your work fits in to the larger goals of the business you work in? Many people get derailed because whilst they are doing a great job in their part of the business, they don’t really understand how that work contributes to the overall objectives of the organization that they’re in. Nobody works in a vacuum. You have to understand how what you do matters in the broader and bigger scheme of things. And you also have to know how to gear your objectives, priorities and outcomes to those of the business. In an ideal world, you would have a manager or leader who would make that crystal clear. But knowing that a large majority of disengagement in a business comes from lack of clarity about organizational vision and goals, you can’t count on it. Do what you can to get clear on the why and how of what matters about your work and how it contributes. And if you’re still not sure, find a mentor or sponsor who does know and can help you work it out.
8. Not being willing to navigate the politics
Politics, that old chestnut? Let’s be clear, this is a lot about power, of course. But it’s also just about human dynamics and relationships. Look around you. Where are the relationships? Where are the power structures? Who has the power and what form does it take? Where are the problem areas of the business that you need to be aware of? Who are the key stakeholders? Where are the agendas? How do those agendas relate to what you are doing in your part of the business, and what you need to get done in your career? Who may be a roadblock to your goals? Understanding this landscape is critically important. If you don’t understand the political landscape, you can derail your career without even knowing it. As much as we may not want to play around in the political sandpit, at a minimum we need to understand what the content and context of that sandpit is. Don’t be naïve about this, or it could absolutely derail you.
9. Being a people-pleaser
There’s an epidemic ravaging our workplaces. It’s called the people pleaser syndrome and it impacts women particularly. Whether you want to put it down to nature or nurture doesn’t really matter. You can blame it on the double bind, the research showing that women can be perceived as competent or likeable, but not both (think of affectionate terms like bitch or ballbreaker and you get the picture). Regardless of the how and why, we are pretty clear on the what. People pleasing behavior goes something like this: we want to please, we want to be liked, we want to help, we don’t want to ruffle any feathers. And we don’t like confrontation, generally speaking. Now, generally speaking is important. This may or may not apply to you. But have a look at it anyway. Are you a people-pleaser? Does pleasing people in your career impact the decisions you make? Does it impact when you will speak up and indeed what you will say when you speak up? Do you go and canvas opinions so you can ensure that when you give your opinion in the meeting that you’re not upsetting people, that you’re going to be liked, and that everyone is still going to be happy with you? It’s exhausting just writing that, let alone living it. But it’s everywhere. Get under the covers of the stories you’re telling yourself and the impact they’re having. This is a huge one, don’t go past it too quickly.
10. Lack of self-awareness and self-acceptance
Many years ago I worked with a senior leader who was utterly narcissistic, controlling, rude, and arrogant in the way that he behaved. Yet it appeared quite clearly to everyone around him that he had no clue of his impact on others. Unfortunately, he was so successful in his business, and I say successful in monetary terms, that his behavior went unchecked for a very long time. But eventually his lack of self-awareness played out as a derailment factor and he was forced to get himself in check. The reason those behaviors played out for so long was that he had no awareness of how he acted and the impact it had, and for many years even when it was pointed out to him he refused to accept it. Until it was almost too late. Have a think about your levels of self awareness and acceptance. Hopefully you are aware of your strengths and how they help you to excel. What else do you need to bring your attention too? What impact do you have on other people, what energy do you bring, what feedback do you get that you brush off as an untruth because you don’t want to accept it? Go a bit deeper here and see what awareness you can bring that may help you.
11. Lack of follow through
We’ve all known these people. We’ve all worked with these people. You may have been one of these people (but I hope not) who say they’re going to do something and just don’t do it. Ever. They get a reputation and it goes something like this: you’re sitting in a meeting with said person; they’re saying all of these fantastic things and laying out the best ideas in the world; they’re making a great contribution, and then they say (wait for it), “I’m going to come back and do X, Y, and Z”. And everybody around that table is sitting there thinking, “Seriously? No she’s not.” It’s really hard to respect a person like this, and nobody wants them on their team. So where are you with this very simple question: Do you do what you say you will do? It’s that simple. Do you do what you say you will do? If you don’t, if you have a habit of not following through, then recognize that as a derailment factor, and start checking yourself before you open your mouth to commit or before you send that email to say “I will do X, Y and Z.” Because it’s better to not commit than to put it out there and not follow through on it. It’s one of the most simple rules of performance irrespective of what you do for a living, and it’s really just about personal integrity. Follow through on your commitments. It’s not rocket science.
12. Being on the burnout train
This is perhaps the most common derailment factor, and the one that impacts not just your career, but your entire life. You know how it goes. You’ve got important stuff to do in the world. You might tend to be in the A type personality category and sit firmly in your drive and strive energy. You may also have a tendency to be a workaholic, have a pronounced inability to set boundaries for yourself, and perhaps put yourself last when it comes to your health and wellbeing (sound familiar at all?). If you’re on that train, I have a big golden ticket for you. It’s the ticket to burnout. Now this one is not easy, I grant you that. But as anyone who has burnt themselves out from overwork, lack of boundaries and no self care (yes that includes me), it is a long, long way back. This comes down to positive intention, self-awareness and getting under the stories you tell yourself about why you work the way you do. You need to be intentional about your health, your wellbeing, how you balance your work and life, and why you do what you do. Really check yourself on this, be real and put the strategies in place that support you to thrive, not just survive.
So there you have it. In total twelve all too common reasons why people derail their careers, often without even realizing it. Don’t let one of these factors have a negative impact on your career. You deserve a career you love and for all of your hard work to pay off. Spend some time reflecting on each one, and thinking of additional factors that could get you off course, so that they don’t.
And if you need more support in your career, get the free career planning pack with video, written guide and coaching workbook. And check out the new online program The Career Toolkit for proven strategies for a passionate and purposeful career.