3 Career Derailers

Let’s face it…..we have all met a myriad of challenges in our careers. Any of these sound familiar: shortage of resources, being out maneuvered politically, others taking credit for our work, losing a pivotal deal to the competition…..?! And these are just the tip of the iceberg!! Few of us, if any, will have a robust career without having experienced at least one – if not all – of these situations. It is very easy to fall into the pit of complaining, blaming, or simply avoiding the reality of the situation. Well…..from what I have experienced and observed over the years, these three temptations (among many others) can be significant speed bumps or even derail a career which was on the fast track. Yet….the truth is that these challenges are real. There is no ‘Pollyanna’ answer to them. Yet, we can open our eyes (and ears) to them…..so we can attempt to avoid the fall-out. How?

Complaining. Ok….we have all been there. For example, have you ever been asked to deliver a project on time and under budget – despite your resources being constrained or simply not available? Yes, it is frustrating. We get irritated. We are stressed out. And what happens? Yep…..we complain. We lash out. Well…..this simply does not serve us well. People (especially our leaders) are watching us. They want to see how we rise to the challenge. They want to watch how we lead and motivate our teams when we are under the gun. Now….I am not saying we shouldn’t ‘stand tall’ and teach others how to treat us. Yet, I am saying (this is one of my Ecclesiastes beliefs) that there is a time and a place for everything. Ever notice how much more credibility and attention we get AFTER we have delivered against all odds? Then, we can ask for what we need and build the case for future situations. Coming from a position of strength makes all the difference in the world. So, next time we are faced with what seems as an insurmountable obstacle…..we need to think creatively, engage sweat equity, and then only after we have cleared the hurdle…..we voice our suggestions on how/what can be done to improve the situation going forward.

Blaming. Years ago when I was leading global sales teams and organizations, it became standard operating procedure for folks who missed their quotas to blame everything from budget cuts to shifts in strategic direction (etc.!)  for why deals didn’t close. Sure, sometimes these reasons are absolutely the truth. Things do change and often we are the ‘victims’ of uncontrollable conditions. However, one thing my daddy used to tell me was this: we have to take accountability for our situations and our lives. Period. No one owns this but us. To be blatantly honest, we don’t control most things in our lives……we only control three things (again, as my daddy used to say) they are: our attitude, our behavior, and our choices. We don’t control much of anything else. And blaming our circumstances or our outcomes on others is not the answer. It literally does nothing to help our situation. In fact, it hurts us. As I mentioned before, people are watching us. So when we begin the blame game – folks see it, hear it, and they tuck it away. And perhaps, without realizing it, we are creating our ‘brand’. Who wants to be known as someone who does not take ownership? So, the next time we don’t accomplish our goals or reach the destination we had hoped – resist the urge to blame it on someone or something. Just suck it up….own it….and keep moving forward. Arrgggg…..not easy, yet the only way, if we want to build a reputation for taking accountability, and ultimately create the life we want.

Avoiding.  Of late, I have been coaching a number of my clients on how to deliver difficult news or share feedback which may be hard for the recipient to hear. Yet, by avoiding the reality, it will continue. As Carl Jung wisely said, “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” This is so true. Strong leaders are forthright. They are direct. They hold people responsible to themselves and to their job. They are fearless in calling things the way they see them; and for changing or pivoting directions as needed. Net: they do not avoid onerous or even potentially catastrophic situations. They don’t skirt or avoid reality. They deal. They power through. They are tough.

At times, complaining, blaming, and avoiding are inevitable. After all, we are all in the human condition. Yet, I like to believe that self-awareness is power. Once we are aware of our tendencies, then we can curb them or even halt them altogether. And one thing I know for sure, the leaders for whom I have had the most respect in my life, are those who always take the high road (i.e.: don’t complain), always take accountability (i.e.: don’t blame), and always look the tiger in the eye and call things as they see it….yet with compassion and the other person’s feelings in check (i.e.: don’t avoid). We can learn a lot from their examples. So, the next time we find ourselves in a sticky situation, facing a gnarly personnel decision, or up against a seemingly insurmountable deadline…..let’s try to resist the urge to cave under the pressure…..and face it head on with courage, resiliency, and can-do spirit.