There is a funny tendency in human beings to undermine their very own efforts at succeeding. Maybe it’s nature or nurture or a combination of both. Most of us at one time or another (me included) are guilty of occasional ‘self-sabotage.’ Here are five signs that you might be dooming yourself to falling short of your potential and harming your career.
You Feel Entitled
Some years ago I worked with a new bindery staffer in whom I recognized an aptitude for operating folding machines. I offered to train him as a folding machine operator. He had some issues with punctuality but I was willing to look past them if he was willing to try. His response: “I'll take the training only if you give me the same money the other operators are getting…right now.”
Well, that nipped that deal in the bud and the offer was withdrawn. Within the week he was out of a job due to continued tardiness. His sense of entitlement cost him the potential to receive valuable training, on-the-job experience, not to mention a doubling of his wages within the year. The moral: don't wait for money or a job title to do the job. It will only cost you in the long run.
You Strive to Be Ordinary, One of the Crowd
If you strive to be the average guy, you can expect average compensation and average or no recognition. Admittedly, it can be hard to counter-act peer pressure and sometimes it’s simply more fun to be just one of the guys. But you’re not in it for fun. You’re in it to be rewarded for the value you bring to your company. You’re in it to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.
MaryEllen Tribby in a recent edition of The CEO’s Edge frames it like this, "Ninety-five percent of people are ordinary. If you're trying to be ordinary, you've got a lot of competition. But when you strive for extraordinary, you actually have less competition. This gives you the opportunity to not only achieve better results, but to stand out and become recognized for your contribution."
You Don’t Feel it’s Necessary to Think Like an Owner
After all, you are an employee and the owner has the ultimate responsibility for dealing with the big picture problems. You simply get paid for your time or particular expertise, right?
It’s easy to feel this way, especially if we’re surrounded by like-minded colleagues. However we are talking about ways to make you more valuable. One of the surest ways to do this is to think like an owner, even if you are not.
Tell yourself that you are running your own business. There are two ways this will help.
First, whatever your job, it has an impact on the customer. You are there as an employee because there is a need by the owner for help in satisfying the customer. If you always consider the impact your actions will have on the customer, (our final bosses) then you will be less likely to cut corners or do shoddy work. It will help you make better daily decisions for yourself and the company when you think like an owner.
Secondly, think of your employer as your customer. You’re in business to keep your ‘customer’ happy and must provide value in order to continue receiving your salary. When you actively run the business of “You, Inc.” you’ll find yourself automatically looking for ways to increase your value to your customer, your employer.
You Like to Complain and Find Fault
We complain when we don’t like something. It probably goes back to our toddler days when the only way to get a parent’s attention was to complain.
Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture writes, “Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won't make us happier.”
The fact is that when we are faced with something we don’t like, we have two choices. We can either accept it or we can take an action to fix it. Complaining is a negative act because it only keeps us in the problem and does nothing to fix it or move us past it.
Coach Lou Holz advises, “Never tell your problems to anyone. 20% don't care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” Instead, ask yourself what you can do to fix it. If there is nothing you can do, accept it and move on.
You Find Yourself Saying “It’s Not My Job”
Back in the day when a job with one company could last for decades, you might get away with this attitude. Today it is a sure-fire way to make yourself ordinary and expendable. Technology changes our jobs rapidly. The highly-paid film stripper who in the 90’s said it wasn’t his job to learn computers is now a part of printing history.
To keep things in perspective, I’m not talking about a highly paid, skilled pressman who is asked to clean the bathroom. Without extenuating circumstances, this would indeed be a foolish waste of resources. It’s not in the best interests of the company or the individual. But if the same pressman were asked to take a course in pre-press color management, it could be useful to both the company and the individual. It’s not part of his normal role in the company, but it could help the company to improve and it could make him ultimately more valuable to his current employer or to a future employer.
No matter what our position is in the company, we all have the same ‘job’ in that we need to keep the company successful. With that in mind, it’s important to avoid the knee-jerk reaction when faced with a request that falls outside our normal scope.
“Get ‘er Done” is the American way, is it not? If you are always open to new possibilities, to get the job done, it’s inevitable that you become more valuable. Strive for the extraordinary.
Have a story about self-sabotage in yourself or a co-worker? Feel free to share it below.