Career Breakers—
or barriers to advancement

Often, a personal attribute can be both a strength and a weakness.

As functions, responsibilities and goals change, the relative impact of the strength vs. weakness of an attribute (habit, mindset, etc.) also changes. What is appropriate to one situation is inappropriate to another. This is how an attribute that has brought success can then impede further success.

For example, ‘John’ is a smart guy. He has grown up and grown successful among others who don’t think as fast, or are less creative, or less ambitious. He is accustomed to not being understood, and not having intellectually strong, perceptive advisors. He is a fast, clear thinker, and has risen by being positive and optimistic, by ‘going it alone’ and making his own rules.

John is promoted to C-level, based on stellar past performance. But now his driving positivity hinders his ability to listen and change. He ignores warning signs and dismisses tactful attempts by perceptive others to alert him to an impending problem. He makes an expensive mistake—unforgivable at this level. Under pressure he defaults to what has saved him in the past: positivity, optimism and fast thinking—but these can’t change reality, and it just gets worse. He is fired. His career is over.

Time with a perceptive, assertive, intellectually engaging coach or mentor could have changed John’s career. John needed self-awareness—a dispassionate understanding of how and why he got to where he is, and what he needs to learn or change in order to perform and survive at higher levels. John is clever—once he sees the situation more clearly he will figure it out and fix it for himself. He just needs help to see it.

There are many other attributes that can have similar effects. Under duress, people tend to revert to their comfort zone—to the habitual behaviour that has brought them success in the past—often even more so as this habitual behaviour fails them.

Risks increase exponentially as levels of responsibility rise. The probabilities may not change, but the stakes do. At junior levels a misstep or unlucky break may have relatively small impacts, and may be forgivable. At high levels, a bad habit and some bad luck may mean the end of the company, or at least of the career.

Successful people (generally) don’t readily accept criticism. They are quick to attribute past success to their own positive perception of themselves and their habits, and slow to realise that the successful behaviour of the past is inappropriate to new circumstances. It takes a strong and perceptive coach to reach many such people.

The higher the monkey climbs the tree, the stronger the wind blows.

Talk to me about finding and eliminating career breakers.