Career Missteps Everyone Knows but Can’t Avoid

Screw-ups, miscues or missteps, we’ve all had our share.  The truth is, we all face difficult situations at work.  But bouncing back from roadblocks in your career is not as daunting as you might think.  In fact with an office full of experienced ThinkTankers, it wasn’t too hard to come up with a few of our favorites and some tips on how to avoid them in the future.

Fearing Failure

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

Some days, it’s just tougher to take risks.  There’s nothing wrong with taking moments to enjoy the peace, the status quo and the days when you just don’t feel up for a challenge.  It’s warm, cozy and safe from failure.  But it’s also puts you on the fast track to success-proofing your career.  Remember that innovation is the lifeblood of business. Innovation is also a function of experimentation and risk-taking. So, when your employees or teams become preoccupied with perceived repercussions of mistakes, goofs or flubs, they’ll never be fully innovative.

Successful leaders inspire innovation by doling out “high fives” for courageous attempts, regardless of whether those attempts come up short. Whether you’re a CEO, junior consultant or newly promoted VP of Change Management, mistakes and failure, are part of the package.  Fortunately, the ‘take a risk – make a mistake’ process is the best way to learn and grow and are ultimately the pathway to great ideas and innovation.

Not Providing or Seeking Feedback

Congratulations.  Your team has taken the risk.  They’ve developed a plan, product or strategy that pushes the boundaries.  It’s ready for broad distribution or release.  But you neither provide feedback nor seek it.  After all, why take a chance on giving or getting negative feedback.  Isn’t it better to just sit still and hope whatever it is can fly under the radar?

Per a survey of 1,400 executives polled by The Ken Blanchard Companies, failing to provide feedback is the most common mistake that leaders make. When you don’t provide prompt feedback to your people, you’re depriving them of the opportunity to improve their performance. Companies need a truly collaborative way in which workers can exchange ideas and share feedback. Naturally, we’re going to suggest a ThinkSpace.  The interactive process is finely tuned to encourage feedback, provide support and elevate the right number of truly innovative ideas.

Avoiding Conflict

Let’s see if this sounds familiar.

Our devil on our shoulder is saying “What the [insert colorful world here].” While the angel on our shoulder is saying “woosah, woosah.” Ultimately you cool down and, begrudgingly, keep marching along.

While you shouldn’t bite someone’s head off, you also shouldn’t sit there and brew on your frustrations. Healthy conflict is an important part of the workplace and knowing how to respond and talk through conflict with others is key to success.

Write down and practice what you want to say to get the awkwardness out of the way. Know that you can’t control their reactions, but some degree of conflict is key to ensuring an authentic work environment. As we progress through our careers and lives we will constantly be faced with difficult situations. Grab these opportunities by the horns early and often to transform them into something constructive.

Saying “Yes, but”

Ah, “yes… but” a seemingly positive doppelgänger of every two-year old’s favorite word, no. As a leader, you come off as unaccepting of new ideas and new ways of thinking. As a teammate, you come off as defensive and insecure.

Take a page out of Yes, And, Lessons from The Second City by shifting from a “yes, but” mindset to “yes, and.” Demonstrate that you trust your teams and look to work as a builder ideas not one who will tear them down.

“Yes, but” is the easy way out. You’re halfheartedly agreeing while still being able to maintain an illusion of control. If you learned anything from point number 1, you’d be the conductor of the “yes, and” train. Build on individual contributions, allow your team to try new things and ultimately you will find that you can work with an increased focus on innovation.

Burning a Bridge

The way we manage our careers is changing. Future Workplace predicts that millennials in the workforce will hold twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime.

With constant movement and progression as the new normal, how do you exit with grace? How do you make sure you keep your connections in tact? How do you walk out the door on your last day without it looking like Milton’s last straw from Office Space.

While this is an overused, mind-numbing piece of consulting jargon, transparency is key. Be honest with your team. Solution the right exit strategy that is beneficial for both you and those you are leaving behind. And always stay connected – through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and don’t forget the friendly phone call. You never know when a former colleague could become the lead you needed for a future opportunity.


Photo Cred: Dane Rude