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7 Dumb Things That Smart People Do To Undermine Their Success

7 Dumb Things That Smart People Do To Undermine Their Success

You would be surprised at how many smart people wake up at night and wonder what went wrong with their careers. They had it all going for them. They joined the best company at the right time, they had excellent qualifications and yet, somehow, they have not advanced to the point where they can look with pride at what they have achieved. Here are 7 things they have overlooked along the way.

1. They forget to develop a good support system.

They all know about teamwork and perform it religiously, but they never develop a real support system. They fail to realize that everybody needs advice from the experts in their field who will guide them and help them learn.

They never realize the potential for learning from these competent and kind people and they forget to seek them out. They are not easy to find. You need trustworthy, competent people in your support system.

If you neglect to build this, you may find yourself in a bind when you need last minute help or some candid feedback on your project. Sharing one’s knowledge is the other side of the coin and is always a great investment.

“Be nice to the people on your way up, because you’ll also be seeing them on your way down.” – Unknown

2. They underestimate the fallout from negative thinking.

These smart people can immediately see what is wrong with the policy, projects and company procedure. They are somewhat frustrated that they cannot influence company policy as they would like. Guess what? This is what comes across as complaining and not being proactive enough to get things moving.

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Negative thinking is one major factor that gets in the way of most careers. The whiners are usually at the top of the list of people who will be laid off.

Cynthia Shapiro has outlined this in her book Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know—And What to Do About Them.

“Don’t ever publicly complain, disagree or express a negative view.” – Cynthia Shapiro

3. They neglect to do their own PR.

This is about building relationships at every level. That is why they have to build bridges all the time with everybody who will have a say in their promotion or downfall.

They do not realize that qualifications, skills and successes are not enough. They do not volunteer to take on new responsibilities and do not seek out unique ways to raise their profile within the company.

In fact, success, knowledge, qualifications and brilliance have a habit of irritating some people and they come across as being too pushy. This is all the more reason to get going on their own PR. If they neglect that, nobody else will properly do it for them.

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4. They do not understand the risks of multitasking.

Lots of managers and leaders seem to thrive on multitasking. They may do for various reasons, like pressure of time, stress, looming deadlines and so on. They might think it is even a more efficient way of keeping everything under control.

Researchers at Stanford University have found that there is no substitute for doing one thing at a time. In fact, they have found that being bombarded with several streams of information affects their memory, focus and attention to detail.

Multitaskers have problems in sifting irrelevant details and when they do have to switch to another task, they are actually slower than their one task at a time counterparts.

5. They become too complacent.

They have gotten the job they’d wanted and their upward path is almost guaranteed. Well, not quite. The danger here is that many managers just assume that they can take it easy. They fail to grab chances to widen their skills set and even keeping up to date on technology.

They also neglect to find out what is going on in their industry. Other leaders tend to neglect details and start to cut corners.

Some of them cannot even be bothered to join the relevant professional organizations and they pass up opportunities on joining various committees which are extremely useful for career advancement, as they can be in the loop as to what is changing.

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The dizzying changes in technology alone are frightening and they need to be up to speed on this and many other aspects of their business. Complacency has ruined many careers.

6. They do not realize the value of networking.

Many managers and leaders are so wrapped up in their own career goals that they neglect an essential task of networking outside the company. They fail to see the potential of personal, operational and strategic networking.

At the strategic level, they may miss out on getting stakeholder support for future challenges. They may fail to see the potential at the personal level of using these contacts for their own professional development.

At the company level, they are not exploiting useful contacts for information, trends and developments in their industry.

7. They lose touch with their values and ethics.

“Character is the quiet, reserved, value-creating force of the person, untouched by circumstances or external pressures.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

After some time, there is a risk that many managers and employees go on autopilot. What happens then is that their values, ethics and drivers get shoved down on the list of priorities.

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It is an alarming fact of life that you will hear more colleagues complaining about their bad eyesight, memory or hearing than about questioning company ethics, values and their own character defects. It is frightening to reflect that bad management is often the result of thousands of tiny surrenders of certain values and ethics which are eroded on a daily basis.

Do you think that your career is at risk because of one or more of the above scenarios? Have you made one of these dumb mistakes? It may be time to take stock.

Smart people who succeed have always worked hard and they never stop building relationships. Above all, they never lose sight of their own strengths and weaknesses and they are keenly aware that they must never become complacent or negative.

Featured photo credit: Manager for a day/ FTTUB via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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