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12 Things You Do That Are Holding You Back From Success

12 Things You Do That Are Holding You Back From Success

In the 12 years I’ve spent coaching others, I’ve recognized patterns in what we all do, myself included, that hold us back from success. Here I share 12 of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. You compare yourself to others.

Whether it’s starting a business or learning a new skill, you will look at others who are much further down the road from you and expect your results to be similar to theirs, today. Since you cannot see the struggle, the mistakes and the hundreds of little improvements they made every single day, you assume these never existed. By comparison you feel inadequate, incapable and discouraged.

Shift your focus instead to where you are today compared to yesterday to get a more accurate picture of the progress you’re making.

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2. You ask yourself the wrong questions.

You spend your time and energy wondering “if”—if what you’re doing is possible, if you’re good enough to achieve it, if it’s the right thing to do. These questions are unhelpful and suck all the energy and motivation out of you. Change these questions to how, who and what, such as, “How will I make this happen?” “What’s the first step?” “Who can help me with this?” and spend your energy finding answers that will help you move closer to success.

3. You wait for others’ permission.

You want those you care about to approve. You create a story that their approval means you’re on the right path. You don’t want to disappoint. And so you end up stuck and paralysed by a flippant comment, or an unenthusiastic reaction. I’ll never forget my uncle giving me a pained look while telling me, “Why are you still in London? Come back to Malta with your family.” Ouch that really hurt, but had I listened, I’d be stuck in a dead-end job, living a life that was killing my soul. YOU know what’s best for you. Trust your gut and your heart, live by YOUR standards, and you’re much more likely to create a life that makes you happy.

4. You wait for the “right” time.

You keep putting something off because it’s not the “right” time yet. You need to make a few more improvements, get more experience, learn a few more skills. You wait for the economy to improve, the weather to get better or for a sign that you should start. This is just your mind playing delay tactics and winning. The right time is now. Only by starting will you discover what else needs to be done or improved, never before.

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5. You expect instant results.

“What?!” your mind tells you. “You’ve put so much effort into this and no one has noticed?!! This is a waste of time, might as well stop now.” I vividly remember thinking this when I posted my first ever blog post. As the tumbleweed rolled on my site, and not even my mum left a comment, my blogging career threatened to stop just as quickly as it started. Be patient, be persistent and give yourself a realistic timeline to achieve the results you want.

6. You don’t take action.

You make lists and beautiful plans. You re-write those plans and use the latest app to capture them a second time. You discuss your plans, visualize your plans, criticize your plans. You do everything but act on them. Your first step, as imperfect as it may be, will be much more useful than all the plans in the world. Your first step might actually change all the plans you made in the first place, so spend most of your time on acting, not planning, if you want to get somewhere.

7. You create fake busyness.

This is my favorite one by far. I’ve spent hours tweaking my website, reading other blogs “for research purposes,” playing with new apps. Days have gone by where I’ve sat at my desk for hours being very busy at doing nothing. If you know you’re doing the same, take a step back and ask yourself where your actions are leading to. If they’re not leading to tangible results, then you know you need to be spending your time doing something else.

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8. You listen to everyone but yourself.

You’re new at this. You seek advice. The world and her mother have an opinion on the subject. You sit and you listen. You assume everyone knows what they’re talking about, that you have to follow what you read unless you want to fail miserably. The problem is, the advice is taking you in so many different directions that you’re paralyzed. By all means read and learn, and then let your own heart and instinct guide you. Trust that you will find your own best way of doing this, and it will be just right for you.

9. You assume talent and not persistence in the secret to success.

“If I had any talent, this would be much easier. I’m not cut out for this.” When you start your project, you discover it’s a steep uphill struggle to get where you want. You make it mean you’re lacking in some way, that maybe you should aim a little lower or try something easier. Don’t buy into this mindset. Anything you do will get easier the more you do it. Persistence and not talent is the secret to success, so stick to it, keep working at it and eventually you’ll find yourself at the top of that hill.

10. You’re not flexible.

You’ve got your plan and you want to stick to it no matter what. You assume this is the only way you can succeed. For years, I assumed that the only way to get fit was to join a gym. For years I paid huge yearly fees for a gym I never used. The goal is still there but my tactics have changed. Yoga, cycling and swimming have replaced the gym to much better effect. What’s your proverbial unvisited gym? And what could you replace it with?

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11. You do it alone.

You see asking for help as a sign of weakness, or maybe it doesn’t occur to you that you can reach out to others. You want to succeed on your own. You build an imaginary fortress around you as you work on your project. STOP right there. List 3 things you’re struggling with right now. Next to each one list at least one person who’s experienced something similar. Write one question you would love to ask that person. Now reach out and ask.

12. You don’t know when to let go.

You’ve tried your best, you’ve changed tactics a hundred times, you’ve worked endless hours on this project for the last few months, yet you’re not seeing the results you were hoping for. So you work harder and faster hoping that somehow, someday, you will get there. Your project has become this dark cloud following you wherever you go. Any excitement or joy you felt about working on it has since long gone. You’ve invested so much in this project that you don’t want to let it go. Consider this, how do you feel about spending the next 12 months working on the same project? If you had to let it go, what else could you do with your time? Sometimes it’s OK to let go.

Featured photo credit: Paxon Woelber via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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