Young woman looking at her face in the mirror

Are You Unknowingly Sabotaging Your Career Advancement?

This is going to be a tough discussion, but one that we need to have. In this article, I am inviting us all – myself included – to hold a mirror up and ask some challenging questions.

We may be surprised by the answers. Let me say up front – there is good news at the end, so hang in there.

I stumbled across an article entitled Ways Women Sabotage Their Success in Business Insider. The article opens with the predictable facts about the glass ceiling and the inequities in women’s salaries and place at the boardroom table but then takes a little bit of a turn. This is where the mirror comes into play.

The author lists out 12 things we could be doing to sabotage our credibility and our chances of even being considered for a promotion or a leadership role within the company. I invite you to read the entire article because in the interest of time, I will only focus on three of the habits we need to recognize.

But first, the words that jumped out at me in all 12 of the ways women self-sabotage were humbling. Words like:

  • Apologize
  • Lack of faith
  • Worry
  • Fail
  • Questioning ourselves
  • Asking
  • Waiting
  • Unclear

None of these are strong, leader-like words. The point of the article is that words set the tone. In fact, something as simple as our voice mail message or email auto-responder that starts out “I am sorry to have missed your call” is setting a tone of apology. When in fact, we shouldn’t apologize because in all likelihood we are busy with a productive task. Even if that task is a quick trip to the loo, we are still being productive, am I right? (sorry for the bathroom humor. Egads – just apologized in my explanation of why we shouldn’t apologize)

The three habits that jumped out at me are:

Only setting goals we know how to reach.Jigsaw Planet   Elephant words

“Don’t be stopped from setting a goal because you don’t know how to get there,” Capland says. “No one does when they set a goal where they’re stretching themselves.”

“You can head toward a big goal one baby step at a time,” she explains. In fact, it may be better that way — you’ll avoid setting off your own fight-or-flight response.

When we have trouble seeing the end result or if the goal has so many moving pieces or a long time element; we tend to put those goals aside for ones we can quickly tick off our list. However, it is the seemingly unattainable goals that can be the more rewarding. And just in case you are thinking that you are too old to set out to achieve a really big goal – watch this quick video from Entrepreneur.

The next way women are self-sabotaging their success without knowing is:

Focusing on cooperation rather than competition.

Yes, there are a thousand business articles that tell us collaboration is the more effective approach. The problem with that? “It’s not the structure of Corporate America,” Capland says. “Corporate America has a hierarchical structure. It’s not set up for collaboration to be effective long-term — I don’t care what people say.”

This one was a real eye opener for me. One of the leadership strengths women bring to the table is collaboration and there are several articles and business examples where that style of communication and team work has led to great success. However if you are managing from the middle of an organization, where most business women are, you need to conform to the culture of the company you are working for or move. And as the above comment states: Corporate America was not built on a foundation of collaboration.

The last one I want to focus on is a passion of mine. As women we need to understand the value and importance of developing and supporting our personal brand and the article reinforces that thought:

Failing to build a personal brand.

A strong personal brand will help you get what you want whether you’re working in a company or running one of your own. “The way to develop a personal brand is to deepen your own self-awareness,” Capland says. “What makes you stand out positively from other people?”

A personal brand, she says, is an asset that defines the best things about you. “It’s the impression people have of you, and the impression you want them to have,” she says.

I have written a number of articles on this subject on this site, here are just a few:

How to make a name for yourself on LinkedIn

Be the person behind your brand influence

Creating, Maintaining and Promoting your Brand

Take a moment and visit Business Insider to read the entire article – if these three habits don’t resonate with your personal business approach, you may find value in the remaining 9 tips. Ways Women Sabotage Their Success.

Pick one of those habits and make a concerted effort to effect change in your behavior and communication style. Start with something simple like removing apologetic language from your regular conversation – and your voice mail message. Then move on to the next one that applies to you.

Yes – there is definitely a glass ceiling but before we point fingers outside – we must look in the mirror and make sure we have positioned ourselves in the best light possible! 

I promised you good news at the top of the article and here it is: the power for change is in our own hands! Let’s see what we can accomplish!