By Steve Tobak
When you spend decades working with executives and business leaders, you really can’t help but observe what works and doesn’t work over the long haul. One thing I’ve noticed, it’s not intrinsic characteristics or personal habits that determine whether you’re successful or not. It’s your behavior. What do I mean by “behavior?” How you react under long-term stress. Whether you meet your commitments or not. How you interact with others. Your attitude toward customers. How hard you’re willing to work to do the job right. Whether you’re focused and disciplined or scattered and distracted. That sort of thing.
Now, I admit to having known some pretty dysfunctional founders and CEOs who did well for themselves for a time. But sooner or later, usually when the pressure is on and things aren’t going so well, they exhibit self-destructive behavior that bites them in the ass. Sadly, they often take their businesses down with them. If you want to make it big over the long-term, you might want to take a good, hard look in the mirror and see if any of these career-limiting behaviors describe you.
Granted, we all start out sort of wide-eyed and gullible, but the sooner you convert that to savvy and skeptical, the better your chances of coming out on top. The reason is simple: suckers and fools don’t win. Learn to question everything you read and hear and always consider the source.
High-pressure situations are common in the business world. Things almost never go according to plan and oftentimes they go terribly wrong. It comes with the territory. If you can’t override your adrenaline response and remain calm in a crisis, you’re sort of screwed.
Passion is a big success driver, but when you cross that line and become over-the-top fanatical, that works against you. I’ve seen it time and again. It leads to a skewed perception of reality, flawed reasoning, and bad decision-making.
Those who are driven to achieve great things also know one fundamental truth: It takes hard work over the long haul. That’s why they’re always so focused and disciplined. Most people are slackers. That’s why most people don’t achieve great things. Simple as that.
Steve Jobs said, “Half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance” and if you’re not passionate about what you do, you won’t stick with it. Too many people want instant gratification these days. That’s not going to cut it.
Whatever feelings you have trouble dealing with – jealousy, shame, inferiority, entitlement – transferring them to people you work with and acting out in anger won’t just make you and everyone around you miserable, it’ll kill your career, too.
If you act like the world revolves around you, you’d better have the talent to back it up. Even so, being overly self-centered will diminish your effectiveness. Business isn’t about you; it’s about business. It’s about your customers’ experience with your products. Remember who serves whom in the relationship.
Living in the past or future
Granted, we can learn from the past, but dwelling on it is self-destructive. Likewise, you can plan for and dream about the future, but if your actions aren’t focused on the present, you’ll never achieve your plans or your dreams.
You hear phrases like “whatever works,” “it’s all good,” and “no worries” a lot lately but you’ll rarely hear them from highly accomplished people. They may be a lot of things but apathetic is not one of them.
If you’re so thin-skinned that any criticism makes you crazy and every little thing offends you, you’re going to have a rough go of it in the real business world. There’s a good reason why business leaders usually have a good sense of humor and humility. It’s sort of a requirement. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
One last thing. If any of this offends you enough to want to write an angry flame comment, you’ve got at least two or three issues to work on. Then again, look at the bright side. At least you’re not indifferent.