Ten Self-Defeating Behaviors
Challa S.S.J.Ram Phani
Trainer – Soft Skills
* Source : Ten Self-Defeating Behaviors to Avoid by Mark Goulston
Take initiative if you…
Want to Succeed at Work?
Get Out of Your Own Way
Everybody here has the ability to do
anything I do and much beyond. Some of
you will and some of you won't. For those
who won't, it will be because you get in
your own way, not because the world
doesn't allow you.
- Warren Buffett, speaking at the
University of Washington about achieving
What did Buffett mean by saying "you get in your
own way"? For one thing, I believe he meant that when
you take things too personally you lose objectivity.
Then, when you react or respond to a situation based
on your having been too subjective, you compound the
Add to that your ego's difficulty in acknowledging
having made a mistake. Or even more challenging:
admitting to others and yourself that as certain as you
thought you were was as wrong as you turned out to be
and you've really dug yourself into a hole.
If you're a smart leader, why do you engage in such
self-defeating, counterproductive behavior?
It is because every now and then you react like other
human beings to distress.
Distress is different than stress. Stress is actually good
for you. It pushes you to your limit to see what you're
made of and enables you to test your mettle against the
challenges in the world. When you’re under stress you
still remain focused on your near- and long-term goals.
When stress becomes excessive (i.e., too much
coming at you too soon from too many directions), you
become overwhelmed and cross over into distress.
When you're distressed, your focus becomes finding
immediate relief and you lose your grip on the goals
It's then, when you shoot from the hip instead of your
head, that you do something hasty and end up shooting
yourself in the foot.
If these patterns repeat themselves enough, they
develop into self-defeating behaviors that can become
"hard wired" as part of your personality.
What are some of the most common self-defeating
behaviors that you as a leader might engage in that
will sabotage your success?
1. Thinking you're indispensable: If you own
your business (and have not developed people
to take your place, i.e., don't have an exit
strategy), you may be indispensable.
However if you're in a leadership position in
a public company or someone else's business
and you think that a board or executive team
won't replace you because you'd be so hard to
replace, you might want to think again.
Nobody is irreplaceable.
Self-defeating behaviors which sabotage your success !
2. Talking over or at others: When you do this,
you trigger frustration and resentment. Instead of
pumping people up, you run over or agitate them.
In either case their motivation is replaced by a
desire to resist or rebel. Why would they want to
make you successful when you dehumanize them
and treat them like a function instead of a person?
3. Not listening: You frustrate people by making
them feel that whatever they have to say is
unimportant. In this case, rather than being
rebellious, they stop trying because they feel that
if you don't care about what's important to them,
why should they care about what's important to
4. Not delegating: If after you tell people to do
something you don't get out of their way and let
them do it, they will begin to second guess
themselves (or, more accurately, not know what
the heck you want from them), which will cause
them to stall. When you see their hesitation
(which you caused by micromanaging them), it
will make it even more difficult for you to let
them run with the ball.
5. Using jargon: If something is important enough
for people to understand, it's important enough to
make it understandable. Using jargon with people
who don't understand it will make this difficult and
rarely will they feel comfortable enough to tell you
they don't follow what you're saying.
6. Being afraid to fire people: One of your greatest
responsibilities as a leader is terminating people who
are incompetent, unproductive and destructive to a
company. There are few things that earn or lose the
respect of people in your company more than living
up to or shirking this responsibility. And don't kid
yourself. Everybody's watching.
7. Fear and avoidance of giving performance
reviews: Giving performance reviews can be
daunting. They require being clear and specific
about what people need to do to improve and then
following through to make sure they've done it in
their next review. Too often you know the results
you want from your people as opposed to how your
employees should go about getting those results. As
a result you will too often do these reviews in a pro
forma way rather than using them as they're meant
to be used - as vehicles for improving performance.
8. Fear of confrontation: The more
focused you are on using your rational
faculties and analytic skills to set goals
and develop plans for reaching them, the
more your ability to deal with emotional
tumult can wane if not actually atrophy.
Research by Drs. Travis Bradberry and
Jean Greaves at Talentsmart has
demonstrated that emotional intelligence
increases as you go up the chain of
command to the senior V.P. level and
then deteriorates in executives and
leaders above that.
That may be due to high-level executives needing to
"execute" strategies and, in order to do that, regarding
employees more as functions than as people. The
resulting negative emotional reaction by your people to
being treated this way can sometimes blindside you.
You may react by adopting a bunker mentality and
avoiding the necessary confrontations to keep your
company on track.
Fear of confrontation (contd.)
9. Fear of failing: As you become older the fear of
making a mistake can become greater than your desire
to do something right. It can have a corrosive effect on
your confidence and can allow doubt to metastasize
through your decision-making ability. Over time it will
cause you to become too tentative to takes the
necessary risks in order to help your company flourish
10. Not getting buy-in: When what you say and do
doesn't make sense, feel right, or seem doable to your
people, they will buy out instead of buying in to what
you want them to do. They may nod in agreement to
your face, but unless they truly buy in they are not
going to follow through in the way you hoped they
What can you do if you are getting in your own
way with these or other self-defeating (and
success-defeating) behaviors? It is a matter of
always recognizing and then dealing with reality
as it actually is, rather than what you think it to
be. To do this, seek out, hire, and follow the input
of the most able and brightest people possible.
Ronald Reagan said, "Surround yourself with the
best people you can find, delegate authority, and
don't interfere as long as the policy you've
decided upon is being carried out." We might
add: Surround yourself with trusted people who
are not hesitant about letting you know when
you're getting in your own way and then
nudging/kicking you to get back on track.