6 Career Limiting Factors – Teach to the Test

Have you ever been frustrated by feedback that did not contain suggestions for improvement? The input seemed to be more of a label or title than a condition you could change by elevating your performance. The feedback may have been valid, but the manager was a poor communicator. Conversely, the feedback may have been a bogus means of stifling your ambition, since preference and bias are still prevalent in the workplace.  Either way, this practice can be demoralizing, especially in an increasingly competitive work environment with a reduced number of promotional opportunities.

Everything about work is a test. It is important to know the questions on the test, in order to prepare yourself for the best results. This will enable you to perform better, reduce anxiety and preempt efforts to derail your performance or career. There are six labels which are commonly delivered as feedback. You may have heard them and you can learn from them. The six factors must be positively satisfied or they can be barriers or knock out factors to success.  These factors and their interpretations are as follows.

  1. Not Strategic  
  2. Nobody Knows You
  3. Lacks Business Acumen & Analytical Skills
  4. Questionable Leadership
  5. Poor Communication Skills
  6. Personally Intimidating

1.    Not Strategic

“You are not strategic,” refers to a lack of a true understanding of the big picture. You may have been accused of not engaging in strategic thinking and planning for tomorrow. Strategic thinking means to plant yourself in the future and visualize and anticipate where your product, the market or industry is going. This future placement also allows you to recommend innovative and alternative solutions. Your vocabulary should be filled with the necessary words that are appropriate to a strategic thinking. In other words, you must speak like a strategic thinker. Look for ways to anticipate future developments and devise a plan or recommendations to handle them. If you are labeled as lacking strategic thinking or vision, it is a difficult image to change, so try to avoid it at all costs.

2.    Nobody Knows You

Personally you are seen as an unknown quantity.  People don’t know you. Therefore, it becomes difficult to completely trust you; but this goes both ways. You are performing your role, but not letting managers and co-workers into your life, so they can become comfortable with you. People like people like themselves and love to feel comfortable. If you have similar interests and think the same way, a natural affinity can be developed. You may wish to keep your business life separate from your personal life, which is an honorable philosophy. You are not required to become personal friends with your co-workers or boss; however it would be beneficial to find a way to give others a glimpse into your life. They will greatly appreciate your character and values. This could convince them of your value in becoming a member of their team. You can find levels of commonality and mutual affinity which could assist you in developing advocates and allies for your career.

3.    Lacks Business Acumen & Analytical Skills

You were told that you don’t understand all facets of why and how business works. This may be a ruse, but it is something you can address by taking business courses and throwing yourself into the numbers. You do not want to be branded as having the softer skills, getting by on relationship building skills and personality when interacting with customers. Remember, it is better to address this issue before it becomes a problem and a blemish on your record. Corporate success will be predicated on your understanding how the business works which involves the financials. Do not shy away from business math and understanding such areas as transportation, the balance sheet, profit and loss and the identity of the ultimate customer. Spreadsheets and computer programs that relate to the business of understanding profit are important areas to master.

4.    Questionable Leadership

Silence or minimal interaction in meetings and social interactions leads people to conclude you have nothing to offer to the overall business conversation. People will therefore, have a hard time visualizing you as a leader. They will surmise, rightfully or wrongly that people would not follow you. You must demonstrate your comfort with taking risks by engaging in business debates. Additionally, you must illustrate your ability to form complex business arguments and logically support your defense. It is essential to mentally prepare your contributions before any business meeting. “Every interaction is an interview” are important words to remember.

5.    Poor Communication Skills

Managers will say the following, “We have a hard time understanding you, whether in writing, public speaking or in conversations. This may be a façade to take you out of contention for a promotion, but you need to know this and take it seriously. For example; a manager did not want to recommend someone for a District Management Development program. He said he felt her speech was a problem. It did not matter that she had six years of successful sales experience with the organization and it was never a problem. The only example he cited was her saying “ax” instead of ask. Often these underlying concerns may not be verbalized, but these assumptions could be a barrier to your upward mobility. The issue was brought to her attention and she immediately worked on correcting the one area. Her new-found awareness enabled her to remove a barrier which could have hindered her growth. Since communication skills are necessary, and are on the test; they should be fine tuned and perfected.

6.    Personally Intimidating

You may be told that people are uncomfortable around you. You are too emotional, look angry all the time or do not smile enough. Your display of emotion is misconstrued as unprofessional, possessing the potential for violence and deters people from talking to you. Passion is the word used to describe people who love their work and are dedicated to excellence. When you display it, it is called anger and intimidation. When you speak, it may require some work to smile more and reign in your emotions. Do not show emotion only when you are upset.  When people see your range of emotions, your passion is put in perspective. Additionally, it is a good practice to guard against people who try to get under your skin and cause you to lose your temper. You will find that impressions of you will change when you are viewed as a vital, versatile, viable member of the organization.

You may read these 6 factors and personally identify with their tone and content. You may have experienced them directly or know of someone labeled with this feedback. You may feel these are unfair assessments of your capabilities or the abilities of others. Regardless, of your feelings these are reality in many companies around the world. Your ability to intercede or correct them will have a direct impact on your rise within an organization. The best method however, is to address them upfront, so they never become an issue. Develop a reputation of acting counter to these misconceptions, so they will never be used as evidence to hamper your development. 

I like the concept of prevention being the best intervention. With that in mind how can you begin with each item and enhance your knowledge and performance until they become certifiable strengths, witnessed by those in positions of power and influence.

Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser

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