If you work in higher education administration and you do something that causes your supervisor major embarrassment or creates liability for your institution, you are going to hear about it. But if you do small things on a regular basis that make you difficult to work with or plain annoying, nobody will make the time to help you understand.
Typically, managers will address large issues and let the little ones slide. The problem is you may unknowingly reduce or even destroy your chances of getting a promotion. It is possible that you do things according to your preferences and you are unaware of other people’s needs and preferences. It’s time to question your assumptions and try to do things differently.
Counter-productive work habits
1. CCing your boss
Your intention: You want to show respect for your boss’ authority and keep him/her informed.
Reality: It is only a good practice if you work for a controlling micromanager. Otherwise, the vast majority of leaders will resent the time it takes to read your emails. You will appear needy and unsure of yourself. They will draw unflattering conclusions about you. Are you looking for validation? Are you documenting communications in case something goes wrong and you want to show you were right? Are you unable to differentiate what does or doesn’t need to be brought to your boss’ attention? Are you incapable of synthetizing the information and sending a weekly update with only pertinent information? Why are you wasting so much time on emails and busy work instead of managing your time more effectively?
2. Doing more of the same
Your intention: You want to show that you are a hard working manager so when your supervisor asks more of you, you do more of what is familiar.
Reality: It is human nature to do what is familiar but you need to listen more closely to what your supervisor is saying. It may be time to change the way you do things, or to reprioritize, or to pay more attention to deadlines, or to raise the bar with your staff and improve accountability, or step back from the daily grind and be more proactive. As an Executive Coach, I sometimes work with managers whose challenges with their supervisors stem from not understanding expectations and misreading what type of improvement is needed. For example, if your supervisor is upset that you chronically miss deadlines, the answer is not to send emails on Sundays to show how hard you work. You need to create and use project management tools to meet deadlines. Your boss wants to see better results, not more personal sacrifice!
3. Focusing on obstacles and problems
Your intention: You want to protect your institution from problems and liability so you focus on what might go wrong to prevent it.
Reality: You spend too much time on problems and not enough on solutions. If you often go to your supervisor with concerns, problems, obstacles, and fears, you become an impediment to work performance. However, if you really want to be helpful, start by being more creative and hyper-focused on solutions. Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Think new thoughts instead of replaying old tapes. When your mind thinks “We can’t do this” redirect your thoughts to “HOW can we do this?” Be a solution person not a problem person.
4. Poor follow-through
Your intention: You say yes to everything because you want to look like a team player and someone who has a can-do attitude.
Reality: You over-commit and can’t follow-through. You become known as someone unreliable because you drop the ball more often than not. When you say you are going to do something, people get skeptical and expect you to let them down. Your supervisor isn’t happy with your unpredictable actions and your staff members don’t take you seriously. Before they spend time on a new project, they may wait for you to remind them several times to know you really mean it. Does that sound like it could be true for you? Look at what is on your schedule and on your to do list. Do you see items that you started a long time ago and never finished? If yes, that is a sign to get organized and keep yourself accountable.
5. Being chronically tired and upset
Your intention: In the name of authenticity, you want to show your true self, raw, unfiltered, thinking others will relate to you and trust you more.
Reality: Being authentic doesn’t mean making excuses for chronic problems. Problems must be resolved. If you are tired and upset every day and you think that’s normal, you will appear to lack emotional intelligence and leadership skills. Martyrs aren’t inspirational role models on a college campus. While it’s perfectly normal (and inevitable) to go through challenges, you can’t stay stuck there. If you do, you will be unpleasant to work with and certainly not perceived as someone who deserves to move up on the organizational chart.
Alright, I gave you five common habits but there are dozens that can damage how people see you and limit your future. If you would like to speak with me about your work habits and diagnose what could be holding you back, click here to schedule a complimentary consultation. If on the other hand you are confident about how you look to others but would like some of your direct reports to become more aware, consider allocating professional development funds to coaching. Let me help you build a stronger team so that you can focus on what you do best.
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.