The BIG Mistakes People Make at Work

Is what you’re doing at work today really the best thing for both your company and for you?  Spare a few moments to gain some work perspective.  You might discover you’re making some fatal mistakes, or even fourteen of them.

Not Understanding the Company’s Goals: It’s everyone’s responsibility to understand the most critical goals for their company.  Even if you weren’t told what’s most important, it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t figure it out. The more disconnected you are from these goals, the more you’ll be task managed. Doing what you’re told isn’t enough; we have to do what most needs to get done.

Not Making Yourself Instrumental:  Ask yourself: “If I was fired tomorrow, would my company suffer any major disruption or difficulty?” Be honest.  If the answer is “No!” then you’re setting yourself up to be replaced.  You’re likely either not excelling at your role, or you’re working on the wrong objectives.   Job security means having responsibility for something important, and doing it exceptionally well.Not Having a Work Best Friend: Plenty ofresearch shows that having a “best friend at work” makes you happier, more positive and more likely to stay in your job. In fact, a landmark study revealed people who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their job!  Yet, only about 30% of employees say they have a work best friend.  Get happy, find your WBFF.

Being Yourself:  No one is the best professional they can be.  One trick to perform better is to emulate the habits of your professional heroes: how would Steve Jobs stay productive, how does Mark Cuban make decisions, how does Marissa Mayer handle phone calls, how does Magic Johnson conduct meetings, and how do they dress.  By playing the part of your mentors, you’ll settle into your own optimal work style, and become the best version of yourself.

Not Taking Enough Breaks:   The single biggest cost to businesses may be the “sitting-dead”: burnt-out employees achieving a fraction of their potential.   I always hated seeing my team goofing around, but I realized how important breaks are later on in my career.  Now I’d much rather have team members go on as-many-as-needed energizing breaks (outside the office) throughout the day, but then be 110% engaged and working until the job gets done.  Over-worked zombies infect everyone else, and leave you with an office of aimless employees.

Putting Limits on Yourself:  We almost never accomplish more than we can imagine for ourselves.  Many people are fond of telling us what we can’t do, and sometimes these voices become our own limiting self-talk.  This doubt becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Go into work every day with the attitude you can get anything done.  Be something more tomorrow than the something less you were yesterday. The only limit of your potential is your imagination and effort.

Forgetting the Customer:  People as important as your children, spouse, siblings and parents are spending their hard-earned money on your products or services. How much of your workday do you spend thinking about, talking to, or interacting with your customers?  Probably not enough.  Businesses that are disengaged from their customers tend to die untimely deaths.  Lead your day with a customer-centric focus and you’ll never go wrong.  (Tip: Read Tony Hsieh’s book on “Delivering Happiness” at Zappos.)

Not Acting Like the Boss – I often encouraged my team members to come into work, and imagine you’re the CEO.  What’s the mindset you’d need if you were the leader and how would you act?  That’s the same sense of urgency and ownership you need to have a daily basis to excel in whatever your job function entails.

Assuming No One is Judging Your Performance:  People are always talking about how you stack up as a team member.  You’re not fooling anyone; your managers and co-workers know what kind of job you’re doing.  Just because you haven’t gotten any critical feedback lately, doesn’t mean people think you’re doing a good job. Your own standards should be much higher than everyone else; judge your own performance daily and assume everyone else is as well.   (Tip: ask for written quarterly performance reviews, even if it isn’t company policy.)

Not Being Likable: Ideally, all work environments would be pure meritocracies.  But we’re social organisms.  People like working with people they like to be around.  You get ahead, in part, by getting along.  Consider this scenario: Company management needs to do cutbacks. Given a choice between two relatively equal performers, guess which one gets the ax: the temperamental teammate or the affable employee?

Taking It Too Personally: So much time and energy is wasted being upset. When faced with a conflict or critical feedback, our first instinct should be to ask: “How I can improve?”  Trust the intentions of the person giving the feedback.  Quite often it’s not a personal condemnation; they’re hopefully thinking about how to achieve the best outcome.  You may disagree with their conclusion or approach, but there’s always valuable feedback on how we can improve in any conflict or critique.

Not Staying on Top of Your Industry: Dedicate half an hour each day to reading about the latest news and trends about your industry, whether you’re in tech or fashion or furniture. This will keep you current on the changes coming so you can bring new ideas and perspectives. As Stephen Covey teaches: Sharpen the Saw.

Forgetting the One Most Important Thing: What’s the one most important thing you can to accomplish today, this week, or this month to move the business forward most.  Write it down each day and hold yourself accountable to accomplishing that endeavor above all else.  Too often we devote our energy to mundane tasks like checking email or meetings that falsely let us feel productive.  We can get many things wrong, and still be doing a great job, if we get the most important things done right. (Tip: Watch more on The One Most Important Thing)

Relying on Career Employment: Career employment no longer exists for many of us.  You always have the skill set to get the next job.  Ask yourself: “If I got fired today, would I be able to find a comparable or better job within three months?” If the answer is no, you’re sorely unprepared for this modern economy.  In Reid Hoffman’s new book, “The Alliance,” he makes the case for a new loyalty pact between employer and employee.  The employer can count on a commitment from the employee of up to four years, and the employee can count on the employer to provide the opportunity and training to help them find their next better career opportunity.  Don’t let yourself get caught unprepared for your next voluntary or involuntary career move.

 

This article originally appeared on Forbes – http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2014/10/21/14-fatal-mistakes-youre-making-at-work-today/2/#33bc35015a22

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