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What Habits Are Holding You Back?

05/31/2023 8:29 AM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

People pleaser… Perfectionist… Being modest about your achievements… Failing to enlist others or finding your promotor… Does this sound familiar to you? Then you are in good company. We often see what we need to change but may not know how to make a change or just feel stuck.

I recently read How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith in our book club at Sinclair Workforce Solutions with ten of my female-empowered professional coworkers. If you are a male reader and have made it this far, thank you for reading. Although this book was written for women, men can benefit from learning about these habits so they can help, coach, mentor, and advise their female team members, sisters, wives, or daughters.

When I first heard about the book, I was excited about the topic and the discussion that would follow. I was already familiar with Marshall Goldsmith’s book: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. These books are similar in that they both have habits and steps for improvements to overcome these behaviors. They are both written based on what worked when you were new in your role or new in leadership is no longer working for you and identify what might be keeping you from your next promotion. The difference is that How Women Rise is written FOR WOMEN, and they use their stories and examples to explain each of these habits.

Women tend to see success in a different light than men. They also have different experiences at work that cause them to develop different habits and responses. If we understand what is getting in our way, then we can make a few simple behavioral tweaks, and we will be on our way to our next promotion. In general, we are far more open to change because we are more willing to consider how we may have contributed to the situation in which we find ourselves. It is important to understand your counterparts, especially if you are their leader, to help identify where they are stuck and become a mentor or promoter of their career paths.

What are the 12 Habits that Keep Women Stuck?

1.     Reluctance to claim your achievements 

2.     Expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions 

3.     Overvaluing expertise 

4.     Just building rather than building and leveraging relationships 

5.     Failing to enlist allies from Day One 

6.     Putting your job before your career 

7.     The Perfection Trap 

8.     The disease to please 

9.     Minimizing 

10.  Too emotional

11.  Ruminating 

12.  Letting your radar distract you 

If you would like to read a little more about each habit, check out these summaries: Thrive  Happier at Work.

It is a conscious self-awareness that is the first step to effective behavioral change. I have recently started a new position at a new company and feel I am in the next chapter in my life. When I looked at this list, I looked at it from this new position in life as well as where I came from. I identified several habits of which I was routinely guilty from time to time. Like my obsessive need to please people. Being a chronic pleaser is wanting to be liked by all; usually to the detriment of yourself. Rather, it is about finding your primary purpose in life. Then finding the balance between work-life integration to make time for what is truly important to you and your family.

Perhaps you, like me, are guilty of committing these habits over your careers or with certain work groups. For instance, how many times have you caught yourself saying: “little, tiny, or quick”? These are examples of minimizing yourself and your contributions. Have you ever fallen into the Perfectionist Trap? Are you stewing over your mistakes or so focused on details that you fail to see the big picture? Ruminating is when we over-critique ourselves and we spend the rest of the day thinking about how an interaction or presentation could have gone better. Then when we seek the feedback of our colleagues, we realize we were being much too hard on ourselves.

What’s Next? How to Break the Habit.

During our book club discussion, we referred to the guide, by the authors. We talked about each of the twelve habits and went around the room to share if this was a habit we identified with now or in the past. We also shared if this was a habit we wanted to stop or make a behavioral change. So, you may be asking where do I even start? The author gave three straightforward steps to break the habit.

1.     Start with one thing – We are so good at making lists for ourselves and continue to add to them as the day goes on. This time just start with one habit or make a To Don’t List. The authors suggest creating a goal and purpose and writing it out. For instance, “I help women recognize their greatest strengths so they can act with confidence and intention.”
2.     Don’t do it alone – Enlist in the help of others. Whether it is a coach or coworker. Make sure you choose carefully, and this person is someone you can trust. Be specific about what you want them to notice. Make your request as brief as possible. Lastly, set a time limit whether it is at a specific event or over the course of a few weeks.
3.     Let go of judgement – We tend to judge ourselves when we fall short of our expectations or not making progress as quickly as we would like. Women tend to be harder on themselves than men.  It really is okay to say “Oh well, I messed up. Oh well, I am not perfect.” Remember each of us is a work in progress and be willing to embrace change.

Deep down we want to believe if more women like us become more influential, the world will be a better place. When we work in a mostly male-dominated industry it is tough to break these barriers and build a culture of supporting one another to get to the next level. It is important for women to celebrate the talents, attitudes, and behaviors that have helped them get where they are today. Even as we work to change those habits that are no longer serving us.


Nancy Percy is a Business Development Manager at Sinclair College in Workforce Development. She develops training programs to give organizations the upskilling they need to excel in their fields.

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