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Stop Sabotaging Yourself at Work

Published December 19, 2019

Sabotage is defined as deliberately destroying, damaging, or obstructing something. The art of sabotage is not solely linked to military or political situations. It is also tied closely to what we do to ourselves professionally and personally. Most people would never consider that their actions actually contribute to self-sabotage, but they in fact contribute at a higher level than any of us realize in the moment.

The ways in which leaders can sabotage themselves are insidious and can creep up on even healthy leaders in ways they don’t recognize until they find themselves in situations making decisions that don’t align with who they are.

Here are some ways that leaders sabotage themselves by exhibiting behaviors that hurt their effectiveness and impact:

Believing Your Own Hype

Our egos truly are the enemy. When we achieve a certain place in leadership and we begin to hear how great we are, and start to believe it…that is very dangerous. Once we have this inflated sense of self-worth we begin to take risks that aren’t smart, aren’t healthy, and seriously damage our ability to inspire others. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be proud of our accomplishments. It doesn’t mean we can’t take pride in the results we are achieving. But it does mean that we should keep it all in perspective.

Great leaders shoulder the responsibility and give the credit away. If we can figure out a way to constantly elevate the others around us we will be in a much better position to stay grounded, humble, and keep hustling.

Addicted to Technology

The story we tell is ourselves is that checking email the first thing in the morning and then every 30 minutes throughout the day is giving us a competitive edge. Leaders tell themselves that they are staying on top of their business and that by being always connected they are available and accessible.

The reality is that checking email and our phones throughout the day slows us down and keeps us from being present in the moment. It hurts our ability to be productive and does nothing to help us focus. In fact over-checking email will detract you from your goals and you won’t be at your best. The most important thing is the person, conversation, and relationship right there in that moment.

Set some guidelines for checking email, Twitter, and all social media, and watch your productivity soar! I have turned my email off on my phone and only check it on my iPad once early in the morning and then again around 5, and then I am done. This has been so freeing for me. If it’s that urgent, someone can pick up the phone call me or text me. Figure out what works for you and communicate your new rhythm to the people you work with and watch what happens to your productivity.

The most important part of setting boundaries around technology is that it allows you to connect in a more authentic way with your team and be present in the moment, which is where magic can happen. Being present in the moment allows you to create a better future.

Ignoring the Pareto Principle

Vilifredo Pereto was an Italian engineer and economist who made some amazing contributions to the study of economics. The 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle, is widely shared by many leaders as a critical component of efficiency. The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your results come from only 20% of your efforts. You can see the principle play out in real life everyday in your businesses, families and personal finances. It even shows up on your phone. Research shows that people only use about 20% of the apps on their phone.

Why does this matter? We spend so much time on things that are not going to contribute to our success, the success of the people around us, or aren’t helping us achieve excellence. If the majority of your success comes from 20% of your efforts, why would we continue wasting the other 80%? What would happen if we actually embraced the Pareto Principle and focused only on the efforts that matter most? This principle is the personification of less is more.

Negative Self-Talk

We become the product of the stories we tell ourselves. We have all seen the quote from Henry Ford that says “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” That is such a powerful statement and yet so many people spend their days, weeks, months and years telling themselves they can’t do something. We end up talking ourselves out of great opportunities or we become paralyzed by the fear that we might not be able to perform at a high level.

This isn’t about ignoring reality. This is about choosing optimism over pessimism, sometimes disguised as realism. This is about seeing the potential and beauty in who we are becoming, being a lifelong learner, studying your craft, being excellent at what you do, and having the courage to change, grow, and choose positivity.

You Control Your Destiny

If we become a living representation of what we tell ourselves then let’s choose to tell ourselves a different story. Let’s change the narrative. Let’s tell ourselves that we can achieve more, we can improve, we can make a difference, and we can become that person.

The key to being a leader who chooses positivity is to get healthy and stay healthy. That means eating well, getting enough rest, avoiding toxic relationships, having a hobby that isn’t your job, and surrounding yourself with people who challenge you and make you better.

Remember, we choose our destiny. Our decisions, beliefs, attitudes, and priorities determine where we end up. We can be better. We can make an impact. We can help the people around us. We can change the world.