What Happens When it Is Not Your Skill Level Holding You Back in Your Career?

By Nicki Gilmour, Executive Coach and Organizational PyschologistNicki Gilmour

Let’s be honest. What happens when you are a highly qualified professional but people just find you hard to work with or work for? This can be a real career staller and can create headaches of having to replace staff who leave you as a manager.

Your behaviors define you. How you show up is what people notice much more than your impressive list of qualifications or even your true competence level. There are many forms of behavior that can derail you, as no matter how nice you are it doesn’t matter if you are confusing people with any of the following traits- control freak, a perfectionist or an unclear communicator.

I pick these three as development points since they assume that you mean well and your intent is good, however your impact on the other person leaves them wondering just how to meet your standards and expectations. They may have tried several ways and are at a loss for words.

How do you find out if you are doing this to your team or direct reports? Well, a feedback tool such as a 360 rater survey is always a good way to see how people perceive you against how you see yourself. As a coach, we use these tools, as do many companies to help you get to stuff that a direct question might not work for. But, if you do have good relationships with peers, it cannot hurt to buy them a coffee and ask what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. If this feels too confrontational or you are not ready to hear it in this format, there are alternative ways to ask for feedback. Here are three ideas

1. Do an “after action review” on a project, unpacking what went well and what could have been done differently. This way the topic is the project but with a little deep questioning around how ideally you could have taken up your formal role, you can harvest gems.

2. Ask your colleague what he or she likes about your work style and what they feel they would like to see more of? Be brave and follow up with a last question along the lines of “what would you like to see less of?”

3. Think about how you show up and list any patterns in jobs or projects of how you think you acted or interacted and then talk it over with a coach to see what felt right and what felt a little odd to you. You will know as you build you EQ and SQ muscles around the accuracy of how people perceive you. However, on this note, we all have our baggage which creates lenses and views which can then distort how we do analyze our interactions. This stuff is crucial to unpack with someone who understands developmental coaching psychology as all executive coaches are not created equal on this front and 100% of the time.

When in doubt, put yourself in other people’s shoes and think about how it would feel to be on the receiving end of certain behaviors. We all have different pet peeves and likes and dislikes but this is still a good place to start!