Sunday, April 28, 2013

The 5 Futile Behaviours That Every Smart Woman Knows Will Strangle Her Career

Futility is a depressing thing: you push and push and push and still don't get a result. But what's worse, is you chastise yourself for not getting that result.

Women are constantly setting themselves up for failure by going out to achieve outcomes that, in some instances are never, ever, ever going to happen.

Stop wasting your time!

Here are the five behaviours that you must stop doing right now, if you're serious about getting ahead in your career.

Futile Behaviour 1.
Trying to tick everything off your to do list

If you're anything like me, you will constantly have a to-do list the length of your arm. You believe that the list gives you security: that feeling that you're 'on top of things'.

In fact, all the list does is set you up to fail because you and I both know that however many tasks get ticked off your list, new ones are added just as quickly.

The key, I have discovered, is to know which tasks have any real value and which should be dumped off your list entirely.

Knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what tasks to complete.

Review your to-do list.
- Which tasks serve no purpose at all?
- Which can be binned immediately?
- Which tasks could you delegate straight away, either up or down the chain?
- And which tasks will create outcomes that will make a real difference to you, your team or your company?

Having answered these questions, you will now have a 'dump, delegate and do' list. Signpost the tasks on your 'do' list that will make the greatest impact, the most quickly, and get to work only on those.

Futile Behaviour 2:
Seeking perfectionism

Perfectionism, by its very nature, is impossible to attain. You will always want to tweak and finesse... and then tweak a bit some more.

Quite simply, stop wasting precious time.
Ask yourself:
- Is trying to 'make things perfect' really helping you?
- Is it getting you where you want to be professionally?
- If so, what are you NOT doing when you're spending your time seeking perfectionism?
- Would anyone notice if you completed a task 5% less well? How about 10%? Would it make a significant impact to your end outcome or not?

And finally, whilst you're striving to be 'perfect', what are your peers up to??? They're your competition by the way.

Futile Behaviour 3:
Trying to be liked by everyone

The world is made up of different people. That is what makes it interesting.

We have different personalities. Different quirks. And different views about whether  or not dogs are 'better' than cats.

I don't know about you, but I don't like everyone I know. That would just be silly.

We don't all share the same values for a start which creates an automatic 'dislike' for one another. So if, I don't like everyone I know, why would I expect everyone else to like me?

The truth is, you don't need to be liked by everyone. Someone might not like you, but respect you highly. I don't know about you, but that would suit me fine.

Get realistic about who you really need to have 'on your side' and quite simply, who doesn't really matter all that much.

Spend the majority of your energies trying to influence the opinions of people you like, respect and who can help you achieve your goals.

Futile Behaviour 4:
Waiting to feel certain before making a decision

A UK newspaper recently ran a story about a fortune teller who makes her predictions using asparagus. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't know how accurate asparagus would be in foreseeing the future. I expect it's not.

Trying to know what lies around the corner is about as futile as it gets. Yes, you can have a 'best guess' based on 'the facts', your gut feel, and the opinions of your most trusted advisors. But none of us can ever really know the future.

If we did, the GFC (global financial crisis) might never have happened and I wouldn't have ever dated anyone who let me down. :)

Read my post here about how to arrive at better decisions with greater ease.

When faced with your next decision making situation, where you feel unsure, repeat this sentence 5 times in quick succession,

"I am never going to know for sure how this will turn out; that is exactly what makes the world such a fun place to live in. But I do trust myself, and my judgment, to make the best decision that I can today."

Futile Behaviour 5:
Waiting around to be recognised

Although 'recognition' is a major need that we all have as human beings, it does not necessarily follow that you need that acknowledgement to come from other people.

Much more important is to know, in yourself, that you have done a great job.

Of course, receiving praise from external sources is wonderful. But just don't sit around waiting for that stuff to come your way; you could be waiting a lifetime.

'Self validation' is a skill that you can easily learn if you do it regularly. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What were your expectations before you started?
- Did you meet those expectations?
- What value did you add?
- How would you rate your performance out of 10?

Once you've answered these questions, get into the habit of writing your achievement down. Even better, keep an 'achievement journal'.

When it comes to your next discussion with your Partner, or Vice President, make sure you have those achievements top of mind. Share them with him and make sure they are known. You might receive some praise (and you might not) but either way, rest assured: if you have self validated and you have made it known what you have achieved, you have done everything that you can to influence their good perception of you.


Now, Over to You!

Have any of these behaviours been slowing you down?
What have you done about it?
What are you going to do about it?
Love to hear from you!
Rebecca     Rebecca Wells is a Career and Executive Coach with a specialism in Personal Branding for Corporate Women. She believes that women are phenomenal and add long lasting commercial value to business and yet often struggle to understand their value or believe deeply in their abilities to succeed. Her coaching programs are designed for talented and savvy professional women who simply need that extra push to achieve their greatest fulfillment and success. 


  1. Great article Rebecca! It is so true that women are so hard on themselves.

    1. Thanks Sonja for your post! Yes, we are too hard on ourselves!