10 Common Habits to Stop Doing

Dr. Purushothaman
January 10, 2014


"We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don't spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half the leaders I have met don't need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop." -Management expert Peter Drucker
Almost everyone keeps a "to-do" list. We often begin the New Year with resolutions to start new regimes to make us healthier, wealthier, and, hopefully, wiser.
What's needed is a "to-stop" list of bad habits, when it comes to communicating and interacting with our peers, colleagues, direct reports and even family members.
The following list of bad habits is from Marshall Goldsmith's book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. These bad habits can easily be turned into good ones. Which habits are you engaging in, and which would be hardest for you to stop?
Habits That Hold You Back
The most common bad leadership habits aren't personality flaws. They're challenges in interpersonal behavior - the egregious annoyances that make the workplace substantially more noxious than necessary. These faults do not occur in isolation; they involve one person interacting with another.
1. Winning too much. The need to win at all costs and in all situations - when it matters and even when it doesn't, when it's totally beside the point.
2. Adding too much value. The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
3. Passing judgment. The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
4. Making destructive comments. The needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
5. Starting with "no," "but" or "however." The overuse of these negative qualifiers, which secretly convey to everyone, "I'm right. You're wrong."
6. Telling the world how smart we are. The need to show people we're smarter than they think we are.
7. Speaking when angry. Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
8. Negativity ("Let me explain why that won't work."). The need to share our negative thoughts, even when we haven't been asked to do so.
9. Withholding information. The refusal to share information so we can maintain an advantage over others.
10. Failing to give proper recognition. The inability to praise and reward.
People who are successful are often driven to win. High achievers are often intelligent, competitive, and passionate about acquiring information.
Information Compulsion
Study these 10 bad habits, and you'll see that half are rooted in information compulsion. Most of us have an overwhelming need to tell others something they don't know, even when it's not in their best interest.
When we add value, pass judgment, announce that we "already knew that" or explain "why that won't work," we are compulsively sharing information.
Likewise, when we fail to give recognition, claim credit we don't deserve, refuse to apologize or neglect to express our gratitude, we are withholding information. Sharing and withholding information are two sides of the same coin.
How to Break a Bad Habit
Luckily, these bad habits are easy to break. The cure for failing to express gratitude is remembering to say "thank you." For not apologizing, it's learning to say, "I'm sorry. I'll do better next time." For punishing the messenger, it's imagining how you would want to be treated under similar circumstances. For not listening, it's keeping your mouth shut and your ears open.
How to Change
If you recognize yourself on the list of 10 bad habits, you can do something about it. Fortunately, it's easier to stop doing something than to undergo a major personality transformation.
It can be difficult, however, to let go of firmly ingrained behaviors. One way to facilitate on-the-job change is to ask for help from a select group of peers. Tell your colleagues about one of these habits you'd like to improve. Ask for their help.

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