Think back to your early days in leadership when well-meaning bosses, mentors and co-workers shared their personal opinions and advice to help you quickly advance up the corporate ladder.
While I learned many valuable lessons from seasoned corporate leaders, I got a few really bad tips as well.
The worst piece of advice I ever received sounded something like this:
“If you want to be successful—be seen as ambitious; someone who really cares about the company and your career—you need to be the first one in the office in the morning and the last one out.”
The idea, of course, was that if I demonstrated my undying commitment to my job that I’d be rewarded in the future. And, being an eager young career woman, I wanted to do whatever it took to be viewed as a committed and competent employee.
In those formative years, I tried to follow this advice. I came in early, worked through lunch and late some evenings. And, not surprisingly, I was rewarded with recognition and promotions, but it wasn’t without a cost.
Over time, the come-in-early-leave-late-and-be-rewarded mentality led to thinking I had to work on projects on the weekend and in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep because of the stress and feeling like I could never do enough.
That little nugget of advice was terrible for me, personally, for many reasons.
Feeling like I could never get ahead was damaging to my psyche and self-esteem. I felt frustrated, confused, and out of alignment with what I valued most in my life. And, I learned a big lesson: companies will take as much of you as you’re willing to give them—the more I did, the more they gave me, further compounding the problem.
Many of my executive coaching clients struggle with the same dilemmas. When it comes down to it, you might not feel like there’s any other choice but to work long, hard hours sacrificing your balance and sanity. The good news is that you can change the way you think about and approach your work to break out of this cycle.
While the personal implications of following this type of advice are pretty bad, you also have to consider the impact that these perceptions and behaviors can have on the team you lead.
As a leader, you’re constantly in the spotlight and your employees are watching to see what gets rewarded, punished, and what’s expected in your work environment. Pressure (real or imagined) is alive and well in the workplace.
Seemingly benign behaviors like holding long office hours, sending emails late at night or on weekends, and using language that implies lack of choice in action can have far-reaching negative effects on your employees. As a leader, you must think about the behaviors you’re modeling and the unintended consequences they can cause.
Some research shows that we’re working harder than ever, and there’s a cost to be paid in the way of productivity and engagement. Working all the time is not only detrimental for you, but you might also be promoting a workaholic culture where these behaviors are expected of everyone.
Want to share a piece of #AdviceThatSticks with your team? Encourage them to set clear priorities so they can work with intention to get more done in less time so they can also have a life!
If you’re interested in changing your own work habits to create a more productive environment for yourself and those you lead, schedule a Complimentary Discovery Call with me to discuss your current challenges and to get clear on what your next steps may be.