Avoid Five Career-Limiting Traps: How To Recognize The Pitfalls Even Great Leaders Stumble Into

In today’s market, just knowing your talents isn’t enough. Many individuals have great talents but they’re not using them. Only 20% of employees say they are fully engaged at work. 50% say they are doing just enough to get by, and 49% of middle manager are looking for a new job. This is disheartening.

Avoid Talent Traps

So what keeps us from using our talents? In my work as an executive coach, I’ve discovered five traps that keep leaders from using their talents. I’m not talking about lackeys here – these are very talented leaders – but they’re still vulnerable to these traps.

1. We don’t see our value.

Too often, we assume what we’re doing is ‘no big deal.’ We don’t recognize the impact we’re having on others. We don’t see our worth. We literally don’t realize the difference our talents are making inside the organization and other’s lives. We’ve learned that modesty is noble so why focus on our value? But playing small does not serve us.

Take time to ask your customers, employees and boss, “What do you appreciate about my work?” “How are you and others benefiting from my services?” “Specifically, what do you value most?” Find out your value. Take a personal inventory of your strengths. You know how to create a value proposition for customers. Now it’s time to create a value proposition for your self. Know the value you bring to others.

2. We don’t tell others.

Too many people are working hard, doing great work and hoping to be noticed and picked out from the crowd. Or they are going to the other extreme and frantically handing out business cards to any one who’ll take them. I suggest a different approach.

Simply start doing more of what enjoy doing a little bit more. Find ways to offer your talents. Tell others what you love to do. Help your boss and co-workers recognize projects with your name on them. Calmly tell others the value you bring. It’s the quiet clarity about our offering that makes us believable. You can’t assume others know your talents. You must tell them.

3. We don’t say ‘NO.’

We are promiscuous head-nodders. When others ask for our help we’re too quick to say yes. We want to be of service and a team player so we jump right in. Soon we’re overwhelmed and can’t keep our promises.

Instead we need to pause and ask our selves, “Is this mine to do?” “What is the best contribution I can make in this situation?” “Does this fit with my priorities?” And if it’s not – we need to say ‘no.’ NO is not a four-letter word.

A quick pause will help us make good choices. In today’s organization, it’s ourresponsibility to place ourselves in situations where we can contribute the highest value.

4. We don’t ask for help.

We hold on to control and take everything on our shoulders – then try to muscle our way through projects. We think, “This will be over soon. I can handle it. I just have to get through this week.” But there’s always another crunch time just around the corner.

The truth is no one gets promoted for looking stressed and frantic. Recognizing our limitations is the starting point. Accessing others’ talent is the key. We need to trust others and call on the full range of their talents to deliver our best. Great talents reside in people other than our selves. Challenge yourself daily with this question, “What am I doing now that could be done by some one else?”

When we’re In the middle of a quagmire and overwhelmed – we get depressed, get mad, get even, get skinny, get fat, cry, blame others, and stomp our feet. But the one thing we don’t do is ask for help. It’s so simple. Early on, before we’re even close to losing it, we can simply say, “I need a favor… Can you help me?” Why is this so hard?

5. We don’t take risks.

We want to play big. We want to bring more of who we are to the table. But we don’t want to upset the apple cart and take a risk. While pondering what to do next, we end up marinating. We try to figure things out before making our first move. But contemplating too long does not yield solutions. We end up frustrated and spinning our wheels.

It’s unlikely we’ll figure out a new direction by staying put. We must shore up our courage and take steps towards our goals. Then gradually the path opens up to us. Rarely do I see individuals succeed in straight-line fashion.

To use our talents fully, we must listen to our niggling desires to move on, learn more, explore and be of greater service. Yes, taking the risk is uncomfortable and disconcerting at times – but it’s also life giving, energizing and fun.

The five traps are easy to fall into. It takes effort, anticipation, reflection and conscious effort to side step these nasty buggers. Challenge yourself to see your value, tell other, say no, ask for help and take action. I guarantee your career will take off!