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What’s the Deadliest Mistake in Business? Arrogance

There are a couple of reasons people make mistakes in business. . Somewhere along the way people did not do their homework; what they thought were facts were just assumptions, their research was weak, they fell in love with their ideas and should have dumped them…these are mistakes that people usually learn from, improve their methods, and move on down the road.  And the results will likely be missing their revenue, profit, market share, account penetration or other important targets.

The other mistake is not so obvious: it lives inside the body like a virus and comes to the surface when the stress is high and the pressure is climbing. 

It’s arrogance.

And arrogance will kill a career faster than missing your bottom line.  The mistake is not being aware that you have this killer virus and fail to start getting treatments, ASAP.

Being arrogant is hard to diagnose.  It’s rarely self-diagnosed accurately, it is usually self-diagnosed as confidence.  Big mistake. It’s the opposite. Too often the brave co-worker who tries to tell someone they are arrogant gets kicked to the curb and ignored.  It’s not the path others will try to take the next time you display your advanced cockiness. Who wants to be pushed aside when they are trying to help?  No one.

I finally had to address my arrogance because I had no choice.  (Remember the scene from An Officer and A Gentleman, Richard Gere was yelling, “ I have no place to go, I have no place to go!!!”)  Well that was what I felt like in my corporate world.

My Biggest Mistake-Arrogance

Many times in a person’s career, they reach a fork in the road and they must decide if they take the easy path or the more challenging one.  Most people take the easy path and tell themselves they are taking the tougher path. Then they justify their decisions. Then if they don’t get to where they want to go, they play the victim card.

At the biggest fork in the road in my career, I had to make some very tough choices. At one of my lowest points in my personal and professional life I made the decision to listen to those most important to me and make hard decisions to change the way I worked.  I had to change my behaviors. My ideas, energy and drive were great but my behaviors were not.

I went through this exercise: Imagine 3 columns with these headings: Good behaviors, bad behaviors and de-railers.  The first two columns are clear: they are things that make you better and things that make you worse. The third column contains the behaviors that get you fired, lose your station in life, or both.

At 50 years old, divorced, paying alimony, a house payment, having 2 kids in college, and one more on the way, I found myself living in a small little student apartment and alternating between Hamburger and Tuna Helper (sometimes even Ketel One Helper) each night, I finally listened.  I was ready to not be in this place anymore.

I had been living my life with de-railers in the good behavior column.  I actually believed that some of my behaviors were a strength, when in fact, they were the number one reason I was stalled in my career.  

Most of my bad behaviors were a combination of arrogance laced with equal parts aggression and stubbornness, with a little conflict avoidance  in for fun. Not the leadership cocktail your prescribe for success.

Working with my Executive Coach, who was about to give up on me, it took me over a year just to accept that my bad behavior were in fact, bad behaviors.  It took longer to finally stop having the little debate with myself, good behavior or bad behavior, good behavior or bad behavior. When the stress was high and the pressure was heating up, my instinct was to go back to the bad behaviors.  It was real work to make this go away, or at least lay dormant.

Fast forward to today.  I found the perfect partner and we have been married almost 10 years.  We have a big, merged family and my career had a big growth spurt the last 10 years. I will finish my corporate life at the top my game.

But this all started with being honest about my own behaviors and then doing something about it.


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