- Victoria Song is a best-selling author and leadership advisor to tech founders and CEOs.
- She says getting stuck in blind spots cause ‘unconscious reaction’ that can hold back your career growth.
- These blind spots can include playing to not lose instead of playing to win and not thinking like an owner.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Whether a new hire or a seasoned executive, anyone can encounter blind spots in their career advancement. Until you become aware of them, you can get stuck relying on unconscious reaction instead of conscious choice. Unconscious reaction is like running on autopilot, causing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to come from old subconscious coding – where blind spots are. Conscious choice is when we choose to respond to new information and where we can rewire old coding.
Here are three subconscious patterns that may be getting in the way of your personal growth and career advancement – and how to rewire them.
Blindspot No. 1: You play to not lose instead of playing to win
Focusing your mental cycles on “what if it doesn’t work” rather than on “what if it does work” can be immobilizing. This fear can cause you to spend more time talking yourself out of your ideas than talking others into them. You don’t want to look or sound stupid, so you say or do nothing at all. Instead of taking bold inspired action, you play small or even hide your real opinions.
You may be waiting to feel more confident and hoping self-doubt will run its course before you speak up. But in reality, that inner critic voice never goes away. Even after you’ve made it, earned the respect, and made the money, the voice transmutes to “What if I can’t do it again? It’ll be even more embarrassing to fail publicly.” Your inner critic can limit your growth by keeping you trapped inside your comfort zone.
To combat this, get to know your inner critic. Label it when you hear it speaking, and stop treating it like a voice of reason. Next, question its concerns. Destabilize them: “Is this really true? Is this a rational fear? If so, how can I address it?”
Ask yourself, “If the worst case scenario happened, could I handle it?” This question prepares you to feel ready and OK no matter what happens.
Finally, do not beat yourself up when you notice these fears holding you back. Judging yourself actually makes it more difficult to change. Instead, speak to yourself kindly.
You may never feel completely confident, but you can be brave in the face of fear and make sure you’re not letting your inner critic drive the show.
Blindspot No. 2: You act like an employee instead of an owner
The quickest way to stand out as a leader is to think, operate, and care like the owner does. Put yourself in your manager (or owner’s) shoes and consider what they are concerned about. What are their priorities? Ask questions and learn as much as you can about what matters to them.
Here are some questions the owner of your business is thinking about:
- What is the biggest opportunity we’re missing out on?
- What are we not doing that we should be doing?
- If we could improve as a team/company, how would we do it?
When your employer can sense that you care about the business and its success the way they do, then you’ve begun to earn trust. This trust will over time give you the keys to the kingdom, if you want them. If you truly don’t care, then you probably won’t advance very far.
Blindspot No. 3: You wait for someone else to tell you how you’re doing
High performers are hungry for feedback and take initiative when it comes to self-improvement. Instead of focusing on being the best, aka competing with peers, focus on being your best, aka competing with yourself. How are you doing better today than you did yesterday? How will you do better tomorrow than you did today?
One of the quickest ways to increase your productivity is to reflect on the past work-week’s top 10 highlights:
- What was a success?
- What made it possible?
- What’s one action you can take to double down on what’s working?
You can’t track what you don’t measure. And you can’t improve what you don’t track.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to gauge how you’re doing:
- What were my biggest time wasters last week and what can I do about that?
- What support do I need to get this done?
- What am I most proud of from the past week?
If you’re lucky enough to get feedback from others, stay curious versus defensive by saying, “Tell me more.” And really listen. Even if you disagree, find the 2% of truth in what they’re sharing by asking yourself, “How is this true?” Keep the behavior distinct from your identity, e.g. “The project failed” versus “I’m a failure” or “I said something stupid” versus “I’m stupid.”
Also, don’t dismiss positive feedback – overachievers often only hear constructive criticism, but being reminded of your strengths is important to offset what you need to improve.
If you can manage your inner critic, put yourself in your manager’s shoes, and lead yourself to growth and evolution, you’ll rise up quickly in your organization. Over time, your inner critic’s voice will weaken and your self-trust will grow.
Victoria Song is a leadership advisor to tech founders and CEOs and WSJ best selling author of “Bending Reality: How to Make the Impossible Probable.”