Individual Development: 20 Bad Habits That Hold You Back

Individual Development: 20 Bad Habits That Hold You Back

Do you feel that you aren’t producing results which are in proportion to your skills, intelligence and experience. Whether you are an expert in your field, have excellent academic credentials or an enviable track record of success; you may have developed behavioural habits which are detracting from your performance.

So why does this occur? It’s clearly not a lack of technical skill or intelligence. It can often be pinpointed to challenges in interpersonal behaviour.

Bad habits often create a toxic atmosphere by amplifying an individuals own deficiencies, insecurities and bad habits through their interactions with their team or peers. In fact their “impact” can take away from the team’s performance.

An expert in this field, Marshall Goldsmith, has identified 20 habits that executives often exhibit that holds back performance, has a negative impact and creates a defensive culture. Goldsmith is a leading authority and was voted most influential leadership thinker in the world by Thinkers50/HBR in 2011.

Asses yourself

We welcome you to evaluate yourself against Goldsmith’s list. Approach it openly and honestly and see if you can identify with any of the bad habits listed here.

  1. Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations – when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point
  2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two penneth worth to every discussion
  3. Passing judgement: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them
  4. Making destructive comments: Using sarcasm and cutting remarks in order to make us feel superior and witty
  5. Starting with ‘no’, ‘but’, or ‘however’: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say 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’: Opposing new ideas in order to boost our own status and expertise
  9. Withholding information: Maintaining an advantage over colleagues by refusing to share information
  10. Failing to give proper recognition: Not providing praise and reward enough or appropriately
  11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve. The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success
  12. Making excuses. Not changing an annoying behaviour, saying it is a permanent part of our personality so that people excuse us for it
  13. Clinging to the past. Not accepting faults or mistakes and blaming events or people from our past
  14. Playing favourites. Not treating everyone in the team fairly
  15. Refusing to express regret. Not taking responsibility for our actions, admitting we’re wrong or recognising how our actions affect others
  16. Not listening. The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues
  17. Failing to express gratitude. Not applying the most basic form of manners is a sure-fire way to demotivate your team
  18. Punishing the messenger. Not resisting the temptation to attack the individual who was brave enough to talk to us honestly
  19. Passing the buck. Blaming everyone but ourselves
  20. An excessive need to be ‘me’. Refusing to address our faults simply because they’re who we are

Further reading

Taken from the book “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith, with Mark Reiter. Source: ©2007 Marshall Goldsmith (pp. 40-41). Hyperion Books. Available from

You can take this review even further by showing it to trusted others whose opinion you respect. They may be able to identify a behavioural ‘blindspot’ or help you understand the impact of your behaviour.

We all demonstrate some of these behavioural habits. Once you’ve identified them then it’s easier to start tackling them.

If you would like to know more about how executive coaching can support you in overcoming ‘bad habits’ contact Outstand on 0203 697 12 16 or email