We have all seen it in our careers: people who we thought would have gone on to be the tops in their company or industry but who end up shooting themselves in the foot.
It could be a star sales executive, a top billing lawyer, or a rock star up-and-coming executive. When we first met them, we might have said that they were “scary smart.”
Their intelligence is intimidating. They might have gone to an Ivy League college or a top 10 Business or Law School. They might have worked previously at the best of the best companies before coming to ours.
And yet their careers got suddenly derailed — and always by their own actions.
We often asked ourselves: How could such a smart person do such a dumb thing?
And sometimes we might be looking at ourselves in the mirror when we ask the question.
So here are the top 8 ways that smart people shoot themselves and their careers in the foot in the dumbest ways:
1. They assume their past success will continue in the future on new projects. There’s an arrogance that can take hold in really smart people over time. They’re used to being the stars. They’re used to having an audience of admirers. Their whole lives have been a series of one success after another. Why wouldn’t this pattern continue, they think? This over-confidence breeds lots of blind spots.
2. They stop paying attention to details. When you have success early in your career, you get promoted and you get further opportunities to show your skills. Quite often, you get more responsibility too. If you’re over-confident that your past success will continue, you can stop paying attention to all the details like you used to during the early times when you had some of your biggest successes. You can start mailing in your efforts, or you simply delegate the details to others and forget to check up on them later. Because you’re still so busy, you don’t realize everything that’s slipping through the cracks beneath you.
3. They forget their own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s face it, none of us is perfect. No matter our college degree. No matter our LSAT score. No matter our latest promotion, we all have strengths and weaknesses. The most successful executives in the long-run never forget their weaknesses when they look in the mirror. They find a way to surround themselves with people who can cover those weaknesses because others have strengths in those areas. The smart folks who fail assume they can be experts in areas that they have no business offering opinions on.