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Habits of UNsuccessful People

I must confess right up front that some of the items on this list came from John Featherstone, the author of Start Hiring Winners. I’ve added to his starter list and amended many of the items to fit our emergency service mindset.

So, if you are looking to be a highly UN-successful person or Un-successful in your career…here are the highlights of how to best accomplish your mission…hmmm…why would you want best accomplish the mission of being UN-successful…I digress.

The top 10 habits of the UN-successful:

They stop learning
Anyone reaching a level in their educational career, a degree or a certification should be proud of the achievement but the real learning begins as they begin to apply their new knowledge in the workplace. Leaders keep acquiring information and knowledge about their industry, company, customers and staff to continually improve their ability to lead.

They don’t listen – to themselves…or others
Quite often the longer someone’s been in a position, a profession or just years on the planet…a sense of ‘knowing it all’ can creep into daily habits. I often find that the newest person on the team has the most insight…they aren’t burdened with the ’cause we’ve always done it that way’ syndrome. They ask good questions…and if we all stop and listen to the answers, we can learn a lot!

Also many stop listening to themselves…that little inner voice that’s screaming at you but you ignore it. My experience is that without fail…if the voice is screaming at me about a decision…I need to listen…the voice is almost always right.

They don’t follow instructions
Time, money and effort is wasted when a task is incomplete, incorrect or done half-assed. Also, if you are the one responsible for completion, nothing will make you less popular with the boss and co-workers than forcing them to re-explain, re-assign or re-do the task because you didn’t get it right. When given a task, make notes or ask for written instructions. The more complex the task, the more you NEED them.


They don’t complete assignments on time

Deadlines are not suggestions, they are as important to project completion as the goal lines are on a football field. If you are working on a project and get into trouble…ask for help, clarification or more information as soon as you know there is an issue. Don’t wait for your team leader to ask ‘how’s it going?” Teams don’t get points or win games for getting close to the goal line.

They can’t prioritize – except on a call
In EMS we are notorious for responding, establishing patient care and transport priorities, calling for and staging additional resources, landing helicopters and cutting patients out of mangled messes and then not being able to make a decision about what to eat at the diner after the call.

Establish project priorities when given an assignment. If you have a boss that likes to dump project after project…ask for his or her clarification on which is first, second, etc. Also you know yourself…create a daily TO Do list, do the projects that are the toughest either first or during your peak productivity period. If you are not a morning person…don’t try to work on your most complex project, on deadline, in the morning.

They keep their staff and supervisors in the dark
This partially relates back to completing tasks on time which is based around your efforts. Here we’re talking more about problems encountered along the way. Often when I’m working on a consulting assignment I’m dependent upon others getting data to me for analysis. I have to provide periodic updates to my clients about project status as well as information that is still needed/outstanding. As soon as a problem is identified, I reach out to my client contact to help resolve the issue and keep things on schedule. Speak up…no one likes surprises.

They don’t understand their role
Make sure that before accepting a project/job that you are clear on your duties and responsibilities. For example, if there is no job description, offer to write one for your supervisor’s review. Clarify the expectations and results, at the beginning, between you and whomever you report to.

They have a ready list of excuses
You are going to make mistakes. There will be miscommunication and stuff happens. If you own it…own it completely. If you get known for taking credit when all is good and shifting blame, making excuses or downplaying your part when bad things happen…you will lose credibility, trust, and ultimately things will catch up with you and you will become very expendable.
For more on this read my earlier blog post: Mistakes are only bad if you don’t learn from them.

They are afraid of hard work
My wife has a great saying, “everyone wants a paycheck but few are willing to work.” The best way to remain UN-successful is the be right on time both coming and going every day, never volunteering for assignments and whining about the work you are asked to do during a normal day. Come to work, give an honest days work for the salary you agreed to when you were hired. If you feel that it’s unfair…ask for a raise…or leave. It’s a free country.

They are afraid to succeed
What!? Yes it’s true. I’ve met hundreds of people over the years and I’m sure that you can think of at least 5 right off the bat who continually sabotage themselves. They blow up relationships, screw up great jobs, drink and drive and have 3 DUIs and any of a long list of other items. People have deeply ingrained belief systems instilled during their childhood either intentionally or subconsciously that govern what we think we are capable of achieving. “You’ll never amount to anything.” “Money and success are the roots of all evil.” “No one in our family was ever in management, we’re blue collar all the way”, these and other comments may be a very real part of your life and holding you back.

If you are in this situation…there is hope. Anyone can break out of a pattern of UN-successful living/working…If you’re honest in identifying it, willing to work for the changes and if you truly want what success can bring to you and your family. It’s not easy…if it was there would be a whole lot less people choosing to live under my Top 10 rules every day.

What do you think? Share your thoughts!

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