Welles: Sticky floors

Behaviors that make you linger in a job can inhibit the growth of your career

It is not just sticky ideas — the ones that have a shelf life — that make a difference. Sticky floors — behaviors that keep you at a job even though they limit your potential — can also make a difference, often by slowing your professional development.

If you can’t seem to get ahead, you need to know how to deal with your sticky floors.  

Rebecca Shambaugh, president and chief executive officer of Shambaugh Leadership and founder of Women in Leadership and Learning, has techniques for getting unstuck.

Although her lessons focus on habits more common among women, men can be trapped by sticky floors, too. Shambaugh has identified seven sticky floors.

1. Managing work and life. You have more control over your work life and personal life than you think you do. Are you letting go and delegating? Are you setting boundaries? Are you integrating work and home and not letting one overtake the other?

2. Perfectionism vs. excellence.
High standards are good, but sometimes you need to define what is good enough. In executive management, excellence is OK, too.

3. Loyalty factor. Sometimes you stay in one place too long because of loyalty to a boss or fear that a program will fail without you. To get where you want to go, consider what other experiences you need. It doesn’t help to be an expert in only one area or stuck in a comfort zone.

4. Building strategic relationships. At senior levels, it’s all about influence and channeling ideas and less about what you know in your job. Women are masters at developing relationships, but they rarely go to bat for themselves by developing supportive relationships. To get ahead, align yourself with the right people and the right job.

5. Capitalizing on your political savvy.
How do you support people with your ideas and get them to support you? You need to get people to cooperate with you, build coalitions and learn to influence across an organization. To do that, consider who the critical players are and how they make decisions.

6. Making your words count. Use communication as a tool to create the right perception about you and build the right relationships. Knowing what you want to say and how to say it are important. In meetings, insert your voice even when it’s hard to be heard.

7. Asking for what you want.
Men are seven times more likely to ask for a raise in a first job than women. And yet, most of the time, when women ask for something they want, they get it. For example, if you need a change in work/ life balance, maybe you can ask to work part time for a few years.

McGraw-Hill will publish Shambaugh’s book, “It’s not the Glass Ceiling, It’s the Sticky Floor,” in the fall.

Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@1105govinfo.com.

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