You did everything you were supposed to do. Meeting deadlines, managing deliverables, winning over your manager and leaving a trail of “exceeds expectations” throughout your performance reviews.

But you’re still not where you want to be.

It has happened to me.

And it’s happened to every single executive I’ve ever coached at some point in their career.

What “good” performance looks like is embedded in your job description (or at least it should be). But exceptional performance, and exponential career growth, is found in the nuance.

Here are some hidden habits that might be holding you back from achieving your goals:

1. Keeping people waiting.

When someone is waiting for you, they rarely pass the time by mulling over your best qualities. Being consistently late, even if it’s just a minute or two, hurts your reputation over time. And in a virtual world, it happens even faster.

Try sitting in silence staring at your webcam for 30 seconds. Now, wait a full minute. It feels like forever when you’re the one just staring at the screen, even though it’s “just a minute” for the person running to join.

No one is on time all the time. But you do have to prioritize being on time to things where people would be waiting for you. That’s the important part. Be it a boss, a peer or someone who works for you, demonstrating respect for others’ time is a hallmark of a high performer.

2. Avoiding hard conversations.

We all want to be liked ... sometimes a little bit too much. In my years of coaching executives, I’ve seen how skirting the tough stuff erodes the reputation of a leader over time.

A few years ago, I facilitated a strategic planning session for an executive team. During the session, I had a weird feeling in my gut that something wasn’t right. Strategic planning conversations are typically messy and full of opinions. This one was not. The team was nodding along in universal agreement to everything. There wasn’t a whiff of pushback throughout several hours of conversations.

Yet, after the session ended, more than half of the executives came to me privately to tell me they thought there were major problems with the plan. They just didn’t want to make people uncomfortable by pushing back on their ideas.

Ask yourself: Which is more uncomfortable: Respectfully pushing back on an idea you think might fail? Or trying to scrape together a crumbling business line because no one was brave enough to speak the truth 18 months ago? High performers are willing to have fierce conversations.

3. Choosing earnestness instead of enthusiasm.

If I were to ask you, “How are you?” on a zoom call, would your gut reaction answer be tired, busy, stressed and stretched too thin?

Early in my own career, at Procter & Gamble, I believed that grimly and earnestly pushing through difficult (to my 22-year-old self) situations and letting my leaders know how hard it was would win me points. In a hustle culture, it’s easy to fall into an ever-busy, no time for rest, I am always tired because I work so hard mentality. I assumed working hard meant doubling down on seriousness.

But people want to be around other people who are positive and make them feel good. When you over-index on earnestness, the people around you don’t feel appreciated, and you don’t seem happy (even if you actually are).

You want to avoid toxic positivity (there will be setbacks and challenges, of course), but finding things to be excited about radiates out onto everyone around you. If enthusiasm feels like a tall order at the moment, try going upstream and focusing on gratitude. Gratitude enables you to express enthusiasm authentically.

When you get to a certain level, advancement is more about reputation than job skill.

If you want to accelerate your own reputation, be on time, have the courage to discuss the stuff and let people know you’re happy to be there.

– Lisa Earle McLeod is a leadership consultant and the author of several books. For more information on her company, visit McLeodandMore.com.

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