In our quest as Black women to level up in the workplace, we need to ensure that we are not sabotaging our success by marking the following mistakes.
- Working Too Hard
Working hard is still the surest way to success. However, overworking yourself may not give you the results that you think it will. As you move higher in leadership, it stops being so much about how hard you work but about the actual impact you make, especially within your team. It stops being about the output but more the effectiveness of what you do and how it affects the long term results of the organisation.
As Black women, we are conditioned to be “good girls” who follow the rules, and as a result, we often find ourselves struggling to be strategic about how we approach certain things in our lives. Our education system and societies conditioning have created workhorses out of us. This may get us ahead for a while but it does not sustain our upward trajectory. Not only that, it leads to overwhelm and burn out. When you set yourself as the go-to employee to getting things done, more and more work will be given to you. It may become unsustainable to continuously produce at the same rate if you do not set the boundaries.
Effective productivity is not just about getting things done but about prioritising the right things to get done first. It’s about understanding what the priority is, what is more impactful, and focusing on those. You do not want to be known so much as the one is who reliable but more importantly as the effective one. Reliable people are given everything that needs to be done but effective people are given work that creates an impact. Sift through the rabble and focus on the effective first.
2. Not Taking The Time to Understand “how things work around here.”
When you are a new employee, it is easy to fall into the trap of being the new broom that sweeps too clean for everyone liking. You might impress the powers that be but at the risk of breaking valuable relationships that you might need in the future. You will likely frustrate yourself when met with resistance. The most effective way to be impactful in a new place is by pacing yourself and taking the time to understand the company, the rhythm, power dynamics, the real culture and values, not just what is on the website. Your performance will be more effective when you know what’s what.
3. Needing to Be Perfect
Quality work is commendable, it certainly gets you noticed and keeps you on an upward trajectory. However, obsessing over ensuring that every minor detail is perfect is not only going to lead to burnout quickly but seriously hold you back. It is easier to ensure that every minute detail is perfect when the output relies on only yourself. However, when you need to collaborate on results, your need to perfect every detail may lead to a reputation of being too focused on minors details and not strategic enough.
The trick is to manage the balance of producing work that you can take pride in. and getting things done effectively. Perfection can also lead to the fear of delegating work because you do not trust that people will do things right or at least done your way. It can also lead to you holding yourself from taking risks in projects that you are not completely sure you can produce a perfect output of.
4. Inability to Delegate
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to a new leader is the inability to delegate. When are you are fresh out of a specialist role where you were used to relying on yourself to getting the job done, relying on others to get work done might become a challenge. When you are raised to be a typical strong Black woman who cannot rely on anyone to help them, you might find it especially challenging to let others do the work and have to rely on their output. This might be compounded by people-pleasing tendencies if you have been raised in a home where pleasing was the way you got approval. Asserting your leadership by delegating work might feel too uncomfortable for a people pleaser.
Not only will this burn you out but it disempowers your authority and keeps you from fulfilling your leadership role as someone responsible for developing their subordinates. You are taking away development opportunities from your subordinates. You are also are going to be so busy that you are not available to fulfil the role of coaching, mentoring and support to your subordinates. And are also missing out on an opportunity to build a team that collaborates and achieves the departmental objectives as a collective.
5. Failing to Be Strategic
The other danger is that you will miss the trees for the forest, i.e. if your head is constantly buried in work, you miss your key leadership function of assessing and setting the strategic direction of your department. Even if you are still in a non-leadership position, you have to be strategic about your career trajectory. You have to balance performance with the bigger plan, the bigger objective of your career map. You have to constantly check in with where you are in your career plan and if you are still on the right track or you have fallen into the trap of getting stuff done because you are obligated. No one wakes up thinking about making your life better; it is up to you to do that. Keep your eye on the strategic plan while you take care of the day today.
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