How Some Smart People Sabotage Their Success

By Harvard Business Review
December 6, 2018

When you understand these shortcomings, you can turn them around. Here are five ways intellectually gifted workers torpedo their career trajectories.

Raw intelligence is a huge asset, but it isn’t everything. Sometimes, when intellectually gifted people don’t achieve as much as they’d like to, it’s because they’re subtly undermining themselves. Here are five issues smart people struggle with:

They devalue relationship building. Very smart people sometimes see their success as inevitable because of their intellect and might see workplace diplomacy as an irritation rather than a core skill.

Solution: Start by identifying three workplace-diplomacy behaviors that would improve your success.

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They find teamwork frustrating. For someone who grasps concepts quickly, it can be difficult to work with people who take longer to process information. Smart people also sometimes find it difficult to delegate because of a sense that they can do a task better, regardless of whether this is actually true.

Solution: Learn to appreciate what diverse minds bring to a team.

They attach a lot of their self-esteem to being smart. This can make it difficult to receive critical feedback or take a risk.

Solution: Develop relationships with people you trust to give you constructive feedback.

They get bored easily. If you’re smart and curious, you might quickly lose interest in anything once you’ve figured it out.

Solution: Try taking a 30,000-foot view of when it’s worth tolerating a few hours of boredom to collect easy wins toward your overall success.

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They see in-depth thinking as the solution to every problem. Bright people are accustomed to succeeding through their thinking skills, and they might overlook when a different approach would be more beneficial.

Solution: Notice when thinking becomes an unhealthy obsession. Experiment with taking breaks to get unstuck, and allow yourself to learn by doing rather than through exhaustive advance research.

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Career Planning

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