Seemingly Trivial Reasons Leaders’ Careers Might Stall

By Harvard Business Review
December 11, 2018

These small but important issues can hold back aspiring executives from achieving more.

The careers of talented executives often stall or even derail because of seemingly trivial issues that are utterly fixable. To managers delivering feedback, these issues can seem so personal that it’s hard to raise them directly, especially with a strong performer. Recipients of feedback, meanwhile, often dismiss such flaws as unimportant and trivial.

Unfortunately, avoiding difficult conversations can damage the careers of talented individuals.

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Here are three seemingly trivial yet important issues holding executives back: 

Lack of “executive presence”: This is a catch-all for a multitude of problems, from body odor to failure to appear confident. Highly confident executives are 2.5 times more likely to be hired than those displaying a meek appearance.

Communication style. Lagging on communication effectiveness is a risk area for many executives. Research shows that candidates who use a more esoteric, intellectual vocabulary are less likely to be hired than candidates who use more colloquial language. Disappointingly, studies show that even having a foreign accent can also damage a person's career prospects.

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Peer relationships. Talented executives often hit home runs with their superiors and those below them but strike out with their peer group. Leaders with the highest potential, however, find ways to deliver on their target while also playing for the team: Research shows that stronger candidates for leadership positions are more effective at persuading others, including their peers.

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

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