Confidence, decisiveness, and strategy prowess are all well-known traits of a successful CEO, but unfortunately, these qualities don’t come naturally for every aspiring leader.
To bridge that gap, leaders often enlist the help of an executive coach to help them sharpen those skills and fulfill their potential. For example, Ana Paula Assis, the chair of IBM EMEA credits her coach with molding her into a global leader, after being promoted to lead employees in over 100 countries.
“A coach can help you identify your blindspots and the leadership attributes you need to enhance to be successful in a new cultural environment,” she told Management Today.
Drawing from her experience of helping over 5,000 businesswomen transition into leadership roles, she has taken note of three traits that often hold high-achieving workers back from that step up: People pleasing, perfectionism, and comparison.
“Those are the biggest things that women at this level suffer,” she says, with the caveat: “For men, it’s a lot of the same things for sure.”
She tells Fortune how to spot when these qualities become career-damaging—and what do to about it.
Taylor says that female workers especially often fall guilty of thinking: “As long as my boss is happy, and my colleagues are happy, and my stakeholders are happy, I’m good.”
But by constantly putting others’ needs ahead of their own, people pleasers risk having their needs, stretch opportunities and projects that’ll make them stand out constantly placed on the back burner.
Sound familiar? If so, before slotting another of your peer’s “urgent” tasks in your priority list, Taylor suggests getting very clear with yourself on what exactly deserves your energy and effort—and what doesn’t.
“Then when people come in and make requests, you’re able to measure them up to your priorities and say, does this fit within my priorities or not?”
Albert Einstein said that if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. It’s why comparison isn’t just the thief of joy, it’s “the thief of power too,” Taylor warns.
The constant chatter in your brain comparing where you’re at to others can be both exhausting and misleading; You don’t really know what it’s like in anyone else shoes but your own, meanwhile, competing with others risks pulling you away from your own unique selling point (USP).
In Einstein’s terms, you may be competing with someone who’s climbing a tree, when you should be swimming.
“The best antidote for comparison is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and why,” Taylor says. By running, or swimming, in your own lane and being clear on what your purpose is, Taylor says that the comparison tends to drop away.
Meanwhile, by setting goals to strive for that are specific to your unique talents, experience and areas of expertise, you won’t feel the itch to look at what your peers are doing because you’ll be too busy competing with yourself.
“It’s about having something that you’re working towards and single-mindedly going off towards this thing,” she says. “I think that’s very esteem-building.”
Like many of these traits holding workers back, being a perfectionist can be an asset as it means nailing execution. “I don’t ever want to tell a woman that she cares too much—she’s too ambitious. I think that’s a beautiful thing,” Taylor says. “But when is it a point of diminishing returns?”
She says she has clients who can’t sleep and don’t have time to eat because they’re so caught up in perfecting everything they touch. “They’re hustling and grinding to the point of complete exhaustion,” she adds. “That happens a lot more than you might think.”
That’s when it’s time to evaluate when’s enough versus “perfect”—because more often than not, you’re trying to meet your own unrealistically high standards of excellence.
Taylor recommends getting very clear on what your own internal standards are versus your bosses, as well as which areas of your work would benefit from perfectionism.
“So knowing where to put your A plus effort on your biggest priorities—the ones that are going to be furthering the business the most, or a priority for your manager—versus where to put your B minus attention,” she says. “That is huge because we can’t have 10 different priorities. You can’t be excellent at everything.”
Plus, by picking just three or four areas that get your full efforts, you’ll be carving out your niche within the business and building a personal brand.