Over our many years of executive coaching, it’s been clear that many people are unable to give themselves fully to creating a robustly successful career. There are many underlying reasons for this pattern, most of them caused by unconscious beliefs that were developed very early on and now reside outside their conscious awareness.

I want to walk you through five major patterns of self-defeating attitudes and behaviors that require, yes actually REQUIRE someone to cheat on their career so you can evaluate whether or not someone is trapped in one or more of them. And for each one, I’ll spell out an approach you can use to help people working for you to move beyond their pattern(s).
Never Putting Out 100%

Many people, no matter their intelligence, their education, their professional background routinely fall short of their true capability and even ambition. They’re aware of it, somtimes even proud of it as in "I hardly ever studied and still ended up with a 4.0 but I know I could have aced every class and made it a 5.2 or something like that. I just didn’t bother."

Due to unconscious limitations inherited in their very early life, they live with a sense that they will disappoint or be punished if they truly go all out. So these people need to know that you are totally behind them, eager for their full-stop output and ready to champion them any time others may want to hold them back.
Taking Their Excellence for Granted

"Why would I make anything special of it when I’ve been able to do this practically my entire life," said a technical executive we were coaching who was referred because his laid back attitude blocked his eligibility for advancement.

When someone has been excelling in their area of expertise most of their life, it’s often difficult for them to notice that most other people can’t even come close to what they can do. Then they fail to put themselves forward with specific self-branding that capitalizes on their unique strengths. They do well in their careers, but usually fail to achieve and demonstrate the leadership that could rightfully be theirs—and would help so many upcoming through their ability to demonstrate the very best in their field.

These folks usually respond well to being called out for habitually shrugging off praise and reward. They may need evidence and proof of their pattern, but when called to attention about their involuntary and unconscious habit of taking their excellence for granted, provided you do so with an attitude of respect and care, they will gradually begin to claim what is rightfully their own. When this happens, it’s important to reinforce that this new behavior benefits everyone in the workplace as a model for optimal career ownership.
Too Willing to Sacrifice

Many a manager we’ve coached was excellent at giving credit to their team and specific team members for work well done, but downright allergic to taking credit for themselves. Usually the unconscious culprit was the belief that if they weren’t "modest" and "humble" they would turn into narcissistic, arrogant jerks.

Sacrificing their own reputation and career development in honor of the well being of others comes naturally to these people. They’ve been doing it in some manner most of their lives. In order to help them out of this pattern, it’s important that you first make them aware of what they’re doing and how it’s setting a bad management model for others. Then you’ll need to provide support for their gradual move into being able to claim their own wins.
Fearful and Driving Themselves

Typically this is the group that finds it very difficult to delegate, wanting to "get it done right."

They believe others can’t deliver as well as they can, so they’ll routinely take on more and more, habitually needing to stay late, miss dinner with their families, and constantly feel anxious and obsessed with concerns about how well they’re doing—or not.

These "doers" enjoy getting the work done to their own specifications, so they need your support in developing their ability to respect others’ differing work styles as well as becoming a better team and company player. Make sure you emphasize that they have greater value to you and the company than just their ability to sacrifice themselves to the project "to-do list." Then articulate their other strengths and call them out in meetings for collaborative work well done so they can begin to expand and claim their breadth of professional confidence and expertise.
Caught Up in Unrealistic Fantasies

Our experience is that members of this group do exhibit exceptional intelligence and professional skills, but they too often fail to observe their actual position in the company. Setting their sights on a position two or three steps beyond where they are now, they feel crushed when someone is hired for their intended position or people just ahead of them gain greater ground in the promotional process toward what they believe should be rightfully theirs. .

Once devastated by reality, these "magical thinkers" can lose faith in the company and begin to imagine that there’s someplace else that will "properly value" them. If you are their manager and you see the signs of discontent after someone else has been promoted ahead of them, it’s time to have a compassionate reality-check meeting with them. Ask them how they are reacting to recent events and let them know you’ve observed them acting unhappy. Once they are available to discuss how to best go forward, ask them to evaluate their current promotional eligibility from the vantage point of the CEO or even your own position. Gear the discussion toward better awareness of reality rather than their unrealized fantasies.

Finally, in every one of these situations, remember to be compassionate that the individual has been caught in a particular psychological holdback that is out of their awareness and your job is to help them claim a different reality than that which has been requiring them to cheat on their careers AND on their work for you.

I look forward to hearing your experiences with career cheaters and what has worked to help them.

Author's Bio: 

Judith Sherven, PhD and her husband Jim Sniechowski, PhD http://JudithandJim.com have developed a penetrating perspective on people’s resistance to success, which they call The Fear of Being Fabuloustm. Recognizing the power of unconscious programming to always outweigh conscious desires, they assert that no one is ever failing—they are always succeeding. The question is, at what? To learn about how this played out in the life of Whitney Houston, check out http://WhatReallyKilledWhitneyHouston.com.

Currently working as consultants on retainer to LinkedIn providing executive coaching, leadership training and consulting as well as working with private clients around the world, they continually prove that when unconscious beliefs are brought to the surface, the barriers to greater success and leadership presence begin to fade away. They call it Overcoming the Fear of Being Fabulous http://OvercomingtheFearofBeingFabulous.com.