Don’t bite your nails. Sit up straight. Don’t talk with food in your mouth.

Don’t bite your nails. Sit up straight. Don’t talk with food in your mouth.

Most of us can thank our moms for helping us break bad social habits as we grew up. But what about bad work habits? Let’s be honest: we all have work habits that are less than optimal, and some could hinder our success. But since most of us don’t work with our moms, who is there to show us the right way? In the workplace, the role of mom should be played by the team leader. A good leader is always looking for ways to help those on the team overcome their career-limiting habits.

A study done by VitalSmarts in 2011 found that 97% of employees have one or more habits that could limit their career or keep them from reaching their full potential. So, it’s a pretty good guess that you have someone on your team who could use some help.

The Top Three Career-Limiting Habits

Unreliability is the most detrimental habit, according to VitalSmarts. Do you have someone on your team who is late? Frequently fails to follow through on commitments? Turns in an unacceptable work product? Misses deadlines? Someone you don’t trust to come through for you? Being unreliable can have a huge impact not only on you but also on your team and can really drag them down.

So what do you do? Remind this person that your word is your guarantee, tantamount to a personal contract. You should never agree to something you think is unrealistic—it will only lead to failure. For people who hate to say no, VitalSmarts co-founder Joseph Grenny advises in the Harvard Business Review: “Don’t think of saying no as letting someone down; think of it as delivering on your other promises.”

Procrastination is the second most detrimental habit that can have a negative impact on your entire team. When someone waits until the last minute to finish an assignment, it may cause others to have to rush through their tasks as well. “This habit can seriously hurt you in a work setting,” says Katharine Brooks, of the University of Texas at Austin. “If you’re one of those folks who believes that you do your best work at the last minute, and put off projects or assignments until the day (or hour) before they’re due, you may not be aware of the impact your habit is having on your co-workers,” she told Forbes.

Here are some ways to help staff overcome procrastination:

  • Ensure work priorities are set and time is spent on the most important items first. Block out time on the calendar for work on specific tasks.
  • If needed, help break tasks into smaller parts. This will make them much more manageable. 
  • Whenever possible, make it a team sport and get others involved. It’s more fun when it’s more social.
  • Remind the person not to work on something to the point of exhaustion. Stop working before that point and it will be easier to return the next day and pick up where you left off.

Unwillingness to go above and beyond your core duty is the third most detrimental habit that can create tremendous resentment on a team. Don’t be that it’s-not-my-job person.

I made it my job to find some ways to remediate this situation. Communication coach Skip Weisman has an interesting idea: facilitate a discussion around the difference between an employee’s job and an employee’s role, he told Forbes. Help employees see everyone’s job is the same. From the CEO to the receptionist, the job is the company’s outcome or purpose. Since “job” supersedes “role,” employees may be asked to contribute based on skills and talents that might be outside of their role, but it’s their job to do it.

Changing Bad Habits

According to VitalSmarts’ Grenny, “Most … think willpower and commitment are key to changing long-standing bad behavior, but successful changers know better. Those who aligned six unique sources of influence to help them change were 10 times more likely to get rid of bad habits and improve their chances of advancement.”

  • Create a Personal Motivation Statement.
  • Invest in professional development. Get the skills you need to overcome your habit.
  • Hang with the hard workers. Use positive peer pressure from hard-working friends who share your career goals.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Put skin in the game. Reward yourself for reaching short-term goals.
  • Control your workspace. Make it support your new habits.

It’s your job to help your employees reach their maximum potential, so get started right now. I’m counting on you!