8 Bad CEO Habits That Cause Business Failure (Get Out of Your Own Way)

12 min read
Sep 13, 2021

Are you the CEO of your company?

Do you think that the destiny of your business lies in your hands?

If so, think again.

The truth is, the success of your business lies in your habits.

As the author of multiple best seller books, Randy Gage, says, “You don’t create your future.  You create your daily habits, and they create your future.”

Truer words have never been spoken!

A successful business is created by small decisions (aka habits) made on a consistent daily basis.  And, the better those decisions are, the more successful the business is.

But, how do bad habits of a CEO impact their entire business?  

The truth is, a business is in many ways the reflection of the CEO.

If the CEO is not on top of their daily habits, then it will manifest in poor business results.

Therefore, the destiny of a business lies in the hands of the CEO’s habits.  And, those habits can be the difference between success and failure!

Unsure of whether or not your current habits are helping or hurting your business?

Start here by having a look at these 8 bad habits that directly lead to business failure.  Then, do a short self assessment of yourself to see whether or not these habits are a part of your current daily life. 

If you find that you have one or more of these habits, replace them with the opposite positive habit!

Over time, the small efforts of your positive habits will compound into hugely positive business results!


Here Are the Bad Habits of CEOs


No matter how sound your business plan is, you as a CEO cannot achieve success when you have poor personal habits.

Take a serious look at yourself and assess whether you have one or more of the following bad habits.

Then, make the switch to a more positive one.

There is no shame in having a bad habit, unless you choose to not change it!

Remember, the success of your business depends on your habits.  Make sure you don’t let your habits stand in the way of your success!

This is what a CEO should not do:


Bad CEO Habits


Listening to Advice From Too Many People


Let's say that entrepreneurship is fairly new to you.

Or, that you've been an entrepreneur for years now but still have trouble seeing a clear path in front of you. 

You're following conventional wisdom that says you should seek outside advice or mentorship, whether it be directly from fellow business leaders, podcasts, or books, in order to grow your business.

Yet, you're still not making forward strides like everyone says you will if you just follow their advice.

What gives?

Here's the thing: Seeking advice from a mentor or outside source can be a great thing. 

But, seeking advice from too many people or sources is a recipe for disaster.

More does not equal better.

When you seek outside advice from multiple people or sources, the worse things get because you start running on information overload.  With too much information in mind, it's challenging to see a clear road in front of you.

Having too much information, whether it is good or not, will eventually lead to business demise. 

Instead of seeking a lot of advice, successful CEOs find one or two trusted individuals to help mentor or guide them through the process. 

That way, they can selectively integrate their specific input into the business plan without feeling overwhelmed or unsure of whether or not the advice they are getting is solid.

Prevent information overload that leads to an unclear path by finding and sticking with just one or two solid mentors.


Listening to the Wrong People for Advice


Not only should you avoid overloading your system with too many people’s opinions, but you should also steer clear of taking advice from the wrong people.

To do that, properly qualify your mentors before seeking any advice from them.

There are three key types of people you should avoid taking advice from, including:

  1. The obvious hater
  2. The nonobvious hater
  3. The know-it-all

First off, everyone knows that there will always be naysayers or haters in business.

More likely than not, the haters are purely jealous of your ambition and ensuing success. 

It's common knowledge to not take advice from them, and, much of the time it's easy to identify who they are.

Other times, haters come in disguise and are less easy to spot.

The most common sign of a secret hater is someone who asks you questions like they genuinely care, but are really only asking to try and make you second guess your decisions.

It seems as if they are curious or care about you, but their intentions are to make you quit.

To identify these people, consider their body language and whether or not they appear curious or closed off.

Lastly, never take advice from someone who somehow has all the answers for you.

The second you decide to start a business and make it known, they all of a sudden think that they're Steve Jobs and want to tell you what to do, even though they know nothing of the business world themselves.

Always keep this little piece of wisdom in mind: The people who try to give you the most advice on what to do, usually have no idea on what to do with their own lives.

But, shouldn't mentors tell you what to do?

No, actually!

The right mentors are less focused on telling you exactly what to do, and more focused on:

  1. Helping you uncover what you already know
  2. Working alongside you to solve problems 
  3. Listening to you rather than always talking

Before you even allow a single word of a so-called "mentor" to enter your ear, consider whether or not they are worthy of your listening.


Micromanaging Their Team


It only makes sense that business owners care deeply about their business.

In a way, having a business is like having a small child to take care of and watch grow.

And, because they care deeply about it, it also only makes sense that it would be hard for business owners to trust someone with growing their business.

However, micromanaging team members or refusing to delegate their work out of fear that something will go wrong is a detrimental habit for the business for several reasons, including:

  1. It fosters a culture of distrust
  2. Efficiency dies
  3. Expertise runs away

First off, micromanaging the team fosters a toxic work culture.

Think of it this way: If you were hired to do a certain job and your boss is constantly looking over your shoulder, wouldn't you feel as if they don't trust you to get things done?

Refusing to let your entire team, including the management team, do their job creates a horrible environment to work in.  

Second, micromanaging the team causes efficiency to suffer.

Usually when a CEO micromanages their team, they don't delegate tasks as they should.

Not delegating decreases business efficiency by a significant amount. 

Lastly, if you don't let your team members do the job that they were hired to do, many of them will run away.

Before you know it, your employee retention rate will suffer and you will have a hard time finding solid team members, especially expert-level employees.

If you want your business to go to the next level, stop looking over your employee's shoulders all the time!  Let them do the work that you know they are capable of doing.


Business Micromanagement


Eliminating Team Members Who Disagree


While it is important to have a team that can rally around the vision of the business, it isn't realistic to think that every team member is as passionate about it as the co-founders or c-suite members.

With that said, it is a terrible CEO habit to write-off team members who disagree in one way or another with the business's vision or way of doing things.

When a CEO is quick to eliminate people who disagree or see things a different way, it does a couple of things:

  1. Makes the CEO look insecure and incompetent
  2. Directly eliminates opportunities for growth 

To begin with, if a CEO can't handle the fact that someone sees things differently than them, it is a HUGE red flag.

If someone's humble opinion is enough to make them want to eliminate that person, it only reveals how deeply insecure the CEO is.  More specifically, how insecure they are about their vision.

And, if the CEO themself doesn't have conviction in their vision and business plan, nobody else will.  It is a recipe for a failing business.

Second, team members who have contrasting opinions hold a lot of potential for business growth, because business growth is fueled by new ideas!

Moreover, contrasting opinions are one of the keys to innovation.

If a CEO blocks out those opinions and the people who hold them, they could potentially lose out on the thing that will take their business to the next level!

It is a horrible habit for CEOs to block out contrasting opinions.  Instead of blocking them out, they should develop a conviction for their existing vision, but not marry themselves to it in order to leave some room for potential development.


Not Investing In Learning


Regardless of how long a CEO has been in their industry or how experienced they are in business in general, they should never stop learning!

Even former CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates, says he spends his vacations reading books for at least three hours per day.

Most CEOs cite a lack of time as the primary reason why they stop investing in their learning.

However, the day that a CEO steps learning is the day they stop growing.  And, because a business is a reflection of it's CEO, their business stops growing the moment that they stop learning.

Therefore, CEOs can’t afford not to learn!

CEOs should make it a habit to increase their competencies on a regular basis.  Specifically, they should work to increase their:

  1. Industry knowledge
  2. People skills/competencies
  3. Creative skills

First off, CEOs need to take the initiative to keep up with the happenings in their own industry.

For example, a CEO needs to consider technological innovations, changes to their competitive landscape, and whether or not their key target market is changing.

The goal is to keep the business in-touch with modern times while maintaining the integrity of the original vision.

Second, business is about people and relationships.  But, professional relationships are usually quite challenging to navigate.

Therefore, CEOs should study how to better understand and communicate with people, including their team members and clients.

Studying psychology and human behavior is usually a great place to start!

Third, CEOs should study how to channel their creative skills.

More likely than not, when their business was just a startup, the CEO’s creativity flowed like a river.  

However, many CEOs experience a decline in their creativity the further they go in business.  They often replace creativity with rigidness.

CEOs should study how to bring back that original creative spirit that set them on the entrepreneurial path to begin with.

These are just three examples of the many subjects that CEOs should be studying on a regular basis.

And, not only should CEOs make it a habit to invest their own time in learning, they should also set aside time for their team members to learn and grow.

Business success depends on the collective effort of the team.  CEOs should make the investment in learning so that their team can successfully navigate the business world course.


Trying to Repeat The Past


Nothing in the world ever happens the same way twice.  And, the same can be said for the business world.

Business environments are in a constant state of evolution.  What worked years, months, or even weeks ago, may not work the same way today.

Yesterday your business solution was in high demand, but today it’s old news.  People are no longer looking for that same solution anymore.

With that said, CEOs who try and repeat the past are setting their business up for failure.

Instead of being glued to the past, CEOs need to keep their eyes on the future while staying put in the present moment.

While CEOs do not try to repeat the past, that doesn’t mean that they don’t take what practices worked in the past and try to use them in the future.

When something good happens to their business, successful CEOs take the positive practices that worked well in that environment and apply them to a future environment. 

They don’t try to force the environment to be a certain way, but rather they shift their practices to fit the environment.

They are like clay constantly molding themselves to fit the current landscape.

Moreover, they don’t try to manipulate a situation to be what it was in the past.  Instead, they manipulate their practices to stay with the times of the environment.  

That doesn’t mean that they throw all of their good practices out the door.  It just means that they don’t try to force things that worked in the past to work today.

CEOs need to get out of their habitual comfort zone by leaving the past in the past!


Trying Too Hard to Mimic Competitors


Sometimes while navigating the business world, CEOs lose sight of themselves and what makes their company unique.

Especially when times get more challenging, it’s a common habit for them to look at what is trending and try to become that.

However, breaking the conformity habit should be a top priority for CEOs.

Conformation diminishes the vision of the business, and the vision is supposed to be central to what makes it unique in the marketplace.

The more like its competitors it tries to become, the more the business vision fades into the background.

Instead of conforming to what competitors are doing, successful CEOs assess what their target market demands and only make adjustments for that.  They don’t look at their competitors and tremble.  Instead, they look at what their target market needs and make the necessary changes for them.

They find a balance between being non-conformist while still meeting the demands of the market.

Successful CEOs don’t lose sight of what makes them different.  They break the habit of conformity, and stick to the thing that makes them unique.


Bad Habits Business Failure


Fearing Failure


Almost all of the bad CEO habits can be traced back to one single bad habit of the mind: fearing failure.

When a CEO gets in the habit of thinking fearful thoughts, their business falls apart from the inside out.

Fearing failure leads to:

  1. Intimidation
  2. Too much security
  3. Complacency

When a CEO is constantly thinking about failure, everything around them becomes intimidating.

What they once saw as a challenge is now an evil monster trying to take them down.

As a result, they stop taking risks in order to feel more secure in themselves.

Then, wanting to feel secure turns into complacency.  Complacency is what leads CEOs to let their standards slip.

Before they know it, they are falling off the edge of a cliff, all because they allowed their fear of failure to manifest into tangible business issues.

When a CEO’s mind habitually tells itself that it fears failure, it is inevitable that problems will arise.  The only way to avoid those problems is to get out of the habit of fearing failure.

And, the way to get out of the habit is to learn to replace those negative thoughts with positive ones.

Taking regular assessments of one’s mind is a good way to decipher whether or not fear is the dominating force.

If a CEO wants success, feeling failure is the worst bad habit of all to have.  While it is an invisible habit, it can wreak havoc on potential success.


What Are the Habits of CEOs Who Achieve Success?


So, with all of the top bad habits of CEOs on the table, what are the good habits of CEOs who achieve success in the business world?

In addition to the opposite of the above bad habits, the following 8 good habits are all common amongst the most successful business leaders in the world:

  1. They ask a lot of questions, and listen more than they speak
  2. They’re willing to take calculated risks in order to increase their impact
  3. They organize their time to get the most out of their days
  4. They always ask for help when they need it
  5. They take care of themselves, mentally, physically, and emotionally
  6. They genuinely engage with their clients on a regular basis
  7. They communicate effectively by never letting an email or phone call slip
  8. They create a life outside of work to maintain balance

These are only a few of the positive habits that make great CEOs great!

Ready to get out of your own way?  Implement each of these habits into your daily routine!  These small changes could be the difference between business failure and success.


Final Thoughts on the Bad Habits of CEOs


Notice that you have one of the 8 bad CEO habits?

No problem!

The good news is that each of these bad habits is very common and can be simply exchanged with a more positive one!

As sound as your business plan is, your personal habits as a CEO are everything.

Develop yourself, and you develop your business!

Bad habits are a dumb thing to stand in between you are your business success.  Clear the path ahead of your business by clearing out your bad habits for good!

Want to supercharge business growth?  Turn to your team members and get them on board with their own self-improvement!

A CEO can’t do it all on their own; get your team on board to achieve success even faster!

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