Career Watch: Conquering Bad Work Habits

Mark Weinstein, author of Habitually Great: Master Your Habits, Own Your Destiny, talks about the ways our bad work habits limit our careers. Plus, stats on Silicon Valley's dominance of the high-tech industry.

The Valley Still Rules

When it comes to the breadth and scope of economic activity that it creates through technological innovation, Silicon Valley remains the gold standard among North American metropolitan areas.

The Milken Institute report that includes the rankings and scores listed here offers a sense of the Valley's dominance of the high-tech industry. Although Silicon Valley's share of total North American high-tech wages (5.69%) isn't eye-popping, you can't help but be impressed by some other figures: share of North American wages for computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing (28.43%) and for semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing (21.48%), and total high-tech employment (244,040). That figure for total high-tech employment is surpassed by those of three other U.S. metropolitan areas (New York, Los Angeles and Washington), but they all have much larger populations. For perspective, keep in mind that the San Jose metropolitan area's total population was estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to be just 1.8 million in 2008.

Speaking of the Census Bureau, its definitions for metro areas were used in this list. It's worth noting that Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, Mass., is only a portion of the larger Boston metro area and does not include Boston itself.

2007 Rank 2003 Rank Metro Area Total High-Tech Score

1 1 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. 100

2 3 Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. 46.4

3 2 Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, Mass. 45.2

4 5 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va. 41.8

5 4 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. 40.2

6 6 Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas 21.8

7 7 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif. 19.3

8 11 Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif. 17.7

9 9 New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J. 16.8

10 8 San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif. 16.1

Source: "North America's High-Tech Economy: The Geography of Knowledge-Based Industries," a Milken Institute research report, June 2009

Q&A: Mark F. Weinstein

The author of Habitually Great: Master Your Habits, Own Your Destiny talks about the ways our bad work habits limit us.

Computerworld:What are some of the bad work habits that can hold people back in tough times?

Weinstein: There are many, and in these challenging times, they are often exacerbated. Right now, people and organizations are spending too much time feeling distressed—about their careers, the economy, their leadership, everything. The distress habit perpetuates a negative focus that preempts critical thinking or actions that focus on a brighter future. It leads executives to make emotional, impulsive decisions. Making hasty cutbacks in IT infrastructure for short-term savings right now is one example; such cuts may perpetuate the decline of a company that would otherwise have been poised to emerge as a leader in the recovery.

How does one go about breaking bad work habits?

Any time you feel negative—when you are being reactive, triggered, fearful, manipulative or controlling—a limiting habit is vying for control. Breaking bad habits requires patience and cognitive awareness. As my book makes clear, there is no 30-second magic bullet to breaking habits. You must be determined, patient and intentional.

How often have you seen your New Year's resolutions wither on the vine?

New Year's resolutions are born from inspiration, not discipline. Their aim is virtuous: to change, break or create a habit. The pathway to their fulfillment runs straight into the walls of your limiting habits, in spite of your inspired in-the-moment commitment and clarity of intent.

Here's why: Inspiration does not lead to sustained action. But discipline leads to inspiration. Think back to a time or a success that has felt really good. You were inspired! But your discipline led to your inspiration, and that is the beauty of the equation. The first step in breaking a bad habit is to identify the actions you want to take and then, with your discipline habit, schedule the actions and follow through; no distractions allowed!

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What is the single best good habit to develop if one wants a more fulfilling career?

The teamwork habit is the key to happiness and fulfillment. Every day, you participate in teams, in your personal relationships and with co-workers, vendors, customers and staff. Teamwork catapults your aspirations and accelerates the achievements and joyful circumstances you desire. The foundation of teamwork is trust, starting with trusting that people you know are capable, smart, effective human beings, just like you. Recognize the strengths of others, and acknowledge and ask for assistance in the areas where you are uncertain or weak, as well as the areas where you can just use some help. Build great teams and you will climb the highest peaks, individually and with your teammates.

Page compiled by Jamie Eckle.

This story, "Career Watch: Conquering Bad Work Habits" was originally published by Computerworld.

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