13 signs that You Are A Business Coward

Recruiters and hiring managers have to ensure they select candidates with leadership qualities, talent and strong team traits, amongst other things.

An important final step of the interviewing and recruiting process is the reference check.


It is Friday the 13th as I am writing this blog post and a few of the guys around me talk about the potential implications of that date. This belief coupled with a comment from Barry Morris on one of my most recent blog posts about LinkedIn Pet Hates gave me the inspiration for this blog post. I get the impression that Barry could spot a Professional Business Coward miles away.


Here is the list of ‘cowardly’ traits you should definitely not display if you are planning to pass a potential reference check.

  1. You are the ‘Mister LinkedIn Anonymous or Mister Email BCC’.

    You check out people in LinkedIn with your profile setting set at Anonymous and you regularly send important e-mails to a select group of BCC recipients. This is one of the worst and most cowardly leadership traits. I believe that you should be open and always try your best to say what you think, do what you say and be what you do. People follow people they trust and believe in. If you regularly miss one of the steps mentioned above then you most certainly display a characteristic of being a professional coward.

  2. You solve everyone’s problems. 

    There is really not much to explain about this one. I believe that constantly solving other people problems will cost you your most valuable good – Your Time!  Manage your anxiety and have a little faith in others. Your co-workers and staff will improve significantly and you’ll be much happier.

  3. You’re never ‘quite ready’.

    Your leadership style tends to involve spending too much time getting ready to get ready. Your toolkit is full of workshops, committees, meetings and protocol. You don’t want to make mistakes. You avoid the moment of truth by categorically getting ready. Should you prepare? Sure! Do your research? Certainly. But stop hiding behind the “we aren’t quite ready” excuse. Be decisive and just do it—even if conditions aren’t perfect.

  4. You’re a micro manager. 

    You think accountability means constantly hovering over your co-workers or employees to ensure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, in the way you think they should be doing it. This is not Leadership. I believe that it’s really simple. Do your job and let others do theirs, or get rid of incompetent employees and replace them with people who can get the job done.

  5. You’re an easy way out kind of person. 

    You avoid decisive action or decisions in general because it makes you uncomfortable. You tend to rationalise and explain why you didn’t do what you really needed to do.  For you, it’s much easier to avoid taking action (at least in the short term), but it’s also a sure trait that signals mediocrity and stagnation.

  6. You are a pretender. 

    You pretend you don’t know about a high performer who is behaving badly. You pretend that your key client isn’t crushing your employee morale. Maybe you even pretend you don’t know it’s time for you to move on. All of this pretending allows you to avoid the pain and feel good in the short term, but it exacts a heavy price over time.

  7. You are the Black & White guy.

    You regularly struggle to analyse situations. You don’t know how to balance your head and your gut. It takes both facts and intuition to analyse situations effectively. Step outside your comfort zone when it’s time to make decisions.
    The perception of your leadership will be enhanced, the performance of your team will improve, and people will likely trust you more if you lead with both your head and your gut.

  8. You suffer from ‘shiny ball’ syndrome. 

    Most of us don’t want to say no to distractions because what we should be focusing on may be difficult. ‘Shiny Ball’ syndrome can be managed but it requires real courage and discipline to stay focused and on task. If we can’t achieve focus and manage what’s expected of us, we’ll drown in our own chaos. We’ll fail to do the important things and we’ll fail as leaders.

  9. You regularly blame others.

    You are one of these energy-draining, counterproductive people who deal with difficult circumstances via blame. You are not the one to take action to change your circumstances because it’s always someone else’s problem. Real leaders are driven by the importance of removing excuses and blame from themselves and their organisations.

  10. You ignore what’s causing ‘parachute popping’ in your company.

    Maybe it’s a policy, a person, or a mindset that’s holding you or your team back from optimal performance. Ask yourself now: what am I doing, or not doing, that is causing people to ‘pop’ (i.e. deploy) their parachutes? Try to be courageous and assist in removing all the obstacles that you can.  Work around the guys who always have parachutes strapped to their backs so that you can stay productive, directed and focused.

  11. You are a ‘fact listener’ who isn’t open to discovery.

    This tendency is so strong that it blinds you from seeing alternatives, opportunities or contrary evidence. If you don’t listen to the “whole” information vs. just the facts as you know them, you won’t see other possibilities.

  12. You reward being busy vs. delivering results. 

    You worry about upsetting your team or employees, so you don’t set the right expectations. True leaders lay out what’s expected in the most effective way possible and are clear about the consequences of not meeting them.

  13. You clutter is obstructing your view.

    You’re the type who has more meetings, more calls, more emails to read and send, and more of everything else to obsess over. Cluttered mindsets and work styles are clear signs of fear and/or disorganisation. Let go and remove some of that clutter so you can free up the time to do what truly inspires and moves you. Try it! You’ll realise this may be the best reason of all to confront your hidden fears and vanquish your inner professional coward.

Recruiters and hiring managers don’t just hire what you present in your CV or at the job Interview. They check out who you are via reference and social media checks, seeking feedback to assess your future potential.  Work on your leadership skills every day and when you start your job search remember to hunt wisely!