Or take the familiar phrase "results oriented," another business cliché that Reid has seen trip up, or stall out, middle managers' careers. "It's a matter of degree," he says. "Obviously you have to deliver results. But if you're too obsessed with what's happening in the short term, you tend to overlook the longer game and pass up opportunities to broaden your skills."
This is a particular hazard for people who are inclined to work very hard on a narrow area of expertise, Reid notes: "Ultimately you'll be evaluated, and promoted or not, on the basis of how many different skills you have, and whether you can see the big picture. If you go too deep in the weeds on any one thing, higher-ups won't be able to see you as a leader."
One more notion Reid says is often fatal to the advancement of the diligent and hardworking: "Accountability." In many companies now, he notes, this word has become "an excuse for managers to be harsh and demanding with coworkers, including peers who don't even work for them, and now don't want to collaborate with them, either."
What's far more likely to lead to a promotion, he says, is "helping other people succeed. If you hold people accountable by mentoring them and coaching them, you come across as a leader, not a taskmaster." It's another lesson Reid says he learned the hard way. "Early in my career I made the same mistake many young managers make, which is feeling that, in order to be taken seriously, I had to be tough and aggressive," he recalls. "But that doesn't work. In fact, it creates the exact wrong image."
Of course, every company and every manager is different, so it's impossible to say whether any of the notions Reid debunks explain why you keep getting passed over for bigger jobs. But, since you're "steamed" about it, why not try what Reid did and take a closer look at the people who are getting those promotions? They might be doing (or not doing) something that would work for you as well.
Talkback:What business clichés have you noticed are least relevant to people's real-world career prospects where you work? Leave a comment below.