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Why do talented people not achieve the levels they should in their career? Cast’s perspective points to five key career derailers with three of the five involving trust issues -- interpersonal issues, difficulty building teams and not delivering on promises. He finds that high performers are authentic, have a tendency to seek to understand before being understood and display genuine empathy, which engenders mutual trust.


I’ve done about two years of research looking at what derails talented people. Why do talented people not achieve the level that they should in their careers? And I interviewed 60 people. I talked to headhunters; I talked to HR executives; I talked to derailed people; I talked to CEOs.

There are five key derailers that impede the progress of good people—and I’ll tell you what they are quickly—and three of them of the five involve trust, trust issues.

The first one is interpersonal issues led by arrogance, insensitivity, poor listening skills.

The second one is the person doesn’t manage and build their team well. They micromanage; they’re overbearing.

A third one is difficulty adapting to change. People are especially vulnerable to this one as they age and they don’t stay current on technological changes in the market, shifts in the environment, the strategic environment that they’re working in.

The fourth one is being nonstrategic or too narrow. In this case, the person focuses on getting good at one thing at the exclusion of getting a broad set of experiences.

And then the fifth reason people derail is—it sounds simple, but it’s not delivering on promises. Your word isn’t your bond.

BUMPER: 3 Career Derailers that Erode Trust

Of those five derailers I just mentioned, three of them involve trust issues.

First, on the interpersonal issues, if someone is insensitive and doesn’t listen, they just don’t engender trust in other people. They’re seen as being all about themselves, about their career, and not being someone that actually has the entire group in mind.

And so, that erodes trust.

The second one that is involved with trust is difficulty building leading teams. A lot of times the reason people derail when they have difficulty leading teams is because they try to do the work themselves and they don’t show the trust of the group to be able to do the work.

So, they’re always looking over their team’s shoulder; they’re always correcting work that doesn’t really need to be corrected. And the team is demotivated because they feel like they’re aren’t trusted by their boss to do their jobs.

And then this third area, third derailer that involves trust is obviously not delivering on promises. This is an insidious derailer.

Slowly but surely, somebody’s well-intentioned, but they don’t deliver what they say they were going to do when they said they were going to deliver it. And people just don’t want to work them over time, because they can’t be counted on.

BUMPER: How High-Performers Avoid Career Derailment

I also studied high-performing, high-potential people for probably nine months: What do they do differently? And I could find this information by looking at 360 feedback.

So, if you look at the feedback of your peers, of your subordinates, and of your superiors in looking at how you’re rated on different competencies, high performers have several traits that are different as it relates to trust and derailment.

One is, across the board, people that were considered high potential, high performers by their organizations had a sort of authenticity about them. They were not afraid to say what they saw and to be candid and forthright in their feedback. And that engenders trust with other people.

For example, I interviewed Dick Costolo, the former CEO of Twitter.

And he said, “The most important thing about my management style that I think has helped me in my career is I say it like I see it, so people know they don’t have to second guess what I’m trying to say because I will tell them.”

And sometimes it seems like that’s a tough strategy because you’re saying difficult things, but in the long run, it saves you a lot of grief.

The other recurring theme of high performers as it relates to trust is they had a strong tendency to seek to understand before being understood.

There was this constant theme when I talked to high-performing people or I talked to HR executives about their high performers that the high performers were empathetic, they were good listeners.

And by having this attitude of “others first,” they engendered trust. People saw that they genuinely wanted, this person wanted them to succeed and wanted to help them, and they developed a much more trusting relationship.

So, those were the two biggest ones: being authentic and candid, even when it’s difficult, and seeking to understand people instead of just trying to be understood.