The Business Transition Blog

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

I’m rereading what I think may be one of the most interesting and accessible books I’ve ever seen on leadership and personal development. It’s called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. Goldsmith is a professional coach to Fortune 500 top executives and his stories are both amusing and sharply insightful.

He starts out by listing the 20 habits that afflict many of the most successful leaders – individuals who have been quite successful in spite of the ways they treat others. While they obviously have many positive qualities, they have some habits that prevent them from becoming even better.

In an easy to read, almost conversational tone, Goldsmith cites the issue and then tells stories from his experience that illustrate the problem and how it affects others in a way that undermines the leader’s influence. I will have to admit to recognizing a number of them in myself, which I guess is the book’s intent.

For those of us who are transitioning our business, these are critical lessons to learn if we want others to support our goals, those that require the buy-in and assistance of our employees to complete successfully. This is an opportunity to become the leader we’ve always wanted to be, to mentor and support our employees in a way that sets a positive example and to create a win-win environment that benefits us all.

Many of the recommendations Goldsmith offers are pretty simple, but not easy. They tend to be hard-baked habits that are difficult to break but with some insight and awareness of the pay-off, the effort is clearly worth it. Some of the issues he includes are:

  • The need to win (too much)
  • The need to add too much value (your employee’s ideas can always be improved upon by you)
  • Passing judgement on feedback (even if we asked for it)
  • Making destructive or negative comments.

Goldsmith relies heavily on 360 feedback information prior to every coaching assignment so he already knows what everyone else thinks about the person being coached. The individual is usually completely blind to the offending habits that are getting in their way so they have to first be open to receiving honest feedback if they are going to improve.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who is wishing to be a better leader, to getting more support from their employees, to modeling better leadership behaviour and to those who are coaching leaders as well.

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