Book Notes : What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The book presents 20 habits which cause issues when people progress up the career ladder – these are all on the soft skills as the technical (e.g. accounting) skills have to be there for people to have got to this level to start with.  People start from the position of:

  1. I have succeeded to get to where I am (past)
  2. I can succeed, because I believe in myself (present)
  3. I will succeed (future)
  4. I choose to succeed, so I am committed to do this

Because of these preconceptions we believe that we are better than we are and that we feel we can succeed further by repeating what we have already done.

The workplace habits which we have to break are:

  1. Winning too much – The need to win at all cost and in all situations : when it matters, when it does not and when it’s totally beside the point
  2. Adding too much value – The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion
  3. Passing judgement – the need to judge people and impose our standards on them
  4. Making destructive comments – the needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us sound smart and witty
  5. Starting with “No”, “But”, or “however” – the overuse of these negative qualifiers wich secretly say to everyone “I’m right and your wrong”
  6. Telling the world how smart you are – the need to show people we are smarter than they are
  7. Speaking when angry – using emotional volatility as a management tool
  8. Negativity, or “let me explain why that won’t work” – the need to share our negative thoughts even when not asked
  9. Withholding information – the refusal to share information in order to maintain our advantage over others
  10. Failing to give proper recognition – the inability to praise and reward
  11. Claiming credit when we don’t deserve it – the most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success
  12. Making excuses – the need to reposition our annoying behaviours as a permanent fixture so people excuse it
  13. Clinging to the past – the need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from the past; a subset of blaming everyone else
  14. Playing favorites – failing to see that we are treating some people unfairly
  15. Refusing to express regret – the inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong or recognise how our actions affect others
  16. Not listening – the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect from colleagues
  17. Failing to express gratitude – the most basic form of bad manners
  18. Punishing the messenger – the misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually trying to help us
  19. Passing the buck – the need to blame everyone but ourselves
  20. An excessive need to be “me” – exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.
  21. Goal obsession lead cheating – being focused on the goal is positive but if the goal is too tough and we are too focused then this can cause less than ethical things to happen such as lying or cheating to appear to achieve the goal

The challenge is that quite a lot of people don’t want to hear feedback and secondly lots of people don’t want to give it.  For successful people proving people are wrong is not going to work in helping them change.  Depersonalising to talk about the task not the person works but some people are so liked to their task that they can’t separate the two.

For the people who give feedback they need to make a commitment too, if they don’t commit to them then don’t include them in giving feedback.

  1. Let go of the past – you can’t change it now it’s happened
  2. Tell the truth – lying won’t help things get better
  3. Be supportive and helpful – not cynical or negative
  4. Pick something to improve yourself – so everyone is focused more on improvement than judging

Receiving feedback just reply with “Thank you”, don’t criticise, object etc this will stop you getting any more feedback in the future.

For executives the asked questions are, does the executive…

  • Clearly communicate a vision
  • Treat people with respect
  • Solicit contrary opinions
  • Encourage other people’s ideas
  • Listen to other people in meetings

The reason feedback is critical is because:

  • It is a whole lot easier for you to see flaws in other people than it is to see flaws in yourself
  • Problems we are aware of we might be able to deny to ourselves but they may be very obvious to people who are observing them

Feedback is not just written or verbal, small signs (such as people leaving a room etc) are also clear feedback if consistent that we should used to help us correct our actions. 

  1. Make a list of casual remarks made about you
  2. Watch how people are “with the sound off”
  3. Repeat complete the sentence e.g. “If I get in shape …” can drill down “If I get in shape will live longer”, “If I get in shape feel better”, “If I get in shape be a better role model for my children”
  4. Listen to your self-aggrandizing remarks.  “I’m no expert on” aka this person feels like an expert on. “I’m always on time” someone who is never on time.  Psychologically the things people boast about can actually be their own weakness.
  5. Look homeward.  Peoples problems rarely just exist at work they tend to exist at home too.

To move forward

  1. Appologise for your mistakes, this means people know you have heard them and ask them to help you improve
  2. Advertise, it’s the only way for people to see you changing
  3. Listen, don’t interrupt, don’t finish someone else’s sentence, don’t say “I knew that”, don’t agree just say “Thank you”, don’t use “no” “but” or “however”, don’t be distracted, ask intelligent questions, eliminate striving to impress the other person
  4. Thank people
  5. Follow up – regularly measure how you are progressing towards the change you want to make
  6. Feedforward – ask someone for two things which would move you in the direction you want to go.  Such as “I want to be a better listener” two suggestions someone might make are “focus your attention on the other person” and “don’t interrupt”

Not everything can be changed this way, such as doing this process will not make you better at maths.  Coaching and feedback only work with people who want to change, if people don’t then it is just a waste of everyone’s time and effort with no benefit.

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