Friday, February 16, 2007

Must Reading: What Got You Here Won't Get You There

One quick sign of how much I’ve gotten out of a management book is whether or not I’ve scrawled notes in the margins or within the front cover. My copy of Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, is filled with stars, arrows, and orders to "Reconsider this", "Incorporate that", and "Be sure to re-read this part!"

In short, his book is a powerful analysis of the harmful habits that can keep successful people from achieving even greater success and a detailed strategy for positive change.

Goldsmith, who is a legend in the field of executive coaching, identifies twenty transactional flaws that can sabotage careers. For example:

Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.

Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.

Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However.”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”

An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

Goldsmith notes: Study the twenty annoying habits and you’ll see that at least half of them are rooted in information compulsion. When we add value, or pass judgment, or make destructive comments, or announce that we “already knew that,” or explain “why that won’t work” we are compulsively sharing information. We’re telling people something they don’t know. We’re convinced that we’re making people smarter or inspiring them to do better, when we’re more likely to achieve the opposite effect. Likewise, when we fail to give recognition, or claim credit we don’t deserve, or refuse to apologize, or don’t express our gratitude, we are withholding information.

Goldsmith’s amiable and gentle tone – his Buddhism comes through at various points – makes it all the more powerful when he occasionally bops you in the head with a hard truth. (Read his description of “the dream” and tell me that it doesn’t apply to you.)

Five stars out of five stars.


Buy it. Read it. Re-read it.

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