As the great Vince Lombardi famously said, “Great leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.” One is hard pressed to look into the leadership legacy and NOT see the name Marshall Goldsmith pop up.
As I read his graphic book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” I noticed a lot of these key characteristics (a nicer way of saying flaws) really resonated with me, and so it got me thinking: what better way than to share this message with the world – along with my personal Danielle spin, of course.
So here you have it. My SparkNotes® version (is that even still a thing? Apparently so.) of Marshall Goldsmith’s best selling book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” 20 habits that hold you back: what they mean and how to overcome them. (Special thanks to MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com for the titles and explanations.)
What to Stop to Move Forward
- Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations.
How it Hurts You: Not everything is a competition. Sometimes, losing can be the best for all parties involved.
Solution: Realize that winning isn’t everything, and you need to pick your battles. Letting someone else win not only gives them a boost of confidence, but strengthens your humility muscle as well.
- Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add your two cents to every discussion.
How it Hurts You: Involving yourself in others’ ideas can undermine their integrity and make them overall less committed to the task/project at hand.
Solution: When someone approaches you with an idea, say thank you, and let them run with it. Save your two cents for when you have a full dollar, then discuss.
- Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose your standards on them.
How it Hurts You: Many needless arguments result from ulterior perception and the passing of judgment without fact.
Solution: Especially in matters of asking for opinion, the only appropriate response is “Thank you.” The book said it best when it challenged readers to “Be human Switzerland and respond with complete neutrality.”
- Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us witty.
How it Hurts You: “People may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” While you may think your colorful remarks are simply in jest, others may not have the same perception, and perception equals reality.
Solution: Before opening your mouth to speak, ask yourself, “Will this help?” Will it help: the person you’re talking to? A third party not present? The business as a whole? If the answer is no, smile and say “Thank you.”
- Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers that secretly say to everyone “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
How it Hurts You: Overtime, these negatives add up to even larger problems. Much like #4, this undermines your relationships and causes people to be more reluctant to come to you about things in the future.
Solution: Be cognizant of your qualifiers. Stop feeling the need to defend yourself or anything else and just let loose. In the words of Elsa, “Let it go.”
- Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
How it Hurts You: Example from the book: Your assistant comes to you with some urgent news you were already informed of. Pointing out that you already knew this information is simply for the benefit of self and makes it appear as if this shared information is worthless.
Solution: Before you speak, ask yourself “Does anything I say add value?” We’re all about the value around these parts, and the same can be said of words. Don’t waste your breath if it’s not helping others. (See above #4)
- Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
How it Hurts You: The stigma of a loose cannon is something that stays with you your entire career. The book mentioned an old Buddhist parable about a fisherman boating through a channel when another vessel came his way. He shouted to the passing boat, urging them to steer clear, but the ship crashed right into the man’s boat. Once the chaos cleared, he realized the ship had been empty. Moral of the story: “There is never anyone in the other boat. We are always screaming at an empty vessel.”
Solution: Bite your tongue. “… If you’re silent, you can’t make an ass out of yourself, or an enemy out of someone else.”
- Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.
How it Hurts You: Similarly to #5, you’ll damage your relationships.
Solution: Modify your statement – and your thought process. In all honesty, your reason’s negativity is raining on other people’s parade, so stay silent and let them try. Encourage people to try. They may fail fast, but they’ll move forward.
- Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
How it Hurts You: You inspire fear rather than loyalty and others can’t help if they don’t know how.
Solution: Start sharing! Your hoarding may not be intentional, but make a point to make it more prominent. Daily briefs, stand-up sessions, whatever it takes to get things out in the open.
- Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to give praise and reward.
How it Hurts You: Imagine yourself in a position where you never receive a pat on the back. If work is constantly going unnoticed, you’ll feel as though what you’re doing is worthless. And that may result in bad work.
Solution: So you’re not touchy feely – it doesn’t have to be. Make a point to thank or praise one person each day. When you open your eyes to excellence, it will appear. Go a step further and give praise in front of their peers.
- Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contributions to any success.
How it Hurts You: Similarly to #10, if you’re not sharing the credit with your teammates, they may turn and start to resent you, and the work will suffer when that happens.
Solution: Every time you pat yourself on the back, make sure to thank one other person for aiding in the success. You’ll come to realize that even with successes you do deserve, there are always others who helped you get there.
- Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
How it Hurts You: You’re not truly progressing if you make excuses for your actions.
Solution: Next time you criticize yourself, saying “I suck at xyz” ask “why?” Then, do something about it.
- Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
How it Hurts You: You lose trust from your teammates, and being stuck in the past won’t allow progression into the future.
Solution: Reflect on the past and use it to understand. Realize that reflection does not create change.
- Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
How it Hurts You: When people start to see they’re not being treated the same as others, they’ll get discouraged. It may even result in losing a teammate.
Solution: Treat everyone as equals.
- Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
How it Hurts You: You appear selfish.
Solution: Don’t be afraid to say you’re sorry. Admitting to mistakes is even noble. People respect those who take responsibility for their own actions.
- Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect to colleagues.
How it Hurts You: People pick up on the disrespect and will learn to do the same to you. Nothing will ever be accomplished with this kind of communication system – the lack thereof.
Solution: Stop demonstrating impatience and actually pay attention. You might learn something!
- Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
How it Hurts You: Others become resentful and feel unappreciated, lowering morale and overall satisfaction.
Solution: SAY THANK YOU! It really is that simple.
- Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
How it Hurts You: People will be less likely to give you information in the future. You’ll be in the dark, and you’ll also lose the trust of your once loyal colleague.
Solution: When someone tells you something unpleasant, simply say “Thank you,” and move forward.
- Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
How it Hurts You: First off, you will be known as “the guy who throws everyone under the bus.” No one will want to work with you, let alone for you.
Solution: Accept that you are human and you make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to own up to them. “Infallibility is a myth. No one expects us to be perfect all the time.”
- An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.
How it Hurts You: Sometimes they aren’t actually virtues, and you’re just being a jerk. Similar to #15, you need to accountable for yourself. Get to the root and shape up or ship out.
Solution: Ask yourself “is this REALLY me, or is it just an excuse?” Act accordingly.
To sum it all up in one key takeaway:
If you’re not sure what to say, simply say “Thank you” and move on. An attitude of gratitude can go a long way and transform not only yourself but the world around you as well.