Getting To The Next Level

At some point in your career you have mastered the technicalities of your job (IT knowledge, programming, sales, etc.).  To continue moving forward, it’s critical that you learn how to effectively lead, work with, and motivate those in your chain of command.

Yet how many of us know of bosses that do just the opposite?

During a long drive I’ve recently listened to a very helpful book written by Marshall Goldsmith, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”  Goldsmith is a well-known executive coach that has worked with more than 80 of the world’s top corporations.  He has a PHD from UCLA, is on the faculty of Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School, and the American Management Association named him one of 50 great thinkers and business leaders who have impacted the field of management.

The book essentially explains how successful people become more successful.  The basic premise is that many people are held back form achieving the next level of success in their careers by annoying habits and poor interaction skills or leadership skills.  The people may be unaware of these poor habits, or they may be known and simply accepted as “my personal style” and “part of my package.”  Of course the scary part is that these “people” are you and me.

Goldsmith starts out the book by listing twenty habits that can limit your career growth.

1. Need to win at all costs.
2. Desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
3. Need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
4. Needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us sound witty and wise.
5. Overuse of “No,” “But” or “However.”
6. Need to show people we are smarter than they think we are.
7. Use of emotional volatility as a management tool.
8. Need to share our negative thoughts, even if not asked.
9. Refusal to share information in order to exert an advantage.
10. Inability to praise and reward.
11. Annoying way in which we overestimate our contribution to any success.
12. Need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
13. Need to deflect blame from ourselves and onto events and people from our past.
14. Failure to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
15. Inability to take responsibility for our actions.
16. Act of not listening.
17. Failure to express gratitude.
18. Need to attack the innocent, even though they are usually only trying to help us.
19. Need to blame anyone but ourselves.
20. Excessive need to be “me.”
21. Goal obsession at the expense of a larger mission.

There are probably not many never-been-heard-before items on the list.  But the author does a great job of bringing each item alive through the use of often colorful illustrations.  For example, have you ever had a subordinate come to you with a great idea? Your eyes light up and you exclaim “Brilliant!” You praise her effusively and suggest ways in which that idea could be made even better. In your mind you are being a supportive boss. Then you sit back and wait for her to follow through. But somehow she doesn’t. The excitement and passion are simply not there. You chalk her down as “Lacks implementation effectiveness” and never even consider your own role in this failure.

What you have done is “added too much value”. Your comment of “brilliant” is a judgment and your suggestions for improvement are actually a takeover of her idea. Maybe you improved her original idea by 10% but you reduced her commitment by 50% or more. She no longer feels pride of ownership and this is what is reflected in the lackluster follow on performance.

I have to admit I found myself nodding my head at times with a “guilty as charged” as I listened to his explanation of each item.

The latter chapters of the book explain how we can change for the better.  Goldsmith’s measurable, actionable advice on feedback, apologizing, listening, and thanking are really valuable, and not just on the work stage.  You will want to study the book carefully, because instinctively you’ll know that this could be a real career-changer for you. In fact, it could be a real life-changer because the same advice is very valuable on the home front.

I’d recommend giving the book a read or a listen.  Even if you’re a saint (you aren’t) and know everything in the book (you don’t) you’ll benefit from a good behavior refresher on how to properly treat bosses, pears, and subordinates in your organization.

I welcome your comments,
Mike Brannan