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What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There

Author: Marshall Goldsmith 2007

Marshall Goldsmith, author of this New York Times Bestseller, is considered to be one of greatest leadership coaches and teachers of all times. Goldsmith provides insight into the fundamental problem that comes with success for global leaders today and offers ways to address them. He describes the 20 bad habits or “transactional flaws” leaders have, how they show up in the workplace and ways to attack these problems. Goldsmith believes leaders are mostly unaware of their behavior and “delude themselves” into thinking they are better than they actually are.  Often there is one characteristic that made them successful that is now a small “flaw”. These flaws are called “minor workplace foibles” and can sabotage a leader’s whole career. There is one short chapter devoted to each one of the “20 habits”. A few examples of these habits include: passing judgement, making destructive comments, goal obsession and passing the buck. Goldsmith provides systematic approaches to help the reader achieve positive change in the 20 habits.
 Viewing workplace problems as “habits” makes behavior change appear more feasible. As a leadership coach, methods that are simple are often the most effective. The biggest challenge in coaching leaders is getting and keeping their attention on their professional development goals. Goldsmith suggests leaders take a serious look at what they can “stop doing” instead of adding “new” leadership behaviors to their portfolio. He cites an example such as stopping drumming your fingers (or stop saying or thinking “next”) when someone is talking versus learning how to be a great listener. Developing the skill of listening is a big change that includes multiple skills while stopping saying “next” in conversations with others appears basic and simple to learn. 
 I like the idea of stopping “bad habits” for behavior change and think this may easier to grasp for leaders who are just too busy to devote time to their professional development. Goldsmith’s strategies for change are well designed and include such titles as feedback, listening, apologizing and thanking. Goldsmith writes as if he is conversing real time with his readers. His writing is colorful and conversational with colorful stories and rich experiences from his global coaching experiences.  While written for those who work with and help leaders, this is a good read for any professional wanting to go “there” or get better.