What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become More Successful

Physical Copy:


By: Marshall Goldsmith

Rating: B

I had heard of this one for a while and put it on my list to get to BUT when I was recommended this book by 3 different people as their favorite book in a matter of a couple of weeks, I decided to move it up to the front of the line.

The concept of the book is that some of the behaviors that enable people to become successful can actually keep them from taking the next step to becoming more successful or fulfilled. The book dives into what those behaviors typically are and what to do about them.

“Twenty Bad Workplace Habits”

These are the habits that you need to stop if you want to take your business to the next level:

  1. “Winning too much” – The all-consuming need to win, even when winning doesn’t matter. 
  1. “Adding too much value” – When someone comes to you with an idea and you immediately feel the need to improve it, you are guilty of adding too much value. 
  1. “Passing judgment” – Offering an opinion in a business setting is okay. But asking people for their opinion and then making a comment about it is not okay. 
  1. “Making destructive comments” – Many successful people believe they are straight-shooters and pride themselves on their candor. But making critical comments or sarcastic remarks is never constructive. 
  1. “Starting with ‘no,’ ‘but’ or ‘however'” – No matter how well intentioned you are, when you listen to an idea, suggestion or comment, and begin your reply with “no,” “but” or “however,” you are communicating that you know better.
  1. “Telling the world how smart [you] are” – Many leaders can’t resist letting everyone know just how smart they are. If you use phrases such as, “I already knew that,” you insult and alienate people, which is not very smart. Simply say, “Thank you.”
  1. “Speaking when angry” – The problem with losing your temper at work is that you also lose control. 
  1. “Negativity,” or “Let me explain why that won’t work” – Some people’s first response to any input is to point out that it won’t work and why. If your first response is always negative, people will be reluctant to present you with new ideas.
  1. “Withholding information” – Rather than giving you an advantage, this habit only breeds mistrust.
  1. “Failing to give proper recognition” – If you want to foster resentment among your co-workers, failing to give proper recognition will do just that. 
  1. “Claiming credit that [you] don’t deserve” – The only thing worse than withholding recognition is claiming the credit for someone else’s work. 
  1. “Making excuses” – Excuses are not acceptable. They come in two categories: “blunt and subtle.” A blunt excuse is, “Sorry I’m late; I got caught in traffic.” A subtle excuse is when you blame some inherent failing like, “I’m bad at returning phone calls.” Ask yourself why you have such failings, and then do something about them.
  1. “Clinging to the past” – This is an offshoot of the general tendency to place blame, and it stems from assigning the fault for mistakes to someone or some event that happened years ago. It reflects a lack of accountability.
  1. “Playing favorites” – When an employee gets the boss’s approval based on something other than performance, favoritism is often the cause.
  1. “Refusing to express regret” – Apologizing is very difficult for successful people because it requires them to admit they were wrong. However, when you do apologize, you enable people to release ill feelings from the past and forge a new relationship in the future.
  1. “Not listening” – This rude habit sends many negative messages such as, “I don’t care enough to pay attention” or, “Stop wasting my valuable time.” 
  1. “Failing to express gratitude” – Your automatic response to any suggestion should be, “Thank you.” 
  1. “Punishing the messenger” – This is responding in anger when someone tells you something you don’t want to hear. Again, the best response is, “Thank you.”
  1. “Passing the buck” – Not accepting blame is the flip side of taking credit for other people’s accomplishments. And, it is just as destructive.
  1. “An excessive need to be ‘me'” – When you excuse negative or destructive behavior with this attitude, it keeps you from deciding to change.

7-Step Method for Changing for the Better

The steps to correct any of the above bad habits are: 

  1. Gather feedback. Ask for honest feedback on your weaknesses from those you trust at work and at home.
  1. Apologize. When you apologize, say the words, “I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.” Then say nothing else. Do not qualify your behavior or make excuses for your actions.
  1. Advertise your apology and intent to change over and over to those around you. This personal advertising helps you change other people’s perceptions of your behavior and it holds you accountable.
  1. Listen. Listen attentively and make the person you are listening to feel like the most important person in the room. 
  1. Thanking. Express gratitude, begin by simply saying, “Thank you.” List the 25 people who have helped you the most in your life. Now, write a thank-you note to each of them.
  1. Follow Up. If you are undergoing a change, you need to track your on-going progress to ensure you are sticking to your change.
  1. Feedforward. A four-step process. 
    1. Choose a behavior you would like to change. 
    2. Have a one-on-one conversation with someone to explain your desire for making this change. 
    3. Ask that person for two suggestions about how you can make the change. 
    4. Accept these suggestions as feedforward ideas you will implement. 

Next Steps:

Find 3 people you trust to give you honest feedback and ask them to describe your shortcomings at the office and at home.

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