What got you here won’t get you there

Hello everyone,

It’s been 3 weeks since my last leadership blog, so I thought I would get one off just before Christmas. The topic for this blog is based off a book by Marshall Goldsmith titled “What got you here Won’t get you there”.

This book talks about why the higher you go in an organization, the more your problems are behavioral. TAKE NOTE: If you have aspirations to move into management or senior leadership, this book WILL provide some valuable insights for your journey. I have learned and experienced this concept recently and, more importantly, I realized that awareness is the first step to changing my behavior. This book talks about the habits that got you into management might need to significantly change, if you are to succeed in a senior leadership position. My executive coach refers to that as “bumping my head against the glass ceiling.” This is an interesting metaphor. The glass ceiling is perceived as easy to crack, but as you get there, it is more difficult than I ever imagined…….

The book identifies 20 habits that hold you back from reaching the top. Here are some of the 20 habits that resonated with me and the following are my examples from my real life journey:

Habit #1: Winning too much

  • I admit. I love to win. I blame this habit on my competitive sports upbringing. There is a term called “zero gain”. This concept talks about someone always being a winner. Take the difference between your score and your opponents score and it cannot =ZERO. All sports are setup like this, and in life we are also programmed to drive towards winning. We equate winning with success. We’re not satisfied with a tie which, of course, is why “overtime” exists. I am guilty of driving to win as most of us are. The problem is that when there is a winner, there is also a loser. To a large extent, my current role as a member of the executive management team is the result of my ability to “win.” However, the realization I have made, is that winning cannot come at the expense of my team. I know I need them on my side – possibly more than they need me!

Habit #2: Adding too much value

  • Throughout my career, I have often found myself dominating conversations. Although it’s not something I’m necessarily proud of, I believe it happens because I have the ability to add value to a conversation. Today, I’m learning to be patient and encourage others to add value. The higher I go up the corporate ladder, the more I need to be a cheer leader instead of the team captain. This is a huge behavioral change I’m working on.

Habit #5: Starting with “no”, “But”, or “However”

  • I was a great debater when I was younger. Give me any side of the equation and I can provide a pretty competent rebuttal to any argument. This habit can become very destructive even with the best intentions in mind. I have had people send me proposals and ask for my help. Sometimes though, my ability to find flaws can be too overwhelming for the person I’m trying to help. Do I really need to point out the 50 things that can be improved? Do I need to point out even 10 or 3 for that matter? Why is it so important for me to defend my position on things? Hmmm… this is a tough one.

Habit #6: Telling the world how smart we are

  • The book says that this is a variation of habit #1. I have been accused of over analyzing situations. I have also been told I have a strong ability to see the bigger picture. It’s like a game of chess – analyzing your current situation and looking multiple moves ahead.  Anyone, who has played  chess knows the ability to see multiple moves ahead can give you an advantage in that game. I have a tendency to talk about my past experiences to give credibility to my opinions and this can come across as a “know it all” or a perception that “I am smarter than others”. That, I assure you is not my intent, but results are still less than desirable.

Habit #8: Negativity, or “Let me Explain Why that Won’t work

  • Five years ago I had a co-worker say to me that they were not going to bother spending much time on creating a document for me. Thinking back, I believe it was some kind of workflow process document. My co-workers comment was essentially, “Andy, I know you’re just going to mark it all up anyways. So I’ll just wait until you do that and then I’ll tweak it from there”. Wow. I messed up that situation royally. Today, I strive to be less negative or as I prefer to say less “critical”.

Habit #16: Not listening

  • I was reminded of this lesson again today. How many times have we walked out of meetings thinking one thing when others are thinking something else? The perception of someone not listening can create serious tension. Today, I have made a resolution to “re-cast” or “re-state” what I hear people saying in my own words to emphasize that “yes, I listened – yes, I heard you.” This will provide 2 benefits. Firstly, it will confirm to others that I am listening (or at least attempting to listen!) and secondly, it allows the other person(s) to clarify my understanding so that the messages do not get “transformed”.

So what do we (I) do about this awareness:

  1. Get Feedback — Listen, solicit feedback from a diverse group of people on a monthly basis, observe other people’s
  2. Advertise — You are all witnesses to me advertising my journey on behavioral change. I may take longer in some areas and I may fall back into some of these habits, but I will grow!
  3. Listen — Think before speaking, actively listen and re-state what we hear, and above all….. ask more questions instead of providing answers only.
  4. Express Gratitude — I’m learning to say thank you more often. Management/Leadership by definition cannot be done SOLO.
  5. Follow-up — I will check in with my peers, managers, and even my family on my progress towards these habits.

Someone once told me “let’s stop steering the ship by looking at the wake, but rather by looking at the horizon”. This statement has always provide me with the drive to further my career. This book, however, has reminded me that life needs to be more about finding true happiness. It’s about the people I surround myself with (co-workers, friends, and family). It’s about being in an environment that we can collaborate as a team in. And it’s about being in a place where I can follow my dreams and a place that allows me to pursue what I really want in life.

So, now my view has evolved to a new version of the wise statement above: I choose NOT to look ahead any more from where I am today. I choose to stay in the present moment and work on being the best person I can be right now. When I feel the need to look at the horizon or analyze the past, I will choose to look back (not from where I am today) but from the point in the future when I’m old –  a future point in my life that I hope to live. I want my life to be about making positive changes in the world and making a positive impact on others. This is the legacy I want to leave behind when I die.

Thank you Marshall Goldsmith for giving me this new perspective! And thank you to my followers for reading this blog. Whatever your religion is, I wish you the happiest holiday season!

As usual, if you have found this valuable, please share this blog with others and register for email updates!

Leadership Quote of the Month:

If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, or this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down. – Mary Pickford

Have an awesome day and make a difference!
– Andy

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