Book Summaries

Book Summary: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by  Marshall Goldsmith.

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In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful!, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith identifies fundamental problems that often come with success–and offers ways to attack these problems. He outlines twenty habits commonly found in the corporate environment and provides a systematic approach to helping you achieve a positive change in behaviour.

The difference between success that happens because of our behavior and the success that comes in spite of our behavior

The issues Goldsmith points out are not life-threatening diseases (although ignored for too long they can destroy a career). They’re not deep-seated neuroses that require years of therapy or tons of medication to erase. More often than not, they are simple behavioral tics—bad habits that we repeat dozens of times a day in the workplace—which can be cured by (a) pointing them out, (b) showing the havoc they cause among the people surrounding us, and (c) demonstrating that with a slight behavioral tweak we can achieve a much more appealing effect.

Interpersonal behavior  is the difference-maker between being great and near-great, between getting the gold and settling for the bronze. (The higher  you go, the more your “issues” are behavioral.)

From Here to There

In the arc of what can be a long successful career, you will always be in transit from “here” to “there.”

Here can be a great place. If you’re successful, here is exactly the kind of place you want to be. Here is a place where you can be the CEO of a thriving company. Here is a place where you can be the editor of one of America’s top magazines. Here is a place where you can be an in-demand financial manager.

But here is also a place where you can be a success in spite of some gaps in your behavior or personal makeup. That’s why you want to go “there.” There can be a better place.

There is a place where you can be a CEO who is viewed as a great leader because he doesn’t get in the way of his people. There is a place where you can be a great editor who builds a strong team and treats all of her direct reports with respect. There is a place where you can be a financial pro who listens well and delivers the message that he cares more about his clients’ goals than his own needs.

“You are here. You can get there. But you have to understand that what got you here won’t get you there”

The Paradox of Success

Four key beliefs help us become successful. Each can make it tough for us to change. And that’s the paradox of success: These beliefs that carried us here may be holding us back in our quest to go there.

Belief 1: I Have Succeeded

“To successful people, past is always prologue—and the past is always rose-colored.”

Successful people have one idea coursing silently through their veins and brains all day. It’s a mantra that goes like this:

I have succeeded. I have succeeded. I have succeeded.” It’s their way of telling themselves that they have the skills and talent to win and keep winning. Whether or not they actually voice it inside their heads, this is what successful people are telling themselves.

This “I have succeeded” belief, positive as it is most times, only becomes an obstacle when behavioral change is needed.

Successful people believe that they have the capability within themselves to make desirable things happen. It’s not quite like a carnival magic act where the mentalist moves objects on a table with his mind or bends steel. But it’s close. Successful people literally believe that through sheer force of personality or talent or brainpower, they can steer a situation in their direction.

Belief 3: I Will Succeed

 This is another way of saying, “I have the motivation to succeed. If “I have succeeded” refers to the past, and “I can succeed” to the present, then “I will succeed” refers to the future. Successful people have an unflappable optimism. This “I will succeed” belief can sabotage our chances for success when it’s time for us to change behavior.

Belief 4: I Choose to Succeed

Successful people believe that they are doing what they choose to do, because they choose to do it. They have a high need for self-determination. The more successful a person is, the more likely this is to be true. When we do what we choose to do, we are committed. When we do what we have to do, we are compliant.

“Successful people have a unique distaste for feeling controlled or manipulated.”

One of the greatest mistakes of successful people is the assumption, “I behave this way, and I achieve results. Therefore, I must be achieving results because I behave this way.

The Natural Law of Self-Interest

People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.

What’s in it for me?

In order for me to get you to do what I want, I have to prove that doing so will benefit you in someway, immediately or somewhere down the road. This is natural law. Every choice, big or small, is a risk-reward decision where your bottom-line thinking is, “What’s in it for me?”

 The Twenty Habits: That Hold You Back from the Top

1. Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations—when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it’s totally beside the point. 

 2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion. 

3. Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them. 

 4. Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.

5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.” 

6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are. 

“Being smart turns people on. Announcing how smart you are turns them off.”

 7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool. 

 8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked. 

9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others. 

 10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to praise and reward. 

 11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success. 

12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.

13. 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. 

14. Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly. 

15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others. 

16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues. 

17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners. 

18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us. 

19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves. 

20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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