In the author’s experience, people only change their ways when what they truly value is threatened. It’s in our nature. It’s the law. People will do something, including changing their behaviour, only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
Goldsmith, an executive coach, argues in his book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”, that success delusion, holds most of us back.
- Overestimate our contribution to a project.
- Take credit, partial or complete, for successes that belong to others.
- Have an elevated opinion of our professional skills and our standing among our peers.
- Ignore the failures and time-consuming dead-ends we create.
- Exaggerate our (my) projects’ impact on net profits by discounting the real and hidden costs built into them.
What to stop
All of these flaws are borne out of success, yet here is where the book becomes interesting. Unlike others, Goldsmith does not limit himself to teaching us what to do. He goes the next step. He teaches us what to stop. He does not address flaws of skill, intelligence or personality. He addresses challenges in interpersonal behaviour, those egregious everyday annoyances that make your workplace more noxious that it needs to be. They are:
- 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.
- Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
- Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
- Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
- Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
- Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
- Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
- Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.
- Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
- Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to praise and reward.
- Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
- Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behaviour as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
- 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.
- Playing favourites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
- Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
- Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
- Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
- Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
- Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves
- An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are
Let others win
As we advance in our careers, behavioural changes are often the only significant changes we can make. If you press people to identify the motives behind their self-interest it usually boils down to four items: money, power, status, and popularity. But the higher up you go in the organisation, the more you need to make other people winners and not make it about winning yourself.
How to manage a team
Casey Stengel liked to point out that on any baseball team, one-third of the players loved the manager, one third hated him, and one third were undecided. “The secret to managing a ballclub,” said Stengel, “was to keep the third who hated you from getting together with the third that were undecided.”
The only question worth asking
Imagine that you’re 95 years old and ready to die. Before taking your last breath, you’re given a great gift: The ability to travel back in time—the ability to talk to the person who is reading this page, the ability to help this person be a better professional and lead a better life.
Why are you at work?
Take a look around you at work. Why are you there? What keeps you coming back day after day? Is it any of the big four—money, power, status, popularity—or is it something deeper and more subtle that has developed over time? If you know what matters to you, it’s easier to commit to change. If you can’t identify what matters to you, you won’t know when it’s being threatened.
The only feedback question
In soliciting feedback for yourself, the only question that works—the only one!—must be phrased like this: “How can I do better?” Pure unadulterated issue-free feedback that makes change possible has to:
- solicit advice rather than criticism,
- be directed towards the future rather than obsessed with the negative past, and
- be couched in a way that suggests you will act on it; that in fact, you are trying to do better.
Teaching to stop
We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop.