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Book Review: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More SuccessfulCheck out these five suggestions from Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful. For those interested in career growth and development, Goldsmith, the only two-time Thinkers 50 #1 Leadership Thinker in the World, is an important voice.

The premise of this book is that the confidence that leaders have from previous successes can impede their interest in self-improvement. This natural tendency is due to cognitive dissonance, a well-researched psychological concept that explores the difficulty of holding conflicting thoughts together. So, for executives that attribute the successes of their efforts to their efforts, it can be hard to believe that they somehow need to change or grow.

But, as the title says, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. We sometimes need to develop new skill sets or improve skill weaknesses that are holding us back. For example, we might need to improve listening, delegation, or communication skills. Here are five suggestions that I found helpful.

  • According to renowned management thinker, Peter Drucker, “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.” (p. 35)
  • Listen to your colleagues about what they see in your behavior and select only one or two behaviors to stop, develop, or improve. Look for the behaviors that a consensus of folks agree are holding you back. Allow months (sometimes many months) for this transformation in your behavior to really sink in and take hold. Don’t expect it to happen quicken.
  • Sometimes, we need to avoid the tendency to receive ideas with that critical mind that we are paid to use. We need to listen to ideas with complete neutrality and simply sit with them for a bit. Practice thanking people for sharing their idea and just let it rest.
  • Feedforward, as opposed to feedback, is a way of soliciting helpful guidance from those who know you – but this method focuses on the future – not the past. To use feedforward, begin by selecting the one trait which you think is most critical for you to change. Share your objective of improving in this particular area with someone. Ask that person for two helpful ideas that will help you improve in that arena. Listen to the ideas without judgement and simply say thank you. You can solicit ideas from multiple people and select a few ideas to try.
  • Anger is almost never someone else’s fault. It almost always comes from within. And people with emotional volatility problems can often have a hard time overcoming that reputation. From the perspective of the angry leader, consider that your angry outbursts rarely improve work results or team performance. According to Goldsmith, the simple, though not necessarily easy solution is to shut your mouth when you are angry. “But if I stop speaking when angry, no one has to know about it.” (p. 65) I’m not convinced that others won’t know you are angry but maybe they won’t lose respect for you because of something stupid that you said in anger. From my experience, you still need to talk through the event that caused you to want to explode.

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