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

Book Number 12 on my Book-a-Week list for 2011: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Discover the 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break by Marshall Goldsmith


Marshall Goldsmith is not just any executive coach. He has been named one of the five most-respected executive coaches by Forbes, and a top-ten executive educator by the Wall Street Journal. Goldsmith has worked with some of the most influential leaders in Fortune 500 companies. He works with only C-level executives, focuses only on permanent behavioral change, and gets paid only when his clients improve. He has had some remarkable success stories, and he outlines them in the book. He has also learned from his challenges and mistakes, and he tells those stories, too.

The book outlines the twenty most common bad habits Goldsmith has seen leaders exhibit in all his years of coaching. Many of the habits stem from a core habit of wanting to win too much. This over-developed desire to win can cause a person to exhibit a lot of other rotten habits like Habit #2, Adding too much value or Habit #3 Passing Judgment, or Habit #4 Making destructive comments.

Because I am a firm believer in the power of leveraging our strengths, and not trying to fix weaknesses, I must admit I was somewhat resistant to embracing the book at first. I much prefer reading stories of how people have developed their talents than how they have overcome weaknesses. However, I am a realist and I know that while our strengths prevent the best opportunity for growth, we do need to manage our weaknesses so they don’t interfere with our ability to perform at our best. And that’s really what Goldsmith’s book is about. Even more importantly, the “weaknesses” he helps people fix are really just bad habits, not true weaknesses. He helps them make behavioral changes that have a lasting impact on their lives and the lives of others they live and work with.

Most leaders will exhibit one or two or three of the twenty habits, certainly not all of them. I found it interesting to think about all the leaders I’ve coached over the years and which of these habits we have worked on together in one way or another. And I also found it interesting to try to be honest with myself about which of the habits I sometimes exhibit, both at work and at home. It’s an enlightening list!

Goldsmith’s book is a great reference, filled with ideas not just to understand what the habits are, but how to take action to correct them. As an executive coach, I find the book to be an invaluable resource that I’m sure I will consult over and over again. And as a human being who, like all human beings, shows some bad habits on occasion, it’s a great reminder.

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