What Got You Here Won't Get You There is an intriguing look into the nuances between those who climb to the top of the corporate ladder and those who fall just short, while everyone applauds their fall. We all have trouble seeing ourselves as others see us. Marshall Goldsmith takes dead aim at that problem by describing his unique methods for coaching candidates for top jobs into the corner offices.
While that's intriguing in and of itself, Dr. Goldsmith also reveals what he usually finds in such detail that you'll see the shadow of yourself spread out across the pavement in front of you. He does this so well that I felt truly mortified to think of the times when I fell for the many bad habits (that stall career and company progress) that he so eloquently describes here.
What are these bad habits? I've paraphrased them below:
Letting winning get in the way of relationships you need
Dropping too many ideas on those who work for you
Being judgmental rather than helpful
Slamming people in public or behind their backs
Making comments that indicate you disagree with everyone that's just been said
Showing off how smart you think you are
Saying anything in anger
Keeping secret what others need to know
Not recognizing the contributions others make
Claiming undeserved credit
Refusing to take responsibility for bad results
Being focused on the past
Favoring those who agree with you
Ignoring what others are saying or shutting them up
Shooting the messenger who brings bad news
Blaming others for everything
Insisting on sticking with you bad habits after you're aware of them
Dr. Goldsmith also tells a lot of stories about how he struggles in some of these areas; I thought the best lessons came from those examples. It's clearly a lot easier to describe what needs to be done than to do it.
For those who are or want to be top executive coaches, here's a chance to learn a lot about how a master does it. He relies on lot of 360 degree interviews which are repeated to test for progress (or regression). Dr. Goldsmith also tries to open up bosses, peers, and subordinates so that they try to support the executive who is trying to change.
I was particularly impressed by Dr. Goldsmith's compensation plan: He only gets paid if an executive improves in the eyes of those who work with the executive.
Realize that his perspective is on those who have great technical and leadership skills . . . but who have interpersonal bad habits that are killing performance. Turn some of these negatives into neutrals or less negatives, and great results may follow.
In a sense, this book is a good companion to Know-How by Ram Charan who looks at those who have great interpersonal skills as leaders but don't have the technical ability to know what to do. If you pay attention to the lessons in both books, you'll probably do better.
Ultimately, I was, however, skeptical of Dr. Goldsmith's suggestions for how you might duplicate his process on your own. I suspect you'd be better off to give this book to someone who is a coach and ask them to help you by playing the Marshall Goldsmith role.
Fans of Buddhism will enjoy reading Dr. Goldsmith's many perspectives on executive life drawn from those sources.