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What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful is a book by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter published in 2007.

The trouble with successful people is that they tend to believe that their “bad” habits are not so “bad.” They have proof of that. They are successful. So, what could they do, or more precisely, what could they stop doing to be more successful?

The book presents 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 sarcasm 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.
  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 when 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 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.

The “twenty-first” habit is goal obsession.

The idea that being obsessed with a high-level goal makes you forget the hear and now. The present in which you are, indeed, destroying all your chances of reaching your goals.

I love to use books with people I work with. I used The Five Dysfunctions of A Team or The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. I also used Radical Candor by Kim Scott.

I decided to use the twenty habits with a leadership team I just met.

The first part of the session was reviewing and discussing the habits. Listening to the questions and discussions can teach a lot about the people in the room.

The second part was for the team members to identify for each other, through an anonymous survey, what habit they thought the others in the team should focus on removing.

The third part was for the team members to discover the results, and pick the habit they will want to work on during the next quarter.

The last part was to select their accountability partner to work with to achieve the goal.

I am happy with the results so far. If you try the practice, let me know through the usual means: email, Twitter, or Linkedin.

Categories
General

Care Personally

Care personally and challenge directly. That is how Kim Scott defines Radical Candor. At the end of November, I decided that I will offer her book to some of my colleagues.

A book is an opportunity for learning through discussions with others. I already discussed the advantage of a book discussion club, and by offering a book, I wish to have those conversations, with each person. And yes, I am also planning a book discussion club.

When you give a book, some conversation could start surprisingly fast, like last year when I gave “Joy” to colleagues, and one of them told me immediately: “Is there a message? Do you think I make my employees unhappy?”. This conversation took me by surprise and I probably just mumbled meaningless words to try to escape it.

Sometimes it seems that the conversation will never start. So either, you can forget about it, or you can push to have it. Sometimes it is just that people don’t read, don’t read business books, have other things on their reading list, and that’s ok.

With Radical Candor, I had the first conversations quite rapidly. The first one was about the 2 x 2 matrix used in the book. You are up on the vertical ax of the matrix when you care personally. You are on the right of the horizontal ax of the matrix when you challenge directly.

The conversation evolved around the principles described by Dale Carnegie and how they fit the matrix. (in “How to win friends and influence people,” his book first published in 1936, and still reedited today.)

I will take two examples:

  • Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation

Become genuinely interested in other people, is, of course, an excellent way to demonstrate that you care personally. And, as you can see in the matrix, if you are doing it without challenging people directly, you will fall in the “ruinous empathy” quadrant.

Give honest and sincere appreciation, is, this time, more tricky. If I consider that I will only speak about the positive behaviors that I can see in other people, I will fall in the bottom left quadrant “manipulative insincerity”. If I don’t care personally, and I give honest feedback, I will fall into the “obnoxious aggression” quadrant. If I care personally and that I am honest, this time I can act in the upper right quadrant.

The way you will give feedback is of course key to the success of your message. Kim Scott explain this point with reference to what Ben Horowitz called the shit sandwich in “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” another book that I enjoyed. The shit sandwich is his way to qualify a classic way to give feedback: start with complimenting, then pass the difficult message, and finally value the strengths of people. The problem with the approach is that experienced people will see you coming and each time that you will start with a compliment, they will wait for the difficult feedback.

The point is that if you care personally for people, you will develop a relationship that enables to give and to receive honest feedback without the need to give a not so nice sandwich.

Once, I was in the audience at a conference, and one of my colleagues was giving a talk. The guy is excellent, I love his way of thinking, he can present an appealing overall vision and go deep to the right level of details when it’s appropriate. The talk was ok, and I was frustrated. Why? Because he made basic public speaking mistakes that he could have easily avoided. I wait that the long line of people wanted to thank him, and to talk with him vanished, and I told him: “Great work Steve! I have some feedback, do you want them now or later?”.
Steve: “Now would be fine.”
Me: “Do you want them direct, or do you want me to dress them up a little bit?”
Steve: “I am a big boy, go for direct.”
At this stage, I would have gone for direct anyway, and I guess you understood that I cared enough for that.

I will relate another conversation I had about the book in a future article about Rock Stars and Super Stars.