What Got You Here Won't Get You There - Marshall Goldsmith

More accurately, "What Didn't Stop You Getting Here Will Stop You Getting There". The core thesis of the book is that people limit their success by holding onto various destructive behaviours. As they've been successful in the past, they don't realise that these behaviours are a blocker on further progress, and may think they're part of their success.

There are 20-odd specific behaviours listed in the book, but they can be boiled down to "Don't be self-centred and arrogant". As people get more successful and rise up an organisation, they both need to get other people doing the work and learning new skills themselves. If they keep taking on the work themselves and shooting everyone else down, this doesn't happen. Leadership needs teamwork.

The other part of the book is about how to change. It's about gathering feedback and using it. This is where I really start to disagree with it, although the disagreement extends to the behaviours, too. Basically, the suggestion is "When someone says something to you, nod and smile and thank them and don't say anything". I disagree with this. Sure, when you have a senior role people take your opinion seriously, but gentle, positive and constructive feedback helps others grow, and if someone has some constructive feedback for you - well, you should engage with it. Not deny it, certainly, but at least dig in and truly understand what they're saying.

The higher you go, the more gently you need to steer and provide feedback, and perhaps this is really my main problem with the book. It's for executives - pretty much people trying to break through to being CEO of a large company, and being held back by their bad habits. Perhaps it's just a bit lost on me. Indeed, given it's a bestseller, I suspect more people have bought it than are actually in its true target market.

Posted 2017-04-29.