What Got You Here Won't Get You There

So you have progressed within your company, been praised for your innovative thinking, technical skills, perhaps even your ability to sell a product.  Everything is going well, so you live by following the motto:  “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Unfortunately, this is the flawed reasoning of far too many people.

The problem? “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”  According to Marshall Goldsmith’s book, as we progress in our careers, the issues that hinder our advancement are usually not our lack of technical knowledge, but long standing personality traits that affect the people around us and our ability to lead to our full potential.  When was the last time you heard of a CEO being hired based on his proficiency in C# programming, SQL server or COBOL?  Likely never – and that is because in all levels of management, most top leaders hold the job because they have proven  that they have the interpersonal skills necessary in leading a team of people towards a collective goal.  Sure, everyone has their weaknesses, and no single person is perfect.  Truly great leaders recognize this, and almost all have at one point in their career started down a path of self-improvement to limit their personal quirks, so their quirks do not limit their potential.

Marshall’s book highlights 20 common personality traits found in high-performing individuals.  Through his extensive consulting practice, Marshall has found that most individuals will be guilty of up to 5 of these offences, but rarely more than that.  Here are just 5 of 20 common personality flaws that limit leadership potential:

  1. The constant need to win
  2. Failure to provide proper recognition
  3. Ineffective listening
  4. Clinging to the past
  5. Adding too much value

* All 20 personality traits are thoroughly described in Marshall Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

The route forward? Like most obstacles in life, resolution can only be achieved after the problem is acknowledged.  Usually before someone can admit there is a problem, the individual needs to see, feel, or hear the pain it causes those it affects.  In the business world, we do this through formal 360 degree feedback.  Best if performed through a third-party, feedback is an important tool in determining how other people feel about you.  From this feedback you can spot trends amongst responders, which will help you prioritize the top areas for improvement.

Once you determine the top 1 or 2 areas for improvement the next steps are to create a plan towards improvement.  Marshall recommends that all improvement initiatives start with a sincere apology to those you have affected.  As I am sure we all have experienced, a true heartfelt apology can go a long way in mending strained feelings.  In the case of self-improvement the act of apologizing performs a number of things beneath the surface:

  • Ensures that you acknowledge the fact that there is a problem or room for improvement
  • Tells those affected you recognize the problem
  • Tells those affected you want to change for the better
  • Makes you accountable towards improvement

I recommend everyone read Marshall Goldsmith’s book, perform the 360 degree feedback, and follow-through on at least one self-improvement initiative.  Since starting my own journey towards improvement in two of my less desirable personality traits, I can already notice the difference in my professional the personal relationships.

I wish you all the best as your journey on your own self-improvement path.

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2 Responses to What Got You Here Won't Get You There

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