In this book, Marshall Goldsmith begins by examining the trouble with
success, explaining how previous accomplishments often prevent leaders
from gaining more success. He analyzes why high achievers are so resistant
to change due to their delusion of success, pointing out that they can’t see
that what got them here won’t get them there.
These are people who do one annoying thing repeatedly on the job and don’t realize that this small flaw may sabotage their otherwise golden career. Worse yet, they do not realize that it’s happening and that they can fix it. Goldsmith details the 20 habits that hold you back from the top rung of the corporate ladder. In his experience, these are the most irritating interpersonal issues in the workplace. For each habit, he gives examples
and practical solutions you can implement. He then describes the 21st habit, which stands separate from the other 20 habits –– not because it is a flaw, but because it is often the root of an annoying behavior.
Finally, Goldsmith addresses the problem of how you can change your interpersonal relationships for the better, and ensure that you make your behavioral changes permanent.
This summary reveals how you can identify which of these 20 habits apply to you, and how to choose the one or two you should focus on.
In addition, you will learn:
The four key beliefs that make you successful but also resistant to change.
Why the higher you go, the more your problems are behavioral.
Why the 21st habit, goal obsession, may be the most destructive of all.
How to get good 360-degree feedback from your colleagues on your own.
How to overcome special challenges if you’re the one in charge at the workplace.
Some Impressionistic takes from the book of
“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”
About Mr. Marshall Goldsmith
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders get even better – by
achieving positive, lasting change in behaviour: for themselves, their people and their teams.
In November 2009 Dr. Goldsmith was recognized as one of the fifteen most influential business
thinkers in the world in the bi-annual study sponsored by The (London) Times and Forbes. The
American Management Association named Marshall as one of 50 great thinkers and leaders who
have influenced the field of management over the past 80 years. He is one of only two educators
who have won the Institute of Management Studies Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dr. Goldsmith’s Ph.D. is from UCLA where he has been named one of the 75 great alumni of the
last 75 years. He teaches executive education at Dartmouth’s Tuck School and frequently speaks
at leading business schools. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources
(America’s top HR honour) and his work has been recognized by almost every professional
organization in his field.
Mr.Marshall is one of a select few advisors who have been asked to work with over 120 major
CEOs and their management teams. He served on the Board of the Peter Drucker Foundation for
ten years. He has been a volunteer teacher for US Army Generals, Navy Admirals, Girl Scout
executives, International and American Red Cross leaders – where he was a National Volunteer
of the Year.
The book “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” a certainly a book to read & is
dedicated to all successful leaders who want to “take it to the next level” and get even better.
Whether you are near the top of the ladder or still have a ways to climb, this book serves as an
essential guide to help you eliminate your dysfunctions & move to where you want to go.
First, Mr. Goldsmith takes us on a personal journey through self-assessment with chapters
titled: You Are Here, Enough About You, and The Success Delusion, or Why We Resist Change.
Next, he masterfully walks the reader through the twenty-one habits that hold you back from
making it to the top.
The Book is unique in that the author not only explains what we must do better, more of, and
improve upon – but he also explains the importance of consciously NOT doing certain things,
which get in the way of our success. comments; Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”; Telling
the world how smart we are; Speaking when angry; Withholding information; Making Excuses,
Not Listening; Refusing to express regret, and Exhibiting
Mr. Goldsmith goes on to make the key point that what got you here, to your current position in
life, cannot be counted on to take you to the next level of success. This also implies to the
organizations as well/
There may very well be something standing between you and the next level of achievement & it
is up to you to identify the barrier.
If you do what you have always
You will get what you have always
One of the greatest mistakes of successful people
is the assumption, ‘I am successful. I behave this
way. Therefore, I must be successful because I
behave this way!’
The Biggest Mistake
The Success Delusion or Why we resist change
All of us in the workplace delude ourselves about
our achievements, our status & contributions .
Our delusions become a serious liability when we
need change & when someone tries to make us
change our ways
First we think other party is confused, Next we go
into denial mode.
The criticism does not apply to us or else we
wouldn’t be so successful . Finally we attack the
other party & discredit the person
The Success Delusion or Why we resist change
These are just the surface responses
The past performance
Their ability to influence their success
Their optimistic belief their success will continue
in the future
Their sense of control over their own destiny ( as
opposed to being controlled by external forces)
Make it tough for us to change
The Paradox of Success
“I have succeeded”
They believe in their skills &
No matter how much they
respect their teammates , when
the team achieves great results
, they believe it is because of
Gets in to mindset “ I have
succeeded and this becomes
The Paradox of Success
I can succeed
One of the greatest mistake of
successful people is the
assumption “ I am successful. I
behave this way.
This is the only way to success
The challenge is to make them
see that sometimes they are
successful in spite of this
The Paradox of Success
I will succeed
Becomes a serious obstacle
I choose to succeed
The more we believe our
behavior is a result of our own
choices & commitments, the
less likely we are to want to
change our behavior
The Paradox of Success
Past habits lock down thinking.
“20 bad Leadership Habits”
All leadership manifest
some bad habits that
hinder their progress.
The more successful
leaders become the more
power a behavioral
problem has to halt their
rise or contribute to their
“Winning too much”
The most common
behavioral problem among
successful people is the
all-consuming need to win,
even when winning doesn’t
matter. This need is often
the root of many other bad
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
“Adding too much value” –
When someone comes to you
with an idea and you
immediately feel the need to
improve it, you are guilty of
adding too much value. This
fault is common among
experienced, successful people
who feel that they are being told
something they know or who
believe that they already know a
The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion
Passing judgment –
Offering an opinion in a
business setting is okay.
But asking people for their
opinion and then making a
comment about it is not
okay. Nobody likes to be
judged. The next time you
get a suggestion, remain
neutral and simply say,
The need to rate others and impose our standards on them
Making destructive comments
– Many successful people
believe they are straight-
shooters & pride themselves on
their candor. But making critical
comments or sarcastic remarks
is never constructive. If you
speak carelessly and
thoughtlessly, the recipient will
be hurt & will remember, even
after you apologize. Comments
that undermine someone are
never instructive or funny; they
only cause pain and humiliation.
The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us
sound sharp and witty
Starting with ‘no,’ ‘but’ or
‘however’ – No matter how
well intentioned you are, when
you listen to an idea,
suggestion or comment, and
begin your reply with ‘no’ ‘but’
or however, you are
communicating that you know
The over use of these negativity qualifiers which secretly
say to everyone, “I am right. You’re wrong
Telling the world how smart
you are – Many leaders can’t
resist letting everyone know
just how smart they are. If you
use phrases such as, ‘I
already knew that,’ you insult
and alienate people, which is
not very smart. Before you
speak, ask yourself, Is
anything I might say worth
saying? If the answer is ‘no,’
simply say, ‘Thank you.’
The need to show the people we’re smarter than they think
angry – The problem
with losing your
temper at work is that
you also lose control.
If you get angry,
you’ll gain a
reputation for being
Using emotional volatility as a management tool with or
Negativity, or ‘Let me
explain why that won’t work’
– Some people’s first response
to any input is to point out that
it won’t work and why. Such
negativity may disguise itself
as being helpful, but it is
criticism wrapped in an ‘I know
better attitude. If your first
response is always negative,
people will become reluctant to
present you with new ideas.
The need to share our negative thoughts even when we
information’ – In the
chess game of power,
is a favorite, albeit
devious, gambit. Rather
than giving you an
this power play only
The refusal to share information in order to maintain an
advantage over others
‘Failing to give proper recognition’ – If you want to
foster resentment among your coworkers, this failing
will do just that. People need to experience the
emotional payoff of having their hard work,
contribution and success acknowledged and
The inability to praise and reward
‘Claiming credit that you
don’t deserve’ – Even
worse than withholding
recognition is claiming
credit for someone else’s
work. To avoid this
leadership crime, just
decide that the group’s
achievement matters more
than your individual
The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to
‘Making excuses’ – Excuses are
not acceptable. They come in two
categories: ‘blunt and subtle.’ A
blunt excuse is, ‘Sorry I’m late; I got
caught in traffic.’ A subtle excuse is
when you blame some inherent
failing like, ‘I’m bad at returning
phone calls.’ Ask yourself why you
have such failings, and then do
something about them.
The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a
permanent fixture so people excuse us for it
‘Clinging to the past’ – This
is an offshoot of the general
tendency to place blame, & it
stems from assigning the fault
for mistakes to someone or
some event that happened
years ago. It reflects a lack of
The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto
events and people from our past; a subset of blaming
‘Playing favorites’ – Leaders
often say that they want to be
challenged, but in reality, it is
often the yes-men and -women
who get in the boss’s good
graces. When a person gets the
boss’s approval based on
something other than
performance, favoritism is often
Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly
‘Refusing to express regret’
– Apologizing is very painful
for many successful people,
because they hate admitting
that they were wrong.
However, when you do
apologize, you enable people
to release ill feelings from the
past and forge a new
relationship in the future.
The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit
we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others
‘Not listening’ – Not listening is a
common problem. This rude habit
sends many negative messages
such as, ‘I don’t care enough to pay
attention’ or, ‘Stop wasting my
valuable time.’ Leaders are often
guilty of this tendency because they
feel they already know what
someone is about to say or they
are two steps ahead of the other
The most passive – aggressive
form of disrespect for
‘Failing to express gratitude’ –
Your automatic response to any
suggestion should be, ‘Thank
you.’ Yet many successful people
have difficulty uttering these two
simple words. Many people wait
for the perfect moment to express
gratitude, or feel that showing
gratitude will make them appear
weak. However, ‘gratitude is a skill
that we can never display too
Failing to express gratitude is the most basic form of
‘Punishing the messenger’ –
This is several bad habits
rolled into one. Specifically, it
is the fault of responding with
anger when someone tells you
something you don’t want to
hear even if it might be very
constructive. Again, the best
response is, ‘Thank you.’
The misguided need to attack the innocent who are
usually only trying to help us
‘Passing the buck’ – Exceptional leaders take responsibility,
not only for themselves, but for the people who work for them.
Not accepting blame is the flip side of taking credit for other
people’s accomplishments. And, it is just as destructive.
The need to blame everyone but ourselves
‘An excessive need to be ‘me’’ – Transforming a failing into a
virtue is the result of feeling that the flaw is an essential part of
your make-up. When you excuse negative or destructive
behavior with this attitude, it keeps you from deciding to change.
Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who
‘Goal Obsession’’ – This stands apart from other 20
habits not because it is a flaw but because of it is often
the root cause of annoying behavior. The successful
person who is goal obsessed tends to disregard
everything that does not contribute to achieving the goal
Key Habit- 21
Seven Steps to Change the Habits you find are
wrong in your leadership approach
The road to change
When you are requesting feedback, ask the person you are
interviewing to ‘Let go of the past, tell the truth, and be
supportive and helpful.’
Ask your friends, family members, co-workers and clients to
If you are interviewing a person to learn about someone
else, pose such questions as, ‘Does this leader clearly
communicate a vision, treat people with respect and solicit
An apology serves three purposes
First, it claims responsibility for past mistakes.
Second, it announces your commitment to change and,
Third, it works as an agreement between both parties. When
you apologize, say the words, ‘I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.’
Then say nothing else. Do not qualify your behavior or make
excuses for your actions
Just saying you’re sorry for past behavior is not enough.
You must announce loudly and clearly, again and again,
that you are committed to making a change.
This personal advertising helps you change other people’s
perceptions of your behavior and it holds you accountable.
It also gives people permission to monitor your progress
and offer suggestions
Truly great leaders have the ability to listen attentively &
make the person you are listening to feel like the most
important person in the room.
Good listeners ‘think before they speak’ and ‘listen with
respect.’ To employ exceptional listening skills, don’t
interrupt or complete the other person’s sentence.
Don’t respond with phrases such as ‘I knew that’ or with
phrases that include ‘no,’ ‘but’ and ‘however.’
Ask intelligent, relevant questions
The Nine rules for listening
Don’t finish the
Don’t say “I knew
Don’t even agree
with the other
Don’t use the
words “no,” “but,”
Don’t let your eyes
Maintain your end
of the dialogue by
Don’t try to
impress the other
person with how
smart or funny you
Begin by simply saying, ‘Thank you.’
Conveying sincere gratitude is a talent and an asset. It also
helps diffuse potentially volatile situations.
Go beyond good manners by performing this exercise: List
the 25 people who have helped you the most in your life.
Now, write a thank-you note to each of them.
Real, lasting change cannot occur without follow-up, which allows you
to measure your improvement and reminds people that you’re working
It shows you are serious about the process: and holds you
accountable; it demonstrates that you care, and that other people’s
perceptions and opinions matter to you.
If you are undergoing a change, you also can ask someone supportive
to coach you as you progress.
Seeking feed forward is a four-step process.
First, choose a behavior you would like to change.
Second, have a one-on-one conversation with someone to
explain your desire for making this change.
Third, ask that person for two suggestions about how you
can make the change.
Then, accept these suggestions as feed forward ideas you
Repeat this process over and over with different people.
Unlike feedback, feed forward is not about your past
behavior. You can’t change the past. But, you can use
sincere, feed forward suggestions to shape a better future
Feed it forward
Way forward actions
2. Identify the
You are here.
You can get there.
Let the journey begin!