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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

Being negative

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

Not apologizing

Ignoring what others are saying or shutting them up

Being ungrateful

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.
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on 19 March 2008
I wasn't looking for it, didn't think I could use it, and thought I had reached a place where I didn't really NEED another book to point out the way to success. I've always respected Marshall Goldsmith for his consistently impressive coaching techniques, but like most people, I'm not the CEO of anything. I liked where my career had taken me, loved what I was doing, felt I had the ideal job, and stopped wondering what my next step would be. So when I saw this book, I was not expecting it to have the impact it did - I knew it was going to be good - but it was so much more than that!

Dr. Goldsmith gave me some very useful insight about things I thought I was clear on but apparently not - no glaring character flaws, but what he calls "behavioural tics" or habits we repeat many times a day in the workplace. The key, he says, is the fact that we seldom have any idea how we are coming across to other people. We tend to view our behaviour in one way, while others see it as something else.

He presents his concepts in such a conversational way that they don't seem preachy, in fact when I picked up the book and started reading, I found myself well into it before I realised that I didn't want to stop and put it down! There aren't many books about self-improvement I think anyone could say that about. The title intrigued me and the content of the book delivered more than it promised. I think it offers something for everyone, from the newest members of the workforce with their eyes on the next rung up the ladder to those who have had many decades to carve out a place for themselves and notice an inkling that there might just be one more step they'd like to take to make it even better.

Buy this book and actually read it. You will emerge from the experience with an appreciation of what you've done to get yourself here and some tools to develop a gameplan that will get you "there." I think this book is great.
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on 9 April 2007
The first half of the book presents 21 bad habits, so unless your superhuman there's a good probability you're going to be doing at least one of the habits that you know you shouldn't be doing but are.

The second half content includes how to change these bad habits and includes better ways of receiving feedback, apologising, reminders on listening and thanking and practicing feedforward.

This book is a very easy read and you are sure to benefit from something in it. However my quest for that magical book that really changes my practices must continue!
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The reviewer Birchall pretty much say what I think.

I was recently hit from two directions by the same person. They said, "You're the one person that stands out in my mind as someone who's never seemed to reach their full potential." And secondly, "You are actually the worse listener I've ever met. You are dreadful!" Ouch!

I found those comments motivational and started to work on changing through using this book. The book is analysis and workshop methods you need. The methods are in the book are not always obvious and certainly not easy fix-ups. But I think having to work at finding the what's and how's better than just being given the routemap.

I'd bet everyone has weak areas in their empathy with others and this book will tell you how to self diagnose and then how to start fixing the problems. You might find this book much more interesting (or horrifying) than you thought it would be. I started using the techniques with my wife - now that was interesting...

Once you are on the recovery route try "Just Listen" Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone
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This book is a "great gift" from Marshall Goldsmith to his reader. How so? In the Coda, he suggests this exercise:

"Imagine that you are 95 years old and ready to die." By then you (i.e. the reader) understand what is really important and what isn't, what matters and what doesn't. "What advice would this wise `old you' have for the `you' who is [receiving the advice]? Take your time and answer the question on two levels: personal advice and professional advice. Jot down a few words that capture what the old you would be saying to the younger you. Once you have written these words down, the rest is simple: Just do whatever you wrote down. Make it your resolution for the rest of the current year, and the next. You have just defined your `there.'"

Everything Goldsmith provides in this volume can help his readers to develop or reactivate what he aptly characterizes as "a built-in GPS mechanism" so that they will "be blessed with [both a map and] an internal compass that orients them automatically. They will [always] make the correct turn and end up where they intended via the most economical route...[because they possess] an exquisite sense of who they are, which translates into perfect pitch about how they come across to others."

It sounds easy, doesn't it? All you have to do is read this book and (like a magic carpet) it will get you from where you are now to where you want to be. On the contrary, for most people who read this book, the challenge is formidable. First, they must accept the fact that Pogo was right: "We have met the enemy and he is us." Then, they must focus on correcting those faults and breaking those habits that currently control their interpersonal behavior. And then they must focus each day, each moment, on avoiding those faults and habits. They cannot do it themselves. With all due respect to the value of Goldsmith's counsel, those who commit to this difficult process of self-improvement must seek the assistance of members of their family as well as associates in their workplace.

Goldsmith identifies twenty of the most common flaws, none of which is a flaw of skill, intelligence, or personality. (That's a key point). "What we're dealing with here are challenges of in interpersonal behavior, often leadership behavior. They are the egregious everyday annoyances that make your workplace more noxious than it needs to be. They don't happen in a vacuum. They are transactional flaws performed by one person against others." Throughout the narrative, Goldsmith cites dozens of real-world examples to illustrate key points but, for obvious reasons, changes the names of those involved. It should be noted that, for several decades, Goldsmith career has primarily involved providing executive coaching services to senior-level executives and he does so on a one-on-one basis. To the extent possible, he establishes the same relationship with each reader. To his credit, he has a clear sense of who he isn't (e.g. a judge of others' behavior) and what he doesn't do (e.g. define anyone else's "there"). As Goldsmith frequently acknowledges, it remains for each reader to determine which flaws are most detrimental to her or his interpersonal relationships. He also points out that many people are either unaware of their faults or unaware of the extent they are resented by others. Hence the importance of continuous feedback from family members and business associates.

The first portion of this review identifies the "there" to which the title refers. It is important to understand that you can get there only if you fully understand both what your "here" is and why. (It may not be where you think it is.) Read the book, then complete the exercise briefly described earlier so that you can obtain "wisdom" that you already possess. "Use that wisdom now. Don't look ahead. Look behind. Look back from your old age at the life you hope to live. Know that you need to be happy now, to enjoy your friends and family, to follow your dreams.

"You are here.
You can get there!
Let the journey begin."
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on 28 December 2014
Great book. Reminds me of Einstein's quote: We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them"
Everyone should read this. As a health expert, I find the message to be true too. If one is not happy with their level of health, they cannot continue to do the same thing, otherwise they will always get what they have always got.
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on 31 October 2012
This book is simple but yet effective. It highlights the importance of listening to feedback, understanding what others think about you, and provides tips on how to behave professionally and constructively. I decided to apply the advice in a disciplined way and it proved effective: to the point that it got me promoted!
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on 21 December 2009
I was not looking for a book on this topic. I had in mind more of a "What Colour is your Parachute?" kind of book to help me discover a new career path, because I was fed up with stagnation. But, when I read this book it opened my eyes to a lot of issues.

I would compare it a little to the idea behind the movie "Groundhog Day", where the guy who thinks he is God's gift to everyone discovers that in fact he's a jerk and then spends time a) getting feedback b) learning and c) changing. This book covers similar topics using the management guru style rather than the romantic comedy in an attempt to target the senior executive.

Some of it is a little too "American" for me. I do like Americans, but they can be a little "American" (credit:Eddie Izzard). Lots of CEOs and COOs and golfy, basebally analogies.

If you're a thirty-something who thinks you're the bees-knees and you want to figure out why your boss hasn't promoted you yet (and what to do about it), this is excellent.

If you receive this book as a gift, take it as some valuable feedback that you need to change!
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on 13 April 2014
As a Talent professional I work with brilliant people who have reached a level in their career that proves they are doing everything right. I was recommended this book to help guide conversations on how their past may be holding them back from success in their new, more responsible leadership roles.

Marshall Goldsmith's approach is very applicable and down to earth. It has shown me different ways to help these leaders see what they can do differently and achieve more.
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on 1 November 2007
I had the pleasure of watching Marshall at the 10th anniversary conference of the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC) in Vancouver. Experiencing the Feed forward method first hand and watching him perform is not just a pleasure but a sincere privilege as well. This book will be known as a classic, no doubt about it.
Marshall is already there. I couldn't help wondering why then does he need to start this book with six pages of recommendations, not about this book, but about him. He doesn't need that. But as he teaches us: take a deep breath and let it go, just let it go.
The book is just brilliant, a new bible for executive coaches and C-level executives who are smart enough to learn and gain the upper hand in their profession.
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