What Got You Here Won’t Get You There


Time for a quickie book report, kids: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.  I won’t spend time giving you a full summary (you can read more here), but the book was written for executives who have hit a ceiling in their careers.  Their skills have earned them executive or managerial roles, but interpersonal issues are holding them back from achieving the “next level” of success, whatever that may be.

Here is what I liked about the book:

  • It encourages you to look at your work persona from a different perspective, providing an opportunity for self assessment.  Goldsmith stresses that his method relies heavily on coworker feedback, but I still found value thinking through the different bad habits.  Which ones did I see in myself?  Which ones apply to the managers I’ve had in the past?
  • No excuses!  Goldsmith is very clear that if your coworkers think you have a problem, then you have a problem.  As I read through the habits, I found myself thinking things like, “well, I just do that because…” — which is exactly what Goldsmith says successful people tend to do during this process.  Relying on coworkers to judge your improvement means that you truly improve, no excuses allowed.
  • Goldsmith tells you not to “boil the ocean” (my words).  Successful people often tackle multiple challenges at once in order to successfully complete a project.  Goldsmith makes the case that you can’t address every interpersonal issue at once, as tempting as it may be.  His approach of achieving measurable improvement in just one area seems very reasonable and effective.
  • The two most important words you can say as a manager are “thank you.”  Goldsmith’s examples of when and how to say thank you — often in place of saying something less useful (i.e. adding value, criticizing, shooting the messenger, etc) — really hit home for me.  I can think of so many situations where I would have been better served by simply apologizing or thanking someone, rather than giving my opinion or commenting at all.  Knowing when to keep your mouth shut is a huge part of being an exceptional professional in any field.

Of course, no book is perfect.  Both my husband and I noticed that the author spends a lot of time establishing his expertise/authority, to the point of sounding a little like an over confident executive himself.  Though given who he is trying to reach, I’m willing to forgive him that. If you are willing to give yourself a hard look in the mirror, this is a very helpful resource.

Thoughts?  Any other books in this genre that you’d recommend over this one?

The Obligatory New Years Resolution Post


How do you feel about resolutions?

Everyone writes about New Years Resolutions at the beginning of January.  People tend to fall into three (very general) categories:

  1. They love resolutions and make a list of a million little things they wish to do differently in the new year.  They will forget most of these resolutions and maybe implement two or three changes, if they are lucky.
  2. They love self reflection and use this time to sit down and deeply evaluate their lives, choosing one or two major areas to work on.  They might succeed in actually implementing major change, but for them, the process is more important than the outcome.
  3. They hate the whole thing.  They are annoyed by the people who make a million little resolutions because they often don’t keep them and seem inefficient.  They are also annoyed by the “self evaluation” people because they believe that “self reflection” should take place year round, dictated by need, not by the calendar.  (Not surprisingly, these folks often also hate Valentine’s Day and blame Hallmark for many of the problems in the world)

In general, I fall in the second group. I have no problem with using the new year as a reminder to check-in on my life goals.  That seems logical to me (and perhaps not coincidentally, I don’t hate Valentine’s Day – even as a single woman, I appreciated the opportunity to eat chocolate and drink with girlfriends).  I tend to make two or three resolutions, sometimes big ones, but not always.  For example this year, I am starting this blog and I’m also trying to drink more hot water with lemon in the morning.  One bigger commitment and one smaller commitment, though I believe both will be beneficial to my health.

What should our professional resolutions look like?  We don’t have to look far for inspiration:

Ginny Soskey at HubSpot writes about nine action-oriented resolutions (http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/new-years-resolutions-marketers).  Four of the resolutions are very specific and could be included in your yearly personal evaluation as SMART goals: learn excel, improve your design skills, blog consistently, etc.  The others are broader, but still concrete – e.g. “hire new, awesome teammates” and “don’t forget about your old content.”

Laura Vanderkam wrote a very logical piece for Fast Company about why 90-day resolutions are more effective than year long ones (http://www.fastcompany.com/3040289/make-it-stick-try-90-day-goals-instead-of-year-long-ones).  Her main point is that 90 days is the perfect length of time to implement a new habit or work towards a goal, but it also allows you be nimble (#jargonalert) and adjust course if necessary.  I love it – 90 days sounds way less intimidating than 365 and it gives the wimpy side of me an out if things don’t go as planned.  Of course, that is probably also the risk.  Thank goodness for the ability to set calendar alerts and write down reminders.

What professional resolutions are you setting for yourself this year?  Big ones? Small ones? And perhaps more importantly, when will you be evaluating your progress?