What Are You Doing Wrong?

what-got-you-here-won-t-get-you-there-how-successful-people-become-even-more-successful-400x400-imad9ytkvr6cx3m8A great book came out several years ago, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (Marshall Goldsmith). Goldsmith served as a board member of the Peter Drucker Foundation – yes, THAT Peter Drucker.

This book is based upon what Goldsmith considers Drucker’s most important lesson:  “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.”

Goldsmith goes on to say that in most workplaces (and I’ll add homes and families), we base our reward and recognition programs on DOING something (good). Credit is rarely given for NOT DOING something (bad).badday2

Most business focus is understandably based upon profit. Less recognition is given to those who, through work processes, astute attention, working out-of-the-box, in costs savings and loss prevention, directly affect the bottom line. Similarly, in some families,  kids are paid for getting A’s and B’s, but acts of charity and kindness go unnoticed or unacknowledged.

My business partner and I got into a discussion recently about how it really is okay to do nothing sometimes. At times your mere presence (at an event, at the table, at a bedside) is enough. How often can you recall saying something really stupid when you felt compelled to fill a void? In order to be nice, to be supportive Goldsmith says, “You don’t have to remember to say nice things and hand out compliments and tell the little white lies that lubricate the gears of the workplace. All you have to do is ….nothing.”

be-yourself-no-one-can-ever-tell-you-you-re-doing-it-wrongThere is an art to knowing when enough is enough, when to stop, when to remain silent, when to just be. A lot can be learned from “pregnant pauses.” Pause for a bit in the middle of an interview and see what happens. The discomfort can be palatable. There’s this driving need to fill the silence. The interviewee will often panic and reveal information interview questions cannot probe.

It’s a mature skill to be comfortable in your own skin without feeling the need to dominate, be heard, fill the void. The higher up the ladder, the more important it is to examine your behavior and how it affects your employees and your organization. If you are running out of people to blame, it just means you’re getting closer!

To be sure, there is usually an ego in the middle of it all compelling us to be heard, recognized, to challenge what we perceive 1335766559_6635536201_e8c37c7c3a_z_xlargeto be an untruth, to allow that we ‘already know that,’ or what is wrong with YOU(R) idea, opinion, thought, life. Goldsmith uses Jack Welch as an example:

“Jack Welch as a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, but I doubt if any problems he encountered in his last 30 years at General Electric were in any way related to his skill at chemical titration or formulating plastics. When he was vying for the CEO job, the issues holding him back were strictly behavioral – his brashness, his blunt language, his unwillingness to suffer fools. He did not pick up these issues back at the University of Illinois chemical engineering labs. General Electric’s board of directors didn’t worry about his ability to generate profits. They wanted to know if he could behave as a CEO…..As we advance in our careers, behavioral changes are often the only significant changes we can make.”



From Goldsmith:

  1. Winning too much. 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.
  2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
  3. Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
  4. Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
  5. Starting with “No,“ “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
  6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
  7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
  8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.
  9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
  10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to praise and reward.
  11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
  12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
  13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past: a subset of blaming everyone else.
  14. Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.oops
  15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
  16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. Failing to express gratitude: the most basic form of bad manners.
  18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
  19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
  20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.



In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”


~From the desk of Becky Morlok~

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