What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There – Marshall Goldsmith

May 30, 2007 – This book proposes to help us “Discover the 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break.” And I discovered I have quite a few of the 20. I listened to this as an audiobook, and then wanted to quote something out of it for a newsletter I was writing, so I ended up buying the actual book as well. I discovered that listening to books can be an excellent way of absorbing new ideas and an enjoyable way to add dimension to my daily walks with my dog. But it’s hard to go back and “look things up.” As a person who marks interesting passages with post-it flags, the audiobook experience has presented some challenges for me as a “reader.” I was so excited about finding Execution on this little iPod like device that I had to show it to my 19-year-old daughter, who rolled her eyes in exasperation and pointed out that I could just buy an iPod and download whatever books I wanted to. (Educating old people exhausts and frustrates her.) Okay, so DUH! I got an iPod and started downloading books! It’s technology, stupid.

This book is so enjoyable and very practical. We all have habits that need improvement, and he points out in this book that not everyone has issues so severe they need to be fixed by an executive coach of his caliber. Nevertheless, there are things we can all improve, and making some minor adjustments in habits, attitude and perspective can net very big returns in the workplace and at home. He gives real life stories and case studies from his many years of experience coaching and training corporate executives. He also uses his own issues to illustrate how even an executive coach can fall prey to bad habits. There were things that made me laugh out loud. Like his discussion about office suck-ups. He gives a very funny example of how the family dog is the ultimate suck-up and we train them to be that way. It’s the same for the suck-ups at the office.

The one idea that made the biggest impression on me was the idea of an informal accountability coach. Goldsmith has a longtime friend who calls him every night, no matter where he is in the world, and asks him a list of questions that he put together for himself. These questions are designed to help him stay accountable to his own goals: did he exercise, did he eat high fat foods, did he write that day, did he say something nice to his wife and to his kids? He goes over the list of his own questions and explains that his friend Jim only asks the questions. No commentary or criticism is allowed by the questioner. He said this book would never have been written without Jim calling daily to ask, “Did you write today?” I really loved this idea and told my mother that she could be my accountability coach. I talk to her every evening anyway and I think this will help her feel like she is playing a greater role in helping me be successful. Which is in fact the case. But I had to tell her that she cannot criticize or comment no matter what the answer is to the question: How many glasses of wine did you have tonight?” I’m working on making sure the answer is always “one.”

This book is one that I will listen to more than once. Mainly because now that it’s on my iPod, I just have to select it and it’s there. And beyond getting the concepts the first time around, I think it’s important to continually reinforce those concepts. How we get along with those around us impacts our ability to be successful – in our careers and in every other relationship we have. This book was an excellent investment of my time and I would highly recommend it.