Saturday, February 21, 2009

book review: What Got You Here Won't Get You There

What Got You Here Won't Get You There, by Malcolm Gladwell

This is a useful book when, as a coach (or a person) you approach people who have already had a great deal of success in their lives, but need to make some changes to make them even more successful.

As Gladwell points out, there are several reasons successful people are reluctant to change:
  • their past behavior worked
  • arrogance
  • success serves them as a protective shell
  • they are working towards an endgame that doesn't matter to them (they don't care what other people think or about promotions or money)
And, there are a few reasons that often work as motivators to change (especially in business):
  • money
  • power
  • status
  • popularity

Goldsmith then goes on to list twenty habits that hold people back from becoming more successful. I won't list them all here (or why would you read the book?) but most of them can be derived from the first one, which is Winning Too Much (or Needing to Win Too Much). This need takes many unflattering shapes -- arguing, putting down, ignoring, withholding, blaming, etc. The more you can suppress the need to win, the more you let others be right, and the more they will respect and enjoy working with you.

After sharing the 20 Habits that Hold You Back, Goldsmith offers Seven Steps to Improvement, all of which seem fairly commonsensical:

  • Accepting Feeback
  • Apologizing
  • Advertising the change you're trying to make
  • Listening
  • Thanking people
  • Following up
  • Practicing Feedforward

Feedforward is an ingenious way to get other people involved in your success. The concept is simple -- pick something to change, describe your project to everyone you know, ask them for two suggestions on how to improve in that area, listen carefully and thank them.

That's it. Don't comment on the ideas, complain about them or agree to do them. Simply listen and say "Thank you." Then compile a list of suggestions and begin to act.

While this is a particularly business-based book, there are a number of suggestions (especially listening, thanking and apologizing) that work really well in personal relationships, too. And, although I haven't tested it yet myself, feedforward seems like a really good way to get those around you to buy into the changes that you're trying to make -- especially if your changing threatens those people.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

whispering sweet nothings to myself

There're a number of theories out there dealing with how people talk to themselves. One of them says that if you say something outloud, it means you've thought it to yourself something like 20,000 times (or some other outrageous number. I'm kind of making that one up). So if you're saying things like "god, I suck" or "I'm so stupid" or "I hate everything" it means you're spending a LOT of your time thinking negatively.

Not sure you're doing this? Simply monitor what you say outloud and you can get a barometer of what's going on inside your head.

I've been working on this for a long time, and have really cut back on the number of horrible, judgemental things I say to myself. (It used to be mostly "Ugh! You're so stupid!" or "Too fat!") Now, for the most part, me, myself and I are just chat buddies, striking up conversations whenever we feel like it. (Generally, not on a crowded subway car or in the supermarket or anything -- we're discreet.)

For the sake of entertainment, I spent a day making mental notes about the outstanding things I say outloud to myself. Here are but a few. (Mind you, these are all things I said outloud, to nobody.):

"Ooh, that does NOT taste right." (and then I drank again.)
"Let's go then, shall we?" (apparently I am the queen)
"She's so awesome!" (as I hung up the phone with a friend)
"Toilet, please flush. I'm getting sick of this." (arguably, I said this to the toilet.)
"Couldn't you just do yourselves?" (again, I was talking to the dishes.)
"It helps to take your keys, Kate, if you want them." (I do use my own name.)
"Ok, we're done here." (I said this as I walked away from a cake.)
"Phew! You are stinky!" (I can't help it. I just went running!)

I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones I remember -- or at least the ones I caught myself saying and then actually remembered when I sat down to write.

My challenge for you, though, is to keep stock of what you say. Are you friendly? Are you harsh? What comes out of your mouth, and what swirls around in your head?