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.

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