Managing Derailers on the Road to Leadership Success

Many leaders, even very successful ones, find themselves stuck between where they currently are and the next level. And what’s keeping them stuck, according to master coach and author Marshall Goldsmith, is a range of annoying habits that work to undermine relationships, reputation, and ultimately, one’s career. In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Goldsmith identifies seemingly minor workplace foibles, which, if left unchecked, chip away at the goodwill a leader has established. These obnoxious habits include “adding one’s two cents to every discussion, starting with ‘no,’ ‘but,’ or ‘however,’ withholding information, making excuses, failing to express gratitude, and refusing to express regret.” While these behaviors aren’t terribly egregious in isolation, over time, they have a death-by-a-thousand-cuts effect on others. These bad habits, which are often repeated dozens of times a day, diminish trust in the workplace.

While behaviors are irritating to others, the leaders themselves are often oblivious. That’s why Goldsmith incorporates a coaching process of deepening awareness, practicing new behavior, and circling back with others. Coaching begins with a 360-degree assessment in which leaders receive feedback from their colleagues, superiors, and direct reports. Leaders are then asked to apologize to everyone affected by their actions and to “advertise” their intentions for shifting their behavior. As they experiment with new behaviors, leaders diligently follow up with others and “listen without prejudice” about how they are seen and “feed forward” by eliciting advice on how they can improve. This powerful process reduces blind spots, generates authentic dialogue, increases accountability, and most importantly, helps leaders get to the next level of leading.