What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – Book Review

Brief Description:  Marshall Goldsmith is America’s preeminent executive coach and in his book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” he outlines some of the bad behavior that is lurking in us.  It is broken into four sections the first two explains what got you “here” and how 20 habits are holding you back.  The second two sections explain how to change so that you can get “there”.  It is only 223 pages (not including appendix and index) so a quick read.

I have included his condensed descriptions of the 20 habits, which he refers to as “egregious everyday annoyances” below.  He goes it to more detail in the book, the longer descriptions are necessary to confirm whether or not you are truly guilty. He provides great tactical advice on how to combat these nasty habits.  His exercise for improving your listening skills is ridiculously simple but effective.


  1. 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. 2.       Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
  3. 3.       Passing Judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
  4. 4.       Making destructive comments:  The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
  5. 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. 6.       Telling the world how smart we are:  The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
  7. 7.       Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
  8. 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. 9.       Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
  10. 10.    Failing to give proper recognition:  The inability to praise and reward.
  11. 11.    Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success. 
  12. 12.    Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
  13. 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. 14.    Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
  15. 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. 16.    Not listening:  The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. 17.    Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
  18. 18.    Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
  19. 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.


My Thoughts:  I found his writing style entertaining especially with such a heavy topic.  It is really hard to hear about personal failings. The light hearted way he approaches the topic helps to set aside your own feelings.   I was inspired to read his book because I have been working on a few of the 20 habits myself specifically #16 becoming a better listener.  I was surprised to learn that I am also guilty of #9 withholding information.  I had always pictured withholding information as the boss who won’t pass info down to subordinates, or a co-worker who operates in a vacuum, but it can also be someone like me who doesn’t share personal or professional updates with their friends or peers.  In my case I often feel what I have to share is not valuable and I never considered that this could be just as hurtful.  That bit alone makes this book well worth the read.

How this can be applied in talent acquisition?   This book can be applied directly to our craft whether you are on the front lines courting candidates or on the back end operations building programs.  It is important to flush our habits that send the wrong message.  We are told relentlessly how important our personal brand is particularly online, but what could be more important to our personal brand than how we treat the people we work with everyday.  Couldn’t every talent acquisition professional benefit from becoming a better listener?  I also know a few recruiters who are guilty of #1 winning too much and he provides some great insight in breaking that habit. 

What about you?  Have you read the book?  Are you working on breaking any bad habits?  




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