Issue No. 269 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting highlights a bestseller with 20 workplace habits you need to break. (Before you order it for your boss—look in the mirror yourself.) Plus, this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
Behavioral Tics and Tweaks
Good News: a client gave me this week’s book. Bad News: a client gave me this week’s book.
Whew! This is one powerful, convicting book. Bestselling author Marshall Goldsmith says there are 20 workplace habits you need to break. He quotes Peter Drucker:
“We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.”
Goldsmith agrees and then asks, “When was the last retreat or training session you attended that was titled, Stupid Things Our Top People Do That We Need to Stop Doing Now?”
Mega-Warning! The author—called the World’s #1 Leadership Thinker (pretty good branding)—says the problem for leaders is “not deep-seated neuroses that require years of therapy or tons of medication to erase. More often than not, they are simple behavioral tics—bad habits that we repeat dozens of times a day in the workplace—which can be cured by (a) pointing them out, (b) showing the havoc they cause among the people surrounding us, and (c) demonstrating that with a slight behavioral tweak we can achieve a much more appealing effect.”
Perceptively, Goldsmith identifies co-workers, bosses, volunteers and board members you know: “people who do one annoying thing repeatedly on the job—and don’t realize that this small flaw may sabotage their otherwise golden career. And, worse, they do not realize that (a) it’s happening and (b) they can fix it.”
But here’s his asteroid-size attention-getter: smart, successful people are pitifully blind to their own tics. (If you agree, then insert your own Big Gulp here.)
The author says that the faulty behavior that messes up the workplace (and your home) is not due to flaws of skill, intelligence or personality. “What we’re dealing with here are challenges in interpersonal behavior, often leadership behavior. They are the
egregious everyday annoyances
that make your workplace substantially more noxious than it needs to be. They don’t happen in a vacuum. They are transactional flaws performed by one person against others.”
The 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break include:
#1. Winning too much.
#2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
#3. Passing judgment.
#5. Starting with “No,” But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly says to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
#9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
#12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
#14. Playing favorites.
#16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
#18. Punishing the messenger.
#20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.
There are another 10—equally convicting for some of us. But here’s the good news: Goldsmith says that these faults are simple to correct. Yet there’s bad news:
“The higher you go [in your career],
the more your problems are behavioral.”
If you’re gutsy enough to read this, you will not get to page 223 unscathed. If you read with a pen, like I do, you’ll have few unmarked pages. As a bonus along the way, the leadership wisdom oozes out:
• Why not listening sends an “Armada of Negative Messages” (page 86) and three things all good listeners do (page 147). Goldsmith says “80 percent of our success in learning from other people is based upon how well we listen.”
• The seven phases of a project and why projects fail because we erroneously practice “one, two, three, seven.” Don’t skip Phase 5: woo laterally to get buy-in from peers (page 144).
• One big reminder about people styles: “You are not managing you” (page 208).
• Why the most successful CEOs and senior leaders often have the best personal assistants (page 196).
• Why people’s common sense gets fuzzy and opaque—when you’re talking about interpersonal behavior, and why leaders often choose the wrong thing to fix (the easy one, not the glaring one). See Goldsmith’s seven rules on the change process, including “Rule 1: You Might Not Have a Disease That Behavioral Change Can Cure” (chapter 13).
• Why you must say “Thank You” when receiving requested feedback—and then stop. Say no more. Nada! (Chapter 11: Following Up and Chapter 12: Practicing Feedforward)
I don’t know how I missed this gem-of-a-book, first published in 2007, but I’m very, very grateful to Gordon Flinn at Simpson University for this treasured gift. It has already improved my conversations when my wife, Joanne, offers a kind tweak for one of my many tics. I’m learning to respond, “Thank you.” Period.
As a Christ-follower, I have one caveat to the book. There is a spiritual dimension missing, as is common in many business/leadership books. For the Christian, behavioral change is a mandate, but we’re not dependent on only bootstrap discipline and frank feedback. Made in the image of God, we can understand and implement real change only from a theological, biblical worldview. It’s not either/or, it’s both. (If I could thoughtfully integrate the practicality of this book with the deep spiritual context of the business book I’m reviewing in my next issue, then, wow, that would be the perfect balance. Stay tuned!)
Two additional notes: First, Chapter 12, Special Challenges for People in Charge, encourages leaders to write a document: “Memo to Staff: How to Handle Me.” If written with humility and transparency, it’s a brilliant, brilliant tool.
Second, the appendix features a “Global Leadership Inventory” that can be used as a 360-feedback assessment. Respondents are asked to rate their leaders on a five-point scale from Highly Satisfied to Highly Dissatisfied. (Example: #44: “Asks people what he/she can do to improve.”) This is worth the price of the book.
To order from Amazon, click on the graphic for What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Discover the 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break, by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) The author says that a “minor” workplace foible can become a major crisis. Why? “More often than not, it’s because people’s inner compass of correct behavior has gone out of whack—and they become clueless about their position among their coworkers.” So…if all of us are somewhat clueless, what should we do?
2) Goldsmith lists a 21st behavioral issue by giving “Goal Obsession” its own chapter. Goal obsession is “…not a flaw. It’s a creator of flaws. It’s the force that distorts our otherwise exemplary talents and good intentions, turning them into something we no longer admire.” Why might that be?
Management by Bestseller - Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
One of the big ideas in Chapter 5, The Book Bucket, in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets, is to avoid management by bestseller. I first heard the phrase, “management by bestseller,” over coffee at Starbucks with Scott Vandeventer.
Scott nailed it. He commented, “Too many leaders frolic from fad to fad, taking otherwise good ideas and making programs out of them, for as long as their attention span can handle it, without ever getting to their core values and their own unique business model or value proposition.”
To drill deeper, join David Curry and me at CLA Anaheim 2013, April 30-May 2, for the workshop, Bad Idea: Management by Bestseller. For more help and to download “Worksheet #5.1: Your Top-100 Books List,” visit the Book Bucket on my Management Buckets website.