What Got You Here Will Get You There

The title of this article is a spin on Marshall Goldsmith’s well-known leadership book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. 

But what if it will?

What if it’s not so much about changing the way you behave, but becoming more aware of the behaviors that got you to where you’re at today? The ones that you now let slide?

Oftentimes we have this mindset of “I’ll just do ‘x’ for now, so that it will get me ‘y’ later.” Then you get “y,” and you stop doing “x” – and that’s when things go sideways.

I’m talking about jobs and careers, but this concept applies to any relationship in your life – and yes, you have a relationship with your job.

Three behaviors allow you to succeed at the beginning and to be successful as time goes on:

Listening

When people listen well early in their career, it can be because they don’t know what to say or are afraid of looking stupid. It can also be a way to learn more about what another person cares about. Particularly when that person is your boss, knowing more about a person’s interests may provide more obvious benefits later.

As you grow in your career, you naturally gain expertise in your chosen field. You may also become more comfortable speaking up before waiting to hear the perspectives of everyone else in the room. It can be exciting to realize you have expertise, especially when see you’re finally getting acknowledged for it.

The result of this newfound confidence can be that you offer to share your expertise early and often. You might also assume that you have more expertise than others just because they haven’t spoken up, not realizing that the lack of speaking may be more attached to a lack of opportunity to speak than to not having anything to say.

Whereas before you listened because you needed information from others to gain expertise, you now view yourself as already having some level of expertise. In other words, on some level, you think you “have arrived.” Whether you mean to or not, you crowd out other voices simply because you don’t see how they can directly benefit you.

On the flip side, those that listen only to those with power, and only to get clues on how to influence them later may find themselves climbing the proverbial ladder quickly. However, they will suffer later in their career when others around them don’t care to act on what they say simply because of that position of power.

True leadership requires listening often, and to all people at all levels and in all areas. Listening in order to understand the other person’s experience – not just listening for the bits and pieces that already support your own agenda or provide you with what you need in that given moment – will help you gain the respect of others around you over time.

Learning

When you know that you don’t know, it’s easy to devour all sorts of information. Your goal of knowledge acquisition makes sense, because early on, it’s tied to things like grades and entry-level requirements that can be more easily tested or displayed as signs of achievement.

But if you’re learning so that you can obtain something, you run the risk of stopping the learning once that thing has been obtained. And once you stop learning, you stop making as many new mental connections.

Early on, these connections were what helped you grow in your field and discover unknown possibilities. You would also frequently look for new skills to build, because not only did you know that you that you lacked experience, but the path to acquire those skills was paved a bit more clearly. Maybe there were more courses available for some of those skills, because they are ones that almost everyone in your field needs to learn.

But again, you stop once you reach a certain job or destination, a version of believing you “have arrived.”

The result is not just missed opportunities, connections, and potential for joining together resources from disparate areas of a company (or your life), but also missed opportunity to feel fulfilled from the satisfaction that comes through the process of learning and development.

It can lead to a bit of an obsession with the next promotion or the next job, believing that achievement will be the thing that fills the void from a behavior and practice you let slide over time.

Paying attention to detail

If you look at an executive-level job description, you’re unlikely to find “detail-oriented” as a bullet point. Similarly, if you write a cover letter for an executive-level position, detail-oriented is also something you’re unlikely to lead with.

Not seeing this as you advance, it can be easy to assume that it’s no longer important, and something that is to be handled by those who are more entry level. But that’s not the case.

Being detail-oriented is very important as you advance your career (or any other relationship), but the challenge becomes more about knowing which details to pay attention to.

Managers that pay attention to all the details will squash the growth of those around them and may find it hard to influence those above them. Managers that believe they have “moved past” this quality, seeing it as the price of admission and not a behavior to be continued, will find it hard to gain the respect of those around them and also find tasks slipping through the cracks.

Paying attention to detail is something to be continued as you grow in your career or other relationships. It may require building systems for yourself and others as well as regularly evaluating priorities in order to effectively carry the skill forward. Doing so helps ensure everyone has the right level of detail, about the right topics, at the right time, so that they can succeed.

Conclusion

It takes more than three behaviors to be successful in any endeavor, but these are the three that I most often see slip as we settle into the comfort of “having” the job or the relationship.

Be intentional about the kind of person you want to be through your consistent action rather than focusing on how you want to be seen. A certain job title, a PR campaign, or tidy social media presence doesn’t erase what takes place in the day-to-day.

Doing so leads to better results overall – for careers, for companies, and for relationships. And you’ll find – if your intention is checked, not focused on acquiring more or covering up what should be showcased as a lesson learned – that what got you here will in fact get you there.

P.S. If you haven’t read the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, I highly recommend it. I originally read it not too long after it was released, over a decade ago, and reread a good portion of it as I considered this article. Always nice when the same material provides you with new perspective!

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