What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There

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Marshall Goldsmith, a highly acclaimed executive coach, published a book several years ago by the title “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There”. His focus is on how to help successful people become even more successful – and climb the last few rungs of the ladder.

Goldsmith notes that the corporate world is filled with executives who worked hard for years to reach the upper levels of management. They’re intelligent, skilled, and even charismatic. But only a handful of them will ever reach the pinnacle. In this book, he focuses on transactional mistakes that lead to negative perceptions which can hold executive back. Amazon’s book review notes that executives who hire Goldsmith for one-on-one coaching pay $250,000 for the privilege; the book, for 1/10,000th of the price, provides key advice for changing such behaviors.

I use the concept differently. When I work with leaders who are Vistage New York members or simply use my executive coaching services, I generally am working with the top leaders of organizations. They want to grow their company. Getting from “here” to “there”– say a $10M firm to a $100M firm requires an expanded skill-set and perspective for the company and for the leader. For the company, it means:

  • Developing a set of corporate and business strategies that will bridge the gap over time. These include refining who is your ideal client, serving these clients superbly and generate scales of economy and scope.
  • Focusing on the expanded (and often new set of) competitors and forging a Commanding Business Strategy (i.e. a sustainable Competitive Advantage).
  • Hiring the right people and building a culture that encourages people to continue doing their best work and collaborate with others for optimal team/corporate effectiveness, especially during the tough transitions that inevitably occur.

For the leader, it means:

  • Making more complex decisions
  • Having more direct reports and needing to delegate more
  • Forging a more powerful and collaborative executive team
  • Focusing more on the roles of innovation, technology, organic vs. strategic growth (e.g., M&A)
  • Managing time more effectively
  • Working harder to balancing one’s personal and family priorities.

To be effective with my clients requires that I, too, use an expanded skill set as we move from “here” to “there”. Daily, I challenge my existing psychological, legal and business expertise by reading, listening and learning, so I can incorporate into my repertoire additional coaching and consulting skills and perspectives with which to address the concerns that come with growth.

What were the greatest challenges you faced as a leader as you moved from “here” to “there” – both as a leader and as a company?  Share your thoughts with us.