Friday, 3 August 2012

Marshall Goldsmith On Being More Successful

During the past few days, I have realized one thing about my relationship with books. There's no need to read book recommendations or go about book stores to find good ones. I don’t have to reach out to books, they have their own way to reach me.

In a recent post, I wrote how I got a book at the Startup Saturday event. My acquaintance Hemanth S, with whom I had gone to the event told about the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. After listening to his praise, I bought the book (on flipkart.com, where else), took the time out and read it fully.

Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses is a prevalent management counsel. Marcus Buckingham is a notable exponent with his books, especially Go Put Your Strengths To Work in which he wrote, “A person or an organization will excel only by amplifying strengths, never by simply fixing weaknesses.”

In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith expresses a different approach. It revolves entirely around correcting weaknesses. In his words, “At the higher levels of organizational life, all the leading players are technically skilled. They’re all smart. They’re all up to date on the technical aspects of their job.

All other things being equal, your people skills (or lack of them) become more pronounced the higher up you go. In fact, even when all other things are not equal, your people skills often make the difference in how high you go.” (pg 42 & 43)

It is not contrarian to the existing management thinking. To be successful, focus on your strengths. After reaching good heights, correct your interpersonal weaknesses to be even more successful. In fact that is the sub-title: How Successful People Become Even More Successful.

The style is very personal and you can feel the author talking to you. The book is indeed a page turner. While emphasizing the need to stop bad behaviour he instructs: ‘Get out your notepad. Instead of your usual “To Do” list, start your “To Stop” list. By the end of this book, your list may grow.’ That got me hooked completely into the book.

I found the advice given in the book very valid and very useful.

As I was reading the book, I was wondering how come it was so un-Western like. By page 84, I found it. The author writes, ‘When you say, “I’m sorry,” you turn people into your allies, even your partners. I picked up on this paradox when I began studying Buddhism in graduate school. As a Buddhist I believe that we reap what we sow. If you smile at people, they will smile back. If you ignore them, they will resent you.”’

In the chapter on “Practicing Feedforward”, there is a section “Leave it at the stream” in which the author narrates “an old Buddhist parable illustrates the challenge - and the value of - letting go of the past.” (pg 176)

To round it off, there is a small bit against a Biblical saying: “By all means, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But realize that it doesn’t apply in all instances of management. If you manage your people the way you’d want to be managed, you’re forgetting one thing: You’re not managing you.” (pg 209)

I know zilch about Buddhism. But it looks the coaching philosophy of Goldsmith and the prescriptions in the book are Buddhist principles or inspirations of Buddhist principles as applied to the corporate world.

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