Spoiler alert: What got them to this level won’t get them further

We can’t all afford the best executive coach in the business but we can find out what he has to say about our high performers.

Marshall Goldsmith is recognized as the foremost executive coach in the US. This biz coaching guru wrote a bestseller with the tongue-twisting title of, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Quick translation: Your successful high performers may not have what it takes to succeed at the next level in your business. That’s bad news for your succession plans for that next leadership opening.

Goldsmith’s main point is the very beliefs that help high potential leaders climb the ladder of success may prevent them from climbing any higher. Your leadership talent can get stuck at a certain level unless they change unproductive beliefs – and behaviors – that limit their ability to progress higher to lead your business.

“The same beliefs that helped you get to your current level of success can inhibit you from making the changes needed to stay there – or move forward.” – M. Goldsmith

Are any of these limiting your talented people from moving up to more?Are your high performers:

  1. In denial and blind to their dysfunctions?
  2. Delusional?
  3. Overconfident?

Talent in denial

We all have the tendency to hear (just) what we want to hear. However, the more successful we become, the more selective we are in our ‘hearing.’ Success makes it more difficult to take in valid, constructive feedback that would improve your talent’s performance.

Goldsmith says it this way,“Often our own success delusion stands in our way and causes us to resist change.”

Success Delusion

Success delusion means overstating one’s abilities, contribution and achievements. Patrick Lencioni, international author and speaker, calls it the ‘Fundamental Attribution Error.’ It’s our natural tendency to credit our success to our natural talents, abilities and good looks; while crediting the success of others to their good fortune (rather than their abilities or talent). In other words, “I’m really good; you’re just lucky.”

It’s hard for high performers to take criticism or a recommendation to change, even if it’s warranted. What happens when your talent gets negative feedback about their handling of a major client, or missing a production deadline? Responses can include:

  1. Denial: “You’re wrong.” Your high performer dismisses the feedback as simply wrong. Or, if perhaps even if the criticism may be valid, it can’t be that important–or else why would he or she be so successful?
  2. Confusion: ‘They can’t be talking about me!’ When someone suggests a need to change, your high performer may respond with a look of befuddlement. It’s their critics who are confused.
  3. Discredit the source: Your high performer may attack the other party and discredit the messenger. “Why is a successful person like me listening to someone (less successful) like you?”

This isn’t about arrogance.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t (necessarily) about conceit. Rather, it’s about overconfidence. Talented people usually have a strong belief in themselves and their abilities– it’s part of what makes them successful. As your talent quickly moves up though the organization, they become vested in their natural abilities and achievements. The assumption is that these abilities will continue to propel their growth to the next level.

The problem is that’s not always true. In fact, this assumption can inhibit your talent’s ability to become the leader your business needs.

While your positive beliefs about yourself helped you become successful, these same beliefs can make it tough to change. The same beliefs that helped you get to your current level of success can inhibit you from making the changes needed to stay there – or move forward.
– M. Goldsmith

I’ve seen this at work in thriving businesses launched by dynamic entrepreneurs, ready to breakthrough to the next level. But the style of leadership that ‘got them here’ struggles to take the business ‘there.’ It often takes a new type of leadership – or a significant shift by the current one – to drive the business to the next level in its growth.

The Remedy

What can you do to help your talent get from ‘here’ to ‘there’? While this deserves another blog post, a few tips are:

  • Help your talent keep their success in perspective. In other words, “don’t let success go to their head.” There is always more to learn and more growth to be had.
  • Provide feedback from a variety of sources. Sometimes a multitude of voices can bring clarity to an issue and break through denial. It may take an outside voice -like a professional coach – for your talent to take constructive feedback to heart.
  • Let them fail occasionally. Assign a project that’s beyond or outside of their typical scope. A failure or ‘stumble’ can be a great teacher and enhance a high performer’s receptivity to feedback
    Send them to a great development program, even if that means one outside of your industry. Exposure to talented people in other industries will stir up fresh perspectives and ideas – and perhaps even a dose of helpful humility

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is one of the core ‘texts’ for the Accelerated Leaders Cohort – a premier development and advancement program for high potential talent launching June 2022! Learn more about our program by downloading the Accelerating Leaders Cohort Overview at ____________

TalentXponential delivers innovative talent development programs for high performers and emerging leaders in mid-size, high growth industries. Whether you want new leaders to hit the ground running or ensure your emerging leadership are prepared to lead the business, our custom programs deliver optimum results. For a full list of services visit TalentXponential.com.