Victor Burrill, Chairman of the Business Executive Network, offers insights into Marshall Goldsmith’s bestseller “WHAT GOT YOU HERE WON’T GET YOU THERE,” revealing behaviors that can hold leaders back from personal and professional growth.

Being a CEO is a lot like being a captain at sea. 

Both need to be held accountable, stay adaptable, and, above all, maintain a clear vision that will help lead your people to where you want to go. 

Many leaders pride themselves on how they do things, and that is exactly why even the best captains can find themselves lost at sea. They learn to trust their instincts and stop looking at their maps. History has shown that they forget again and again that what got them “here” won’t get them “there.” 

Marshall Goldsmith, a seasoned authority in leadership development, has worked with CEOs for over five decades. With a repertoire of over 40 authored or co-authored books and a global footprint that spans across various continents, including two visits to Vietnam, Goldsmith has honed his expertise. Over the course of his journey, he’s identified 20 habits that hold people back and created a map to help people who’ve lost their way to get back on track and, more importantly, stay on track going forward. 

Victor Burrill, Chairman of The Business Executive Network Vietnam, remembers vividly attending Goldsmith’s events in Vietnam. Through his own experience of connecting, empowering, and collaborating with executive leaders in various industries, he agrees with the main idea of Goldsmith’s book and has noticed a few recurring themes pop up for discussion. 

The first of which is Goldsmith’s #1: Winning Too Much — “the need to win at all costs, even in situations where it is unnecessary or counter- productive.” Like Goldsmith, Burrill, and almost every CEO there is, they want to win. They want to be the best. After all, it’s their competitive fire that has led to much of their success. However, striving to win at all costs rings up a heavy price tag that cannot be overlooked. Sure, winning is contagious, and that has its benefits. But the necessity to win everything, everywhere, all the time—whether that is a deal at work, an argument at home, or anywhere in between—can morph into a contagion that spreads more harm than good. 

The second is #2: Adding Too Much Value. According to Goldsmith, this comes across as a tendency to consistently interject one’s thoughts or opinions into every scenario, which has the potential to undercut the efforts of others and diminish their meaningful contributions. 

We speak too much, leaders especially. An executive might sit in on a meeting and hear a good idea from one of their employees, and say, “That’s a good idea, but we should do this as well.” You think your suggestion is adding value, but really, you’re diminishing the value of an already good idea. As a result, the employee will often feel less connected to the company’s vision moving forward. 

This goes hand in hand with another crucial behavior Burrill pointed out, #16: Not Listening, which is defined as “interrupting, not fully engaging, or dismissing the opinions of others.” More often than not, top-down suggestions are perceived as captain’s orders. If an employee doesn’t feel like their ideas are heard, they will likely feel dismissed, discouraged, and disconnected; leaving them less motivated to contribute original ideas from the bottom up in the future. Successful companies encourage creativity and innovation. Not listening and trying to add too much value is where innovation goes to die. 

The last, most crucial behavior that holds leaders back from reaching the pinnacle of their career, in Burrill’s opinion, and the most discussed in the network’s peer groups is #7: Speaking When Angry — “allowing emotions to dictate communication, leading to potentially harmful or regrettable statements.”

Anger is a classic example of a double-edged sword in business and life. As Goldsmith writes, 

“Anger has its value as a management tool, I guess. It wakes up sleepy employees. It raises everyone’s metabolism. It delivers the clear message that you give a damn—which employees need to hear on occasion. But at what price? Emotional volatility is not the most reliable leadership tool. When you get angry, you are usually out of control. It’s hard to lead people when you’ve lost control. You may think you have a handle on your temper, and that you can use your spontaneous rages to manipulate and motivate people. But it’s very hard to predict how people will react to anger. They will shut down as often as they will perk up.” 

Anger is tricky. It is a useful tool, and so is a hammer. But, as the psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

Anger is good because it can help set boundaries, drive change, and elicit accountability in others. But if asserting anger is your only tool to accomplish those things, it may do the opposite, distancing you further from others, stifling change, and instilling fear in those around you; so much so that they will eventually shirk responsibility and blame others. Following such a map leads you in the opposite direction of getting to where you want to go, in other words, getting “there.” 

Burrill himself admits that he is a fiery guy and, from experience, has seen a lot of executives get to where they are because they have the conviction and the standards of where they want to go. But, in the same breath, he explains anger itself is not the issue. Anger can be a natural reaction to a situation, for example, when somebody crosses the line with you. The problem is speaking when angry—allowing your emotions to get the best of you in that present moment. Whether you are the CEO at the top or the entry-level employee at the bottom, everybody is susceptible to moments where they let their anger get the best of them. Burrill reflects on the numerous mentors who have played pivotal roles in his personal and professional growth, acknowledging the challenges of managing anger and the cyclical nature of emotional reactions (i.e., getting angry about getting angry). Consequently, he emphasizes the value of the Business Executive Network Vietnam. He likens it to a club of captains. It is designed to help you navigate your ship through uncertain times and weather the storms. Having a group of people in the form of a confidential peer group, one that understands your position, is there to listen without judgment, and is willing to give the time and space needed to air your frustrations is invaluable. Invariably, someone listening knows all too well what you’re going through and can provide helpful feedback to help widen your perspective and increase your awareness of your role in the situation. 

But, as Goldsmith and Burrill note, knowing you need to change is easy; it’s the changing that’s hard. 

Knowing that your need to win at all costs is costing you future wins, that trying to add too much value is actually subtracting value, or that letting anger get the best of you is what’s keeping you from being your best holds little value without subsequent action. The true measure of personal growth lies in the perspective of those who surround us, not solely our own self-perception. That is the true value of having good people around you. They want the best for you, are willing to help you get “there,” and won’t accept anything less. 

Besides, it’s really not so much about getting “there” anyway. It’s about what you learn (and “unlearn”) along the way. It’s not about the destination. It’s not about your journey. It’s about being the best leader for the company. 

The epigraph of Goldsmith’s book is a quote from Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado about Nothing, and is the same quote I’ll use in conclusion: “Happy are they that can hear their detractions and put them to mending.” 

20 Behaviors Even the Most Successful People Need to Stop

By Marshall Goldsmith 

1. Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations.

2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion. 

3. Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them. 

4. Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us witty. 

5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone “I’m right, and you’re wrong.” 

6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are. 

7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool. 

8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts, even when we weren’t asked. 

9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information to maintain an advantage over others. 

10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to give praise and reward. 

11. Claiming credit that we don’ deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contributions to any success. 

12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture, so people excuse us for it. 

13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else. 

14. Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly. 

15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others. 

16. Not listening: The most passive aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues. 

17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners. 

18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent, who are usually only trying to help us.

19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves. 20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

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Tim Burrill
Membership Manager & Executive Assistant
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