One of my favorite leadership books is Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. In the book, he outlines 20 mistakes leaders commonly make that prevent them from rising to higher positions, new roles, and building their influence with others. Some of these mistakes include:
- Making Destructive Comments (Needing to throw in your two cents and take slight jabs at others with sarcastic, witty remarks to elevate yourself)
- Failing to Give Proper Recognition (Not giving people a much-deserved payoff; not telling them their hard work is greatly appreciated)
- Passing the Buck (Example: Mary blames others for the mistakes she makes, or Andy blames everyone but himself for the problems occurring within the company)
It’s a fantastic book, and as Goldsmith notes, just one or two of these bad habits can be a death sentence to your ability to lead effectively.
As I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders throughout my career, I rarely meet a leader who doesn’t have at least one of these bad habits. The great leaders I’ve had the pleasure of knowing don’t let their bad habits get the best of them – even though they have a few bad habits, they are aware enough to keep them in check.
Looking through the book recently, I had forgotten the 21st habit Goldsmith included at the back end of his 20-habit list. And with the New Year upon us, it’s a fitting topic to discuss.
That 21st habit… Goal Obsession.
As Goldsmith quickly notes, goal setting can be healthy if done correctly: It’s goal obsession that leads to consequences – especially if the goals cause harm to others or ourselves.
- Financial goals are good; neglecting others or trampling others to pursue financial goals is bad.
- Weight loss goals are good; extreme dieting is bad.
- Working hard for a promotion is good; stabbing others in the back to achieve a promotion is bad.
(As I recently wrote, changing self-beliefs is more effective than aiming towards goals, but in the workplace, goals are necessary and need to be set.)
As a leader, teammate, or colleague in any career field, high character is a necessary ingredient for success. If you break your integrity or character values, people will notice, and the respect you earned from colleagues will decrease the more your character flaws are revealed. It’s imperative that your goals don’t bring out the worst in you and expose any flaw you’ve worked hard to overcome.
As Goldsmith writes, “[Goal obsession] is not a flaw. It’s a creator of flaws.”
As you set organizational goals in 2021 – from little ones to BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals, coined by Jim Collins), don’t let your pursuit of goals turn into an all-consuming obsession.
And be sure to include character improvement goals on the list of things you aim to accomplish this year.
If you keep a steady aim at character improvement, you will stay balanced and be even stronger on your expedition to achieve your most ambitious goals.
Here’s to a great and prosperous 2021!