“What got you here won’t get you there.”
Marshall Goldsmith, organizational psychologist and executive coach, popularized this bit of wisdom in his 2007 book of the same name.
The truths he points to? It’s all about interpersonal relationships.
The very phrase presumes that you’ve already arrived someplace – good at your job, role, position – but you want to grow, get better, even ‘smooth out’ your rough edges.
Goldsmith knows that who we are as human beings, especially as leaders, must evolve and change over time as we interact in our own personal corner of the world, whatever it happens to look like. His specialty is helping leaders overcome their sometimes unconscious annoying habits to attain a higher level of success.
Fine tuning is required as our view of ourselves, our very identity, shifts over the course of our lives.
Life throws us curve balls, so if our tuning is intentional, it enables us to work with the complexities of constant flux and change we face today.
Goldsmith speaks about our human nature as,
“…replaying a show reel of our greatest moments,” a realization that one client said, “cut emotionally deep.”
Because we’d love to believe that, by the time we’re adults, in positions of influence, that we’ve arrived: highly skilled, smart, savvy, inspiring even.
But, it’s not true. At. All.
I can feel the heat of your reaction rising. I know it intimately.
To help you understand this concept more fully, I’m going to share a personal example of fine tuning in my own life.
Having practiced aikido for more than fifteen years, one wise lesson that stands out to me among many, is be in the moment whatever it holds. Even if it’s unskillful or ugly or difficult.
Part of progressing through the aikido ranks requires the demonstration of skills.
After a great demonstration sensei would tell us, “Enjoy your success, because we’ll be back here tomorrow to practice again.”
And after a poor demonstration she’d say, “Feel badly about it tonight, yet remember, we’ll be back here tomorrow to practice again.”
The practice of catching ourselves, on the mat or in life, turns a spotlight on our usual, go-to strategies to reveal the anatomy of what’s worked in the past and what’s not working now.
Obscured from us, our identity (AKA personality) runs the show and sabotages our effectiveness as leaders. This is true whether it’s big (promotion, running for election, business going public), small (conversation with a direct report or loved one), or somewhere in-between.
Our growth requires a bit of pressure to shift our old, already-embodied ways of doing things. Not because they’re wrong, but because it’s necessary.
Growth involves the very pressure we’re all eager to push off, delegate or even avoid all together.
Working our edges is uncomfortable, even though we know it’s under intense pressure that diamonds are formed, or under high heat that metals are forged into useful tools or art. We, as humans, as leaders, evolve into all that we can become with a bit of heat.
Yes, what got us here won’t get us there.
With the rush and busyness of our times, constant distractions taxing our attention, it’s easy to become absorbed with what’s worked in the past. Makes sense actually. And, it won’t get us where we’d like to go.
A willingness to commit, to be uncomfortable with the necessary pressure and heat, will help you forge the new capacities required to get there from here.
Like any coach, sensei certainly wanted us to improve our skills. Yet her comments reminded us that no matter our current performance, superb or sidetracked, we’d resume practice once again — incorporating our learning to advance our skills and increase our rank.
Sensei didn’t want our emotional reactions to get in the way, even if the in-the-moment feedback, ‘cut deep.’ Practice was the constant, not the result.
Once you practice catching yourself being yourself – including your emotional reactions – you’ll choose to let go of those old strategies that no longer serve you and keep you stuck HERE.