Rising Up the Corporate Ladder

Climbing past personal obstacles to a greater level of success

11WP-book-LIVEDespite enjoying more than 26 years in human resources, personnel veteran Mike Guyton recently took time to evaluate and make some changes to improve opportunities for career advancement.

“After years of my career being on the upswing, it started to plateau,” admits Guyton, director of human resources with Bethesda, Maryland-based Coventry Health Care Inc.

It was during this period in early 2007 that he picked up Marshall Goldsmith’s career handbook, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (Hyperion; $24.95), a management guide that distills much of Goldsmith’s behavioral studies and pinpoints the top 20 bad habits that tend to impede accomplished professionals. Goldsmith, an executive coach, identifies sabotaging interpersonal actions.

The higher one moves up the corporate ladder, the more their setbacks will be behavioral rather than technical, writes Goldsmith. Yet, he assures readers that these personal challenges are easy for anyone to overcome.

Guyton is proof-positive. Since reading the book, he has analyzed his professional weaknesses and addressed the following bad habits to champion greater career success:

Habit #2: Adding too much value.

Having to always add to a discussion under the guise of making an idea better is often counterproductive.

While the listener may have improved the content by 5%, he or she has reduced the speaker’s involvement by 50%. This habit of offering well-intentioned feedback can diminish the speaker’s confidence, stifle professional development, and steal ownership of the idea or project.

Goldsmith suggests that leaders take a breath before speaking and ask themselves if the value of what they’re about to add is worth the potential losses. Consider if the offered information would prevent danger, eliminate significant waste, or promote substantial, strategic gain. If not, refrain from adding to a project unless absolutely necessary.

Habit #14: Playing favorites.

Goldsmith warns that favoritism devastates employee morale. Leaders who show preferential treatment to subordinates who think or work most like them risk creating a myopic management style and destroying the effective balance of diverse work traits and employee skill sets that make businesses competitive.

Goldsmith recommends using the following criteria to evaluate subordinates: 1) how much do they like you?, 2) what is their contribution to the company and its customers?, and 3) how much positive personal recognition do you give them? Work to value subordinates based on the merit of their unique contributions to the organization and not your ego.

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

ACROSS THE WEB