7 fatal flaws of top achievers

Marshall-Goldsmith
Marshall Goldsmith

You could be super talented, insanely smart, and totally driven to succeed, but if you exhibit any of these 7 fatal flaws, you’ll fail to reach the top.

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I had the pleasure of hearing Marshall Goldsmith, one of the country’s leading executive coaches, speak at a financial industry event. As a coach myself, I lapped up everything Coach Goldsmith had to say.

Goldsmith’s recent bestselling book, What Got You Here Wont Get You There, highlighted some of the biggest flaws he found in high-powered executives he’s coached over his illustrious career.

Written as an open letter to top achievers everywhere, here are 7 fatal flaws I’d like to share from Goldsmith’s talk.

1.     Winning too much.

This one is a huge mistake and I’ve seen it happen over and over with top achievers. In brief, it means you win when it counts (good) and you win when nobody’s counting (bad). Yes, you have to be competitive to reach the top, but pick your spots. You just annoy people when you’re too competitive in non-competitive situations.

2.     Adding too much value.

Of course you should add as much value as you can, right? Not always. Goldsmith gave an example of how adding too much value is a problem.

Let’s say one of your managers comes up with a great idea that is 95% of the way to genius. You, unable to control yourself, have to add your two cents and change the idea, which you think may allow you to claim it was your idea, too. Handled poorly, your need to show how smart you are may have just dropped your manager’s commitment to execute the idea by 50%. A 5% better idea and 50% loss in execution—do the math.

3.     Passing too much judgment.

Yes, you’re one in a million. Unfortunately, not everyone can live up to your standards. Not everyone is willing to make the sacrifices you are to reach the top. Rather than judge your colleagues as inferior, encourage them to be the best they can be…and they may surprise you.

4.     Starting a comment with NO, BUT, or HOWEVER.

Overusing these negative qualifiers secretly says to everyone that I’m right and you’re wrong. You won’t win friends and influence people with that strategy.

5.     Failing to give proper recognition.

You didn’t get to where you are all by yourself. Colleagues, mentors, family, and luck, all contributed to your success. Recognize and reward other people for the role they play in helping you be the success you are. Share the wealth—it’s more fun.

6.     Claiming credit that you dont deserve.

Closely related to #5, this one really makes the person you claimed credit from angry. Look, you’ve got enough to brag about without having to take credit for someone else’s good work. So don’t do it.

7.     Refusing to express regret.

Goldsmith says this is the inability to take responsibility for your actions, admit you’re wrong, or recognize how your actions affect others. I find the part about “how your actions affect others” is one that top achievers often ignore. A demeaning offhand comment or an action that says “my time is much more valuable than yours” is a morale killer and drives people away. Remember, the world revolves around the sun, not you.

7 Fatal FlawsOkay, time to look in the mirror. Do any of these 7 fatal flaws look like you? Be honest.

These flaws are essentially branches from the trunk of the Big EGO tree.

Now, we all have and need an ego. Without an ego, nothing great would be accomplished. The fatal flaw happens when your ego and your selfish need to dominate overwhelms the environment you work in.

Instead, relax. Give room for the great people around you to shine. You don’t have to suck the oxygen out of every room you walk into.

With that said, overcoming these fatal flaws isn’t meant to tame you. The world clearly needs top achievers like you because you are the catalysts that bring great businesses to life.

The trick is to be a top achiever without leaving a bunch of dead colleagues in your wake. You can do it.

For more great thoughts from Coach Goldsmith, go to marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com and follow him on Twitter @coachgoldsmith.

(Editor’s note: A version of this first appeared on Steve’s blog at InvestmentNews.com)
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Steve is the founder of Belay Advisor and a NYT bestselling author, podcast host, speaker, and financial advisor coach.

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