Book Review: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful! is a book written mostly for top executives. The author Marshall Goldsmith is a coach for c-level executives who want to improve their leadership skills. This is one of those books that you’ll feel like to you want to give to your mega agent or rainmaker and tell them, “Here read this; everything applies to you,” and then hope they will implement what they learn. But, that’s probably not a good a move!

There are MANY ideas I specifically love about this book, but here are my top three.


The first is this passage about an executive and his assistant. It’s about how their relationship was strained.

     I was advising a friend who was having trouble with his assistant. They weren’t meshing as a team, he told me. But he didn’t know why or how to fix the problem. All he had to go on was a vague feeling that “our timing is off.”

Before I talked to his assistant, I asked him, “What would your assistant say is your biggest flaw as a boss?”

“That I don’t communicate enough with her,” he answered. “I don’t share information. I leave her out of the loop.”

“Anything else,” I inquired.

“No, that’s it,” he said. “Isn’t that enough?”

“Do you think she’s right?” I asked.


Interesting, I thought. You don’t hear too many bosses taking all the blame for interpersonal dysfunction.

Then I asked his assistant why they didn’t mesh. She agreed. Her boss didn’t share information well.

Because he was a friend, and I was helping him pro bono, I did something I don’t normally do. I pretended to be a consumer researcher who tracks how people use a company’s product all day. In this case, I tagged along with him from the moment he walked into work and observed his behavior with his assistant until he left work.

What I saw explained everything. He arrived at the office about fifteen minutes before his assistant. The first thing he did was check his e-mails. Then his cell phone rang and he answered it. During this conversation, his assistant arrived at her desk. She poked her head in to say good morning. He waved while still talking. When he ended the call, he turned to his computer screen and jotted down some notes and answered a few e-mails. His assistant popped in to say that one of his accounts was on the line. Did he want to take that call? He did. Three other calls came in during this twenty-minute conversation. When he hung up, he returned those calls–all the while scanning his computer for incoming e-mails. This pattern continued all morning.

By noon I had seen enough.

“Is this what it’s like around here every day?” I asked.

“Pretty much,” he said.

My friend, indeed, was guilty of keeping his assistant in the dark. But he wasn’t do so maliciously or, for that matter, intentionally. His work life was like a haphazard fire drill. He as so distracted, so disorganized, so busy responding to calls and putting out fires that he never had time to sit down with his assistant for a daily debriefing.

If he had, I suspect it would have solved their information sharing issue.

I also suspect that’s a big reason why so many of us withhold information. It’s not that we want to keep people in the dark. It’s simply that we’re too busy. We mean well. We have good intentions. But we fail to get around to it. As a result we become bad at sharing information–whether it comes in the form of a news bulletin, or a heads-up, or instruction that teaches people how to do something that we don’t have time to do ourselves. Over time it begins to look as if we are withholding information.

Being bad at sharing information doesn’t mean we are willfully withholding it. The two are not exactly the same thing. But the net result is the same in the eyes of the people around us.

How do you stop withholding information?

Simple answer: Start sharing it.

That’s what my friend did. He made sharing information a higher priority in his busy day. He scheduled time to debrief his assistant on what he was up to. And he made that time inviolate. It couldn’t be cancelled or postponed or interrupted by a phone call.

If this is your issue, I advise the same solution. In doing so, you will not only improve your communication, but you’ll be proving that you care about  your coworkers–demonstrating that what they think matters to you. It’s not often that we get such an obvious two-for-the-price-of-one solution to our interpersonal challenges. But making the subtle shift from withholding to sharing information is one of them.

For some of you, I’m sure this story sounds VERY familiar. And the solution is SO simple! Just a 10 to 15 minute meeting in the morning (and probably again in the afternoon) is enough to help you and your agent communicate better and be a unified team.


I mentioned before the five characteristics of an ideal client and the reason you want to define who the ideal client for your team is so that you are working with the people who bring you (and them) the highest level of success. The author echos this sentiment in his own way.

I make it easy on myself. I don’t place sucker bets. I only work with clients who have an extremely high potential of succeeding. Why would anyone want to operate any other way?


As you go through life, contemplating the mechanics of success and wondering why some people are successful and others are not, you’ll find that this is one of the defining traits of habitual winners: They stack the deck in their favor. And they’re unabashed about it.


For example, have you ever wondered why the most successful people at the top of your organization tend to have the best personal assistants? Simple answer: Successful executives know that a great assistant can shield them from dozens of daily annoyances that would otherwise distract them from doing their real job. If you think all the top executives have top assistants because of luck rather than design, you need a few more lessons in stacking the deck in your favor.

I love this! This is why our real estate team doesn’t and shouldn’t try to help everyone who calls us. If we take on a client and provide bad customer service because they had a low chance of success, that isn’t really helping them! A client has a low chance of success when they won’t price the property to sell, they won’t stage the home, or they have unrealistic expectations of what they can afford when buying. You see what I’m saying here?


Sometimes, we just need permission to stop trying. Marshall says, “If your people don’t care about changing, don’t waste your time.”

I’ve spoken with and overheard many assistants say that one of the hardest parts of their job is getting the agents on their team to comply with something. Usually that “something” is giving their lead generation numbers to the assistant. For some agents, keeping a detailed log of how many numbers they dialed, how many contacts they made and how many appointments they set is just beyond them. And if the agents don’t care about changing that habit, there’s nothing you can do. So use this as permission to stop trying. Focus your efforts on what YOU can control and let the rest go.



Have YOU read this book? Tell us what you learned in the comments. Or, please suggest another book you think we assistants can learn from!


  1. Cari Molinaro

    Absolutely love the advise to “focus on what you can control and let the rest go”. That really is helpful to this position, and to life in general. Not always as easy as it sounds but it is worth the effort. Love what you are doing here. Thank you!

    1. Elizabeth (Post author)

      Yes Cari! Sometimes admin have a hard time letting go but once you get better at it, the stress level becomes diminished. Glad to have you here!


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