Photo of Charles Good on Habits

Many of us forget of all the things we have done right that lead us where we are. Instead, we focus on all the things we are doing wrong. And as a result, we read books and go to classes to gain knowledge, skills to develop new habits that will take us to the next level. But what if I told you that getting to the next level is more about looking at what habits we need to eliminate and less about additional skills and habits we need to add? So, what are the habits holding you back?

In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, best-selling author and executive coach Dr. Marshall Goldsmith examines twenty behaviors that routinely impede successful leaders. Some of these attributes are more common in males; however, the following are a few of the gender-neutral ones that affect both men and women.


You are passing judgement when you are placing your standards on others and becoming critical of their actions or behaviors. For example, you might say, “Why would she say that? I would never say that!” And guess what? You don’t have to express it out loud, you can pass judgement just by thinking it. When you express it to others, then it’s gossiping.

Key insight: Don’t waste your time creating negative energy that diminishes your effectiveness as a leader.


Avoid using these negative qualifiers when giving feedback or responding to someone’s suggestions. It signals to them that you are disagreeing with what they are saying before you are acknowledging what they have said. In many cases, you may not be aware of using these words, so you may need to enlist the help of others to remind you.

Key insight: Try to replace the ‘no, but, however’ with ‘yes, and thank you’. By doing so, you will go a long way toward strengthening your relationships and make people feel understood.


As Marshall suggests, if we stop making excuses, then we can get better at almost anything we choose. Excuses come in two types–blunt and subtle.

Blunt excuses are explaining why something did not happen usually highlighted an event that was outside of your control. I was late for the meeting because there was an accident on the freeway.

Subtle excuses are more indicative of character assassinations, like the following: “I always run late for things.” In this case, you are assuming responsibility for your actions, but giving yourself an excuse for why it will not change.

Key insight: Done infrequently, it is fine. However, when done excessively, it can undermine you as a leader who can be counted on and trusted. Effective leaders take responsibility for their actions they can control and don’t repeatedly apologize for things that are outside of their control.

As you start asking yourself, “What are the habits holding you back?” you may encounter a few habits that had worked for you in the past. And you may start to question your motives for removing them. Just remember, there are likely habits that served you in the past that may now be holding you back. And looking to correct a behavior does not require building new skills sets. All that is required is that you stop doing what you did in the past.

If you would like to learn more about how habits can take you to the next level you may want to read my previous blogs on Atomic Habits, or on Habit Formation.


Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *