This is part two in regards to my thoughts on Marshall Goldsmith’s 20 bad habits that you need to stop now.

Last week we explored habits one through four.

This week we look at habits five through eight and a suggestion on how to break the habit.

5. Starting with NO, BUT, HOWEVER: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone that I’m right and you’re wrong.

I heard Marshall explain the NB&H habit when I saw him speak at an event in the local Syracuse area in 2008 when he launched his book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”

Ever since that day, I’ve done my best to eliminate NB&H from my speech. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Has anything good come out of proving yourself right and someone else wrong?

Break the Bad Habit: I set the intention to eliminate all three words from my vocabulary. That’s it. In midstream, the moment I think of saying NB&H, I force myself to slow down and come up with another word or a different way to explain my thoughts. Many times replacing -and- with one of the other words works well. This formula worked for me. Let me know what you come up with to eliminate no, but, and however.


6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.

It’s been my experience this behavior stems from either a lack of confidence or a need for attention.

Break the Bad Habit: I like Rule 4 from Robert Greene’s, The 48 Laws of Power: Always Say Less Than Necessary.

“When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.”
― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power


7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.

When you come from a place of anger, you’re not modeling the way for followers to follow.

Anger implies you’re unstable, out of control, and unfit to lead.

Having said that, is it never a good idea to use anger or emotion to manage or lead? I’d take the position there’s a time and a place to let your unbridled feelings speak the truth.

I remember a time when I made a boss angry. I was working with a high profile customer and I didn’t keep my top dog in step with what was going on. He didn’t fly off the handle though made it quite clear, “Steve, don’t do that again.” His demenaor was more like a “Dirty Harryesque,” Clint Eastwood type. Cool on the outside though you could tell he was on fire on the inside.

I certainly got the message. And no, I never did what I did ever again. Top dog was pleased.

What about when you as the leader senses your team isn’t playing full out? What if your emotional intelligence says a kick in the ass is exactly what your team needs to get their juices flowing? Ya, I’d say there’s a time and a place to let them know how you feel.

What Marshall is talking about is using anger to fear your followers into following through. Having lived this scene as a follower, I’m here to tell you I’ve seen this method work. Though after a while, this game plan loses favor with the team and the followers go back to doing the minimum.

Break the Bad Habit: Once you feel your temper start to bubble, do something to cool down your thoughts. Go for a walk, a run, do yoga, or meditate.

How about this? When you think of someone who is as cool as the other side of a pillow, who comes to mind? What is it about this person you admire? What do others think of this person? What are you willing to do to be more like them and less like your current self? Think of who you want to become and see if this helps you cool down your jets.


8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.

When I read this habit, the first person that comes to mind, albeit a fictious one, is the Saturday Night Live character Debbie Downer portrayed by Rachel Dratch.

One of the five exemplary practices of The Leadership Challenge model is to Challenge the Process. This means the best leaders challenge the status quo on a consistent baiss.

The best leaders understand in order for their organizations to excel, they need to do things differently. Outside the norm.

To encourage this type of thinking, leaders must send a message to followers to take chances, step outside the box, view things from a unqiue forward thinking entrepreneurial mindset, etc.

If you’re the type of leader who speaks in a negative tone, looks at problems or opportunities from a detrimental perspective, shows up with a Debby Downer mindset, your followers will take on the same persona.

Followers will be afraid to leave the island of status quo because you as the leader look at everything from a negative slant.

They’ll be afraid to try new approaches wondering if you’re going to shoot down every idea. They’ll simply play it safe. Do the minimum. Not an inspiriting intellectually intoxicating environment. Is it?

Eventually, your best people will leave because their stressed and/or frustrated with your leadership style nd take their talent to a competitor and possibly drive you out of business.

Break the Bad Habit: What can you do to break this Debby Downer habit?

Instead of shooting holes through every idea your team members bring you, get overly curious about their idea or suggestion.

  • What do they like about their idea?
  • What makes this particular project of interest to them?
  • When they look at their solution, what’s the effect on the other people in the process? Co-workers, partners, customers, etc.
  • What are some of their other options?
  • If money were no object, how would this change their idea?
  • If they were asked to implement their idea in half the time, what changes are they willing to make?
  • Ask them to look at their idea from their competitors perspective. What would the competition say? Think? Respond?

I hope you’re smelling what I’m cooking here. Don’t judge. Simply get very interested in their world and see what happens.

Have fun breaking these habits.  I hope I see you hear again next week as we break off another chunk of Marshall Goldsmith’s listicle of 20 habits you need to stop now.

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