What Leaders Should Stop Doing

Successful leaders are intelligent, visionary, and strategic thinkers. Leaders don’t need to know what to do, and they need to know what to stop. Unconscious behaviors and destructive communications may be holding them back from leading a successful team.


Marshall Goldsmith, a world-renowned executive coach, describes five things to stop doing in his book What Got You There Won’t Get You There.


  1. Stop winning too much.

Winners love to win—a business deal, an argument, or a choice where to go to dinner.

They enjoy being right and let you know about it. If someone says they had a bad day, they say their day was worse. They need to prove that they are more miserable than you!

Was it worth it? Why were you trying to win? Are they the enemy or a loved one?


Think about all the times in your life that you tried to win and it wasn’t worth it.


Next time you have the urge to comment, pause, breathe and ask yourself, is it worth it to win in this situation? If not, SHUT UP, and let it go.


  1. Stop adding too much value (aka “your two cents”)

The higher you are in an organization, your “suggestions” to your team members are perceived as orders. As a leader, you just try to help by giving your ideas, but it backfires. Someone comes to you with an idea, and you tell them how they should do it.


Listen to your mind and others before you comment. Pause, breathe. Ask yourself, are you the expert on this topic? Is my comment going to improve this person’s commitment to the project? If not, let it go.


  1. Stop making destructive comments.

Feedback is the new buzzword. Employees and leaders want it, yet the way it’s delivered can cause more harm than good. Good leaders don’t waste time proving how smart they are and don’t blast other people.


When you leave a meeting, think about your comments. How would you want other people to talk about you after you left the room?


Before speaking, ask yourself.

            Will this comment help the person I’m talking to?

            ……help the person I’m talking about?

            ……help our customers?

            ……help our company?


If the answer is no, don’t say it.


  1. Stop starting a sentence with: “NO,” “BUT,” “HOWEVER” or “THAT’S GREAT, BUT”

A coach can help a leader notice when they do this. It’s unconscious, a habit of discounting what other people say, and it’s hard to stop.


Ask a trusted partner to point out when you use these words when conversing. Notice it in others. Count how many times it’s used and how it changes the dynamic of the conversation.


Try “that’s great, I’m proud of you” instead. Rewire the brain, replace “no, but” with “yes, and.”


  1. Stop Playing favorites.

No one thinks we play favorites, and it’s an unconscious bias. We tend to favor people who reinforce our ideas and select us. Think about who gets unconditional love in your family. Is it your spouse, kids, or your pet?


Test your favorability. Rank your direct reports in these four ways.

            Do they like you?

            Are they like me?

            What is their contribution to the company?

            How much positive recognition do you give them?


If the correlation to answers yes to the top three questions is increased recognition, you may be playing favorites. Whatever you think is amplified by the thoughts of others.


As a leader, if you need help with any of these topics, my Leadershift Coaching Program will help you uncover what’s holding you back and hold you accountable for changing behaviors.