Marshall Goldsmith blog - Adding Too Much Value

The Dark Side of Adding Too Much Value

07 Mar 2019

Top executives are intelligent, successful people. However, being smart comes with its own set of challenges. The more we achieve, the more we want to “be right” all the time. No matter if an issue is important, trivial, or even not worth the effort, we want to voice our opinion and come out on top.


The need to add value

Many executives have the urge to always add value. Most realize that their subordinates know more about a specific topic than they ever will. Still, we find it difficult to listen to others share information without communicating that we either already knew about it or that we know a better way. We feel the need to add our point of view at all cost.

In the moment, we might have actually improved the idea, but at the same time, we have reduced the employee’s commitment to executing it because we have taken away his ownership. This is the fallacy of added value: Whatever is gained through an enhanced idea, may be lost multiple times over in the employee’s weakened enthusiasm for it. Even if you were merely making suggestions, coming from a top executive, these are usually taken as orders though that wasn’t the intention.


How to stop

Here are two ways to mitigate this conundrum:

1. When faced with an idea or suggestion, take a deep breath before you speak and ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”
2. When you hear a valuable suggestion, just say, “Great idea!” Resist the urge to add, “But…”


We are certainly not suggesting that leaders should permanently zip their lips and allow staff to follow their every whim. But, consider that the higher you climb in the organization, the more you need to focus on letting other people win instead of making it about winning yourself. Empowering others will ultimately reflect positively on you as their leader.


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