A Valuable Lesson in Gratitude

I love my job! The only tough part of my profession is that I travel constantly. On American Airlines alone, I have over 11 million frequent flyer miles!

Have you ever seen the movie Up in the Air, starring George Clooney?  If you have, you will know what this means – I have the card!

Not only do I travel in the United States, I travel around the world. I have over 1 million flyer miles on British Airways. You know you travel a lot when you have over 1 million frequent flyer miles on an airline from country that you don’t even live in!

If you travel as much as I do, you cannot let the day-to-day tribulations of life on the road get on your nerves. If you do, you will quickly go crazy!

The airplane is a fascinating place to watch people become agitated, upset, and angry in a manner that is completely useless – over environmental factors they cannot impact.

I’ve learned a few simple lessons in my travels. For example, I cannot make the plane take off and I cannot make the plane land. I have almost no control over anything that happens.

One environmental trigger that makes a lot of people crazy is the announcement that the airplane is going to be late. I’ve seen so many people upset themselves, get angry, yell at flight attendants, and act like fools because the plane is late.

I have found simple way to turn this negative trigger, the announcement that the plane will be late, into positive trigger.

Every time I hear the announcement that the plane will be late, I remember a picture in my library – a picture of me on a volunteer trip to Africa with the Red Cross when I was about 30 years old. The picture shows me with many starving children. Their arms are being measured. If their arms are too big they do not eat. If their arms are too small they don’t eat. Their arms have to be just the right size – meaning they are not too hungry to survive and not too well fed so as not to need food – their arms size determines if they will eat that day.

This was an eye-opening experience for me that I never want to forget. It reminds me how fortunate I am. When I feel “justifiably” upset, I remember that photo and those beautiful children. I repeat this mantra over and over in my mind: “Never complain because the airplane is late. There are people in the world who have real problems. They have problems you cannot even begin to imagine. You are a very lucky man. Never complain because the airplane is late.”

Next time that you board an airplane, and you hear the announcement that the airplane is going to be late, say to yourself, “I am such a lucky person.”

I hope someday that this story helps you turn a moment of pain and anger into a moment of gratitude and joy.

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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7 Steps to Boost Your Confidence as a Leader

For many leaders, especially those just starting out, exhibiting confidence and strength in their role as leader is something that they often tell me they would like to develop. They know, and rightly so, that self-confidence and self-esteem are important qualities of great leaders.

Following are seven simple suggestions that I give leaders and potential leaders who want to be collaborative and authentic and at the same time exhibit more self-confidence at work.

  1. Decide if you really want to be a leader. Many of the MBAs who report self-confidence issues are brilliant technicians. They often find the uncertainty and ambiguity of leading people very unsettling. They are looking for the “right answers” – similar to the ones in engineering school. In some cases, brilliant technical experts should continue to be brilliant technical experts – and not feel obligated to become managers.
  2. Make peace with ambiguity in decision making. There are usually no clear right answers when making complex business decisions. Even CEOs are guessing.
  3. Gather a reasonable amount of data, involve people, then follow your gut and do what you think is right.
  4. Accept the fact that you are going to fail on occasion. All humans do.
  5. Have fun! Life is short. Why should you expect your direct reports to demonstrate positive enthusiasm, if they don’t see it in you?
  6. Once you make a decision, commit and go for it. Don’t continually second guess yourself. If you have to change course, you have to change course. If you never commit, all you will ever do is change course.
  7. Demonstrate courage on the outside, even when you don’t feel it on the inside. We are all afraid on occasion — that is just part of being human. If you are going to lead people in tough times, you will need to show more courage than fear. When direct reports read worry and concern on the face of a leader, they begin to lose confidence in the leader’s ability to lead.

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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Why Do We Resist Change?

Because we’re deluded!

We all delude ourselves about our achievements, our status, and our contributions. We

  • Overestimate our contribution to a project;
  • Have an elevated opinion of our professional skills and standing among our peers;
  • Exaggerate our project’s impact on profitability by discounting real and hidden costs.

Many of our delusions come from our association with success, not failure. We get positive reinforcement from our successes and we think they are predictive of a great future.

The fact that successful people tend to be delusional isn’t all bad. Our belief in our wonderfulness gives us confidence. Even though we are not as good as we think we are, this confidence actually helps us be better than we would become if we did not believe in ourselves. The most realistic people in the world are not delusional—they are depressed!

Although our self-confident delusions can help us achieve, they can make it difficult for us to change. In fact, when others suggest that we need to change, we may respond with unadulterated bafflement.

It’s an interesting three-part response. First we are convinced that the other party is confused. They are misinformed, and they just don’t know what they are talking about. They must have us mixed up with someone who truly does need to change. Second, as it dawns upon us that the other party is not confused—maybe their information about our perceived shortcomings is accurate—we go into denial mode. This criticism may be correct, but it can’t be that important—or else we wouldn’t be so successful. Finally, when all else fails, we may attack the other party. We discredit the messenger. “Why is a winner like me,” we conclude, “listening to a loser like you?”

These are just a few of our initial responses to what we don’t want to hear. Couple this with the very positive interpretation that successful people assign to (a) their past performance, (b) their ability to influence their success (as opposed to just being lucky), (c) their optimistic belief that their success will continue in the future, and (d) their over-stated sense of control over their own destiny (as opposed to being controlled by external forces), and you have a volatile cocktail of resistance to change.

So, as you can see, while your positive beliefs about yourself helped you become successful. These same beliefs can make it tough for you to change. The same beliefs that helped you get to your current level of success, can inhibit you from making the changes needed to stay there – or move forward.

Don’t fall into this trap, and if you already have, don’t stay there!

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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How Successful People Set Goals and Follow Through

The typical advertisement or “infomercial” – designed to help people “get in shape” – provides a great example of what not to do in goal-setting. The message is almost always the same, “For an ‘incredibly small’ amount of money – you can buy a ‘revolutionary’ product – that is ‘unbelievably easy’ and ‘fun to use’. This product will produce ‘amazing results’ ‘in almost no time’ and you will ‘have the body that you always wanted’.” Most infomercials imply that you will not have to continue exercising and dieting for years – that you will continue to look young – and that you will have frequent, wonderful sex for the rest of your life.

In reality there is no “easy answer” – real change requires real effort. The “quick fix” is seldom a “meaningful fix”. Distractions and competing responses are going to happen and the most successful people, and those who really want to be great, understand this.

Below are three of the most important reasons that people give up on goals followed by a brief description of how successful people “do it differently” and are ultimately well-positioned to achieve their goals.

  1. Ownership
    One of the biggest mistakes in all of leadership development is the roll-out of programs and initiatives with the promise that “this will make you better”. A classic example is the performance appraisal process. Many companies change their performance appraisal forms on a regular basis. How much good does this usually do? None! These appraisal form changes just confuse people and are seen as annual exercises in futility. What companies don’t want to face is the real problem – it is seldom the form – the real problem is the managers who lack either the courage or the discipline to make the appraisal process work. The problem with the “this will make you better” approach is that the emphasis is on the “this” and not the “you”.
    Rather than rely on the latest “program,” successful people have a high need for and reliance upon self-determination. They commit to the challenge, task, or process that needs their efforts and make a plan to meet their goals. Because of this commitment, they are far more likely to achieve success.
  2. Time
    Most of us have a natural tendency to underestimate the time needed to reach targets. Everything seems to take longer than we think that it should! When the time elapsed in working toward our goal starts exceeding expectations, we are tempted to just give up on the goal, and often do.
    Successful goal-setters are more time-sensitive than the general population. They are more realistic about the time it will take them to implement and complete various changes and/or tasks. In addition, they review their goals frequently and adjust their plans for progress as necessary. Thus, they are more likely to meet their own goal expectations.
  3. Difficulty
    The gripe with difficulty is, “The challenge, process, or task is a lot harder than I thought it would be. It sounded so simple when I was starting out!”
    In setting goals it is important that we realize that real change will take real work. Expecting that “this will be easy” and “this will be no problem for me” can backfire in the long-term when we realize that change is not easy and that we will invariably face some problems in our journey toward change.
    Successful people understand that there will be a price for success – they will have to work hard to achieve their goals. This realistic outlook prevents the disappointment that can occur when challenges do arise later in the change process – and as a result they are less likely to give up.

All of these messages may sound “tough”, but they are real. Successful people are not afraid of challenging goals. In fact – clear, specific goals that produce a lot of challenge – tend to produce the best results!

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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20 Behaviors Even the Most Successful People Need to Stop

As a 10-year board member of the Peter Drucker Foundation, I had many opportunities to listen to Peter Drucker, the world’s authority on management. During this time, Peter taught me some very important lessons about life and leadership.

One of the greatest lessons he taught me is this: “We spend a lot of time helping leaders learn what to do. We do not spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half of the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.”

There are a lot of good reasons for this. Probably most prominent is the fact that leaders and organizations focus on demonstrating commitment to positive action to maintain forward momentum. For instance, using the phrase, “We must begin to listen more attentively” rather than focusing on what we can stop, “Playing with our iPhones while others are talking.” Likewise, the recognition and reward systems in most organizations are geared to acknowledge doing something. For instance, we get credit for doing something good. We rarely get credit for ceasing to do something bad.

How do you use “What to Stop” in coaching and leadership development?

The first step is to identify what behavior to stop. In my book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, I discuss the 20 bad habits of leaders. Everyone I have met has exhibited one or more of these behaviors, including me! Review the list. Do you identify with any of these bad habits? If you are like the majority of people, the answer is yes, and you are ready to start using “What to Stop.”

  1. Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations.
  2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
  3. Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
  4. Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us witty.
  5. Starting with “No,” “But,” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
  6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
  7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
  8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.
  9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
  10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to give praise and reward.
  11. Claiming credit that that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contributions to any success.
  12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
  13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
  14. Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
  15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
  16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
  18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
  19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
  20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

After reviewing this list, for those of you who still aren’t sure what to stop, there is one habit that I’ve seen take precedence over all of the others. You may be part of the majority of people who partake of this bad habit. What is the number one problem of the successful executives I’ve coached over the years? It is Winning Too Much.


Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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What’s the Biggest Idea in Corporate Culture Today?

The practice of executive coaching introduced corporate culture to an exciting new idea: the end of shame.

Under the guidance of a coach, it’s OK to admit what you don’t know and ask for help. My coaching process brings my clients’ shortcomings into the light, through a process of accumulating confidential feedback from their key stakeholders (colleagues, direct reports or board members, for example). If that sounds terrifying, it’s because most of us have been conditioned to hide our flaws for fear of punishment, reprisal or a rival seizing a competitive advantage.

A good coach takes away that fear, and uses feedback and self-analysis to guide clients toward positive and lasting behavioral change. The process works – which is one reason that I have seen the perception of coaching shift over the last three decades: Instead of a punishment, it’s now a mark of prestige to have a coach. It means you’re probably going places in your career.

What I find so remarkable about my friend and colleague Allan Mulally is that he put these ideas into practice in across an entire organization – and in an intense, high-stakes setting. When he took over as Ford’s CEO in 2006, the company was in dire straits, with market share down 25 percent since 1990 and its very existence threatened by the great recession.

The story of how Alan turned Ford around is now well documented. The company was the only big-three automaker to emerge from the recession without a government bailout. When Alan retired from Ford in 2014, Fortune magazine ranked him as the third greatest leader in the world, behind only Pope Francis and Angela Merkel.

One important thing that Alan did early on was to effectively eliminate shame. Up to that point, meetings at Ford were notoriously vicious, with executives publicly sparring or avoiding each other altogether by fiddling with their Blackberrys. Alan rooted out those problems through his brilliantly simple Business Plan Review program, which made meetings highly structured. Executives had to introduce themselves and report on their progress according to a precise formula (and no Blackberrys were allowed).

In this much calmer environment, he encouraged his reports to be honest about their problems. Instead of bravado, he encouraged them to show humility and admit where they needed help. He did this by modeling the behavior himself – the hallmark of a truly great leader. Alan was not ashamed of what he didn’t know, or what he had or hadn’t done. He simply reported on the condition of the company with an attention to detail befitting his background as an engineer. When he didn’t know how to fix a problem, he wasn’t afraid to ask for help.

It sounds simple, and it is. But it takes tremendous courage to be so forthright – so unashamed – especially in a situation like the one he faced at Ford, on the brink of collapse at one of the nation’s biggest companies in an industry that serves as the backbone of the nation’s economy. When the world is watching and the stakes are high, a lesser leader would have armed himself in ego. Alan chose the other path.

I believe that his approach has the potential to do tremendous good in settings beyond Ford, which is why Alan and I are now working together to develop leadership teams at a wide range of organizations.

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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3 Indisputable Reasons Why Everyone Needs a Coach!

Everyone needs a coach. But, not everyone wants a coach or wants others to know that they need a coach. Some areas welcome coaching. Sports for instance. In sports, we welcome coaching because we need an expert eye correcting our technique, exhorting us to try harder, and reminding us to maintain our poise in the game-day environment of competition.

It’s the same in corporate life, where the best leaders function like our favorite high school coach: teaching, supporting, inspiring us, and occasionally instilling some healthy paranoia to keep us surging ahead.

But beyond the structured hierarchies of the workplace, where we’re always answerable to someone for our paycheck and where we have clear incentives for getting better, we don’t appreciate the dynamic as well. In our private lives, where our chaotic environment triggers undesirable behavior, we don’t always welcome coaching.

One reason we resist coaching, I’m sure, is our need for privacy. Some pieces of us are not to be shared with the world. It’s one thing to admit we could shed some pounds or be in better shape; it’s practically a badge of honor, a testament to our candor and self-improvement ambitions. It’s another thing to confess that we’re lacking as a partner or parent—that is, as a decent “person”—and own up to that personal failing every day. We prefer to keep some of our behavioral deficits to ourselves rather than hang them out in public like laundry.

Another reason is that we don’t know that we need to change. We are in denial, convincing ourselves that others need help, not us. In 2005 the CEO of a large West Coast equipment company called me in to work with his COO and heir apparent. The CEO had a precise timetable for succession. “My number two is a good guy,” he said, “but he needs three more years of seasoning. Then I’ll be ready to leave, he can take over, and everything’s good.” My antennae perk up whenever I’m asked to conduct research that proves someone’s predetermined conclusion. Something wasn’t right. Sure enough, when I finished my 360-degree interviews with the COO’s colleagues, they all said the number two was “ready now.” The deeper problem was the CEO. Without prompting, nearly every interviewee said the CEO had stayed too long and should leave for the good of the company.

Then there’s the successful person’s unshakable self-sufficiency: we think we can do it all on our own. Quite often we can, of course. But what’s the virtue of saying no to help? It’s a needless vanity, a failure to recognize change’s degree of difficulty. I know this because behavioral change—talking about it, writing books about it, helping others achieve it—is my life. And yet I have to pay a woman named Kate to call me every night to follow up on how I’m doing! This isn’t professional hypocrisy, as if I’m a chef who won’t eat his own cooking. It’s a public admission that I’m weak. We’re all weak. The process of change is hard enough without grabbing all the help we can get.

The irony is that, although coaching works just fine with the get-thin, get-fit, get-organized goals of our New Year’s resolutions, it’s even better, practically custom-made, for interpersonal challenges—the be-nice, be-appreciative, be-caring, be-awake goals that make other people feel better, not worse, for knowing us. I know this because it’s what I work on with my clients. They don’t ask me to help them become better strategists, budgeters, negotiators, public speakers, proposal writers, or programmers. I help them become better role models in their relationships with the people who matter most to them—their family, their friends, their colleagues, their customers.

Here are three amazing benefits of having a coach and participating in coaching – they are in fact three indisputable reasons why everyone needs a coach:

  • We get better.
  • We get better faster.
  • Eventually we become our own coach.

Try if for yourself and see!

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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There’s No Shame in Asking for Help!

As the author of best-selling “self-help” books, you might be surprised to find that I wholeheartedly believe that if you want to improve your performance at almost anything, your odds of success improve considerably the moment you enlist someone else to help you!

Some of us practice this instinctively. We enlist a friend to join us for yoga class or commit to training for a marathon with a group. We enjoy the companionship and support, and knowing we’re answerable to someone else is motivating. The small obligation to someone else keeps us focused. And, the longer we stick with it and the nearer we get to the finish line, the closer the bond between the two of us. At some point, we reach a point where we don’t want to disappoint a friend or don’t want to be the first to give up. Pairing up provides us with a discipline that we cannot summon as readily working solo.

This “power of two” thinking works well for overt personal objectives, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, or athletic training, where we’re relying more on moral support rather than instructive coaching, to reach a clearly marked finish line.

However, enlisting someone else to help us isn’t our first impulse when we dive into a self-improvement campaign in our professional lives. Whether it’s upgrading the quality of our customer base, landing a big promotion, or executing a career U-turn, our initial impulse is to do it on our own. After all, it’s our goal, our effort, our accomplishment, and our payoff if we succeed. How can we share the burden—and glory—with someone else?

Part of why we don’t ask for help is ego. It’s the reason some people can’t ask for directions when they’re lost. We can’t admit that we need help. We can’t admit that someone else might know more than we do about how we can change for the better. We believe any achievement of ours is somehow diminished if we don’t do it entirely by ourselves. If there’s credit to be had, we want to do it ourselves.

And another big part of why we don’t ask for help is psychic self-preservation on our part; if we fall short of our goal, we want to contain the failure to a circle of one: ourselves. If no one knows what we’re striving for, then no one can criticize us for faltering. We don’t want to feel the shame of asking for help and not achieving our goal, so we don’t ask for help at all.

Shame of not being good enough, of not being “perfect” is a hugely discouraging trigger when it comes to asking for help and as a result many people just don’t do it at all. They don’t get better, they don’t change, and they don’t become the person they want to be. This is the ultimate hazard of not asking for help.

So, now it’s your turn. As you finish reading this blog, think about one thing, one behavior, one change you’d like to make. Who could you ask for help with this making this change? It could be a big change, it could be a small one. Now do it. Ask for help and commit to making the change. You’ll be glad you did!

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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8 Things Successful Leaders Do

Being successful as a leader can be hard. As demands on leaders increase, there is less time to focus on making the changes you need to make to do the job successfully. It’s a significant challenge to overcome because as more is expected of you, you find you have less time for development, and yet, improving your leadership skills is more important than ever.

You have to learn on the job, make the most of your surroundings, and ask those around you for help. You have to enlist their support as you do your best to develop yourself, your people, and your teams. And, this is why I call leadership a “contact sport”.

Leadership Is a Contact Sport is a leadership development model that has worked for hundreds of thousands of people. The original study, published in 2004, included 86,000 people. We now have research from 250,000 people who confirm that this model works. It helps them become highly successful leaders.

How does it work? The Leadership Is a Contact Sport model is just eight steps: Ask, Listen, Think, Thank, Respond, Involve, Change, Follow Up. Following is a short description of each step.

  1. Ask: Ask people “How can I be a better _________ (manager, partner, team member, etc.)?
  2. Listen: Listen to their answers.
  3. Think: Think about their input. What does it mean?
  4. Thank: Thank people for sharing this valuable feedback with you.
  5. Respond: Respond positively when receiving input.
  6. Involve: Involve the people around you to support your change efforts.
  7. Change: Change isn’t an academic exercise. Act on what you learn.
  8. Follow-up: Follow up regularly and stakeholders will notice the positive actions you’re taking based their input.

In this week’s video blog, I go through the entire process and detail each of these steps to explain how this process works and how you can use it yourself. If you’d like to read about the process and the research, please send me an email at Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com and I’ll send you the Leadership Is a Contact Sport article.

This simple model for leadership development works! If you want to get better, at work or at home, try it for yourself and see. And, if I can help you consider the possibility that despite all of your success to date you might have some things that you can change to be “even better”, then I will have done my job.

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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Do You Work for a Know-It-All?

You know, someone who tells you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it? Someone who seems to have all the answers – even when they’re not asked!

Don’t be surprised; you’re not alone. And, worse yet, not only do leaders often assume the know-it-all position, many of us work with people who think they know everything. It is epidemic.

This style of leadership is based on the old model of “authoritative leader” in which the leader plays the role of “boss” and tells employees what to do and how to do it. This type of leader is the historic norm. Leaders can even go so far as to think that if they don’t do this, they aren’t leading well.

Let’s take a closer look at this starting with one of my favorite Peter Drucker quotes. Peter provided an excellent perspective on the authoritative leader when he said, “While the leader of the past knew how to tell, the leader of the future will know how to ask.”

I’ve never seen anyone live these words to the degree that my friend Alan Mulally did. And, it was of great benefit of those around him. So great was that he was recently ranked as the third Greatest Leader in the World by Fortune magazine. Prior to that he was recognized as the Best CEO in America by CEO magazine.

Here is a little more history about Alan. After an incredibly successful career at Boeing, where he rose to the role of CEO of Boeing Commercial Aircraft, Alan became the CEO of Ford and helped the company achieve one of the most positive turnarounds in the history of corporate America. The amazing story of Ford is well documented in the book, American Icon. When he left Ford, Alan had a 97% approval rating from all employees.

How Did He Do It?

Let’s start with a little history about me: For over forty years I have been a student of leadership. I have a Ph.D. from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. I am the author of editor of 35 books. My written material or videos have been read or viewed over 25 million times. I served on the Advisory Board of the Peter Drucker Foundation for ten years. In 2011, I was ranked by Thinkers 50, in London, as the Most-Influential Leadership Thinker in the World. I have had the honor of coaching over 150 of the most important organizational leaders in the world. Needless to say, I know a little about leadership.

In my long career, I have never observed an approach to leadership that matches Alan’s. His style is as unlike authoritative leadership as any style I have ever seen. Alan’s leadership style is “leader as facilitator” rather than “leader as authority” or “leader as boss”.

It’s similar to my behavioral coaching process. The philosophy behind Stakeholder Centered Coaching is simple: You see, I believe that leaders can learn a lot more from their key stakeholders (who interact with them every day) than they can learn from any coach. My average client has 18 key stakeholders, who am I to assume that I know more than these 18 other executives? In my coaching I am a facilitator. I create a process where my clients reach out to their stakeholders, listen, and learn. I don’t get paid for spending time with my clients or for proving how smart I am. I do get paid when they achieve positive, lasting change in leadership behavior – as judged by their key stakeholders.

Alan’s process of leader as facilitator is like putting my coaching process on steroids!

The philosophy behind his leadership process is simple: Why should I – even though I may be the CEO – assume know that I know more than the thousands of leaders and professionals at the company?

Alan has each of his direct reports publicly discuss each of their five key priorities in the weekly Business Plan Review meeting. Rather than immediately leaping in to help the direct report who has a problem, he facilitates learning from everyone on the team. Rather than saying, “Here is how I can help you.” Alan asks, “Who are the best people at the company who can help?”

As a leader-facilitator, Alan Mulally is perfectly comfortable facilitating a meeting where great guidance is provided – even if none of the great guidance comes from him. He is not delusional enough to believe that he has all of the answers. He is facilitating a process of finding the answers.

To say the leader as facilitator process is different from the corporate norm would be an understatement, and I have never seen any CEO implement this process to the degree that Alan did at Ford.

The leader as facilitator style of leadership is something for you to think about. When it’s your turn to lead give it a try. You will be amazed at the results! And if you’re already leading, maybe it’s time to try it for yourself and see how it works! You will be glad you did.


Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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