How to Lead People Who Know More Than You Do!

By Marshall Goldsmith, Alan Mulally & Sam Shriver / Training Industry Magazine Fall 2016

Peter Drucker presented a very simple definition: “Knowledge Workers are people who know more about what they are doing than their boss does.” Fundamentally, the ever-increasing presence of the Knowledge Worker threatens to render our traditional assumptions about top-down leadership obsolete. It also presents challenges to modern-day leaders that their counterparts in years gone by were not called to address: “How do you help your team members achieve their goals when you – as a leader– are not an expert on the topic?” To illustrate these challenges, we will examine how one CEO, Alan Mulally, gained well-deserved notoriety for creatively leveraging the skills of his team, the people of the Ford Motor Company and the Situational Leadership® Model to lead an incredibly successful turnaround. This example demonstrates how “The Leader as Facilitator” has a Historically, “leadership” has largely been considered a top-down function. Leaders were masters of their crafts that doled out their knowledge over time to eager apprentices aspiring to gain wisdom. Enter the “Knowledge Worker.”

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.marshallgoldsmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/TI_Magazine_The_Leader_as_the_Facilitator_Sept2016.pdf

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7 Ways to Leverage Your Power at Work

Power is an interesting concept when leading and working within organizations. Power is not always just as it appears on the organizational chart! Just because someone’s box is higher up on the chart does not always mean that they have the most power.

For example, take the following case study:

One person is a senior vice president, two levels down from the CEO. One person is the administrative assistant to the CEO.

Who has the most power?

In theory the SVP has a lot more power than the administrative assistant. This is “what should be”. In actuality, what can the senior VP do to damage the administrative assistant’s position? Not too much. What can the administrative assistant do to hurt the SVP? Plenty! Who really has the power – the SVP or the administrative assistant?

Sometimes when you look at the concept of power, getting out of the simplistic view of determining whose box is higher on the organizational chart and looking at power in terms of how it is outlined in Situational Leadership® as The Seven Bases of Power can be incredibly helpful when attempting to leverage power. In a nutshell, the seven bases of power are:

1)    Coercive – based on fear

2)    Connection – based on the leader’s connections to powerful individuals

3)    Expert – based on knowledge and skill of the leader

4)    Information – based on the leader’s access to valuable information

5)    Legitimate – based on the position held by the leader

6)    Referent – based on the likableness of the leader

7)    Reward – based on the leader’s ability to hand out rewards, both, monetary and non-monetary

(For more about the seven bases of power and how to leverage them, go to the Center for Leadership Studies website, situational.com.)

So, when you are in a lower “box” on the organizational chart, what are some things that you can do to influence those higher up?

Here are 10 things that you can do to convince upper management to convert your good ideas into meaningful action:

1)    When presenting ideas, realize that it is your responsibility to sell – not their responsibility to buy. Influencing up is similar to selling products or services to customers.

2)    Focus on contribution to the larger good – not just the achievement of your objectives. Don’t assume that executives can automatically ‘make the connection’ between the benefit to your unit and the benefit to the larger corporation.

3)    Strive to win the big battles and don’t waste your energy and ‘psychological capital’ on trivial points. You are paid to do what makes a difference and to win on important issues.

4)    Present a realistic cost-benefit analysis of your ideas–don’t just sell benefits. Be prepared to have a realistic discussion of the costs of your idea. Acknowledge that something else may have to be sacrificed to implement your idea.

5)    Challenge up on issues involving ethics or integrity–never remain silent on ethics violations. When challenging up, try not to assume that management has intentionally requested you to do something wrong. Try to present your case in a manner that is intended to be helpful, not judgmental.

6)    Realize that your managers are just as human as you are–don’t say, ‘I am amazed that someone at this level…!’ When your managers make mistakes, focus more on helping them than judging them.

7)    Treat managers with the same courtesy that you would treat partners or customers. It’s vital to ‘challenge up’ on integrity issues. It is often inappropriate to ‘trash down’ when making personal attacks.

8)    Support the final decision of the team. Assuming that the final decision of the team is not immoral, illegal, or unethical–go out and try to make it work! Managers who consistently say, ‘they told me to tell you’ to co-workers are seen as ‘messengers’ not leaders.

9)    Make a positive difference–don’t just try to ‘win’ or ‘be right’. Focus on making a difference. The more other people can ‘be right’ or ‘win’ with your idea, the more likely your idea is to be successfully executed.

Focus on the future–let go of the past. People love getting ideas aimed at helping them achieve their goals for the future. They dislike being ‘proven wrong’ because of mistakes in the past. By focusing on the future, you can concentrate on what can be achieved tomorrow, as opposed to what was not achieved yesterday. This future orientation will dramatically increase your odds of effectively influencing up and

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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Motivating Someone Who Has No Motivation

Every once in a while, I run across someone who doesn’t want to change. How do I motivate them to change when they don’t want to? What do I do to convince them that the change is good for them? Nothing!

Have you ever tried to change the behavior of an adult who had absolutely no interest in changing? How much luck did you have with your attempts at this “religious conversion”? Have you ever tried to change the behavior of a spouse, partner or parent who had no interest in changing? How did that work out for you?

My guess is that if you have ever tried to change someone else’s behavior, and that person did not want to change, you have been consistently unsuccessful in changing their behavior. You may have even alienated the person you were trying to enlighten.

If they don’t care, don’t waste your time.

Research on coaching is clear and consistent. Coaching is most successful when applied to people with potential who want to improve — not when applied to people who have no interest in changing. This is true whether you are acting as a professional coach, a manager, a family member, or a friend.

Your time is very limited. The time you waste coaching people who do not care is time stolen from people who want to change.

As an example, back in Valley Station, Kentucky, my mother was an outstanding first grade school teacher. In Mom’s mind, I was always in the first grade, my Dad was in the first grade, and all of our relatives were in the first grade.

She was always correcting everybody.

My Dad’s name was Bill. Mom was always scolding “Bill! Bill!” when he did something wrong. We bought a talking bird. In a remarkably short period of time the bird started screeching “Bill! Bill!” Now Dad was being corrected by a bird.

Years passed. When Mom corrected his faulty grammar for the thousandth time, Dad sighed, “Honey, I am 70 years old. Let it go.”

If you are still trying to change people who have no interest in changing, take Dad’s advice. Let it go.

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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Learn to Respond, Not React! #1 Liked Blog!

(Of my 137 blogs, this one currently has the most ‘likes’. I hope that you like it as well!)

One of my favorite stories is a lesson about taking responsibility for our own lives. It is about learning to respond rather than react when we are confronted by “life”. I heard this simple Buddhist story many years ago, and it goes like this:

A young farmer paddled his boat vigorously up river. He was covered with sweat as he paddled his boat upstream to deliver his produce to the village. It was a hot day, and he wanted to make his delivery and get home before dark. As he looked ahead, he spied another vessel, heading rapidly downstream toward his boat. He rowed furiously to get out of the way, but it didn’t seem to help.

He shouted, “Change direction! You are going to hit me!” The boat came straight towards him anyway. It hit his boat with a violent thud. The young man cried out, “You idiot! How could you manage to hit my boat in the middle of this wide river?”

As he glared into the boat, seeking out the individual responsible for the accident, he realized that there was no one. He had been screaming at an empty boat that had broken free of its moorings and was floating downstream with the current.

The interesting thing is that we behave one way when we believe that there is another person at the helm. We blame that stupid, uncaring person for our misfortune. We get angry, act out, assign fault, and play the victim. In other words, we are not engaged in a positive way for ourselves, but in a negative and defensive way that makes nothing better!

We behave more calmly when we know that what is coming towards us is an empty boat. With no available scapegoat, we don’t get upset. We make peace with the fact that our misfortune was the result of fate or bad luck and we do our best to rectify the situation. We may even laugh at the absurdity of a random unmanned boat finding a way to collide with us in a vast body of water.

The challenge for all of us is to recognize that there’s never really anyone in the other boat. We are always screaming at an empty vessel. An empty boat isn’t targeting us. And neither are all the people creating the sour notes in the soundtrack of our day. If we start treating all boats as empty, we will have no other choice but to 1) accept what is and 2) change what we can change.

It is up to us to choose how we react to the empty boats in our lives. We can either yell and scream at the empty boats and endure the collision or choose to get out of the way the best we can, accepting what happens, and do our best to continue on our way along the river.

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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Disastrous at Delegating? 4 Tips to Become a Pro!

Leaders often fall into the trap that they “need to delegate” more. For some reason, they’ve been led to believe that delegation is always a good thing. It’s not!

If you delegate to someone who isn’t ready for the task or to someone who doesn’t want the responsibility, you will have a disaster on your hands.

So, how can you do a better job of delegating?

My first suggestion in trying to improve delegation skills is for you to always remember: “Delegate more effectively — don’t just delegate more frequently.”

My good friend and mentor, Dr. Paul Hersey, showed me why more delegation is not necessarily better delegation. If we delegate an assignment to a person who lacks the motivation and ability to do the job, we do a disservice to both the person and our organization. We need to delegate to people who are ready to handle the challenge not to those who are not.

To get delegation right, begin by scheduling one-on-one conversations with each of your direct reports. Ask each direct report to list his or her key areas of responsibility. Then ask them, “Within this area of responsibility…

  1. Are there areas where I need to ‘let go’ or delegate more to you?
  2. Are there areas where I need to get more involved or provide more help to you?”

If you are like most leaders, you will probably find that while there are some areas where you need to let go more, there are other areas where your direct reports would appreciate more of your involvement. Tailor you delegation strategy to fit the unique needs of your team.

After getting your direct reports’ input on how you manage them, get their ideas on how you manage yourself. Ask,

  1. Do you ever see me doing things that I don’t need to be doing?
  2. Can I let go of some of my work and give it to my staff members?

If you are like most leaders, you are probably wasting some of your time on activities that a manager at your level doesn’t need to do. By delegating these activities to staff members you may simultaneously free up some of your own time (for more strategic work) and help to develop them.

After getting input from your direct reports, don’t promise to do everything that everyone suggests. Just promise to listen to their ideas, think about all of their suggestions, get back to them, and do what you can.

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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5 Ways to Become a Better Leader!

It’s an age-old question: Are we influenced more by nature or nurture? Applied to leadership, the question becomes: Are great leaders born or made? It’s one of the most frequently asked questions in leadership development.

Let’s start with the definition of “leader.” My good friend and mentor, Dr. Paul Hersey, defined leadership as “working with and through others to achieve objectives.” Given this definition, anyone in a position whose achievement requires support from others can play the role of a leader. I love this definition because it supports the philosophy of “leadership at all levels,” which is so critical in today’s world of knowledge workers.

Indeed, millions of people who are currently working with and though others to achieve objectives are already leaders. Whether they think of themselves as leaders (not to mention whether they are fantastic or disastrous leaders) is another issue.

So can people who are already working to influence others become more effective leaders? The answer is an unqualified “yes.”

My partner, Howard Morgan, and I conducted an extensive study on leadership development programs involving more than 86,000 participants in eight major corporations. Our findings were so conclusive that they are almost impossible to dispute. Leaders who participated in a development program, received 360-degree feedback, selected important areas for improvement, discussed these with co-workers, and followed-up with them on a consistent basis (to check on progress) were rated as becoming dramatically better leaders—not in a self-assessment, but in appraisals from co-workers—6 to 18 months after the initial program. (If you’d like a copy of this study, you can find it here.

So, what did we conclude are the five ways to become a better leader?

Leaders who participated in the same developmental programs and received the same type of feedback—but did not follow-up—were seen as improving by no more than random chance would imply. Here are some specific ways to increase your leadership effectiveness:

  1. Get 360-degree feedback on your present level of effectiveness, as judged by co-workers you respect.
  2. Pick the most important behaviors for change—those you believe will enhance your effectiveness as a leader—e.g., “become a more effective listener” or “make decisions in a timelier manner”).
  3. Periodically ask co-workers for suggestions on how you can do an even better job in your selected behaviors for change.
  4. Listen to their ideas—don’t promise to change everything—and make the changes that you believe will further increase your effectiveness.
  5. Follow-up and measure change in your effectiveness over time.

Are leaders born or made? If you are working with and through others to achieve objectives, you are already a leader. Can you become a more effective leader? Definitely.

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 You Need a Personal Superhero!

My greatest hero is Buddha. He is my personal superhero.

Like all of my other wonderful heroes, Frances Hesselbein, Peter Drucker, Alan Mulally, and Dr. Paul Hersey, Buddha was a generous teacher.

The difference between the Buddha and my other heroes is that although I never met him, his teachings transcend space and time to me today and he illuminates my life thousands of years after his. Even more incredible, he didn’t even write a book! He teaches me across the space and time continuum and he does it through other people.

Let me give you one example of how I have tried to use Buddha’s teaching in my work. Buddha suggested that his followers only do what he taught if it worked in the context of their own lives. He encouraged people to listen to his ideas, think about his suggestions, try out what made sense – keep doing what worked – and to just “let go” of what did not work.

Similarly, I teach my clients to ask their key stakeholders for suggestions on they can become more effective leaders then listen to these ideas, think about the suggestions, try out what makes sense – keep doing what works – and let go of what does not.

When our stakeholders give us suggestions on how we can become more effective, we can look at these suggestions as gifts – and treat our stakeholders as gift-givers. When someone gives you a gift you wouldn’t say, “Stinky gift!” “Bad gift!” or “I already have this stupid gift!” You would say, “Thank you.”

If you can use the gift – use it. If you don’t want to use the gift, put it in the closet and “let it go.”

You would not insult the person who is trying to be nice by giving you a gift. In the same way, when our stakeholders give us ideas, we don’t want to insult them or their ideas. We can just learn to say, “Thank you.”

We cannot promise to do everything that people suggest we should do. We can promise to listen to our key stakeholders, think about their ideas, and do what we can. This is all that we can promise – and this is all that they expect.

Get in the habit of asking the important people in your life, “How can I be a better…?”

This works at work – in your efforts to become a better leader, team member, or co-worker.

This works at home – in your efforts to become a better friend or family member.

Who do you need to ask, “How can I become a better…?” How do you typically respond to suggestions? Do you treat them as gifts – or do you critique them and the person making them?

That is just one way that I use what Buddha has taught me.

Recently I was so inspired by Buddha’s role model that I decided to mentor 15 people at no charge. My idea was to pick 15 people to teach everything that I know. In return, these 15 would do the same thing for 15 others, for free.

I called the project #15Coaches.

The response to this offering was so overwhelmingly positive that I have decided to expand the group to 100 Coaches. What is so amazing to me about the breadth of responses is that everyone who applied has a desire to “give it back.” This is a wonderful optimistic message of who we are as a group!

Because of this incredible response, I have decided to expand the program and it is now called #100Coaches. I am currently selecting the next 75 coaches! For more details and updates, please go to my website (www.marshallgoldsmith.com) or follow me on social media.

Thank you all for your support of this great project!

#100Coaches

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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One Thing Super Successful People Don’t Do!

Super successful people do not “coast” on their success.

Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of very successful people, and I’ve found they have one thing in common. They always keep challenging themselves. They always keep trying to be better.

I have a tendency to want to coast. If I’m good at something, my default is to keep doing it! This isn’t always a great asset.

One of my greatest heroes, Dr. Paul Hersey, co-creator of Situational Leadership™, was a wonderful mentor to me. Paul pointed out this fault of mine to me many years ago.

Paul was a great teacher and a generous man who taught me not only all about Situational Leadership, he also taught me about myself. When I first met Paul, he let me follow him around to try to learn what he did, which was to give talks to different business leaders. He was probably the highest paid person in our field at the time. One day, he got double-booked. He asked me, “Can you do what I do?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I need help. I’ll pay you $1000 for one day.” This was 39 years ago, I was 28 years old, and I was making $15,000 for one year! I said, “You’re paying me $1000 for one day’s work? Sign me up coach!”

The program was for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. When I showed up instead of Paul, they were not happy. I did the presentation anyway, and at the end of the day was ranked first of all the speakers! They called Paul after the program and said “Marshall was great. Send him again.” Paul called me up and asked me if I wanted to do another program for them. Of course I did!

That’s how I got into the business.

I worked with Paul for quite a few years doing this. One day he told me that I was very good at what I did, selling days and speaking, but that I was making too much money and complacent in my success. He told me that I was just a hamster on a wheel not going anywhere, that I would probably make lots of money and have a good life, but if I continued doing what I was doing I wouldn’t become the person I could be.

I respected Paul immensely and his words triggered a profound emotion in me. I knew he was right. Unless I changed some behaviors of mine that had in fact led to my success, I would never create anything new for myself.

But I was too busy maintaining a comfortable life, and for 12 more years, I didn’t follow Paul’s advice. I just coasted on my success. The work I did was good. People were happy. It was very lucrative, but I wasn’t becoming the person I could be. I was living the tale I tell in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. What got me “here,” which was a good place, wasn’t going to get me anyplace else.

It wasn’t until I met some of my other heroes, Frances Hesselbein, Richard Beckhardt, Peter Drucker, that I began to change. These other heroes of mine helped me focus on the things that Paul had suggested I engage in to grow: original thinking, writing, creating, and research.

Without these mentors, I would never have become the #1 leadership thinker in the world. And, without Paul’s advice, I would never have known that coasting on our achievements can be one of the biggest flaws of very successful people!

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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Marshall Goldsmith 15 Coaches Winners + Much More!

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Dallas to Riyadh!

A few months ago I came up with the idea of mentoring 15 people at no charge. My idea was to pick 15 people to teach everything that I know. In return, these 15 would do the same thing for 15 others, for free.

I called the project 15 Coaches.

I was inspired to do this by the many wonderful teachers and leaders who have so generously helped me – without ever asking for anything in return. It is my way of recognizing the amazing contributions they have made in my life.

I am so excited and moved by the more than 10,000 applications I have received!

For weeks I have been reviewing these applications. The many wonderful ideas of how applicants will pay it forward are humbling and inspiring. I wish I could mentor everyone who applied.

Given the overwhelmingly positive response I have received for this project, I have decided to expand the program from 15 to 100 coaches!

The project is now called 100 Coaches and I am currently working on the selection of the next 75 coaches!

The first group of 25 coaches will join me in Phoenix in December. There will be three more groups – one from Asia/India, one from the US, Europe, and South America, and one group of younger people and people from developing countries who are ready to make a difference in their communities and pay it forward.

In selecting the first 25 coaches, I have tried to achieve a great deal of diversity. The 25 have come from eleven different countries. They represent all kinds of different people who are interested in this field, including: thought leaders, authors, external coaches – to family business, small business and large business, internal coaches and executives.

Here is the list of the 25 coaches who will join me December 2-4 in Phoenix.

The First 25 of the 100 Coaches Winners

(Listed by group – not ranking)

Alexander Osterwalder – Thinkers 50 #1 Strategy Thinker 2015, co-founder Strategyzer, Osterwalder Strategy Facilitation, million-selling author Business Model Generation and Value Proposition Design, inventor Business Model Canvas

Herminia Ibarra – Thinkers 50 #8 Management Thinker 2015, #1 Leadership Thinker 2013, Professor at INSEAD, best-selling author Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career

Whitney Johnson – Thinkers 50 #49 Management Thinker 2015, Disruptive Innovation expert, author Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work

David Peterson – Pioneer executive coach, head of coaching at Google, author Development FIRST and Leader as Coach

Judith E. Glaser – Top executive coach, speaker, noted author Conversational Intelligence,Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization and The DNA of Leadership

Michael Bungay Stanier – #2 ranked executive coach, speaker, senior partner Box of Crayons, award winning author Do More Great Work and The Coaching Habit

Doug Winnie – ActionCOACH #1 small business coach 2016

Everett Alexander – Start up and family business coach, financial advisor and fund manager

Pawel Motyl – Formerly CEO HBR Poland, noted speaker, consultant and executive coach, author Labirynt. Sztuka podejmowania decyzji

Bernie Banks – Former General US Army, head of Leadership Development West Point, currently Associate Dean Northwestern Kellogg School

Carol Kauffman – Founder/Executive Institute of Coaching Harvard Medical School McLean Hospital, chief supervisor Meyler Campbell Business Coaching Program

Praveen Kopalle – Professor Dartmouth Tuck School, head of Tuck coaching program

Sanyin Siang – Executive Director Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE), laboratory for leadership, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

Clark Callahan – Managing Director – Custom Programs, Harvard Business School Executive Education

Kathleen Wilson-Thompson – Executive Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer HR Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. at Walgreens

Prakash Venkataraman – Senior consultant executive development LinkedIn, coach, facilitator, leadership development expert

Aicha Evans – Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the Communications and Devices Group at Intel Corporation, one of the highest ranking women in the chip industry

Deborah Borg – Chief Human Resource Officer Bunge Limited, former division president Dow USA, passionate about the human dimension of business and leadership in support of the business agenda

Bill Simpson – President and CEO Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company, dedicated to the greater mission of providing value to the Milton Hershey School and home for children

Garry Ridge – CEO WD 40, author Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A”

Pooneh Mohajer – Inc. Magazine nominee, co-founder and CEO TokiDoki, co-founder Hard Candy, visionary entrepreneur

Feyzi Fatehi – Inc. Magazine nominee, founder and CEO, Corent Technologies, author The 10x Innovation Revolution: Inspiring a Culture of Disruption and Entrepreneurship Within Any Organization

Gabriella Teasdale – President at Fundación Transformación PY, CEO Paraguay Leadership Team – John Maxwell Team

Asheesh Advani – CEO Junior Achievement Worldwide, author Investors in Your Backyard: How to Raise Business Capital from the People You Know andBusiness Loans from Family & Friends: How to Ask, Make It Legal & Make It Work

Ayse Birsel – Co-founder Birsel + Seck, famous designer, author Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future(

(After developing this list of wonderful people, I have read hundreds of comments online. While almost all are positive and encouraging, some have mentioned that we should include more young people or people who are not as fortunate. Based on this good idea – this is exactly what is going to happen!)

Stay tuned! I’ll be making more announcements on my website and social media channels with more information about the 100 Coaches project soon!

Life is good.

Marshall

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How to Tell If You Are in the Wrong Job

Every once in a while, you have a moment of clarity, a flash of insight into what you really want, who you really want to be, how you really want to live your life.

Can you recall a few of these glimpses?

I’ve had three such flashes of “temporary sanity” in my life. The first was years and years ago. I broke my neck surfing. I thought I would never walk again. For many months I went through an incredibly long rehabilitation process. During that period I reflected on what I wanted to do if I walked again I looked at what is really important to me and made a promise to myself to follow through on those things if I got better. The good news is that I am walking again and I have followed through on much of what I wanted to do.

The second time I had temporary sanity I was on an airplane. The pilot announced over the speaker system that we were going to have to crash land with no landing gear. I thought I might die! I asked myself, “What do I regret?” The answer I came up with was that I had never adequately thanked the many people who had been so good to me in my life. I told myself, “If I ever get back down on the ground safely, I will thank these people.” The plane landed safely and when I got to my hotel room, the first thing I did was write thank you notes to at least 50 people who had helped me in my life!

The third time I had such a flash of sanity, I was about 30 years old. I went on a volunteer trip to Africa with the Red Cross. I saw many starving children having their arms measured. If their arms were too big they did not eat. If their arms were too small they did not eat. Their arms had to be just the right size if they were to eat that day – meaning they were not too hungry to survive and not too well fed so as not to need food. It was during that trip that I realized how fortunate I am. I remember this trip and picture those children every time I feel “justifiably” upset, like when my plane is delayed for hours on end and I need to get to my next location. When this happens, I remember those beautiful children, and 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.”

Every once in a while we all have these moments of clarity, these flashes of temporary sanity, especially when we go through traumatic, potentially life-threatening events. What are yours? What did you tell yourself that you really wanted to do, be, act, when you were faced with these events?

If you’re not doing those things now where you work, take a good look at your job. Ask yourself: Is this what I want to be doing? Do the company’s values align with mine? Am I living my life according to my temporary flashes of sanity, or am I just “selling days” paycheck to paycheck as my vision and hopes for myself fade into the background until the next moment of sanity comes, which could be a lifetime away.

Today, I am taking my own advice to heart again. In a recent moment of temporary sanity, I decided that I am going to teach 15 people everything I know, for free. This is my chance to honor the many wonderful teachers and heroes that I have had over the years and to give to others as they gave to me. If you’d like to follow the 15 Coaches project, please visit my website http://www.marshallgoldsmith.com/ or follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or here on LinkedIn. I’m going to announce the 15 Coaches on October 28 and will be documenting the entire process in my writings and videos.

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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