Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder-Centered Coaching Train-the-Coach Certification

I’m often asked by other coaches how they can learn more and become certified in my coaching methods.  I send people to the website

The Conference Board will host a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder-Centered Coaching Train-the-Coach certification workshop June 18,19 in NYC. Click here to register.


You can learn and practice the methods I use in my own coaching engagements.  The training is based on my stakeholder centered coaching methodology, which is highly process-driven.  The certification workshop covers a complete 1-year coaching engagement.  Following is more information from Chris Coffey and Frank Wagner about the course:

Benefits of becoming a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder-Centered Coach:

  • Be part of Marshall’s #1 global coaching brand and network. You can freely use and promote your coaching services using the famous Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder-Centered Coaching brand, without any license fees.
  • Free access to all coaching resources – as certified coach you have access to everything you need to run successful coaching engagements. You can freely download soft versions of all files and have access to our online tools.
  • Get more coaching engagements easily: Marshall’s Stakeholder Centered Coaching process and brand is strongly geared to driving client engagement.  As a certified coach you will be able to guarantee measurable leadership growth to your clients through using Marshall’s tools. You will have your own coach profile on our website alongside Marshall and be eligible to be part of our coaching pool for large global coaching projects with multinational organizations.


Benefits of the ‘Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered-Coaching process:

1) Measurable leadership growth

  • Corporate clients are increasingly demanding tangible, measurable results that not only help the leader being coached, and visibly impacts on the corporation’s bottom line.  The Stakeholder Centered Coaching process stands apart in that it produces quantifiable results not only for the leader, but also for his/her team (and beyond).
  • Coaches help eliminate common leadership roadblocks, as leaders typically have some beliefs that impair successful advancement. This is extensively described in Marshall’s bestselling book ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’.
  • Our Leadership Growth Progress Review links the measurement of a leader’s growth to our ‘no growth, no pay’ guarantee.  Although not a requirement for being a Stakeholder-Centered Coach practitioner, this is a highly compelling business proposition that has strongly contributed to Marshall’s success and a number of our coaches.


2) Time efficient

  • In an environment where leaders are increasingly time sensitive, the Stakeholder Centered Coaching process is very time efficient as the leadership growth process is integrated with stakeholder interactions on the job.


3) Equips leaders to lead the process of positive change in the future

  • Once leaders themselves have been coached for 6-12 months they are fully equipped to continue the process on their own as well as coach their direct reports. Coaching is a ‘must have’ leadership skill for successful leaders who face competition for talent!


Chris Coffey will be leading the Stakeholder Centered Coaching certification at The Conference Board on June 18th and 19th


Click here to register


“My partner, Chris Coffey, helps individuals and teams achieve and sustain outstanding results. In addition, he is clearly one of the world’s best keynote speakers and trainers in the area of coaching, leadership development, and teamwork. He provides a rare combination of being entertaining and dynamic while providing advice and stories from his extensive coaching experience that is both practical and applicable. He is a person that I trust to lead the training process for our behavioral coaches!”

“Frank Wagner is clearly one of the greatest leadership educators, coaches and teacher of coaches that I have ever met. As an educator, Dr. Wagner combines a deep knowledge of leadership development with a gift for teaching that few teachers can match. As a coach, he has an incredible track record of helping his clients achieve positive, measurable, long-term change in leadership behavior. As a teacher of coaches, Frank is the person that Marshall Goldsmith Partners has chosen to lead the practice. The graduates of his coaching training have gone on to produce results that rival his own success!”


Contact Chris for details:

Chris Coffey

+1 310 650 2438


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What Is the Greatest Challenge Leaders Face?

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at! Life Is Good. — Marshall

In my work, I have the opportunity to talk with many leaders every day and I am frequently asked the question, “What is the greatest challenge that leaders face?”

It’s simple: Our greatest challenge is overcoming our own egos.

As a leader, you likely have a sincere desire to help and care deeply about developing others. You have learned a lot, have great qualifications, and believe in yourself. Unfortunately, these positive qualities can get in our way when it comes to helping!

Our Client’s Dedication Means More Than Our Wisdom

Of all of my coaching clients, the client who improved the most was the client with whom I had spent the least amount of time! He was the CEO of a huge organization and managed about 50,000 people. After our coaching engagement, I said to him, “I have spent less time with you than any client that I have ever coached, yet you and your team have shown the greatest improvement. What should I learn from my experience with you and your team?”

He thoughtfully replied, “Marshall, you should realize that success with your clients isn’t all about you. It is about your clients, the people who choose to work with you.” He continued, “In an important way, my situation is the same. I manage about 50,000 people. Every day, as a leader, I tell myself, ‘The success of our organization is not about me. It is about them-the great people who are working with me!’”

This remarkable leader was Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford, who was recently named #3 on Fortune’s list of the 50 greatest leaders in the world. Alan taught me a powerful lesson. That the difference in my clients’ improvements wasn’t about me, it was about them. The difference was about their dedication to achieving positive, lasting change-not my great insights or wisdom.

One of My Most Embarrassing Screw-ups

In spite of understanding the theory of ‘make it all about them, not you,’ I can still let my own ego get in the way of my work.

For example, I am sometimes honored by wonderful organizations and this makes me feel good! I love what I do, and when I am appreciated for it I feel great! Sometimes I cannot believe how lucky I am.

Although it is good to be thankful and grateful about our own lives, it is not always good to assume that our blessings are the major topic of interest for the rest of the world!

Some time back, after I received an award, I was interviewing the team members of a client executive that I was going to coach. I really loved the company and was looking forward to working with the executive. As I introduced myself to each team member during our one-on-one sessions, I was so enthusiastic about myself, the great honor I’d received, and my wonderful life that I forgot why I was there! The person who had hired me called to send her regrets, noting that the team thought I seemed to be more interested in myself than I was in them. To put it bluntly, I was fired!

I should have been fired.

And, that’s the lesson for today: The next time your start feeling ‘smart,’ ‘qualified,’ or ‘wise,’ remember this warning:

Get over yourself!!!

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Amazon!

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The #1 Joy Killer and How to Avoid It

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at! Life Is Good. — Marshall

In my travels, I run across thousands of people all over the world who aren’t happy. In fact, some of them are downright miserable. It’s hard to be an engaged, productive person at work if you’re not happy. And, it can be even harder at home.

So, what is the #1 joy killer today? What is killing our happiness and engagement on such a wide-scale? It’s that series of little things that we put on our plates, that pile up over time, compounding to the point of being way too much for any one person to handle.

The #1 happiness killer today is saying yes too much when you should really be saying no. Have you ever heard the old saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”? It makes sense. It’s obvious they are able to get things done. But there is a fine line between taking on a lot and taking on too much.

People in corporate situations often fall into this over-commitment trap. It’s easy to see why. If you like what you do and you’re good at it, it shows. Everyone wants you to be at their meeting; they seek out your opinion; they ask you to run a project for them. Busy people find no shortage of opportunities. And, this happens at all levels. It’s how junior employees advance more rapidly than some of their cohorts. Their ambition and enthusiasm is contagious. Their bosses pile on the work—the employees don’t cry uncle (until it’s too late). And that’s when their work quality deteriorates and they begin to falter. It’s a predictable and vicious circle.

Self-employed people really fall for this joy killer. That’s because without the cushion of a steady paycheck, every opportunity could be their last. So, they take on everything even though it’s impossible to do it all. I do this. As a speaker, I show up for the day, share my knowledge, and get paid for my time. It’s a straightforward pay-for-work opportunity. If I show up I get paid. If I don’t, I don’t get paid. I look at un-booked periods as valuable time during which I can catch up on my reading and writing, or simply relax with my family.

Then someone will want to hire me for the day. I’ll say no at first, because I’ve planned to do these important things. But often the client will persist and I soon find myself saying yes to a gig a few months away, rationalizing that who knows what the economy or my future bookings will look like, I’d better take what comes. Really though, I might be better served to say no and write my next book! I’m lucky to have this problem. And, I know that if I say yes too many times when I should be saying no, the feeling will compound to dangerous levels and will turn into burnout.

That’s the lesson of the #1 Joy Killer. For those of us who tend to over-commit, we have to watch out. Over-commitment is liable to make our spirit sag on the inside and soon will become obvious on the outside to everyone else. Our great job will turn rote, our execution sloppy and apathetic. It will make us appear under-committed and this is rarely appreciated by our customers or colleagues.

Practically everyone feels over-committed on occasion. It’s a hard thing to admit for lots of reasons. Maybe we don’t want to look like we can’t handle the challenge. Maybe we want the validation of being told we’re doing a good job. Maybe we think that taking on too much is no excuse for dropping the ball.

The key is before you reply with another enthusiastic “yes” to that request, think of the long-term impact it will have on you. Is it right for you in the long-term? Are you just saying what will make others happy in the short-term? And, is what you are about to commit to going to increase the long-term happiness and meaning that you experience in life? Or not? The answers will help you avoid the #1 Joy Killer – over-commitment.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at Amazon!

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Two Immutable Truths that Will STOP Successful Change

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at! Life Is Good. — Marshall

As we gear up for publication of Triggers (my new book, which will be out May 19th!), I’m spending a few weeks answering some questions that people ask me frequently about the book, its content, message, and the research that’s gone into it.

This week’s blog is the third of this short series and answers the pertinent question: Do you think Triggers will change people’s lives?

The simple answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Let’s explore my enthusiastic response to this question.

Do you think Triggers will change people’s lives?

The sole purpose of this book is to help you become the person you want to be, to help you change your life. In Triggers, I won’t tell you who you should want to be. I won’t judge you or tell you who should become.

I will tell you why we don’t become the people we want to be. And, I do this for the sole purpose of helping you become the person you want to be. For instance, I explore the Two Immutable Truths of Behavioral Change. These will stop change in its tracks!

  • Meaningful change is very hard to do. It’s hard to initiate behavioral change, even harder to stay the course, hardest of all to make the change stick. Adult behavioral change is the most difficult thing for sentient human beings to accomplish.
  • No one can make us change unless we truly want to change. This should be self-evident. Change has to come from within. It can’t be dictated, demanded, or otherwise forced upon people. A man or woman who does not wholeheartedly commit to change will never change.

What makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging—and causes most of us to give up early in the game—is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course.

How do triggers work?

Belief triggers stop behavioral change in its tracks. Even when the individual and societal benefits of changing a specific behavior are indisputable, we are geniuses at inventing reasons to avoid change. It is much easier, and more fun, to attack the strategy of the person who’s trying to help than to try to solve the problem.

We fall back on a set of beliefs that trigger denial, resistance. and ultimately self-delusion. They sabotage lasting change by canceling its possibility. We employ these beliefs as articles of faith to justify our inaction and then wish away the result. These are called belief triggers and a few of them (there are many!) include:

  • ‘I have willpower and won’t give in to temptation.’
  • ‘Today is a special day.’
  • ‘At least I’m better than…’

The environment also triggers us. Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behavior. When we experience “road rage” on a crowded freeway, it’s not because we’re sociopathic monsters. It’s because the temporary condition of being behind the wheel of a car, surrounded by rude, impatient drivers, triggers a change in our otherwise friendly demeanor. We’ve unwittingly placed ourselves in an environment of impatience, competitiveness, and hostility—and it alters us.

Some environments are designed precisely to lure us into acting against our interest. That’s what happens when we overspend at the high-end mall. Other environments are not as manipulative and predatory as a luxury store. But they’re still not working for us.

The environment that is most concerning is situational. It’s a hyperactive shape-shifter. Every time we enter a new situation, with its mutating who- what- when- where- and- why-specifics, we are surrendering ourselves to a new environment—and putting our goals, our plans, our behavioral integrity at risk. It’s a simple dynamic: a changing environment changes us.

The Solution

The solution I describe is to identify our behavioral triggers (any stimuli that impacts our behavior). These can be direct or indirect, internal or external, conscious or unconscious, etc.

The more aware we are, the less likely any trigger, even in the most mundane circumstances, will prompt hasty unthinking behavior that leads to undesirable consequences. Rather than operate on autopilot, we’ll slow down, take time to think it over, and make a more considered choice.

We already do this in the big moments. It’s the little moments that trigger some of our most outsized and unproductive responses. The slow line at the coffee shop, the second cousin who asks why you’re still single, the colleague who doesn’t remove his sunglasses indoors to talk to you.

Isn’t it time to learn how to be who we want to be in every moment possible? If your answer is “Yes!” then this book is for you.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at!

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Feeling Tired & Depleted? 3 Steps to Overcome Both!

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at! Life Is Good. — Marshall

Finally just around the corner (May 19) is the publication of my new book Triggers! This week’s blog is the second of a short series that is going to be all about the book, its content, and its message. More specifically this week, I’m going to share with you how you can overcome feeling depleted (and succeed anyway) and how I use the material from Triggers in my coaching practice.

Do I see the themes from Triggers elsewhere in thought leadership?

Yes, I do. There’s a lot of exciting new research being done in the areas of goal-achievement and depletion and why we do and don’t achieve our goals. As a matter of fact, Triggers is the product of about two years of thought and research I’ve done. To date, I’ve done 79 different studies with 2537 participants. The studies are ongoing and the pool of participants keeps growing! There’s been a lot of work behind Triggers – so it’s not something I just thought of in a day or two.

For instance, in the book, I talk about depletion and its effect on us in our daily lives. As you might know, one of this book’s central arguments is that our environment affects us in powerful, insidious, and mysterious ways. Depletion is one of those environmental hazards. Viewing depletion as an external trigger is a way of seeing the world anew and appreciating the demands placed on us by our constant efforts at self-regulation.

For example, say you wake up later than usual with insufficient time for your morning workout. You tell yourself you’ll hit the gym that evening after work. But at day’s end, carrying your briefcase and gym bag from the office, you think, “I can skip today. I’ll work out tomorrow morning.”

What’s going on here? Why do our discipline and decisiveness fade at the end of the day, to the point where we opt to do nothing instead of doing something enjoyable or useful? It’s not because we’re inherently weak. It’s because we’re weakened. By the end of the day, we’re worn down and vulnerable to foolish choices.

Depletion isn’t limited to self-control. It applies to many forms of self-regulated behavior. Most obviously it affects our decision making. The more decisions we’re obliged to make, whether it’s choosing among the dozens of options when buying a new car or reducing the list of attendees at an off-site meeting, the more fatigued we get in handling subsequent decisions. Researchers call this decision fatigue, a state that leaves us with two courses of action: 1) we make careless choices or 2) we surrender to the status quo and do nothing. Decision fatigue is why the head-scratching purchases we make on Tuesday get returned on Wednesday; we’re more clearheaded the next day when we’re not depleted. It’s also why we put off decisions; we’re too drained to decide now.

So, given that depletion is an external trigger that can lead us not to achieve our goal of becoming the person we want to be, what do we do? How do we combat this treacherous trigger?

Step 1: Track your day: Once your eyes are opened, new courses of action immediately come to mind. Most obviously, you can start tracking our days in terms of depletion.

Step 2: Assemble a list: We can’t measure or quantify our depletion—we’re not even aware of it—but you can assemble a useful list of what is or isn’t depleting.

Step 3: Structure your day: Structure is how we overcome depletion. In an almost magical way, structure slows down how fast our discipline and self-control disappear. When you have structure, you don’t have to make as many choices; you just follow the plan. And the net result is you’re not being depleted as quickly.

Do I plan to use the research in the book Triggers in my coaching work?

I am definitely going to use the findings in my coaching! I have already used them many times. In fact, I did so again today.

Today I worked with the President of the New York Public Library. I’m a volunteer for the library and I worked with his top five people. We used material from the book Triggers. We talked about the environment they’re trying to create, and talked about my friend Alan Mulally’s process. Alan is the former CEO of Ford), and I talk about him and his process and its benefits in the book. I used a lot of the material from Triggers today, and after reading the book, I hope you will too.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of my thoughts on Triggers with you next week!

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at!

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Are You Unhappy at Work? Change Your Default!

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at! Life Is Good. — Marshall

Triggers is based on the fascinating realization I had a few years ago at an NAHR meeting that the key variable in behavioral change, in coaching, in life, is you!

At this meeting there were many great HR leaders presenting. During the presentations, I had an epiphany: every single one of them focused on what the company could do to engage the employees – not one of them focused on what the employees could do to engage themselves. They were missing half of the equation!

The problem with this focus is that as a person working for the company, I am reinforced into believing that the company should be making my life better. As a result, I don’t make the effort to change my life, my behavior, or my situation. I get stuck in the rut of thinking, ‘If only it would change, my life would be better.’ And, while it may get better for a short time with a new program or higher pay, in the long term when the novelty of it wears off, I go back to my default – dissatisfied and unhappy. Unfortunately, this becomes an endless cycle that I am destined to repeat until I examine my half of the equation.

So, with that as our foundation, let’s get started learning more about the concepts behind the writing of Triggers! I am so excited to share this new material with you, because it will help you become the person you want to be.

Marshall Goldsmith on Triggers: Part 1

Over the past few months, I’ve been asked many questions by people interested in the book. I’ve distilled these down into a few general questions and these will be the focus of my next few blogs. I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful!

What does the title “Triggers” mean to me?

Triggers came to me because in my coaching I realized the following:

My first inclination as a coach was to think that people would get better because of me, because I was a good coach. I gave them clever advice. Why not? Then I realized that the key variable wasn’t me. It was the person I was coaching. Some people got a lot better with my coaching, some didn’t. I’d used the same process, not done anything differently, why was this?

As I got further into coaching, I realized that the key variable wasn’t just the person, and it wasn’t just me. It was also the environment the person lived in. It had a lot to do with how the environment influences us.

Take as an extreme negative example, a drug addict. They go to rehab. They clean up. Things are looking good. When you put them back in that same environment with the same triggers that pushed them in the wrong direction in the first place, the chances are very high that they’ll go back in the wrong direction again.

Because of this insight, today I focus a lot on triggers in the environment in my coaching engagements and how these triggers can change our behaviors, often in ways we do not want.

What are some of your other books?

I’ve written and edited 34 books, which have sold about two million copies.

I have two mega-best sellers. One of them is called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. It has had fantastic success. It was the Harold Longman Winner for Business Book of the Year, has been translated into 30 languages, and is a bestseller in 12 countries.

The other mega-seller, Mojo, is also a New York Times best seller and has been translated into about 20 languages. I wrote both of these books with my partner Mark Reiter, who is also my co-author on Triggers.

Why did you choose the subject matter in “Triggers”?

I wanted to write Triggers because it’s different.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is about inter-personal relationships, leadership behavior, and how to develop relationships with people. Mojo is much more of an intra-personal perspective on the world as I see it. Its focus is how I look at myself and how I find meaning and happiness by looking at myself internally.

Triggers is about how the environment influences us and how we can become the person we want to be in spite of and even because of its affect. It takes as its foundation my philosophies on relationships between people and the importance of gaining perspective about myself. It marries these with how the world out there influences me and how I influence the world out there, so that I can become the person I want to be.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at!

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12 Amazing Tips that Will Change Your Life!

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at! Life Is Good. — Marshall

Since May 2014, I have posted the Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Blog every week –  50 blogs in 50 weeks. This week is the culmination of that effort #50!

In each blog I have shared a nugget of knowledge, a piece of advice, or an amazing tip for success. In the list below you’ll find 12 amazing tips that will change your life and help you to become the person that you want to be. Plus, there’s a link to the video and written blog so you can learn more about each insight. And, I hope you’ll explore the rest of the videos in the playlists listed at the end of this blog and that all of these tips are helpful to you on your journey through life!

  1. Stop trying to win everything. This is the #1 challenge for most people, because it underlies nearly every other behavioral problem. Our obsession with winning crosses the spectrum of our lives. The next time you start trying to win and prove you’re right, take a deep breath and ask yourself: Exactly what am I winning? We can become more successful if we appreciate this “flaw” and work to suppress it in all of our interpersonal relations. (video/article)
  2. Stop adding value to others’ ideas all the time. The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion deflates others’ enthusiasm and dampers their commitment. What does this mean for leaders? It means closely monitoring how you hand out encouragement and suggestions. You may realize that you have more to gain by not always adding value! (video/article)
  3. The best question to ask when you’re soliciting feedback (both at work and at home) is: How can I be a better ________________ (friend, partner, employer, worker, leader, daughter, father, etc.)? (video/article)
  4. If you want to change, you must follow-up! This step is essential. If you don’t do follow up, your chances of changing are slight! (video/article)
  5. Quality communication is the glue that holds organizations together. By using feedforward—and by encouraging others to use it—leaders can dramatically improve the quality of communication in their organizations. (video/article)
  6. Even the best coach in the world can’t help an uncoachable person. The four indicators that you are dealing with someone who is uncoachable are: She doesn’t think she has a problem. He is pursuing the wrong strategy for the organization. She is in the wrong job. He thinks everyone else is the problem. (video/article)
  7. Our belief in ourselves helps us become successful and it can also make it very hard for us to change. This is the conundrum of the Success Delusion! (video/article)
  8. Many leaders think they need to delegate more to be more effective as leaders. This is frequently not true. Most often leaders don’t need to delegate more, they need to delegate more effectively! (video/article)
  9. Once we get over whining because ‘life isn’t fair’ – we can become more effective at influencing others and make a positive difference! (video/article)
  10. There is often a great discrepancy between the self we think we are and the self the rest of the world sees in us. This can hold you back! Learn how aligning your stated values to your actual behavior can lead you to great success. (video/article)
  11. Changing behavior involves hard work and it takes time. If you want to be a better leader, a better professional, or a better person, you’ll have to do some work! (video/article)
  12. The moment we stop striving and begin to coast on our good reputation is the perilous moment when we settle for “good enough.” And, this is the moment when, at best, change stops and, at worst, we revert back to our old ways. (video/article)

For more amazing tips, I encourage you to watch all of my videos in their playlists on YouTube. For easy access and playability, I’ve listed them in order below and provided the link to the series.

  1. Teaching Leaders What to Stop
  2. Leadership Is a Contact Sport
  3. Coaching for Behavioral Change
  4. Coaching for Leaders
  5. Personal Advice
  6. Triggers

And I’m thrilled to tell you that your feedback has been so overwhelmingly positive that I am going to continue posting the blog! The focus of my next blogs will be ideas from my new book Triggers, which will be published May 19, 2015. There is so much new content about becoming the person you want to be (both at work and at home) that I am incredibly excited for this next series of videos. I hope you enjoy them and find them useful!

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at!

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What Is the Best Coaching Advice You Will Ever Get?

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at! Life Is Good. — Marshall

This is a great question, and the answer is going to come from an unexpected source. But, I think you’ll agree this is the best coaching advice you will ever get. It’s not going to come from me – it’s going to come from you. Ready?

Imagine yourself at 95 years old, knowing what was important and what wasn’t. Take that knowledge to heart now, both for your career and for your personal life.

You are now about to receive the best coaching advice that you will ever get in this—or perhaps any other—lifetime! You are about to receive advice from a very wise old person. Listen very carefully to what this wise old person says.

First, take a deep breath. Take a deeper breath. Now, imagine that you are 95 years old and you are just about to die. Here comes your last breath. But before you take your last breath, you are being given a wonderful, beautiful gift: the ability to travel back in time and talk with the person who is reading this column. The 95-year-old you has been given the chance to help the you of today to have a great career and, much more important, to have a great life.

Figure Out What Counts

The 95-year-old you knows what was really important and what wasn’t; what really mattered and what didn’t; what really counted and what didn’t count at all. What advice does the wise “old you” have for the you reading this column? Take your time. Jot down the answers on two levels: personal advice and professional advice. And once you have written down these words, take them to heart.

In the world of performance appraisals, this may well be the one that matters most. At the end of life, if the old you thinks that you did the right thing, you probably did. If the old you thinks that you screwed up, you probably did. At the end of life, you don’t have to impress anyone else—just that person you see in the mirror.

A friend of mine actually had the opportunity to talk with old people who were facing death and to ask them what advice they would have had for themselves. Their answers were filled with wisdom. One recurring theme was to take the time to reflect on life and find happiness and meaning now. A frequent comment from old people runs along the lines of: “I got so wrapped up in looking at what I didn’t have that I missed what I did have. I had almost everything. I wish I had taken more time to appreciate it.”

Look to the Present

The great Western disease of “I will be happy when …” is sweeping the world. You know the symptoms. You start thinking: I will be happy when I get that … that promotion … that status … that money. The only way to cure the disease is to find happiness and meaning now.

A second theme from old folks was friends and family. You may work for a wonderful company and believe that your contribution is very important. But when you are 95 and you look around your death bed, very few of your fellow employees will be waving goodbye! Your friends and family will probably be the only people who care.

Don’t get so lost in pleasing the people who don’t care that you neglect the people who do.

Give It a Try!

Another recurring theme was to follow your dreams. Older people who tried to achieve their dreams were happier with their lives. None of us will ever achieve all of our dreams. If we do, we will just make up new ones! If we go for it, we can at least say at the end, “I tried!” instead of, “Why didn’t I at least try?”

In conducting research for one of my books, my co-author and I interviewed more than 200 high-potential leaders from around the world. A key question that we asked was: “If you stay in this company, why are you going to stay?”

The top three answers:

  1. “I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting, and I love what I am doing.”
  2. “I like the people here. They are my friends. This feels like a team—like a family. I might make more money if I left, but I don’t want to leave the people here.”
  3. “I can follow my dreams. This organization is giving me the chance to grow and do what I really want to do in life.”

When my friend asked people who were on their death beds what really mattered in life, and when I asked young, high-potential leaders what really mattered at work, we heard about the same thing.

If you want to make a new beginning in life—look ahead to the end. Then decide what to do.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at!

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A Radical New Approach to Employee Engagement

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at! Life Is Good. — Marshall

In my new book Triggers, I propose a radical new approach to employee engagement. To me, this new approach is the “other half of the equation”, the missing piece, the thing that we’ve been overlooking that could change the business landscape for good!

What is this radical new concept? It’s that the key variable in employee engagement is the individual, the employee, not the program. Although it may sound obvious, this idea is not taught or acted upon. Instead, companies spend billions of dollars every year trying to get employees and leaders to believe that the solution to employee engagement problems is “out there” not “in us”. For example:

  • Historically, almost all of the evaluations of leadership development programs have focused on participants grading the popularity of the speakers. The goal of the program developers is to develop popular programs. Who learns to take responsibility? Who is really being trained? The speaker! The speaker is reinforced for being a popular presenter. The speaker almost never has any responsibility for the actual development of the leaders. The leaders may or may not take responsibility for their own development. Many take no responsibility for implementing what they learn in programs and, not surprisingly, do not become more effective.
  • Historically, almost all of the evaluations of executive coaching is on the popularity of the coach. Companies want to hire coaches who are popular with executives. Who learns to take responsibility? Who is really being trained? The executive coach is reinforced for being popular. The coaching clients may or may not take responsibility for changing their own behavior. Many take no responsibility for implementing suggestions from their coach and, not surprisingly, do not become better leaders.
  • Historically, almost all of the evaluation on employee engagement has focused on the company. These are important things like delivering fair pay and benefits, providing tools and resources, creating a safe workplace environment, and so on. But who is learning to take responsibility? Who is being trained? The company learns to roll out popular employee engagement programs; however, the employees may or may not take responsibility for engaging themselves. Many take no responsibility for engaging themselves and, not surprisingly, do not become more engaged though they do have good benefits.

I am not suggesting that all development and engagement programs are helpful – or that if their ideas are implemented they will work. I am merely pointing out that ideas which are not implemented definitely will not work!

I want you to achieve positive, lasting change, and I want you to have a better life. And while some of your life is going to be impacted by your environment, by a program, coach, or company – a lot is going to be up to you! The fact is that while you can’t make yourself taller, you can make yourself more engaged. And maybe you can’t change your company, boss, or employee, but you can change your reaction to them.

Your success in becoming engaged, being happy, finding meaning, and leading people will largely come from inside you – not from some teacher, coach, or program. It is not just what you learn, but how you (and if you) use it that will make the difference.

See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at!

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How to Forecast the Environment for Success

Dear Followers: My new book Triggers is published! Order it now at! Life Is Good. — Marshall

As we journey through life, we are creating our world and our world is simultaneously creating us. Much of who we are and what we will become is determined by environmental factors that we cannot control. Much of who we are and what we will become is determined by personal choices that we can control. As we experience our world – and it experiences us – we live in a circular cycle of constant change.

So, the question becomes: How can we forecast our environment so that we are aware of its influence over us and how we can use what we learn to our success?

For instance, in San Diego, where I live, I can always identify the neighbors who are fanatical sailors, surfers, or golfers. They’re the ones checking their phones for hourly weather updates. A bumbler like me might think that San Diego has some of the most reliable weather on the planet, but to these guys, every knot, degree, and percentage point of humidity counts! They are determined to participate, enjoy, and succeed at their sports. That’s why they use all the tools at their disposal to determine if the wind on the Pacific Ocean will be blowing, the surf will be up, and the course will be playable. They are not only aware of the environment, they go out of their way to forecast it so that they can choose their plan of attack for that day.

Few of us shape our days with the obsessive forecasting that avid sailors, surfers, and golfers do. If we did, we wouldn’t be blindsided by our environment so often. Yet, once we acknowledge its power over us, we realize that forecasting the environment is necessary if we are going to achieve our goals.

Let’s take a closer look at how to forecast our environment. There are three interconnected stages of importance here: anticipation, avoidance, and adjustment.

1. Anticipation

Successful people are aware of their environment. In the major moments of our lives, when the outcome really matters and failure is not an option, most of us are masters of anticipation.

For example, when an ad agency team enters a client’s conference room to pitch an account, they’ve already honed their presentation, researched the client’s biases, and rehearsed sharp answers to deflect any pushback. They imagine the positive emotional temperature in the room when they’re finished—and then design their pitch to create it.

It’s the same with trial attorneys who never ask a question to which they don’t know the answer. Their entire line of questioning a witness is based on anticipation.

When our performance has clear and immediate consequences, we rise to the occasion. We create our environment. We don’t let it re-create us.

The problem is that the majority of our day consists of minor moments, when we’re not thinking about the environment or our behavior because we don’t associate the situation with any consequences. These seemingly benign environments, ironically, are when we need to be most vigilant. When we’re not anticipating the environment, anything can happen.

I once thought it would be useful to introduce two of my clients to each other over dinner. I should have known better. I knew their political differences. Needless to say, it didn’t go well! My big mistake was a failure to anticipate their behavior in the after-hours environment of dinner at a restaurant—when both men considered themselves off-duty, free to say anything, because it would have no business repercussions. I realize now that proper anticipation would have led to . . .

2. Avoidance

Peter Drucker famously said, “Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.”

It’s no different with our environment. Quite often our smartest response to an environment is avoiding it.

  • If we’re returning home late at night, we don’t take a route through a sketchy high-crime neighborhood.
  • If we’ve given up drinking, we don’t hang out at a bar.
  • If we’re fair-skinned and burn easily in the sun, we skip the beach.
  • If we detest our neighbor Todd, we politely turn down his invitations to visit.

We’re generally shrewd about avoiding environments that present a physical or emotional risk or are otherwise unpleasant.

On the other hand, we rarely triumph over an environment that is enjoyable. We’d rather continue enjoying it than abandon or avoid it. Because of our delusional belief that we can control our environment, we choose to flirt with temptation rather than walk away. We are constantly testing ourselves against it. And dealing with the shock and distress when we fail.

It’s a simple equation: To avoid undesirable behavior, avoid the environments where it is most likely to occur.

3. Adjustment

Of course, there are many moments in life when avoidance is impossible. We have to engage, even if doing so terrifies us (for example, public speaking), or enrages us (for example, visiting our in-laws), or turns us into jerks (for example, conducting business with people we don’t respect).

Adjustment, if we’re lucky, is the end product of forecasting—but only after we anticipate our environment’s impact and eliminate avoidance as an option. Adjustment doesn’t happen that often. Most of us continue our errant ways unchecked. We succeed despite, not because of, falling into the same behavioral traps again and again. Adjustment happens when we’re desperate to change, or have an unexpected insight, or are shown the way by another person (such as a friend or coach).

It’s not a Cloak & Dagger Operation!

So, the bad news is that the environment is a relentless triggering mechanism that, in an instant, can change us from saint to sinner, optimist to pessimist, model citizen to jerk—and make us lose sight of who we’re trying to be.

The good news is that the environment is not conducting a cloak-and-dagger operation. It’s out in the open, providing constant feedback to us. Though we’re often too distracted to hear what the environment is telling us, in those moments when like the golfers, surfers, and sailors in my neighborhood, we’re dialed in and paying attention, the seemingly covert triggers that shape our behavior become apparent and we can anticipate, avoid, and adjust as needed to make real changes in our lives.


See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series and please order Triggers at!

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