Does It Really Matter What Other People Think About You?

It does in Stakeholder Centered Coaching®. In fact it’s critical!

In my role as an executive educator, I’ve been directly and indirectly responsible for training thousands of coaches in the Stakeholder Centered Coaching process. Long ago, I trained my good friend Chris Coffey, who along with Frank Wagner leads the Stakeholder Centered Coaching certification in the U.S. and has now trained thousands of coaches himself. Obviously, the key word in Stakeholder Centered Coaching is “stakeholder”.

In a recent interview with Chris, I asked him to explain the role and importance of stakeholders in our coaching process. Below is a short excerpt, which I hope is useful to you as you learn about Stakeholder Centered Coaching.

Marshall: As you know, Chris, we don’t get paid if our clients don’t achieve positive lasting change in behavior, not as judged by us or them, but as judged by all those important stakeholders around them. Obviously, in Stakeholder Centered Coaching, the key word is that word “stakeholder.”

Why don’t you describe the role of the stakeholder and the importance of the stakeholder in our coaching process?

Chris: Changing behavior and perception in parallel is one of our key principles. So, yes, you have to change behavior. I’ll often ask the question: on a scale of 1 to 10, how hard is to change a behavior that’s a habit? People often reply, “9!”. And, to get someone else to change their perception of you once they have formed it is even harder.

The idea of the active engagement of stakeholders is to tell them what the client is working on and then engage them as support. When we talk, in person or in teleconference, I tell them the ground rules to be a stakeholder. Number one, they have to be willing to let go of the past. Holding onto what somebody did a year ago isn’t going to help anybody. I ask them to suspend that, and only judge the coachee’s improvement from this day forward on the one or two behaviors they have selected to change.

Marshall: Yeah, you might be good, but you really can’t change the past.

Chris: Right. You can’t change the past. And number two, they must be supportive of the process. They shouldn’t be a critic, a cynic, or a judge. I ask them to focus on how it will benefit them if and when this person becomes more effective at what you’ve said is the behavior they need to change, what they need to get better at.

And then, if the stakeholder has the courage, what’s something they could do to help that person get better. For instance, if you have an issue that the person isn’t clear, then don’t walk out of the room until they have made their request clear. Don’t walk out and say, “I’ve got it” if you don’t.

So much of our coaching process is working with the stakeholders. As a coach, I am always available to the stakeholders, and I tell them that. If there’s something going on that they want me to be aware of, I tell them to call me. Our coaching process is very much a systems approach. It’s not just coach-coachee, it’s coach, coachee, and stakeholders. It’s such a solid process and stakeholders are critical to it.


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Pay for Results Is All About Client Selection!

Nearly 40 years ago, when I first started coaching, when the organization said you needed a coach, it was not a good sign. Often executives were assigned an executive coach or a life coach because they had a problem or “issues”. So, the payment method that we use in Stakeholder Centered Coaching – being paid only for results –let people know that we were either crazy or that we really believed this process works.

And, we are very successful! How do we do it? It’s all about client selection. One of the most successful coaches I know, Chris Coffey, shares his take with me on selecting clients in this excerpt from our recent interview.

Marshall: You know, Chris, when you get paid for results, bottom line is you have to have choose great clients. This is an important challenge for us. When we pick the right clients, Stakeholder Centered Coaching always works. When we pick the wrong client, it never works. What are some of the criteria you look for to make sure that, as a coach, you select great people?

Chris: This is such an important question for each coach to ask himself or herself. I’ve evolved over the 20 years I’ve been doing this. On one of my early engagements, I took a bad engagement. I was warned against it, but my ego had to took over!

I worked so hard with that client. I refused the money at the end. I said, “No, we don’t get paid unless they improved. This person didn’t improve.”

That was the best learning experience I’ve had. I haven’t done that again. Today, right in the interview process, I tell prospective coaches that this process takes courage, discipline, and humility. It takes courage to tell people what you’re going to do. It takes discipline to follow an action plan. And it takes humility to admit you’re not perfect and that you can get better.

There aren’t a lot of people who can go through this process. I challenge the client. I ask them, “Are you up to this?” I tell them I won’t get paid unless they improve. I don’t turn down anybody at the beginning and if I sense after a few weeks that they’re not serious, I just walk. I don’t bill them. Just let them know this isn’t going to work and walk.

If someone isn’t serious, I won’t get paid because they won’t get better. I’m not interested in that. I’ve got a family to support, so I let them go and move onto someone who does want to change. I think that’s a real advantage being able to let a client go.

Marshall: That’s a great explanation of the pay for results method, Chris. Thank you!

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Generativity: The Gift of Giving!

Dr. Steven Berglas is my good friend and one of the foremost authorities on career guidance. Steve recently published a new book, Stay Hungry and Kick Burnout in the Butt. In the book, he talks about the pursuit of wealth and happiness. I love his take on this idea and am happy to share it with you! Following is a brief excerpt from our interview.

Marshall: Steve, one of the things I love about your new book is you talk about wealth and how there’s nothing wrong with that pursuit with a caveat. That if you just pursue wealth and expect it is going to bring you happiness, it probably isn’t going to work out for you.

If you look at most research studies on this, for instance studies on people who win the lottery, for most people wealth does not increase their happiness.

Share some of your thoughts on the importance of being generous and other things besides just the pursuit of wealth.

Steve: Well, being generous, or what Erik Erikson, the brilliant psychologist called generativity, really is the key to happiness. If you look at every individual who was unbelievably, unfettered happy and enjoyed life, they were generous to a fault. In my book, I use Ben Franklin as the prototype. He never took out patents on his inventions, because what he said is we should share our wealth with others.

Marshall: I love that.

Steve: And, there’s this guy I know named Marshall Goldsmith and he does it all the time.He has this enterprise called the 100 Coaches. He set it up, he funded it, and he doesn’t get a dime from it. All he does is help other coaches and help people understand the coaching process. That’s the key to happiness in life.

Marshall: It’s fascinating you mention that. Number one, thank you. And number two, I want to talk about what I’ve learned from the 100 Coaches project. This is a legacy project for me. And it started as me telling everyone that I am going to give away everything I know to 100 people, teach them all I know for free, and in return when they get old, they do the same thing.

On one level I thought that this would be nice for them. The thing I did not realize is, the big winner in the project is not them. The big winner in the project is me. And the real gift I’m giving them, which they don’t understand yet, is that one day when they get old, they do the same thing. And they’ll get the gift themselves.

That’s the real blessing. The real blessing is giving it away. The real blessing is feeling like I’m helping others. And that’s something, as you said, there’s not enough money to buy that. You can’t buy it. It’s much, much deeper.

So, number one, thank you very much. Number two, I love your thoughts, and I agree. Thank you!

Steve: Thank you, Marshall.

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When the Waiter Is the Customer

In the final part of our interview, my good friend Dr. Steven Berglas, one of the foremost authorities on career guidance and author of the recently published book, Stay Hungry and Kick Burnout in the Butt, talk about a counterintuitive idea: treating the waiter like a customer.

Most of us think, “I’m paying the bill, I’m the customer, they should take care of me.” Steve brings up a fascinating point that I absolutely agree with: treat the waiter like the customer and you’ll be amazed at the results! Following is a brief excerpt from our interview.

Marshall: Steve, give me a little background on you. Where did you come up with this concept? You were a bartender, weren’t you?

Steve: Yes. And, the thing I would hate most is when someone would come in and tell me exactly how they wanted a drink made. Johnny Walker black scotch sour. We would laugh. You can’t taste Johnny Walker black or old … you can’t taste anything under sour mix!

If you want a Bloody Mary, don’t ask for a particular vodka, say, “Do me a favor. I want a bloody Mary. What’s the best way to make it?” The bartender knows what to do. If you go to a restaurant, the waiter knows what’s in the kitchen, what’s fresh. You’ve got to respect that individual’s intelligence and expertise.

Marshall: I totally agree with you. I’ve had the privilege of eating at every Michelin 3 Star restaurant in New York, and I think this is even more true when you eat at higher end restaurants.

Let me give you a story from my own life, it really made an impact on me as a young man. I was brought up very poor and I’d never been to a fancy restaurant in my life. I go to New York and I look at the top 10 restaurants. At that time number seven was a French restaurant. I went there, totally intimidated. I’d never been to such a place. I looked at the waiter and said, “Sir, I’ve never been to such a place. I have no idea what I’m doing here. I made a lot of money today and I want to spend a hundred dollars,” which back then was a lot of money. “I have a hundred dollars to have a nice meal including the tip. If you don’t mind sir, could you bring me a hundred-dollar meal and then explain to me what everything is, so I can learn something?”

You know what he said? “Don’t worry young man. I’ll be more than happy to.” I kept track of what he brought me. He brought me a $150 meal! He was so nice and kind to me and right then I realized something. When you go to place like that, don’t show off. Don’t act pompous and pretentious. As you said, “They know far more about the food than you do.” And as ironic as it seems, treat the waiter like a customer.

And, there’s a second reason to do this. As a human being, it’s a better way to live. It’s a better way to live. The only negative experience I’ve ever had at a high end restaurant is when I went with a person once who acted snobby and critiqued everything. I was embarrassed. We had terrible service. I don’t blame the waiter. No one likes to be talked down to. I remember Henry Kissinger was sitting right across from us and I felt like telling my friend, “You know if Henry Kissinger wants to act like a snob, he’s kind of earned it; you haven’t, just shut up, you’re embarrassing all of us here.”

If you go into a restaurant, treat that waiter like a customer. It’s a good way to look at life! Treat everybody like a customer and 1) you’ll probably get a lot better service; 2) they probably know more than you do in most cases, anyway, and 3) you’re going to have a happier life.

Steve: I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Marshall!

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But, What If People Think I’m Stupid?

Fear of approval is a huge fear for many people and it can really hold us back. My great friend, Steve Berglas, one of the foremost authorities on career guidance, explores this challenge and what we can do about it in his new book, Stay Hungry and Kick Burnout in the Butt. Recently, I met with Steve and we talked about this and many other subjects. Below is the excerpt from our interview. I hope it is helpful to you!

Marshall: You have been sharing a concept with me from your new book that I just love. You said the greatest human fear maybe isn’t giving a speech, which many people think is so. It’s related though, it’s “I’m afraid that people may think I’m stupid.” This is such a great concept. In my book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, I said the number one problem we face is winning too much, we’re trying to prove we’re right all the time. What you’ve done is take this a step further and explained why we try to prove we’re right all the time. It’s because deep down, we’re afraid people might think we’re stupid. Give me some examples of how this plays out in life?

Steve: It’s important to understand it starts out in grade school. Everybody knows who the teacher is focusing on; everybody knows who gets the right answers on exams. So, we carry this through life and it creates this need to be approved of and recognized by the people who are in charge, the people who are the decision makers, gatekeepers. In life we always want to look to those individuals for validation. Before I had a pleasure principle. Now, it’s an approval principle. It’s “show the world that I’m smart.” The way you phrased it is really critical. It’s the perception. It’s not an internal thing.

Everyone knows we’re social animals. We don’t exist and thrive in isolation. So, what I talk about is, why do entrepreneurs do well and why do people who are generative and care for others do well? It’s because they’re taking that anxiety about looking stupid and turning it into doing better right? They’re subordinating that to making other people feel good and other people feel positive and then that fear can go away. But if you just try to say, “No I’m smart, I know the answers, no I’m powerful, I know the answers” it doesn’t work.

Marshall: This is great. I want to give you a couple of examples.

The first example is from something I teach called feed forward. Where you learn to ask for input, listen, don’t respond and just thank people. I’ll never forget one class. One of the gentlemen in it said, “I listened better in this exercise than I’ve almost ever listened in my life.” I asked him why. He said, “Normally when others speak, I’m so busy composing my next comment to prove how smart I am, I’m not listening, I’m composing. Now the irony; he had a Nobel prize. A scientist with a Nobel prize in a management class trying to prove he’s smart. I said, “Look, you’ve got one Nobel prize, it’s okay. Declare victory here.” But it just goes back to your point that pervasive need, that fear of people may think I’m stupid, plays out in so many dysfunctional ways.

Another example is about leaders when they don’t know what they’re talking about. My friend Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford and Boeing taught me a great lesson, “If you don’t know what you’re talking about as a leader; shut up. Don’t sit there and make ideas.” One of my other good clients, J.P. Gardener said as a leader, “My suggestions become orders.” Well as a CEO what Alan taught me is, when people look at you and say, “I’m lost, I’m confused, I don’t have the answer,” fight that urge to say, “Have you thought of…?” Because as soon as you’re the CEO, they salute the flag and do it. And a lot of that is your own insecurity about looking stupid.

My friend Alan has the discipline to breathe and to say, “You know what? You don’t know the answer, it’s okay. I don’t either. Why don’t we find someone that knows what they’re doing and solve the problem?”

Once we get over our fear of others may think we’re stupid, life is a lot better for everybody.

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We All Screw Up, How to Make Our Screw Ups Better!

In a recent interview with my great friend Steve Berglas, we talked about his work teaching people how to deal with their errors, their screw ups. Steve is an expert on this. An executive coach and management consultant who spent twenty-five years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry had a private psychotherapy practice in Boston, Steve is the author of five amazing books, including his most recent Stay Hungry and Kick Burnout in the Butt.

Below is an excerpt from our interview in which Steve helps us understand that we all make mistakes and it’s okay!

Marshall: You know one of the things I love about your work is that you teach people how to deal with their errors, their screw ups. We all make mistakes. What’s your suggestion for dealing with mistakes?

Steve: The best and most efficient way that a person who has status or stature can deal with an error is by saying, “I screwed up. My bad. Mea culpa.” And there are hundreds and hundreds of examples, but I think the best one is Roberto Goizueta.

Marshall: What happened?

Steve: Roberto was the CEO of Coke, and he was fearful that Pepsi was encroaching, so he approved, “New Coke”. Well the uproar was like Babe Ruth being sold by the Red Socks to the Yankees. It was unbelievable! After hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people protested, he said, “Look, I made a mistake.” And, he gave us back what’s now called Classic Coke. Because he admitted he made a mistake. Because he said to us, “I made an error. I blew it.” And, he fixed the error, Coke’s stock quintupled. By doing that admission of error and vulnerability, he empowered the entire brand.

What happens when you say, “I’m vulnerable,” is people say, “Look that guy’s more accessible, the guy’s more confident.” If a guy can admit his errors, he’s got to have courage. And that’s how you make your screw ups better.

Marshall: I love it. In my own work I ask people to ask for confidential feedback and in a sense ask them to do the same thing you’re suggesting. I ask them to stand up and say, “I feel good about this, and this and this behavior, and hey, here’s a mistake I made. For example, I haven’t been a good listener. If I haven’t listened to you or other people, I’m sorry. Please accept my apology. There is no excuse.”

People sometimes believe that when they openly admit to errors that people will think less of them. But like yours, my research is very clear, people think more of you. It shows you have the courage to admit you can make a mistake. You have the humility to step up and say it and do something about it. It shows people that you’re a human being, and you’re giving them the respect of not playing games with them.

So, I love your work, I love the new book, and I love this concept. Thank you!

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How to Turn Negative into Positive and Win!

One of the foremost authorities on career guidance, my good friend Dr. Steven Berglas has a new book out, Stay Hungry and Kick Burnout in the Butt. With this new book, Steve shows us how to find passion and renewed energy through our work. I’m excited about this topic, so I interviewed him recently. Below is an excerpt from our interview in which Steve reveals how something that many of us have experienced that is often seen as a negative can be turned into a positive.

Marshall: Steve, in your new book you talk about something that could be negative – this need some of us have of, “I’ll show you a thing or two,” – and how it can be turned into a positive. Can you give us a little explanation about that?

Steve: Absolutely. Let me give you the prototype of this which is Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin was beaten by his brother, who was a printer and to whom he was indentured as a junior printer. Ben ran away. He had the courage to run away, saying, “You stinking, abusive brother. I’ll show you.” But Ben didn’t show his brother by going back to the original Massachusetts printing shop and destroying him. Instead, he said, “I’ll become the best printer in America.”

He showed his brother by becoming superb. People who seek to show others and put a face on their anger, “I’ll show that individual,” like Captain Ahab going after Moby Dick; it’s death. You never win. As Confucius said, “When seeking revenge, dig two graves.”

If instead you say, “I’m going to be the best,” then what happens is, by showing them, you are actually helping myriad people live a better life, which is what Franklin did.

Marshall: I love this, Michael Jordan the same thing. Cut from the team, he said, “I’ll show you.” In a positive way though. Not a negative attacking, vindictive way. So, I love the way in your new book you talk about that feeling of, “I’ll show you” in a positive way, how we can cycle that what could be negative energy or anger into a very positive, motivational factor that says, “Look, I believe I can do it. I’ve been told I can’t, I’m going to show the world I can.” This is a fantastic and positive spin on what could be a very negative focus. Thank you!


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Lessons I Learned from Peter Drucker

Marshall Goldsmith

At one meeting of the Board of the Peter Drucker Foundation, I asked Peter, “You have written so much about mission—what is your mission?”

Peter replied, “To help other people achieve their goals—assuming that they are not immoral or unethical!”

Along with his brilliance, Peter was a simple and humble man who wanted to help others achieve their goals. He not only taught me about management, he also taught me about life. By his example, he showed me the importance of loving what you do—and communicating this enthusiasm to others.

Peter loved his wife, family, friends, work, and life. His zest for living was always there—even at the end. I visited with Peter shortly before his death. He took the time to have a lively discussion about the state of the world and the future we face. I was amazed at his sense of history, his deep insight, his passion, and his caring. Peter Drucker did not just teach by what he wrote—he taught by who he was.

Here are learnings that I received from Peter Drucker, which have shaped who I am, what I do, and how I work in the world.

Peter once told me that companies should be able to “put their mission statement on a T-shirt.” Try this for yourself. It is not easy. The benefits though are extraordinarily high, as this exercise will help you focus and become very clear on your mission. For example, my own mission is to be the world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. Your customers (or employers) will respect you more if you do not pretend to know everything about everything, but instead have a unique brand.

Peter taught me three things about how to impact decision makers and thus make a huge impact at work. First, he taught me that our mission in life is to make a positive difference. It is not to prove how smart we are or how right we are. We get so lost in proving how smart and how right we are that we forget that’s not what we’re here for.

The second thing that Peter taught me about making a huge impact at work is that every decision in life is made by the person who has the power to make the decision. Make peace with that. Decisions are not necessarily made by the best person, the smartest person, or the right person.

And, third, he said, If I need to impact a decision-maker and they have the power to make a positive difference, the one word I should use to describe them is “customer.” I’ve put all this together in a short phrase that I teach to all of my clients. “The best leaders focus on making a positive difference and selling their ideas to decision makers, not on proving how smart or how right they are.”

Finally, one last lesson that Peter taught me is this wonderful phrase that inspires me to action every day: “The greatest wisdom not applied to action and behavior is meaningless data.”

Will we ever be able to write a similar article about learning from, and being inspired, a machine? I rather doubt it.

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The Franklin Effect: A Secret for Amazing Success

Recently I spent some time with my great friend Dr. Steven Berglas. Steven is an executive coach and management consultant who spent twenty-five years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry and had a private psychotherapy practice in Boston. He is the author of five amazing books, including his most recent Stay Hungry and Kick Burnout in the Butt. Fascinated by Steve’s unique take on various subjects, I interviewed him recently. Following is a brief excerpt from our interview.

Marshall: Steve, something I love that we’ve discussed is called the Franklin Effect. It’s very counter intuitive. Tell us about it.

Steve: Sure Marshall. When Ben Franklin was in his late 20’s, he started a club called the Juno club. And there was an individual around Philadelphia who was negatively disposed towards him because he felt Franklin was encroaching on his territory. So instead of ingratiating this more powerful, more established individual…

Marshall: Which everyone probably did…

Steve: Exactly. Instead of ingratiating the individual, Franklin asked him for a favor. He asked to borrow a rare book for his book club members to use. What happened then is that, paradoxically, this negatively disposed individual became positively disposed. There are myriad explanations for it, but if you look at it, ultimately, people would rather do something that’s generative and helpful than be loved for having power.

Marshall: Praised.

Steve: Exactly. Praise makes the powerful person feel authentically efficacious. Not efficacious in a way that’s just because of status. If he could help out Franklin, and he could mentor someone, and he could help someone, it made that person feel good. And Franklin has used that throughout his life.

Marshall: Well you know one thing I always teach is the importance of asking people, “How can I be better…? A better husband, better daughter, better parent…” so that we are learning from everyone around us. I never made the connection between what you’re talking about and what I do. There’s a very clear connection. Our research show that’s leaders who ask people, “How can I be better? Help me, give me ideas,” they are not seen as weaker, they are seen as stronger. Because they had the courage to ask for input, the courage to listen and also it’s a compliment to the other person. The biggest compliment I can give you is let you help me.

Steve: That’s right! Thank you.

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It’s Not About “Me”, It’s About the Job

My great friend, Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time,has some ideas about a concept I use in my coaching. I call it “showtime.” What it means to me is exemplified by some of the greatest leaders I’ve ever met. These great leaders show up rain or shine. They don’t complain and whine, but like a kid on Broadway show up and do their part.

I was curious to hear what Chris has to say about this concept and thought you might be too, so below is a brief excerpt from our discussion.

Marshall: Chris, I love your show, Cuomo Prime Time. I’d like you to talk to my viewers about a concept that I use in my coaching. I want to get your views on it. You know, sometimes I think people forget it’s show time. The greatest leaders I’ve ever met don’t whine or complain. They don’t say, “poor me, my foot hurts,” When I hear a leader, especially at the CEO level whining and complaining, I call them out on it. I ask them, “Have you ever been to a Broadway play? That kid out there on stage, do you hear him say my foot hurts or I have a headache. Or my aunt died last week? No, it’s show time.” I tell the CEOS, “you’re making about 1000 times what that kid is making. If that kid can go out there night after night, so can you.”

You know what, Chris, you’re on the show day after day, and my guess is some days you have a headache. Some days your foot might hurt, and maybe your aunt died last week. How do you keep that attitude of “show time”?

Chris: It’s about the job. That’s the key.

It’s about the job. You have a role. You have a responsibility, and it’s always bigger than you. No matter what organization you’re working with, there’s so many people who are relying on you that you have to divorce yourself from whatever baggage you’re carrying in that moment, and surrender to your cause. The red light goes on (literally for me) and it’s no longer about those you carried in. While I may be dealing with them, but right now, in this moment, where I am present, I have to be about the responsibility to the job.

This becomes acutely important when you’re in live, breaking coverage. There’s something terrible going on, you’re in the midst of it. Everything in you is telling you to process it personally. The death, the destruction, the pain, the emotion. It’s not about “me”. It’s about the victims, the survivors, who was lost, and why. So, in the moment, when the red light goes on, you have to remember your responsibility to your devotion to that thing that is bigger than you. Your company, your show, your team. When the red light goes on, that’s what you’re about. That’s who you are. When the red light goes off, you process like anybody else.

Marshall: You know, I love that. If you don’t mind, I’m going to steal this in my coaching.

Chris: Please!

Marshall: Because what I love about it is that phrase, when the red light goes on. If you’re in the leadership role, anytime you’re around those people you’re leading, the red light is on. That is such a positive and healthy way to look at life. Thank you.

Chris: Thank you.

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