Every Leader Has to Start Somewhere!

Every leader has to start somewhere. This is just the fact of the matter.

And, another fact? Not every leader, even some of the greatest leaders of our time, start off with flying colors.

Take my good friend Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford. Alan led the epic turnaround of the Ford Motor Company. This incredible story is told in the Wall Street Journal bestseller, American Icon. I highly recommend you read it if you want to learn about great leadership – and enjoy a thrilling page turner while you are at it!

Alan’s story at Ford is a success story, but it wasn’t always that way for Alan on his leadership journey.

Alan started out as an engineer at Boeing. Quickly promoted to a management position, his first employee quit! A bit disgruntled, the employee shared with Alan honestly that he felt Alan’s job was to help him to do his job, not to keep redoing all of his work and show him all of his mistakes.

Alan took this feedback to heart and realized he was acting out Habit #2 (Adding too much value) and Habit #6 (Telling the world how smart we are) from my book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. This was long before I met Alan or before the book was published, so I can claim no credit (Habit #11 Claiming credit that we don’t deserve)!

Wanting to learn from this experience, Alan delved into learning about management and leadership and started to understand how to be a better leader. And, he learned this valuable lesson – that leadership isn’t about telling people how to do their jobs well or doing their jobs for them; leadership is about helping people to do their jobs well. It’s about working together.

Over the years at Boeing, Alan kept asking for more responsibility – and he kept getting it, finally leaving the company as the president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Cut to 2006 and he was asked to lead Ford out of a deep hole, which he did, employing his unique method of facilitative leadership which he calls “working together.” By the end of his time at Ford as president and CEO, the company’s stock price was up, the board and the employees were happy, and Alan was named #3 on Fortune’s “World’s Greatest Leaders” list in 2013.

Alan is a true example of the phrase, “every leader has to start somewhere.” He didn’t start out as a great leader; he became a great leader.

On a more personal note, over the many years I have known him, I have never seen him get down on himself, his people, or his company. He has an enthusiasm that radiates to the people around him. He has an almost childlike joy in what he does. He once told me: “Every day I remind myself that leadership is not about me. It is about the great people who are working with me.” That’s how he leads, and it is this example he sets that says more about great leadership than his words can ever convey.

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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Don’t Come to Me with a Problem!

Most of us have difficulty articulating our struggles in a public forum, especially in the presence of our boss and peers. This probably stems from history we may have with bosses who said things like: “Don’t come to me with a problem, come to me with a solution!”

When you think about it this creates exactly the opposite of the environment an effective leader wants. If people have problems, you want to get them out on the table so you can help them find solutions.

The practice of executive coaching introduced corporate culture to an exciting new idea: the end of shame when it comes to needing help.

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

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

Target transparency and applaud when you get it.

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

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

One important thing that Alan did early on was to effectively eliminate shame. He never said, “Don’t come to me with a problem!” Up to that point, meetings at Ford were notoriously vicious. Alan rooted out those problems through his brilliantly simple Business Plan Review program, which made meetings highly structured. Executives had to introduce themselves and report on their progress according to a precise formula (and no cell phones were allowed).

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

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

This approach has the potential to do tremendous good in settings beyond Ford. Are you or could you implement it in your organization, with your team? Could you share it with your boss? I’d love to hear what you think about this approach!

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 Great Leaders Never Do! #3 Liked Article.

The ever-increasing presence of knowledge workers (people who know more about what they are doing than their boss does) presents challenges to modern-day leaders that their counterparts in years gone by were not called to address. The main challenge is: “How do you help your team members achieve their goals when you – as a leader – are not an expert on the topic?”

One thing great leaders don’t do is pretend to be an expert! This can lead to disaster in so many ways. Below is just one example. I’d love to hear your ideas! Please share with me in the comments your thoughts about how pretending to be an expert can be disastrous!

When someone comes to you with an idea, and rather than say good idea, you say, “why don’t you add this?” or “why don’t you do that?” you take ownership of the idea. Your input makes it your idea and it is no longer their idea.

So, given you follow this suggestion and do not pretend to be an expert, how do you lead today’s highly skilled professionals who so often know more about their jobs than you do? The simple answer is that it takes special skills — and not the ones that you may think.

You have to look at leadership through the wants and needs of the worker as opposed to the skills of the leader. Here are six quick tips for effectively managing knowledge workers.

  1. Demonstrate passion: In days past, working 40 hours per week and taking 4-5 weeks of vacation meant that people often focused less on loving what they do. Today many professionals work long hours and it’s crucial than ever that they love their work. Those who lead by example and demonstrate passion for what they do make it much easier for their followers to demonstrate the same passion.
  2. Strengthen abilities: With less job security and more global competition, it’s critical that people update and refine their skills continuously. Leaders need to look beyond skills needed today and help their workers learn skills they will need tomorrow. Leaders also recognize that their technical or functional skills may be obsolete – and that may well not be a technically competent as their direct reports.
  3. Appreciate time: People have less time today, which means the value of that time has increased. Leaders who waste their workers’ time are not looked upon favorably. Leaders will be far more successful if they protect people from things that neither encourage their passions nor enhance their abilities.
  4. Build networks: Today, job security comes from having ability, passion, and a great network. Leaders who enable people to form strong networks both inside and outside the company will gain a huge competitive advantage along with the loyalty of their workers. These professional networks allow people to expand their knowledge and bring it back to the organization.
  5. Support growth: The best knowledge workers are working for more than money. They want to make a contribution and to grow in their fields. Leaders who ask their people, “What can our company do to help you grow and achieve your goals?” will find it comes back tenfold.
  6. Expand happiness and meaning: No one wants to work at a meaningless job that makes them unhappy. Leaders must show their workers how the organization can help them make a contribution to the larger world and feel rewarded for doing something about which they are passionate.

Managing knowledge workers is a challenging and rewarding job. Leaders who do so must look beyond the work and think about the person who does the work if they are to be successful. By appreciating and encouraging the dedication, time, and experience of their workers, leaders help shape not only the futures of the professionals they lead but also the future of their organizations.

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

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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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