Two Magic Words – Thank You!

Thanking works because it expresses one of our most basic emotions: gratitude. Not an abstraction, gratitude is a genuine emotion. It cannot be exacted or forced. You either feel it or you don’t. Yet, when someone does something nice for you, they expect gratitude and they think less of you for withholding it. Think about the last time you gave someone a gift. If they didn’t say thank you, how did you feel about them? Great person? Or ungrateful S.O.B.?

When someone gives you a gift, you wouldn’t say, “Stinky gift!” “Bad gift!” or “I already have this stupid gift!” (Unless you are a real jerk.) You would say, “Thank you.” If you can use the gift, use it. If you don’t want to use it, put it in the closet and “let it go.”

Similarly when you receive suggestions from your key stakeholders on how you can become a more effective leader, you can look at these suggestions as gifts—and treat your stakeholders as gift-givers. Just as you would not insult the person who is trying to be nice to you by giving you a gift, when your stakeholders give you ideas, you don’t want to insult them or their ideas. You want to learn to just say, “Thank you.”

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

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.

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?

Our natural tendency when others give suggestions we don’t agree with is to immediately become defensive and prove they are wrong. Our natural tendency when others give suggestions we do agree with is to point out that we “already knew that,” implying that the suggestion is unnecessary.

The next time someone gives you an idea or counsel, listen without judgment, try to find value in what you’re hearing, and just say: “Thank you!”

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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Think: Leadership Is a Contact Sport

Thinking before speaking is a challenge for a lot of people. It might even be hard for you, especially if you are trying to prove to the world how smart you are. Take the following little test and see if you’ve got this bad habit running through your communication with colleagues, friends, and employees.

Your assistant rushes into your office with news of an urgent document that needs your attention right away. What he doesn’t know is that you were alerted to the situation a few minutes earlier by another colleague. Do you a) accept the document and thank your assistant for his expediency and effort? b) tell your assistant you were already privy to the information and he has wasted precious time?

If you let the moment pass with a simple, “Thank you,” you’re in good shape. If you’re like a lot of people, you will find a way to communicate to your assistant that you are one step ahead of him. Your response may vary from a dismissive, “I already knew that!” to a more accusatory, “Why are you bothering me with this?” Either way, the damage is done.

It’s not hard to stop trying to prove how smart you are. This three-step drill will help: 1) pause before you open your mouth and ask yourself, “Is anything I am going to say worth it?” 2) conclude that it isn’t, and 3) say, “Thank you.” If you can stop yourself in this minor moment, with someone with whom you work closely and who knows you well, you’re in good shape. If not, try this visual on for comparison. Your CEO walks into your office with the same urgent document that you already know about. Would you tell her in the same impatient tone that you did your assistant that “you already know about it”? Probably not. It’s something to think about.

Trying to prove how smart we are is just one of the bad habits that leads us to speak without thinking. Another is speak when angry or out of control. Some people use anger as a management tool to some success. It can get people’s attention. The difficulty is that when you’re angry, you’re usually out of control, and it’s hard to lead people when you’re out of control. It’s also hard to predict how people will react to your anger. They will shut down as often as they will perk up.

The worst thing about anger is that it stifles your ability to change. Once you get a reputation for emotional volatility, it can take years of model behavior to change how others see you. But, that’s okay. You have to start somewhere.

How do you stop getting angry? My job is to show my clients that their anger is rarely someone else’s fault. It’s their flaw. A Buddhist legend tells of a young farmer paddling his boat up stream to deliver his produce to the village. As he looked ahead, he spied another vessel heading rapidly downstream, right towards him. He rowed furiously to get out of the way, to no avail. He yelled at the other vessel, “Change direction you idiot!” It didn’t work. The vessel rammed into his with a loud thud. The young farmer was enraged and yelled out to the other vessel, “You moron! You idiot! What is wrong with you?” No one responded, and the young man realized there was no one in the other boat. The lesson is simple. There is never anyone in the other boat. When we are angry, we are screaming at an empty boat.

All of us have people in our lives who drive us crazy. We’ve spent hours reliving the unfair, unappreciative, inconsiderate treatment they have inflicted on us. But getting mad at this person makes just about as much sense as getting mad at a chair for being a chair. She is who she is. If we had her genes, her background, and her parents, we would be her. It’s not easy, but you can do it. Suppress your inclination to speak when angry; bite your tongue. Once you appreciate the payoff of saying nothing (that silence keeps you from alienating people and damaging your own success), you have a chance of getting better!

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

 

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Listen: Leadership Is a Contact Sport

In her book My Life in Leadership, Frances Hesselbein, former CEO of the Girl Scouts, CEO of The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, and one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever met, wrote one of the best descriptions of listening and leadership I’ve ever read:

“Listening is an art. When people are speaking, they require our undivided attention. We focus on them; we listen very carefully. We listen to the spoken words and the unspoken messages. This means looking directly at the person, eyes connected; we forget we have a watch, just focusing for that moment on that person. It’s called respect, it’s called appreciation – and it’s called leadership.”

Let’s explore this art of listening a bit further. Did you know that 80 percent of our success in learning from other people is based on how well we listen? In other words, our success or failure is determined before we do anything. What escapes most people is they think listening is passive. They think they are supposed to just sit there and “hear someone out.” If you re-read Frances’ description, you’ll notice there is nothing passive about it. It is active and powerful. Good listeners know this. They regard listening as a highly active process.

So what do good (active) listeners do? In essence they do three things: They think before they speak; they listen with respect; and they are always gauging their response by asking themselves, “Is it [responding] worth it?”

1) Think before you speak: What do most of us do when we’re upset? We talk. When we’re confused, surprised, shocked? Talk. However, listening is a two-part process. During one part, we listen. During the other, we speak. What we say is proof of how well we’ve listened.

2) Listen with respect: To learn from people you have to listen to them with respect. This means engaging the speaker with your eye contact and body language, showing that you are interested in what they are saying, so that you can keep learning from what they are saying.

3) Ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”: Listening also requires answering this difficult question before you speak. A good way to make sense of this question is to realize that you are in effect taking the age-old question of self-interest, “What’s in it for me?” one step further and asking, “What’s in it for her?”

You’ve heard me say it many times over, this is pretty simple stuff, but it’s not easy. If you try listening actively and with respect you’ll be amazed at how much better things get. So many of our interpersonal problems at work stem from not listening and not thinking before we speak. You say something – I get mad. I lash out, and within seconds we have a crisis of miscommunication on our hands that can stop teams, departments, and organizations from functioning well.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the weather or the latest techie gadget, the content is totally irrelevant. What matters is how easily we can slip into small behavioral patterns that create friction in the workplace—and how just as easily we can assume behavioral patterns that don’t create friction. Really, it’s up to us. We can choose to practice simple disciplines like thinking before speaking, listening with respect, and asking “Is it worth it?” at work. It’s not that difficult, we just need to do it.

For those of you who want to change for the better in this area, try to do the following techniques during your next interpersonal encounter. Keep practicing. You will reap amazing benefits!

• Listen.
• Don’t interrupt.
• Don’t finish the other person’s sentences.
• Don’t say, “I knew that.”
• Don’t even agree with the other person. Even if he praises you, just say, “Thank you!”
• Don’t use the words, “no,” “but,” and “however.”
• Don’t be distracted. Don’t let your eyes or attention wander elsewhere while the other person is talking.
• Maintain your end of the dialogue by asking intelligent questions that a) show you’re paying attention, b) move the conversation forward, and c) require the other person to talk (while you listen).
• Eliminate any striving to impress the other person with how smart or funny you are. Your only aim is to let the other person feel that he or she is accomplishing that.

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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Ask: Leadership Is a Contact Sport

“Soliciting feedback” is just what the words imply. It is when we solicit opinions from people about what we are doing wrong. As simple as it sounds, it is not always so simple. Most people have two problems dealing with negative feedback. This may not sound like many, but they are big problems. The first is we don’t want to hear it and the second is we don’t want to give it.

The reason we don’t want to hear it is because negative feedback is inconsistent with our self-image and so we reject it. Did you know that of all the classes I’ve taught 95 percent of members believe they are in the top half of their group? While this is statistically impossible, it is psychologically real. Proving to successful people that they are “wrong” works just about as well as making them change.

The reason we don’t want to give it is because our leaders and managers have power over us, our paychecks, advancement, and job security. The more successful a person is the more power they have. Combine that power with the fairly predictable “kill the messenger” response to negative feedback and you can see why people don’t want to give feedback.

There are some other difficulties with traditional face-to-face negative feedback. Most of them boil down to the fact that it focuses on failures of the past not positive actions for the future. Feedback can reinforce our feelings of failure, and our reactions to this are rarely positive. More than anything, negative feedback shuts us down. We need honest, helpful feedback, which is hard to find.

That’s enough about what’s wrong with feedback. Let’s talk about the good stuff. Feedback is very useful for telling us “where we are.” Without it, I couldn’t work with my clients. I wouldn’t know what the people around my client think about what he or she needs to change. Likewise, without feedback, we wouldn’t know if were getting better or worse. We all need feedback to see where we are, where we need to go, and to measure our progress along the way. And I have a foolproof method for securing it.

When I work with coaching clients I always get confidential feedback from their coworkers at the beginning of the process. I enlist each person to help me out. I want them to assist not sabotage the change process. I do this by saying to them, “I’m going to be working with my client for the next year. I don’t get paid if she doesn’t get better. Better is not defined by me; it is not defined by her. It is defined by you and the other coworkers involved in the process.” I then present them with four requests. I ask them to commit to:

1. Let go of the past.

2. Tell the truth.

3. Be supportive and helpful—not cynical or negative.

4. Pick something to improve themselves, so everyone is focused on more “improving” than “judging.”

As you contemplate changing your behavior yourself, without my personal assistance, you will need to do this same thing with your colleagues. Pick about a dozen people with whom you’ve had professional contact—work friends, peers, colleagues—and ask them to agree to these four commitments. When they do, which they nearly always will, you are ready to begin soliciting feedback from them about yourself.

In my experience, there are a hundred wrong ways to ask for feedback and one right way. Most of us know the wrong ways. We ask people, “What do you think of me?” “How do you feel about me?” “What do you hate about me?” or “What do you like about me?” Think about your colleagues. How many of them are your friends? How many of them really want to express to you their “true” feelings about you, to you?

A better question (and in my opinion the only question that works) is, “How can I do better?” Variations based on circumstances are okay, such as “What can I do to be a better partner at home?” or “What can I do to be a better leader of the group?” You get the idea. Pure issue-free feedback that makes change possible has to 1) solicit advice rather than criticism, b) be directed towards the future, and c) be couched in a way that suggests you are in fact going to try to do better.

Finally, when you get the answer, when someone gives you the gift of what you can do to be better, don’t respond with your opinion of their advice. It will just sound like denial, rationalization, and objection. Treat every piece of advice as a gift, a compliment, and simply say, “Thank you.” No one expects you to act on every piece of advice. Just act on advice that makes sense to you. The people around you will be thrilled!

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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Leadership Is a Contact Sport

My career as an executive coach began many years ago with a phone call from the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. I had just given a leadership clinic to the CEO’s human resources department. This is what I was doing in the late 1980s – advising HR departments about identifying future leaders in their companies and creating programs to form them into better leaders. The CEO had attended the session and from what I’d said he thought I might be able to help him with a VP who, though smart, dedicated, motivated, hard-working, and creative, was also a stubborn, opinionated, know-it-all. I was intrigued by this challenge.

I had coached many groups of mid-level managers who were on the verge of success, but never an individual who was already very successful and needed to make a change to be blasted into the stratosphere. I took the job – and I took it on a pay for results basis. If the VP improved, I’d get paid and if not I told the CEO it was free.

That was a couple of decades ago, and I did get paid. Since then I’ve worked with more than 150 CEOs and their management teams. My job isn’t to make anyone smarter or richer. It’s to help people identify a personal habit that’s annoying their coworkers and to help them eliminate it so that they retain their value to the organization. And, to help them develop their people as well, because you see, without their colleagues, their people and teams, these leaders, as successful as they might be, would have no one to lead.

Developing as a leader is a difficult endeavor. (If you’re reading this article you can probably relate.) Demands on leaders are increasing, meaning there is less time for focusing on change. And, the catch is that as more is expected of you as a leader, the less time you have for development, and yet improving your leadership skills is more important than ever. It’s a tricky situation. With limited time, you have to learn on the job. You have to make the most of your surroundings and ask those around you for help. You have to enlist their support as you do your best to develop yourself, your people, and your teams – even them!

It’s not easy, but I’ve developed a leadership development model that has now proven to work with thousands and thousands of people. This model is just eight steps: Ask, Listen, Think, Thank, Respond, Involve, Change, Follow Up. Following is a very short description of each step. I’ll go into more depth in subsequent blogs.

1. Ask: Ask people “How can I be a better _________ (manager, partner, team member, etc.)?

2. Listen: Listen to their answers.

3. Think: Think about their input. What does it mean?

4. Thank: Thank people for sharing this valuable feedback with you.

5. Respond: Respond positively when receiving input.

6. Involve: Involve the people around you to support your change efforts.

7. Change: Change isn’t an academic exercise. Act on what you learn.

8. Follow-up: Follow up regularly and stakeholders will notice the positive actions you’re taking based their input.

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

 

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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“That Is Great, BUT…”

The higher up you go in your organization, the more you need to make other people winners and not make your job about winning yourself. This is a hard concept for people who like to win to grasp. The more successful you become, the more helping others win is how you win!

For those in leadership positions, this means closely monitoring how you hand out encouragement and how you “help” others improve. If you find yourself saying, “That is great…” and then dropping the other shoe with a tempering, “BUT” stop yourself before you speak. Take a breath and ask yourself if what you’re about to say is worth it. In most cases it isn’t. If you really want to succeed and encourage others to do the same, try stopping at “great!”

This is a challenge even for those who have acknowledged they do this and think they are past it. Let me share a little story with you. A few years ago, I taught a class at a telecom headquarters. One of the men in my class mocked me when I mentioned this problem that so many of us have with “That is great, BUT…” He thought it was easy not to use the words. He was so sure of himself that he offered $100 for each time he used these words. I made a point of sitting with him during our lunch break. I asked him where he was from, and he replied Singapore.

“Singapore? I said. “That’s a great city!”

“Yea,” he replied, “it’s great, but…”

He caught himself immediately, and reached into his pocket for cash, saying, “I just lost $100, didn’t I?”

That’s how pervasive this urge to win can be. It creeps into our conversations even when the discussion is trivial, even when we should be hyperaware of our word choices, and even when it might cost us $100.

That was a description of the lighter version of those possessing this bad habit. Those who have the more serious version are even more harmful and discouraging. We all know negative people. My wife calls them “negatrons”. These are people who are incapable of saying something positive or complimentary to any of your suggestions. Negativity is their default response. You could walk into their office with the cure for cancer and the first words out of their mouth would be, “Let me explain why that won’t work.”

This is the telltale phrase of negativity. It’s emblematic of a need to share negative thoughts, even when they haven’t been solicited. “Let me explain why that won’t work,” is different from adding value—because no value is added. It’s the big, bad brother of “That is great, BUT…” because rather than hiding our negativity under the mask of agreement, it is pure unadulterated negativity under the guise of being helpful.

As with “That is great, BUT…” we employ “Let me explain why that won’t work” to establish that our expertise or authority is superior to someone else’s. It doesn’t mean that what we say is correct or useful. It’s simply a way of inserting ourselves into a situation as chief arbiter or senior critic.

If you think one or both of these phrases might be your mode of negative operandi, I’d advise you to monitor your statements the moment someone offers you a helpful suggestion. Paying attention to what you say in response to their ideas is a great indicator of how you come across to people. If you find yourself frequently saying, “That is great, BUT…” you know you need to take a breath, pay attention, and stop yourself at “great”!

Life is good.
Marshall

Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com
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Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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“No, But, However”

An easy habit for people who like to win to fall into, and a surefire shortcut for killing conversations, is to start a sentence with “no,” “but,” or “however”. It doesn’t matter how friendly your tone is or how honey sweet you say these words, the message to your recipient is “You are wrong.” It’s not “Let’s discuss,” “I’d love to hear what you think,” it’s unequivocally, “You are wrong and I am right.” If your conversation companion is also of the winner variety, you have a potential battle on your hands, and there is nothing more that can happen that is productive.

Are you interested in a little test to see how competitive your co-workers are? Try this. For one week, keep a scorecard of how many times each person uses “no,” “but,” or “however” to start a sentence. You will be shocked at how commonly used these words are. And, if you drill a little deeper, you’ll see patterns emerge. Some people use these words to gain power. And, you’ll see how much people resent it, consciously or not, and how it stifles rather than opens up discussions.

I use this technique with my clients. Practically without even thinking, I keep count of their use of these three little words. It’s such an important indicator! If the numbers pile up in an initial meeting with a client, I’ll interrupt him or her and say, “We’ve been talking for almost an hour now, and do you realize that you have responded 17 times with either no, but, or however?” This is the moment when a serious talk about changing behavior begins.

If this is your interpersonal challenge, you can do this little test for yourself just as easily as you can to gauge your co-workers. Stop trying to defend your position and start monitoring how many times you begin remarks with “no,” “but,” or “however.” Pay close attention to when you use these words in sentences. For example, “That’s true, however…” (Meaning: You don’t really think it’s true at all.) Another oldie but goodie is “Yes, but…” (Meaning: Prepare to be contradicted.)

Along with self-monitoring your behavior, you can also easily monetize the solution to this annoying behavior to help yourself stop. Ask a friend or colleague to charge you money every time you say, “no,” “but,” or “however.” Once you appreciate how guilty you’ve been, maybe then you’ll begin to change your “winning” ways!

Life is good.
Marshall

Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com
www.MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

Marshall Goldsmith Video Blog
www.MarshallGoldsmithFeedForward.com

+1-858-759-0950

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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Making Destructive Comments

I’m a little skeptical of self-diagnosis. Most people tend to overestimate their strengths and overrate their weaknesses. They might think that they are really bad at something at which they’re really only mediocre or “kind of” bad. Where they see cancer, the doctor diagnoses a muscle pull. My hope is that you are not too hard on yourself, but that you do change. If you are guilty of Making Destructive Comments, however, this one you’ll want to stop. Immediately.

Destructive comments are the cutting, sarcastic comments we let fly with or without intention. They serve no other purpose than to put people down, hurt them, or assert ourselves as “superior.” They are different from comments that add too much value. This type of comment adds nothing but pain.

See if any of these ring a bell. “Nice tie” (smirk). “Good move,” (as someone stumbles on the carpet). Those are the quick quips. There are also the extended critiques of your co-worker’s past performance. Something that everyone but you has forgotten. (“Do you remember the time you totally missed that really important deadline and the whole company almost went under?”)

The thing about Making Destructive Comments is that if you press someone to list the ones they’ve made in the last 24 hours, they will draw a blank. Most of us make these cutting remarks without thinking, so we don’t remember them. But the recipients of these remarks remember. The feedback that I’ve collected says that “avoids destructive comments” is one of the two items with the lowest correlation between how we see ourselves and how others see us. In other words, we don’t think we make destructive comments, but the people who know us disagree.

Destructive comments are an easy habit to fall into, especially among people who habitually rely on candor as a management tool. The problem is that candor can become a weapon if people permit themselves to issue destructive comments under the guise that “they are true.” Before you make a destructive comment, ask yourself, not “Is it true?” but, “Is it worth it?”

We all spend a lot of time filtering our “truth-telling” throughout the day. Little white lies abound like, “I like your haircut.” When what you really want to say is that it looks ridiculous! We know the difference between honesty and full disclosure – this is a basic survival instinct! We may think our boss is lame, but we are under no moral or ethical obligation to express that to the boss, or to anyone else for that matter. Extend this survival instinct throughout the organization, with your peers, managers, direct reports. You might even find it benefits your personal relationships!

Here’s a simple test you can use to help you avoid destructive comments. Before speaking, ask yourself:

1. Will this comment help our customers?
2. Will this comment help our company?
3. Will this comment help the person I’m talking to?
4. Will this comment help the person I’m talking about?

If the answer is no, the correct strategy is to say no!

Life is good.
Marshall

Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com
www.MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

Marshall Goldsmith Video Blog
www.MarshallGoldsmithFeedForward.com

+1-858-759-0950

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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Aren’t I Smart and Aren’t They Stupid?

As you work your way through my video series and written blogs, you are going to hear about a number of personal flaws that none of us are immune to. In the course of reviewing this material, you may recognize yourself. You may say, “That’s me!” or “I do that all the time. I had no idea I was coming across that way.”

Some of these bad habits are hard to admit to ourselves, but if you get a little nudge of self-recognition, that’s a good start. Even better is to admit it might be a problem. Not many people do this as a rule, but if you’re watching this blog series and reading these articles, you may be one of the few. Better still is to take corrective action to mend your ways. These are the gold star people. These are people who are on the fast track toward becoming even better leaders.

The bad habit I’m going to discuss now is another variation on our need to win. It is telling the world how smart we are, how dumb someone else is, or listening to someone else do this. A question I’ve asked more than 100,000 people is: What percent of all interpersonal communication time is spent on a) someone talking about how smart they are or listening to someone else do that plus b) talking about how stupid someone else is or listening to someone else do that? The answer? Right about 65 percent!

Now here’s the real test: How many of you feel more busy and under more pressure than you’ve felt in your whole lives? Most people answer this question with a resounding “I do!” Not to worry, you are not alone. Most of us feel this way. If I were to give you a productivity enhancement tool that would help you save some time and that would definitely increase your efficiency, would your ears perk up? I bet they would.

Here is the productivity enhancement tool – REDUCE THAT NUMBER! How much do you learn talking about how smart you are? Nothing. How much do you learn listening to somebody else do that? Zip! How much do you learn talking about how dumb everyone else is or listening to someone else do that? Absolutely zero.

If you can stop yourself in these seemingly minor moments with someone who works closely with you and presumably knows you well—in other words, when nothing is at stake and you don’t have to flex your “I’m a winner” muscles—you have the skill to stop telling the world how smart you are. And, if you can say, “Excuse me” when the gossip and ego-stroking starts, and get back to your desk, you are well on your way to reducing that number.

Life is good.
Marshall

Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com
www.MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

Marshall Goldsmith Video Blog
www.MarshallGoldsmithFeedForward.com

+1-858-759-0950

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

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Playing Favorites

There’s a reason I devote so much time and energy to identifying interpersonal challenges in successful people. It’s because the higher up you go in the organization, the more your problems are behavioral. You’re smart, you’re up-to-date, you know the technical aspects of your job, but often you may lack some important people skills and it’s hindering your success.

I’ve reviewed hundreds of custom-designed leadership profiles. Typically, these documents describe leadership behaviors the organization desires, and include such important items as “helps people develop”, “values different opinion”, and “avoids playing favorites”. I have never seen “effectively sucks up to management” on one profile. Then why does so much sucking up go on?

The simple answer is: We can’t see in ourselves what we can see clearly in others. You’re probably thinking, “It’s amazing how leaders send out subtle signals that encourage subordinates not to critique and to exaggerate their praise of themselves and the organization. But, of course, this doesn’t apply to me.

You might be right: but how do you know you’re not in denial?

Here’s the litmus test. I’ve done this test with thousands of leaders in groups worldwide and it’s nothing if not illuminating. How many of you own a dog that you love? In the groups big smiles cross the executives’ faces and they wave their hands in the air. They tell me their dogs’ names, beaming with love. Then I ask them, “At home, who gets the most attention when you get home? Is it (a) your husband, wife, or partner; (b) your kids; or (c) your dog? More than 80 percent of the time, the winner is the dog.

I then ask the executives if they love their dogs more than their family members. The answer is always a resounding no. My follow up question: “So why does the dog get most of your attention?”

The replies are all the same: “The dog is always happy to see me.” “She never talks back.” “He gives me unconditional love, no matter what I do.” In other words, the dog is a suck-up.

If we aren’t careful we can wind up treating people at work like our dogs: rewarding those who heap unthinking, unconditional admiration on us. What behavior do we get in return? A whole lot of people who know how to suck up.

The problem with encouraging this behavior is twofold. 1) If everyone is sucking up to you, who is doing the work? And 2) if there are people doing the work, you’re favoring the wrong people! Leaders can stop encouraging this behavior by first admitting that we all have the tendency to favor those who favor us. To combat this, we should rank our direct reports into four categories:

  • How much do they like me?
  • How much are they like me?
  • What is their contribution to the company and its customers?
  • How much positive personal recognition do I give them?

What we’re looking for is whether the correlation is stronger between 1, 2, and 4 or 3 and 4. If we’re honest with ourselves, our recognition of people may be linked to how much they seem to like us rather than how well they perform. This is the definition of playing favorites. This quick self-analysis won’t solve the problem, but it does identify it. And this is where change begins.

Life is good.
Marshall

Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com
www.MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

Marshall Goldsmith Video Blog
www.MarshallGoldsmithFeedForward.com

+1-858-759-0950

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).
 

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