Looking in the Mirror Is the Key to Change

When my friend, Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time,and I met recently, Chris asked me about my coaching style. I love this question, because in asking it and reflecting on it, Chris comes to the answer himself with just some brief explanation from me. I didn’t have to explain much at all. That’s how coaching should work, I think. What do you think?

Chris: Chris Cuomo here with Marshall Goldsmith. So, how did we meet? I was trying to decide whether or not to leave ABC News and go to CNN. I was torn. I got so lucky for you to give me some time, Marshall. I said to myself, ‘This is great. I’ll sit down with Marshall Goldsmith. He’ll give me the pearls that I’ve read in his books, and I’ll make my decision.’ We meet. I’m doing most of the talking. I start thinking to myself, ‘I’m wasting my opportunity with Marshall.’

Here’s the question Marshall. Part of your magic, part of your genius is you do not dominate the session getting me to understand what you think I should do. How does that work?

Marshall: Well you know, I think I’m much more of a facilitator than an expert. The reality is, I don’t know that much about the news business. I’m not an expert on CNN. I’m not an expert on ABC. Look who my coaching clients are. I’m not an expert on Walmart, the World Bank, the Mayo Clinic, or Ford. I can’t know about all these companies. I don’t even pretend to. I never pretended to know anything about your business. You know about 100 times more than me.

My job is to ask, listen, and learn, and figure out what it is that you want. My job as a coach, at least my type of coaching, is I’m not here to tell you who you want to be. I’m here to help you be the person that you want to be. And that’s hard enough.

Chris: That is hard.

Marshall: Yes, that’s hard in and of itself. So that’s really my job. I’m much more of a facilitator. In my coaching, people get feedback from everyone around them. It’s confidential. They find out what everybody thinks, and it’s often not easy to hear. My clients feel good about somethings they hear and think about what they want to get better at. They pick important behaviors to improve. If they’re not the CEO, the CEO agrees with what that behavior is. If they are the CEO, the board agrees. The client always gets sign off on the behavior they will work on. Then they talk to people. They apologize for their mistakes. They follow-up with their stakeholders on a regular basis. We measure their improvement, and the client gets better.

In my coaching, most of what my clients learn, they don’t learn from me. I’m a facilitator who’s helping them learn from themselves and everyone around them. I’m not a little God that’s giving them all the right answers. The thing I’ve learned as a coach is, it’s not about me.

Chris: You’re like a mirror. You put a mirror up to people. And you let them see how they’re perceived and what’s going on around them. And they get a clear picture of themselves.

Marshall: That’s it. Thank you!

Chris: Thank you, Marshall.

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How You Can Make a Positive Difference

During a recent interview with my friend, Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, he asked me how I help someone who’s secure in what they believe to be open to changing perspective. Following is an edited excerpt from our interview.

Chris: I’m Chris Cuomo here with the one and only Marshall Goldsmith. Marshall, I have a problem. With what I’m doing right now, I’ve got Rachel Maddow on the left, I’ve got Sean Hannity on the right. If I test one side, the other side doesn’t like me. Nobody wants to change their perception. They’re siloed in; they know what they believe and they don’t want to know anything else.

You deal with this with leaders all the time. A certain type of thinking got them to where they are, but not where they want to be.

How do you get someone who’s secure in what they believe to be open to changing perspective?

Marshall: From your perspective, this question’s answer is more about the broad picture. You and I are different in that way. You are dealing with very macro-level, big picture, societal issues. You are trying to answer so many important questions – like you mentioned in earlier in our interview. I’m much more at the micro level and about how you change individual human behavior and perception at the micro level.

I love your approach, and that is not putting other people down. Not insulting people. Not insulting this side, or that side. But saying, “Look, these people have this perspective for the following reasons. These people have a different perspective for the following reasons. Why don’t we just try to find the truth here?”

The term you use very frequently is common ground. I love that, getting people open to that concept of common ground, the idea of openness. You’re bring us back to what Peter Drucker said, “Our mission in life is to make a positive difference. Not to prove we’re smart, and not to prove we’re right.”

Well, so many of us in a polarized society have been focused on proving we’re smart, and right, and proving others are wrong. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to make a positive difference.

What I love about what you’re doing and what I hope you continue to do going forward is keep focused how can we make a positive difference. Not turning it into a smartness contest or a right ness contest. That’s my advice for you.

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Challenge the Echo Effect with Independent Thinking

“Most of us see the world the way we are, not the way it is.”

My friend, Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, and I spent an afternoon recently discussing a variety of topics, including what we see happening in the world today. In this short interview I asked Chris about his focus on not just changing behavior, but changing perception. I asked him to explain what that means to him. His insightful comments are in the excerpt below.

Marshall: I’m here with my great friend, Chris Cuomo. Chris, I love your show, Cuomo Prime Time. I love your philosophy, and you know, I just love what you’re doing. One thing you focused on is not just changing behavior, changing perception. Talk about that for a second.

Chris: Hard, but made more easy by our current confines. There’s so much partisanship on everything. It infects everything. Even football has become partisan. The way to change perspective, as you’ve taught in the book so often, is to be open, to introduce somebody to something else. They can’t be open if they’re only looking to double down and have an echo effect. What we’re trying to do on Cuomo Prime Time is to say, “Look, I know what people are telling you to think. I know what you want to believe. But aren’t you a little curious if you’re right? If you’re an independent thinker, if you’re so secure in your position, why don’t you hear the other side?”

So, we test. Instead of making the case every night from a particular perspective, what we do is go at the different perspectives. And by doing that, we’re encouraging people who are open, who are independent thinkers, who are “Goldsmithians,” to be open to something else. Because you only get better that way, and that’s how perception changes. If you only want to hear what you already believe, there is no growth. And there is no growth without some type of change.

Marshall: I love it, thank you. And you know, it’s so consistent with what I do for a living, I give people confidential feedback. Leaders, big leaders, important leaders. And they learn what everybody thinks. Not just what they want to hear. They learn the truth from everybody. And then they say, “Well I feel good about this part of the story, maybe I can learn something here from this part of the story.” And being open minded, that leaves them to ultimately change their behavior and to change the perception of everyone around them.

Chris: Right. You told me that most of us see the world the way we are, not the way it is. So, you have to be open to what you’re not getting, and then you’ll grow.

Marshall: Thank you!

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How to Avoid the Dire Consequences of ‘Either/Or’ Thinking

In a recent interview with my friend, Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, we talked about one of the biggest challenges we face today – ‘either/or’ thinking. Chris shares an example that illustrates this grave issue and the dire consequences that result when we don’t look for common ground and work together to solve our common problems.

Marshall: I’m here with my wonderful friend Chris Cuomo. Chris, I love your work. And I love the idea of your show, Cuomo Prime Time. What I like about it is really looking for a solution rather than just throwing stones. Can you give me an example of where you walked into a situation and really looked for common ground that you think would kind of illustrate the point?

Chris: School shootings. We’re all so frustrated by the sameness. It seems inexorable, we can’t stop them. That’s because our approach is ‘either/or’. Either you’re for getting rid of guns or you’re against it. We are frozen in that moment. However, if we could shift to a thinking of both instead of ‘either/or’, now we’ll start to move toward solutions. Everybody wants the schools to be safer. How do we do that? Everybody wants to be able to identify people who are going down these dark roads and get them help. Why don’t we work on that? Because we’re stuck in ‘either/or’ mode. For example, I think that if I give you safe schools, then I’m losing an opportunity to get better gun checks. So, I don’t want to do that. I give you nothing. It’s ‘either/or’. We have to move towards both to solve the issue. Personally, I can do that because I’m not tied to a partisan perspective.

Marshall: Give me an example of that one, where you can look at both perspectives usefully.

Chris: Well, as we’re seeing with that issue, when you have multiple components of safety, that’s going to require a holistic approach. That’s why shootings fall into it. But when you look at any fiscal enterprise, one of the biggest things to deal with in government is the ‘more versus less’ problem. Whereas partisans are either in favor of more of something, or of less. The answer always winds up becoming selectivity. More of what, versus less of what? We never get to that. Why? ‘Either/or’. It’s always about who wins and who loses to a very common malady that Marshall Goldsmith must diagnose. But if you had policymakers, if you had people who had different ideas think about where they are similar, if there was a reward for that, we might get somewhere. Because what do we know about power? Power acts out of fear of consequence more than it does out of conscience. So, if they knew that there was a reward to finding that common ground, they would seek it, so I’m trying to do that on my show.

Marshall: I love it. Thank you!

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Is It Worth It to Add Value? Not Always.

Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, recently interviewed me about one of the trickiest bad habits in my book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, adding too much value. We explore the concept in the short excerpt from our interview below.

Chris: Chris Cuomo here with the one and only Marshall Goldsmith. Again, it’s great to be with you. You have a concept about not adding too much value, which is a little bit of a slight of hand. Right? It’s about making sure that you’re not overwhelming a situation.

For instance, I may add too value when I’m with you. I’ve noticed that when we’re talking, I’m thinking, ‘Here I with Goldsmith. I’m trying to get ideas, this guy’s the best.’ And then I notice, I’m doing all the talking! How do you deal with leaders in terms of not adding too much value, but getting so much more out of them?

Marshall: This is one of the biggest challenges of every leader I’ve ever coached. You’re one of the world’s great interviewers, and one of the things I love about what you do is, you don’t make it all about you. You try to make it more about them. Well, this same concept applies in leadership. Let’s say you’re my boss. I’m young, enthusiastic, motivated. I come to you with a great idea. You think it’s a great idea. Rather than just saying “great idea,” our natural tendency is to say, “that’s a nice idea, why don’t you add this to it?” Well the problem is, the quality of the idea may go up 5% and their motivation may go down 50%. It’s no longer my idea, boss, now it’s your idea. It’s incredibly difficult for leaders to realize that effectiveness of execution is a function of A (what’s the quality of the idea?), times B, (what’s my commitment to make it work?). We get so wrapped up trying to improve the quality of a little bit, we damage the commitment a lot.

One of my great coaching clients is a man named JP Garnier. JP was CEO of GlaxoSmithKline. When he retired a few years ago. I asked him, “What did you learn about leadership as the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline?” He said, “I learned a very hard lesson. Every time people get promoted in life, this lesson becomes more real. My suggestions become orders. If they’re smart, they’re orders. If they’re stupid, they’re orders. I I want them to be orders, they’re orders. If I don’t want them to be orders, they’re orders anyway. My suggestions become orders.”

For nine years I trained the admirals of the United States Navy. The first thing I taught new admirals is that when you get that star, your suggestions become orders. Admirals don’t make suggestions. If an Admiral makes a suggestion, what’s the response?

Chris: Aye aye, sir!

Marshall: That suggestion is an order. I asked JP, “What’d you learn from me when I was your coach that helped you the most?” He said, “You taught me one lesson that helped me be a better leader and have a happier life.” I said, “What was it?” He said, “Before I speak, I stop and breathe, and ask myself, ‘Is it worth it?’ As the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, 50% of the time, if I had the discipline to stop and to breathe, and to ask myself is it worth it? What did I decide? Am I right? Maybe. Is it worth it? No.” So I think a great point on that adding value is breathe. And ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” before you speak.

Chris: How do you convince somebody that less is more?

Marshall: Well, let me use a case study. Have you ever attempted to prove that you were right and someone you love is wrong on a minor or insignificant topic?

Chris: On a daily basis, Marshall.

Marshall: Does that work out for you?

Chris: Here I am asking for advice…

Marshall: You have kids?

Chris: I do, three.

Marshall: How old?

Chris: 15, 12, 8.

Marshall: How about that teenager? How about correcting them and proving they’re wrong on a minor insignificant point?

Chris: I just hide.

Marshall: That’s right. Let it go. I think a real important point is, win the big ones. I’m not giving anyone an answer, I’m giving them a question. I can’t answer the question for you, is it worth it? At work, before you speak, breathe. Is my comment going to improve this other person’s commitment? If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, breathe again. Is it worth it? Well, as JP said about half the time the answer is no. At home, breathe. Is my little added value going to improve this relationship with the person I love? If the answer is yes, fine. If the answer is no, is it worth it? If you have to ask at work about half the time, it’s not worth it. If you have to ask at home, it is almost never worth it.

Chris: Those are great cues. Hard to put in practice, but it’s the right way to go. Thank you, Marshall!

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What Qualities Make Great Leaders?

My great friend, Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time,has some ideas about the qualities that make great leaders and so do I! We recently met and talked about the traits we see most in great leaders and not surprisingly our answers are quite similar. The short excerpt from our interview below reveals our answers to this question. I’d love to hear your answers!

Marshall: Chris, you are, I think, justifiably, considered one of the world’s great interviewers. You’ve had the opportunity to meet leaders in all kinds of different, fascinating fields. I’m going to ask a question about the broad concept of leadership. What are some of the qualities you’ve seen that really stand out to you for people you consider to be great leaders? What would that quality be?

Chris: Something that jumps out, no matter what the genre is, is clarity of thought and being open to being wrong. And that is not easy. The second response is I recently reread Profiles in Courage, the Kennedy book. Many of the people who he calls out for courage lost in their next election, lost during a very tumultuous time. In the book, he quotes Ernest Hemingway as saying, “What is courage? Courage is grace under pressure.” That’s a leader. Somebody who does not capitulate, who does not succumb to the same pressures that the non-leaders do. That’s something I’ve seen in every space whether it’s sports, business, culture. It’s not that they’re the smartest or the best. But they function the best in that situation. And it seems to be a common factor from all of them. They don’t think about things going wrong except in terms of how to make them better.

Marshall: I love that. In my job as a coach, as you know, I don’t get paid if my clients don’t become more effective leaders. More effective is not judged by me or them, it’s judged by everyone around them. Three qualities of great leaders that have hit me, which are totally consistent with what you said. The first one is courage. They have the courage to look in the mirror. And you know that’s not easy. It’s not easy for me, or you, or for any of us. Second is humility. I can’t help someone who’s already perfect. You have to have that humility to admit you can do better. And then the third one is the discipline to do the hard work to get better. So, thank you, Chris!

On June 20th, I was honored to be inducted into the Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame – whose members include the top management thinkers of our time.

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Successful People Do This, Do You?

My great friend, Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time,and I recently talked about the most common trait I’ve noticed in my four decades of coaching successful leaders. Chris laughed a little bit, because in our interview he recognized that it’s not just leaders who have this problem, it’s practically everyone. In fact, the more successful you are, the more you may recognize it in yourself! Check out the short excerpt from our interview below and discover for yourself if you do this too.

Chris: Chris Cuomo here with the one and only Marshall Goldsmith. You have been so successful in so many different avenues of consulting and helping people realize how to make themselves the most efficient. The best within their own space. So, here’s the question. So many different types of clients, and people you help, common problem for all of them, is there a way to knit it?

Marshall: Great question! I was interviewed the Harvard Business Review and asked, “What is the number one problem of all the successful people you’ve coached over the years,” and my answer was, “Winning too much.” What does that mean? It means, if it’s important, we want to win. Meaningful, we want to win. Critical, we want to win. Trivial, we want to win. Not worth it, we want to win anyway. Winners love winning. It’s hard for successful people not to constantly win.

Peter Drucker taught me our mission in life is to make a positive difference, not to prove we’re smart, not to prove we’re right. We get so lost in proving we’re smart and right, that we forget that’s not why we’re on earth for. We’re here to make a positive difference, not to prove how smart we are, not to prove how right we are.

I’m going to give you a case study of winning too much, so that almost all my clients fail. I’m going to make a prediction. Even you, Chris, may fail this case study. Are we ready?

Chris: Yes.

Marshall: Here is the case study. You want to go to dinner at restaurant X. Your wife, husband, friend, or partner wants to go to dinner at restaurant Y. You have a heated argument. You go to restaurant Y, the food tastes awful and the service is terrible. Option A, critique the food. Point out our partner was wrong, that this mistake could have been avoided had you only listened to me, me, me. Option B, shut up. Eat the stupid food. Try to enjoy it and have a nice evening. What would I do? What should I do? Look at that guilty face, Chris. Look at that guilty face!

Chris: And I’ve been married almost 20 years, and I fall into A way more than I fall into B.

Marshall: We are very bad. Now as dumb as that is, I’m going give you an example now that is so dumb it will make that one pale by comparison. You may have actually done this one too. You have a hard day at work. A hard day, you’re under so much pressure. You go home, and your wife says, “Oh I had such a hard day today. Had such a tough day,” and then you reply, “You had a hard day? You had a hard day? Any idea what I had to put up with today? You think you had a hard day?” We’re so competitive that we have to prove we’re more miserable than they people we live with.

Chris: Have you been spying on me?

Marshall: I gave this example in my class at the Dartmouth Tuck School. Young guy in the back raises his hand, he says, “I did that last week,” I asked him, “What happened?” He said, “My wife looked at me, she said, ‘Honey, you just think you’ve had a hard day, it’s not over.’“

Chris: Marshall, thank you for that. It’s good to know that how I feel is common but I can change!

Marshall: We can all change.

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Marshall Goldsmith Distinguished Achievement Award for Coaching and Mentoring

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Tokyo!

I am honored to announce that Thinkers50 – the worlds’ most reliable resource for identifying, ranking and sharing the leading management ideas of our age – is going to be introducing a new award – the Marshall Goldsmith Distinguished Achievement Award for Coaching and Mentoring – which will be presented on November 18, 2019, at the Thinkers50 biennial ceremony in London.

This award will recognize an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of executive coaching.

I am so excited to help Thinkers50 in their search for the world’s greatest talent in executive coaching.

If you would like to be considered for this award, please comment on this post, leave your email address and I will reply to you with more information.

What are we looking for?

  • We are not just looking for great coaches. We are looking for coaches who have made an impact on the field executive coaching – beyond their personal coaching practice.
  • Coaches whose writing is making a difference in the field.
  • Thought leaders whose creative ideas are impacting the world of coaching.
  • Mentors who are helping other coaches make a positive difference in the world.
  • Leaders who are managing coaching organizations that can impact hundreds of clients.
  • Executives whose organizations have created a positive coaching culture.

I am looking forward to hearing from many of the great professionals in the world of coaching and mentoring!

Although there will only be one recipient of the Award in 2019, we plan announcing the Top 50 nominees.

You have nothing to lose. If you are interested, please let me know.

Please read the official press release from Thinkers50 here.

Life is good!

Marshall

On June 20th, I was honored to be inducted into the Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame – whose members include the top management thinkers of our time.

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Major Announcements from Marshall Goldsmith!

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Rancho Santa Fe!

Thank you so much for the all of the support that you have given to me during my 41-year career.

I am very happy to make three announcements today. None of these would have happened without the support of my mentors, family, clients, students, partners, readers and colleagues like you.

  • As of June 20, 2018, I am officially retiring from one-on-one coaching. I am still going to be working with other coaches and clients as an advisor and mentor. I will always be available for my present and former clients. My speaking and writing will continue as it has in the past.
  • I am honored that Thinkers50 has chosen to induct me into the Thinkers50Management Hall of Fame – where I will be joining a select group of management thinkers that have made a profound contribution to our field.
  • Thinkers50 is also going to be introducing a new award – The Marshall Goldsmith Distinguished Achievement Award for Coaching and Mentoring – which will be presented in November 2019 at the Thinkers50 biennial ceremony. This award will recognize an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of executive coaching.

Please read the official press release from Thinkers50 here.

Life is good!

Marshall

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Looking for Common Ground with Chris Cuomo

Chris Cuomo, my great friend, journalist and news anchor, has an exceptional new show on CNN called Cuomo Prime Time. Chris has a unique agenda for his news analysis show, which is different from his “competition”. In the excerpt from our interview below, Chris shares his deep commitment to finding common ground in an environment where it is often a very difficult thing to do.

Marshall: I’m here with my wonderful friend Chris Cuomo. Chris, you have an exciting show, Cuomo Prime Time. What I love about what you’re doing is you’re not trying to be this way or that way, you’re really trying to look for the truth and rationality. To me, just rationality, common sense. I think the country seems to be getting a little more “I’m this way, or I’m that way,” which I don’t see as necessarily good for anybody. There’s too much toxicity, too much “I’m right, you’re wrong.” How did you get you get to this perspective? What do you see for the future?

Chris: The first answer to the first part of the question is you. I came to you when I was offered this opportunity, and I was like, “I don’t know, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, I’m just looking for a butt whoopin’ here,” and you said, “No, there’s opportunity, because fringe thinking is always going to breed a desire for common ground.”

Marshall: That’s right!

Chris: And your analysis was right. Thank you. Thank you for helping me make the move. And how do we identify that opportunity? In politics, when fringe thinking, when extreme thought starts to take hold as the main convention, people get lost. You have some people who by default wind up falling into one silo or another, left or right. But they don’t really feel that. Eventually, everybody starts to get an appetite for common ground, because you start to get suspicious that, “Hey, I think that these people are just pointing fingers at each other because it’s easier for them.” It’s easier to fight than to fix, so I think that’s where we are. As smart and cogent as someone can be, eventually they have to deliver on action that moves it. I think there are independent thinkers out there. Independent people who are saying, “The politicians really aren’t getting anything done, they’re just fighting about who’s worse.”

That’s what I want to exploit, and push people in positions of power. I want to ask, “What are you going to do about this?” For instance, school shootings. Everybody agrees that the schools have got to be safer. So instead of this existential, all or nothing view when it comes to gun control, why don’t you also think about this component of the problem, at least do something about it. You have to push for that. And I think the opportunity’s increasing for us to find common ground.

Marshall: I love it, thank you!

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