Marshall Goldsmith, highly regarded international executive coach, reveals what people can do to achieve real personal change.
Angelina Pillai: If someone wants to achieve real change in their personal or professional life, what are the top three things they need to remember?
- Have the courage to look in the mirror. Everyone I coach gets confidential feedback and it takes courage to see yourself how other people see you.
- Have humility. You have to have the humility to admit that you’re human and that you can improve, because if you think you’re god-like then it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get better.
- Have the discipline to stick with it and make it a regular part of your life.
AP: What are the key attributes leaders of teams should possess and how are these changing?
MG: There is one thing that I teach in the team dimension called ‘team building without time wasting’. It’s good to practise something called ‘feed forward’, where people in the team focus on looking forward, not looking backward.
They learn to ask each other for ideas and listen to each other, and then they have this follow-up system where they measure improvement. I’ve done this with many executive teams and the results are fantastic, because it builds in ongoing dialogue, ongoing follow-up and ongoing work.
You have to work at team building, just like you have to work at anything else.
AP: Did you have a background in education and training before moving into executive education?
MG: I got a PhD in work organisational behaviour from UCLA. I then met a very famous man in Dr Paul Hersey, probably the highest-paid consultant in the world in our field at that time. He was kind enough to let me follow him around and learn what he did.
One day he got double booked and he said, ‘Can you do what I do?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘I’ll pay you $1000 for one day’. So I said, ‘You know Paul, I’ll give it a try’. So that’s how I got into executive education.
Coaching I also got into by accident. I met this gentleman who was a CEO of a big company who said, ‘I’ve got this young guy working for me. He’s smart, dedicated, a know-it-all and never wants to be wrong’. He said, ‘He’s worth a fortune to me if I can change that guy’.
So that’s when I came up with my idea and I said, ‘I’ll work with him for a year and if he gets better, pay me, if he doesn’t, it’s all free’. Since then all of my work in executive coaching has been done on a pay-on-results basis.
AP: What are the qualities that make a great coach and how have your coaching techniques and/or philosophies changed?
MG: You’ve pretty much illustrated the biggest change in my coaching style and it is realising it’s not all about me but it’s about the people I coach.
My most improved client is Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford Motor Company.
I asked Alan, ‘What should I learn about coaching from you?’ He taught me two lessons. He said, ‘Lesson number one: your biggest challenge as a coach is called customer selection. You pick the right customer and your coaching process always works; you pick the wrong customer and your coaching process will never work’.
He said, ‘Number two: never make your coaching process about yourself, your own ego and how smart you are. Make it about the great people you work with and how hard they work, and how proud you are of them. As the CEO of Ford my job is no different – I don’t design the cars, I don’t build the cars and I don’t sell the cars. I have to have great people’. He said, ‘Every day I drive to work I tell myself leadership is not about me, leadership is about them’.
AP: Do you incorporate your Buddhist philosophies into your work?
MG: I’m not a religious Buddhist; I’m a philosophical Buddhist. My school of Buddhism is a simple school and one of the things I incorporate into my work is ‘feed forward’.
Buddha said, ‘Every time I take a new breath, it’s a new me’. Well in ‘feed forward’, you realise life is constantly starting over and you learn to ask for ideas for the future, not feedback about the past.
The other element of my Buddhist coaching is to play the hand you’re dealt. You can complain about the hand, whine about the hand and moan about the hand, but you can’t change the past.
Make peace with what is, change what you can and make peace with what you can’t change.
AP: What are the HR issues you see in today’s workforce?
MG: Employee engagement around the world is near an all-time low. Companies keep spending more and more money to try and engage employees.
I’ve been working on some exciting material for my new book, which is about teaching people to engage themselves. It is about looking at our marginal motivation in life and teaching people to really take responsibility for their own engagement, as opposed to waiting for another program to save them.
Marshall Goldsmith will be speaking at the 2014 AHRI National Convention & Exhibition. His keynote presentation ‘Questions that make a difference‘, is on 21 August 2014 and his all-day workshop ‘Leadership development: developing ourselves, our people and our teams‘ is on Tuesday 19 August 2014. Registrations close 7 August 2014.