Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith reveals to AHRI’s Angelina Pillai the most challenging client he’s ever coached: the real life inspiration behind the character Gordon Gecko from Wall Street.
Angelina Pillai: Does the work that you do with your executive clients spill over into their personal lives?
Marshall Goldsmith: For most of us the same issues we have at work are the same issues we have at home.
For example, have you ever seen the original version of the movie Wall Street, with the character Gordon Gecko? I was the coach for the real life role model for Gordon Gecko. Basically Michael Douglas, who played Gordon Gecko, followed this guy around to learn how to act like an arrogant jerk.
When I started working with this guy, his score on treating people with respect, from direct reports from co-workers, was 0.1 per cent.
He was making a small fortune and didn’t really need more money, so instead I sat down with him looking at the way he treats people. I said, ‘You don’t have a degree in math, but 0.1 per cent is not very high. Do you treat people the same way at home?’ And he said, ‘No I’m totally different’.
I thought that’s interesting and asked him if we could read his scores out to his wife and two teenage children. His wife’s response was that he’s a jerk, and his kids said the same thing.
I said to him, ‘A pattern is beginning to emerge. I can’t help you make money because you’re already making just a little bit less than God, but do you really want to have a funeral that nobody shows up for other than for business reasons because that’s where this train is headed’.
It was a realisation moment for him and he said, ‘I’m going to get better. Not because of you, the company or money, but because I have a 13-year-old son and if, 30 years from now, a man like you read that report about my son I would be ashamed. My son already acts that way.’ I wonder where he picked that up?
In one year, he was ranked at 53.7 per cent in treating people with respect, which was above the company norm, and the company norm was quite high.
Every year he sends me a card that says thank you for the help you gave me all those years ago. And only a few years ago he said that he still has a better relationship with people after the work we did, especially his wife and kids.
Read more from Marshall Goldsmith
The executive coach talks about how to find meaning in what you do and achieve real personal change, and in turn pass this onto your teams.
Marshall Goldsmith spoke at the 2014 AHRI National Convention & Exhibition. Registrations are now open for the 2015 AHRI National Convention at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre on 26–27 August. Visit the website.