Finding Your True North: In Conversation with #1 Executive Coach
Thinkers50 Hall of Fame, #1 Leadership Thinker, #1 Exec Coach, #1 NYT Bestselling Author
Marshall Goldsmith is a world-renowned leadership coach, executive educator, and author. He has more than 40 years of experience working with top leaders from around the world, including CEOs and senior executives from over 150 major corporations. He has been recognized as one of the top 10 executive coaches in the world by Forbes and has been named one of the top-ranked executive coaches by Harvard Business Review. He is the author of several bestselling books, including “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” “Triggers,” and “Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It.”
He is also a keynote speaker and frequent guest on television and radio programs. His expertise in the field of leadership development is unmatched and his insights and strategies are valuable for anyone looking to improve their leadership skills.
Take home these learnings:
1. What is Marshall’s Mission Statement?
2. What are three best coaching advices Marshall has recieved?
3. How to be aligned and not addicted to your purpose?
4. What are the mistakes every coach makes?
2. What are three best coaching advices Marshall has recieved?
3. How to be aligned and not addicted to your purpose?
4. What are the mistakes every coach makes?
Thank you so much, Marshall. It's such a pleasure having you here. Oh, very happy to be here. Thank you. That's what I was telling you, Marshall. I've had the privilege of meeting you first time in the year 2008, when you were in India, and since then I've grown as an individual as a coach, reading your books, watching your videos, listening to you, learning from what you're saying, and what you're not saying. There are so many titles attached to Marshall. Marshall is an author, one of the finest coaches in the world, one of the most influential coaches in the world, author of so many books, just curious, who is Marshall, without his titles, without his books, without his speeches? Oh, my motion has grown older is actually becoming simpler and simpler and simple, simpler. I just want to help people have a little better life. So let us imagine that a few people who listen to us today have a little bit better life based on this call. That's good enough. Thank you. Thank you so much. And I am sure people who are listening to this conversation, their life would be better for sure. Yeah. Marshall, if you were to restart your life, from scratch from zero, which is that one chapter of your life? Would you hold on too tightly? And why? I'd hold on to the whole thing. I wouldn't change anything. The reason is, I've made many mistakes in life 1000s of mistakes. The problem is, when we a erase our mistakes, we erase everything we learned from those mistakes. And so I was like science fiction. And when you mess with the timeline, things can get worse. So the way I look at it, I was one of very poor. The first four years I was in school, we had what's called an outhouse, we didn't have indoor plumbing. My school was right next to last place in the state of Kentucky and academic achievement. I wasn't working for PrEP, I ended up with a great, great life. Really, what would I change? I'm born with nothing. I'm good with what I've got. I'm good. Yeah. So much. Let's look at that. Right? You're considered to be one of the most accomplished coaches. And if you were to revisit if you were to put a finger on, what's the best piece of advice that you have received from someone that has changed the trajectory of your life? Let me give you two or three. One is when I was a young PhD student, I was becoming self righteous and preachy. And I was working down in the city planning department in the government. And my old advisor, Dr. case called me and he said Marshall, getting some feedback here. You're very judgmental, negative, what's the problem? See, he looks at Oh, Marshall, you're a brilliant young man, you have discovered the city government of Los Angeles is inefficient. Then you have any other problems? Why remember? Oh, I said, my goodness, you have discovered that when politicians donate millions of get millions of dollars to donations, they're nicer to those people, when people give them nothing. He said, another brilliant observation. Now he said Marshall had been working there. 30 years, the guy pumping gas down on the corner, figured all this out, you're not getting a PhD for this option. Now you continue to be a judgmental, whiny, jerk, or Option B, start having some fun and do some good. You notice and by the way, if you continue with Plan A, I'm firing you and you will never graduate. So you know what I said, let's go with B, let's have some fun. With such good advice, who was judging everybody preaching? Nobody made me guide this week. So yeah, it was really a very good, a good coaching lesson to enjoy the process of life. Don't be too judgmental. Don't think you're better than everyone. It's easier said than done. Because, you know, I personally been in the space of coaching for quite some time now. And every time I come across a coach, suddenly I realized that there's so much of seriousness in her life. And you just mentioned let's have some fun. Just curious, how do you incorporate fun while you are in this space while you're working with the top leaders in the world while you are coaching few of the best executives in the world? I've come across coaches who are too serious. They take themselves too I always have fun. You Yeah, how have you been able to manage that incorporate that in your life? I'm a Buddhist, Buddha was brought up, you know, in a palace, he was protected from reality and lived in a bubble, he was able to sneak out three times here we learned was three visits one, people get old, too, you get sick and three, you could die old, sick and die all the money in the world old sick and die. You know, just having more is not going to be worth it's not a good idea. It doesn't help. They try to have less starve himself live on the roads. Because when that didn't work, either, you know, if I wouldn't be happy with what you have a look when did when did you learn that? And how, Oh, I've been a Buddhist for over 40 years long time ago. So I've been studying Buddhism for I've read 400 books on Buddhism. So you know, I spend a lot of time studying Buddhist, my Buddhist monk was in technote, calm, wonderful, man. And so anyway. Well, my life is life is short, be happy. People I deal with all adults, right? I mean, if they never meet me, they'll be very successful. If they meet me, there'll be maybe a little more successful. Nobody's starving to death here. Nobody's starving to death. And so there's no he's been that serious. Yeah, yeah. I think that's one of the best advices that I have received in my life. Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't give yourself too much importance. And, you know, there was a time I used to think the world revolves around me. And then I realized that even if, even when I'm not there in this world, nothing is going to change nothing. Absolutely nothing. Well, I've got zone of course. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Much Help me understand. You've written few of the best books on this planet. As per Amazon, what got you hear has been considered as one of the top two books ever written. What shifts have you observed in yourself? From the time when you wrote what got you here will not get you there? And your recently published book the own life? What shifts? Have you noticed within that you may want to share the book? What got you here? Won't you there brother just got ranked in Chief Executive Magazine in a survey of CEOs in America, one of the 10 best books ever written by you know, according to CEOs, that book has been phenomenally successful. That book, by the way, I've done 51 books that book has sold as much as the other 50 put together. Most of my books are purchased by my mother, my father and my relatives, but a few of them sold alive. And for New York Times bestsellers. This book is a very different book. This book is a much more philosophical book about life. This is not a book about how to achieve more. In fact, this is a book that talks a lot about people who are addicted to achievement, and the problems that come with it. Yeah, while going to this book, for me, there were several aha moments, there were several instances where I actually took a pause, started to reflect on my own regrets and my own fulfillment center. Good. Yeah, yah, yah, yah. I'm still enjoying the pieces that you have written and especially the way you have defined what it means to have the old life. I just love that. I will come to that. In a while, I would love to ask you a couple of more questions. You know, in most of the books you have spoken about Alan Mulally. I've had the honor and the privilege of doing some work for Ford. And was he there when your word for word? No, no. After that, in 2017 onwards, I started working with them on several on several occasions, you also spoke about that you choose your own clients. Right. Just curious what are characteristics that you look for before you sign a client for yourself? Well, again, this came from my friend Alan. So you know for years my coaching I didn't get paid if my clients didn't get better. So better isn't a judge by mirror image for all the people around them so you know, you'll learn some humility when you get paid for results. So I talked to my friend Alan and I said you know, Alan, of all the people I've ever coached I actually spent the least amount of time coaching you number one, you improve the most number two, and you were a great to start with number three. Then I said Alan, I made a chart on when your mentor was called time spent with the executive coach Marshall Goldsmith determines called improvement. There seemed to be A clear negative correlation between spending time with me and getting better X in the way this chart looks at you never met me, you would really be good. So I asked him, What should I learn about coaching from you? He taught me two lessons years ago that changed my life. Less lesson one, your mission as a coach is called customer selection. If you pick the right customer, you will always when you pick the wrong customer, you will never win. And he said, Never make coaching about yourself, your own ego and how smart you think you are. Make it about the great people you coach and how proud you are of them? Well, I'm one thing, one thing I'm very proud of is my clients. Now, if you look at this book, The urn life, look at the first few pages. Those are my clients. And they're pretty impressive and amazing people. And what is the first paragraph in the endorsement section say? It says, Listen, this is not about me, it's about them. The first paragraph says, These are great people and say I'm great. It says they're great. Well, you know, hey, I always go ranked number one coach in the world why? Nobody knows I'm a good coach or not. I may or may not be the best coach. Win thing. No, I got the best clients. Anybody would look good if you had my clients. work with great people, just like a ballplayer, the whole team, your team is all great. The other? You What do you look for? What do you look for when you're looking for and I only work with successful people, I'm not in the fix loser business, I'm in to help the business to help the winner business. So that's one thing I look for number two, I mean, very few people can hire me as a coach anyway, why? My fees are astronomical. So yeah, I mean, I do a lot of volunteer work. So if I'm a volunteer, you gotta be doing something important. And I like the head of St. Jude's, I don't charge them any money, you head of the Rockefeller Foundation, President World Bank, I do all that for free. So I did a ton of volunteer work, head of the New York Public Library, you know, the Girl Scouts, so I do a lot of work. But if it's not gonna be free, it's either free or a bunch. And a bunch is a big number. So I've eliminated 99.9% of everyone, just with the fees. So I'm not dealing with people who have huge problems. I mean, you know, my present coaching clients, probably a third of them are billionaires. So that eliminates a lot of people, then I only work with people who want to get better are dedicated, hardworking, they're willing to get feedback. They're willing to talk to people what they learn, apologize for their mistakes, follow up on a regular basis and get better. They want to do this stuff, great if they don't want to do this, okay, what do I say? Fine. Don't just waste my time. I'm sure the number of times that you say no to a potential client would be more than the number of times that you will say yes and accept them as a client. I do say no, much more than yes. You know, having worked with few of the best executives in the world, let's call them the captains of the ship, right? Enjoy the experience of working with those captains who are steering the ship. What are the commonly made dangerous mistakes that you have seen them making? I was interviewed in the Harvard Business Review and ask a question. What's the number one problem well, people who coached by answer was winning too much. Win if it's meaningful, we want to win if it's critical, we want to win and it's trivial. We want to win if it's not worth it. We want to win anyway. Winners love winning. Everyone I coach as a winner. It's very hard for winners not to go through life constantly winning. You want to go to dinner at restaurant x your husband wife or partner wants to go to dinner at restaurant why you have an argument you go to why it wasn't your choice. The food tastes awful. The service is terrible. Option A critique the food point out our partner was wrong. This mistake could have been avoided if you listened to me. Option B Shut up. Eat the stupid food. Try to enjoy and have a nice night. What would I do? What should I do? Almost all of us what what I do critique the food? Or should I do shut up? It's hard for winners not to win. And what do you think what is driving them? Well, in our lives, everyone I coached very smart people. Everyone I coach has taken test after test after test 1000s of tests. They had one goal prove how smart they were. Over and over and over again. How many tests have you taken in your life since you were a kid? Hundreds 1000s hard it's hard to stop. It is very hard to do anything besides this. Why? We have a whole lifetime of reason. Forsman have proven smart, prove them smart, proven smart, prove him, right? prove him smart. Over and over and over again, it's very difficult to stop. In my mind, I'm just looking at the different clients that I've had the privilege of coaching. And working with, in my mind, I'm coming across two categories of leaders. This category A, this category B, Category A is, again, achievement orientation, very high on achievement orientation, and driven by some kind of fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, and other cat category be, again, high on accomplishing and yet driven by some of the other sense of deeper meaning. Yeah, I, I don't do therapy. So what are people's deeper motivations? I don't deal with that. I just don't people watch their behavior. And that's where the concept of feed forward come so handy in your conversations, right? Yeah, I feed forward is a key to everything I do. I teach people to ask for input, listen, and thank people, you don't judge you don't critique you don't put them down. And you don't promise to do everything. leadership's not a popularity contest, you promise to listen and do what you can. I've done this exercise what I'm sure a couple million people around the world they love. It doesn't matter what country I'm in. Like, I did this in Russia with 50,000 people at once I get up in front of the group and say we're going to practice feed forward. And you're going to help pick one thing to improve. You're going to talk to as many people as you can. And here's the dialogue, you just say my name is Boris, I want to be a better listener, no feedback about the past, please give me ideas for the future to help me out. And whatever the person says, you say thank you. The other person says My name is Natasha, I want to be better at recognition, give me ideas, good ideas, say thank you shake hands, talk to someone else do it over and over again. I've done this with 1000s of people around the world, millions of people around the world, people love it. This is positive, useful, helpful, or even fun. Why is positive it's focused on what you can do not what you can't do. And focus on the future. You can change not a past you can't change anyway. And Buddha said this Buddha said only do what I teach what works for you. Just don't do it. When I coach my clients, they don't argue with me. I give my ideas. They want to do it, do it. Do it. Don't do it. I don't care. They're adults. Right? Just don't waste time arguing. You're not? You have worked with people from different countries. Is there any difference that you have noticed, observed when you're working with a typical Indian leader, versus the typical American leader all around the world, and you have to say, there are huge cultural differences in a village in India. And in a small town in Kentucky, or in little town in South America, there are big differences. I don't work with those people. The people I work with, they're highly educated. They usually speak fluent English. They've all learned the same things. And they're basically mega successful people. A billionaire and India is got a lot more in common with a billionaire in the United States and in France and in Japan than they have with a normal person in any other country. Yeah, I'm not dealing with a random sample of humanity here. You know, one thing that I'm picking up right now and that's giving me huge amount of clarity is identifying who your target audiences and I think that's what I have struggled for the longest period of time. The narrow is I go my whole job. But look at this book, let's see President of the World Bank. That's good. You mentioned Alan Mulally, the CEO of the Year. That's good to Behringer li see of the Year from BestBuy. That's nice presents hustled by one the President Medal of Freedom. Albert Birla CEO Pfizer. He's an impressive guy. Ashish Advani just got nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But let's see if St. Jude's Children's Hospital. These are my clients. Were work with them. And by the way, the other thing is some coaches can't say who my clients are. Why can't you? Why can't you say you're close? Are they ashamed to have a coach? I guess I've been able to identify or have been able to identify, you know, my clients are looking to book now, I have a funny story about the book, and that endorsement thing. I went to arrest Ron, when I was very young 26 Or so it was ranked number one in California. I read the recommendations on the wall about the restaurant. One of the letters said, This restaurant is so good. If your name is on the wall, it is not a compliment to the restaurant, it's a compliment to you. They get back home with recommendations. If they chose your recommendation, it doesn't say anything about them. Everyone knows they're great. It just says they respect you. I was 26 years old. You know what I said? I want to be the restaurant. I want to be the restaurant, read the book, those first six pages, your names on that book? You're great. Then say I'm great. You're great. Your name? If you're not great. Your name is not on the book. And that is where you started your journey. Yeah. And it's all for for four decades of experience that you've been for the nurturing this for yourself. Be the restaurant? Yeah, yeah. You know, in this book called The own life, you have spoken about a life well lived? What does it mean? And what advice would you offer to leaders working in the corporate arena? How can one have that life? Well let what's important in life? All right, what's important in life? Number one, you need your health. But the book is not about how. Number two you need to have relationship people who love Well, the book is not about how to find someone you love. And then in number three, you need to make at least kind of a lower class, middle class income. Well, that's not about that. Assuming you have at least a middle class level of money. Assuming you have someone you love, and you're healthy, what matters three things. One, we need a higher aspiration in life. We need an answer to that question, why am I doing this? People are working very hard flight number two, then we need to have ambitions that are our achievements. What are we achieving? And these achievements need to be connected to the higher aspiration. And then number three, our day to day actions. We need to enjoy and be engaged in the process of life itself. Assuming that you're doing what you love, that you're achieving, and it is connected to a higher aspiration you just want. Now the people aren't some people are over fixated on the aspiration level. They're lost in their heads, they have great ideas that don't really achieve anything, but they're lost up in the sky. Some people are lost in the action level. In fact, the history of the world, most people are just focused on that day to day activity living. Our ancestors were poor people. They mean money. These live day to day you're in a cave, you're not thinking higher aspiration, you're drinking and eating, right? You're staying alive. The people listening to this call, the people I coach don't have either of those problems. They have, they're stuck in the achievement phase, they're addicted, if we're not careful to achievement, and they fall into a great trip. If I achieve this, I will be happy. If I achieve they're addicted to achievement. Now, I just taught a class at the Indian, the I T Indian Institute of Technology. Now, how easy is it to get into IIT? Is it easy or just ridiculously difficult? extremely different. I went to UCLA. UCLA had 165,000 applicants in the freshman class last year. It probably had 10 times as many. I'm teaching a class in it. I'm thinking number one, nobody's gonna show up there. My friend. There's a patron so he wanted me to do this. I did a favor. First I will know he's gonna let some old man talk during his shot kit place with packed. Number two. I thought well, these are young techie kids, they don't want to hear some old man talking about Buddhist philosophy. I looked up and I talked about aspiration, and our ambitions and our actions and I talked about enjoying the process of life itself. I talked about what does all this mean? 10 of these kids started crying while I'm talking. You're just sitting there crying. They never had a childhood. their whole lives had been this. They you know what they were told. If I ever get into it, I've made it. They got it. You know what they learned? Instead of this know what happened? This it was harder. Very important. One of the guys in my group. This book was inspired by 60 people. My friend Mark Thompson. I spent 600 hours with 60 people over two years during COVID every weekend. We talked to these people their names are in the book, who they were amazing people basketball star, football star, Broadway star, head of the Olympic Committee, head of the World Bank man, on and on and on amazing people. Every week they talked about their lives. One of the guys that name Safi Bacall, he said, I finally learned a great lesson of life. He said, he's a brilliant scientist, I used to believe that I would be happy if I achieved more. I finally learned something. Happiness and achievement are independent variables. Happiness and achievement are independent variables. And you can achieve a lot and be happy you achieve a lot and be miserable. These are independent variable. I said, Sofie, I'm so glad you realize this. You already have a PhD in physics from Stanford, you've started successfully four companies are multi multi gazillionaire. And you wrote a New York Times bestselling book called loon shots and you've consulted the presidents. Now if that is not enough achievement to make you happy. You really think a little more is gonna matter. You're already in 99.9% of achievement now. Using any more or making any difference, not really. He said, You're right. There's a Buddhist term called The Hungry Ghost. Always eating never fooled. When we're addicted to achievement, we're always eating but we're never fool. The Bhagavad Gita. That's the whole point of the Gita. Never become fixated on results. Never become fixated on results. Do not place your value as a human on results. Michael Phelps, Albert Burleigh, CO. Pfizer endorsed the book, right? I said Albert, a couple of years ago, Albert, how was your year last year pretty good, came up with his vaccine saved a billion lives. Hey, very good. CEO of the Year, and oh, company stocks all time high and employee engagements, highest ever. I said wonderful, wonderful. Wonderful. What's your problem? He said a huge problem. Next year. Next year. If Albert's value as a human being is he has to achieve more than last year write it off, it will never happen for the rest of his life. He's never gonna have a year like this. We don't want him to have a year like this. We don't want another pandemic. Well, Michael Phelps, World's Greatest Olympian 25 gold medals. What do you think about doing after winning the 25th metal killing himself? killing himself why he couldn't achieve more. Never place your value as a human being on that. Now one of my favorite parts in the book is called the marshmallow, the marshmallow chapter. Search where I take a bunch of kids. So you get a look at a marshmallow. If you eat one, you get one. Oh, but if you wait, oh two for you, you get two. So allegedly, they did these research and the kids that ate one are losers, the kids that need to become successful. And the message is delayed gratification is good. Almost every self help book delayed gratification is good exercise more run more work more. Delayed gratification is good. What they did not do in the research though, is take the kid with two marshmallows. Let's say kid just wait some more. We'll give you 345 10 Keep waiting 100 1000 Where does the story end? An old man sitting in a room waiting to die surrounded by 1000s of uneaten marshmallows. Sometimes you need to eat the marshmallow. Sometimes if your whole life is nothing but delayed gratification, you know what you get a whole lot of delay. You know what you don't get any of gratification you know, something that stayed with me while reading this book is the definition the way you have defined life. Let me just read it for you. Yeah. It says we are living in own life when the choices risk and effort we make in each moment aligned with an overarching purpose in our lives, regardless of the eventual outcome. Yes. Have you ever come across people who get addicted to their purpose? But what did you say? Have you come across people who get addicted to their tapas? There's millions of people who are like that will go to India. How many people in India are addicted to achievement? How many of the parents those kids and Indians I'm talking about the overarching purpose, not just goals. Oh, How many people do that? Not enough? Some but not enough? I mean, we all need a reason why Is it okay? Is it okay to get addicted to your overarching purpose? I'll tell you why I'm coming. Because you mentioned that you have been a Buddhist and in Buddhism, they talk about detachment. So on one hand, we are talking about getting addicted to your purpose on the other. Buddhism talks about detachment. Right? Well, what's your take on that? If you're addicted to your purpose, it's the same problem. Now, the reason I say that's not typically the problem, most people I coach, that's not their problem. Most people listening to this call, that's not their problem. That's a problem of a few people. They're just focused strictly on what is my purpose, and then they often don't achieve anything, number one. And number two, they don't enjoy life. There's lost appear in this higher order of things, which is fine for them. Yet, they're missing a large part of life. So to me, what's important is alignment. If you love what you're doing, great. You're achieving things. Great. And it's connected to your higher purpose you want? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You know, as much as there are several 1000s of books written on purpose. Yeah. There are so many people talking about various on the very similar lines. But if you look around in the world, we have been a reason for creating so much of destruction, we have put the whole planet into Peril. The world, the earth itself has not been able to nourish life. We are considered to be the most intelligent species with all the knowledge that we have. And we had the trajectory of self destruction. What's your take on this martial? Why are we doing this thing to Mother Earth? Despite all the knowledge, all the books, all our understanding? And my answer is, I'm certainly not an expert on that question. And then my philosophy is I only answer questions when I'm an expert on the topic. Thank you. Let me just take one step here now. How have you been able to reach where you are? And how did you make it? Number one, I've had great mentors. great mentors, Dr. Paul Hersey, founder of situational leadership with Ken Blanchard and Ken Blanchard, another great guy just saw him last weekend still alive. great mentors of mine who taught me so many things. And Peter Drucker, Warren Bennis, all these great thinkers, Francis Heseltine, they helped me. And I didn't get here by myself. I have a program called 100 coaches. And the idea of the program is this woman asked me who are my heroes, my heroes, these kind and generous people who helped me, I would not be where I am without these people. They're my heroes. She said, You should be like these heroes. So I decided to give away everything I know, to 15 people. And the only price is when they got old, give it to him more people. Well, I make a little video and per LinkedIn, very primitive video, I'm thinking maybe 100, people would apply dolled up 15. And I'm a nice old man stumbling through life. And they laugh at my jokes, and they get older, same thing. In this case, I was wrong. So for 18,000 people have applied to be adopted. And I've adopted about 400 people and the program's whole 100 coaches and just give everything to people. And the only rules are, it's all free. You just give something to somebody else. And you have been generous. In all that time. There's so much material available on internet. Everything is absolutely complimentary. Oh, by the way, I'm doing a new course. It's going to be out very soon. I'm very proud of I think it's got 50 different videos and courses and all kinds of stuff. And coaching.com helped me develop it and I'm giving it all away. Thank you for being so generous. Marshall, if God appeared in front of you, what question would you ask him? I wouldn't I just make two words. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much, Marcel, an absolute pleasure having you here. So much to learn from you. Just by your sheer presence, the clarity the boys, piece that you bring in. Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you so much for inviting me. Thank you
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