Marshall Goldsmith’s advice for leaders
can help your business grow
By Bob Rosner
Costco member Marshall Goldsmith: Even very
successful people can have behavior that needs changing.
Have you ever dreamed of having your reward. The more successful people are, the change their behaviors. Most research shows
own high-priced executive coach? more positive reinforcement they tend to get. that the opposite is more likely to be true. If
Someone who could give you sage When people tell us we are wonderful and you change a person’s behavior, they’re likely
advice for all those issues that keep you up send us lots of money, we can become very to change their attitude.
late at night? Well, dream no further. afraid of changing our behavior. We may often For example, if you demonstrate positive
Marshall Goldsmith, whom Forbes Ma- have a very deep fear: “If I change my behav- behavior, you are much more likely to
gazine called one of the top five executive ior, all of this great stuff may disappear!” develop a positive attitude. If you allow your-coaches, is waiving his normal $100,000 fee CC: Give us a strategy for figuring out self to exhibit negative behavior, you will be
to give you advice for free. In addition to his what behaviors we should change. much more likely to have a bad attitude.
coaching, Goldsmith is the co-founder of the MG: All of the people that I work with, We measure the change with each of
Financial Times Knowledge Dialogue and no matter how successful, can break their our clients. We don’t get paid if they don’t
the co-editor of Coaching for Leadership behavior into two categories. One category is get better!
and Learning Journeys. We sat down with the “because of” category. As I mentioned, CC: Have executives actually changed
Goldsmith to get some coaching tips that this [behavior] often [can be described by] their behaviors?
Costco members can take to work. words such as smart, dedicated, etc. The other MG: Definitely! But even more impor-
Costco Connection: Can you describe category is the “in spite of” category. Each of tantly, when the people at lower levels see the
your typical coaching client? us has something in the “in spite of” column. people at the top focused on self-improve-
Marshall Goldsmith: Many of the peo- CC: What is the most surprising thing ment, they are much more likely to do the
ple I’m asked to coach have the same profile: that you’ve discovered in your 20 years as an same thing.
smart, dedicated, hardworking, driven to executive educator? CC: As an executive coach you have an
achieve, entrepreneurial, creative, financially MG: I’d been in the leadership-develop- interesting perspective on leadership. How
independent, high in integrity, care about cus- ment business for 10 years before anybody are leaders, and leadership, changing?
tomers and care about the company. Along asked me the great question “Does anybody MG: Being the CEO of a major corpora-with all of their positive qualities, they often ever really change?” I looked at this guy and tion is no longer the most coveted job in the
fall into a trap. The trap is: “I behave this replied, “I’m embarrassed to say, my honest United States. Most young people don’t see
way; I am successful. Therefore I must be answer to your question is ‘I don’t know.’ being a corporate executive as their career
successfulbecause Ibehavethisway.” What’s even more amazing is that I’ve aspiration. The status of the small busi-
Wrong! Many of the successful people worked with many of the best companies in nessperson has gone up. The entrepreneur,
that I coach, like all humans, have behavior the world, and nobody has ever asked!” For the innovator, the creator is more valued and
that needs to change. For example, many of the last 10 years I’ve been answering this appreciated today.
us are successful in spite of being stubborn, question. I now know who gets better, who I think that corporate executives are trying
opinionated and never wanting to admit that doesn’t get better, why they get better and to become more like small-business owners.
we are wrong. why they don’t get better. Today’s executives have to demonstrate the
CC: What other traps do successful peo- The reason people get better is not same personal commitment, willingness to
ple fall into? because they sit in classes or because they change and focus on customers that small-busi-
MG: Surprisingly, successful people are have a smart coach. They get better because ness owners have always had to live with! C
often more superstitious than unsuccessful of what they actually do back on the job.
people. Superstition is simply the confusion of CC: Pardon me for being so skeptical, but
correlation with causality. Any human—in is it really possible to change behaviors? Bob Rosner is the author of the bestseller The
fact, any animal—will tend to repeat behavior MG: A common belief is that you have to Boss’s Survival Guide (McGraw Hill, 2001).
that is followed by positive reinforcement and change people’s attitudes before they’ll Reach him at Bob@RetentionEvangelist.com.
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