Entelechy Speaks to Marshall Goldsmith about Coaching

I’ve had the pleasure and honor to meet some of the world’s greatest leaders and leadership gurus, from Sir Richard Branson, General Tommy Franks, and Captain Mike Abrashoff to Dr. Warren Bennis, Dr. Henry Mintzberg, and Tom Peters. And I get paid to do it! Through our work with Linkage Inc., we help support their broadcasts of these famous people by designing and developing participant and facilitator guides that many clients use to turn a 90-minute presentation into a true learning and growth opportunity.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Marshall Goldsmith, world authority in helping successful leaders get even better by achieving positive change in behavior: for themselves, their people, and their teams. His newest best-seller, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, has sold over a million copies in two months!

In his coaching, Goldsmith emphasizes the importance for successful leaders to first have a realistic view of their own successes before attempting change in themselves or in others. Goldsmith bluntly states, “One reason that it is hard for successful people to change is that successful people are (in a positive way) delusional.” Successful people, Goldsmith has found, often ascribe their success directly to themselves and their behaviors. Successful people, sometimes to their peril, believe:

1) I am successful.
2) I act a certain way.
3) Therefore, I am successful because I act a certain way.

In reality, asserts Goldsmith, successful people may have achieved success in spite of their behavior! And that behavior may be preventing them from moving ahead.

What are the most common sins, the most common leadership bad habits? Goldsmith identifies these 20:

1. Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations.
2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our 2 cents to every discussion.
3. Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
4. Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us witty.
5. Starting with NO, BUT, HOWEVER: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone that I’m right and you’re wrong.
6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.
9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to give praise and reward.
11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
14. Playing favorites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

Once leaders have a realistic perspective on their behavior – behaviors that account for their success and behaviors that are impeding the leader from “getting there” – these leaders are poised to help themselves and help others break through their performance ceilings.

In addition to helping the already successful leader achieve breakthrough performance personally, Marshall Goldsmith’s eight-step approach for behavioral coaching enhances the leader’s ability to coach and interact with their employees. His approach allows leaders to determine the desired behavior of someone in their position, to interact with their stakeholders to get opinions and feedback on their performance and expectations, and to repeat the process to achieve specific goals and for continual growth. In doing so, Goldsmith tackles the “delusion” and creates an environment safe for constructive criticism – Goldsmith calls it “feedforward” – and development.

Marshall’s approach – by his own admission – is neither earth-shattering or innovative. So why then do CEOs and other leaders retain Marshall for hundreds of thousands of dollars an engagement and why do over a million readers describe his latest book as “life-altering” and “a must-read”? It’s because Marshall Goldsmith practices what he preaches; he is the coach’s coach, the leader’s leader. He is forthright, up-front, and brutally honest.

And he’s quite successful. His success, Goldsmith explains, is due to the fact that he only selects clients who are willing to take a hard look at themselves and change. While many of us at the front-line and supervisory level don’t have the luxury of coaching only those who we know will change, we CAN focus our attention on those who are more willing instead of naturally focusing on those who are less willing.

Many of the principles in Marshall’s approach to coaching and change mirror those that form the foundation for Entelechy’s developmental coaching. Our model is used by managers and supervisors to develop the capabilities and confidence of their employees. Marshall’s approach helps people change themselves; Entelechy’s approach helps people develop others. Yet, both recognize that:

1) People may not have an accurate perception of their behavior and the impact of their behavior; another perspective is valuable.
2) People do not naturally seek and accept feedback. It’s against our nature to set ourselves up for criticism.
3) Even when they seek it, people often react defensively to feedback regardless of how “nicely” it was delivered or how “helpful” the deliverer’s intentions. People will naturally defend or explain why they did what they did.
4) Most people, given guidance and perspective, will know how to improve themselves and their performance.

Marshall’s approach to creating behavioral change in executives and other leaders is a journey in assessment, prioritization, action, and re-assessment. Leaders must seek feedback from others, identify and prioritize the changes needed, act on the most important change, and ask others if they’ve noticed the change.

If you want to improve your leadership capability, read Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. For less than $30, you can learn the same lessons for which CEOs gladly pay hundreds of thousands of dollars! Or, visit his website for free articles on coaching and leadership: http://www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com.

Terence R. Traut is the president of Entelechy, Inc., a company that helps organizations unlock the potential of their people through customized coaching training programs. Terence can be reached at 603-424-1237 or ttraut@unlockit.com.