About Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has a Ph.D. from UCLA, started off as a Professor and Dean, and then started doing classes and leadership talks for top-notch CEOs across the globe. He has been ranked as the No.1 Executive Coach in the World and a Top Ten Business Thinker for many years.
He is the only two-time winner of the Thinkers 50 Award for the #1 Leadership Thinker in the World. Dr. Goldsmith is the author and editor of 41 books, including 3 New York Times bestsellers, that have sold over 2.5 million copies and have been listed bestsellers in 12 countries. He has also recently launched a wonderful 100 coaches program.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Marshall Goldsmith today to our interview series. I’m Nayan Jadeja from the peopleHum team. Just a quick intro of peopleHum - peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with AI and automation technologies.
We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Welcome, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith.
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
Oh, thank you so much for inviting me. I love to work in India. In fact, I'm supposed to be in India now before this happened, and I've been there about 40 times. India is my favorite place to work in the entire world.
People there have a wonderful attitude towards teachers, toward knowledge. And, you know, I'm a kind of a student of various Eastern philosophies. And so I do love working in India. And again, my favorite place to work for the people!
Awesome! Great! Yeah.
So, Dr Marshall, you know what we would like to talk about today, is essentially, this is meant for young leaders who are embarking on their leadership journey or are midway through that journey or are mostly very high achievers who have done exceptionally well earlier in their career and kind of transitioning into a leadership position o a leadership role. So we would love to see what advice would you give that can help them transition, in this journey
Well, I'm gonna give you several suggestions. I'm going to send you several articles, so everyone who listens can see the articles. I give away all my material. You may copy, share, download, duplicate, use in your business, nonprofit. Please use any of my material anyway that you wish. So I do like to give everything away.
So the first one I'm going to talk about is called Problems of the Super Smart. I wrote an article about this. Many of your listeners are very bright people making that transition from being technical achievers to leaders. Thus, to begin with, this is a very difficult transition. Why? Well, I know how competitive it is in India.
Getting into school is hard, very, very competitive. And you know, these young leaders we’re talking about, in your lives, you have taken test after test after test after test and you've had one goal, prove how smart you are, over and over and over. You have tried to prove how smart you are. When you make a transition, to be a leader, you need to learn to stop doing that. You need to really focus on other people and helping them be great successes. For the great individual achiever, it might be all about ME, for the great leader, it's all about THEM.
Now, every time you get promoted in your life, this will become more and more true. At the first line level, you typically are still going to need to be both an achiever and a leader. At the CEO level, you have to let go of individual achievement and really focus on being a leader. I had the privilege of spending 50 days with the great Peter Drucker.
Peter Drucker the world's greatest authority on management. Although I got ranked number one leadership thinker in the world, his intellect compared to mine, I was a 10-year-old compared to him. Very brilliant, very brilliant man. He taught me many lessons.
In the new world, people manage knowledge workers. What is the definition of a knowledge worker? They know more about what they're doing than their manager does, and at the CEO level with the people I coach, then ultimately that's where you end up, If you know more about marketing than the marketing person, more about finance than the finance person, more about HR than the HR person, you don't have a leadership problem, you have selected the wrong staff. So as a young leader you need to be comfortable with people who know more than you.
So as a young leader you need to be comfortable with people who know more than you
People who are more technically gifted than you. And also as a young leader, you need to make a very difficult existential decision. That's this, ‘do I really want to be a leader? Do I really want to be a leader or do I want to be an engineer, a technician, an IT person?’ And there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a technical achiever at all. The point is, you can't do both at the same time.
Every time you get promoted, that technical knowledge is going to go down and down and down, those young engineers, they're gonna know more than you do. And you're the bright one today, and they're going to be the bright one tomorrow, and you're gonna have to make peace with that. So you're gonna have to make a decision. Do you really want to go into leadership? And you need to want to go for the right reasons, just getting paid more is not reason enough.
Do you really want to go into leadership? And if you do, then you have to make a big change. Quit making it about yourself, quit making it about how smart you are and clever you are, quit trying to prove you know everything, and be really focused on developing people who technically know far more than you. By the way, this is very interesting and easy to understand in theory, it's very difficult in practice.
Yes, absolutely. I can kind of relate as well.
So what would you say are typical classical problems that these young achievers will face as they try and move more into a leadership role?
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
I was interviewed in the Harvard Business Review and asked a question... "What is the number one problem with all those successful people that you worked with in terms of leadership?’, and my answer was winning too much." I was interviewed in the Harvard Business Review and asked a question, What is the number one problem with all those successful people that you worked with in terms of leadership?’, and my answer was winning too much.
What is the number one problem with all those successful people that you worked with in terms of leadership?’, and my answer was winning too much.
Now what does that mean? If it's important, we want to win, if it's meaningful, we want to win, and if it's critical, we want to win and if it's trivial, we want to win, and if it's not worth it, we want to win anyway.
Winners love winning. So your audience here is very smart young winners. It's hard for winners. I'm going to give you a case study of winning too much where almost all of my clients failed.
CASE STUDY NUMBER 1
You want to go to dinner at Restaurant X. Your wife, husband, friend or partner, wants to go to dinner at restaurant Y. Heated argument. You go to restaurant Y, it was not your choice. The food tastes awful and the service is terrible. You have two options
- You could critique the food, point out that your partner was wrong. This mistake could have been avoided If you listened to me!
- Shut up, eat the stupid food, try to enjoy it and have a nice evening.
Well, what would I do- “must critique the food!”, what should I do- “Shut up! look at the guilty face looking at me right now” Have you ever critiqued the food before, Yes or no? The answer is yes. That was smart or stupid?
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
Very stupid, very very stupid. I'm going to give you an example now that is so stupid, it will make that one pale by comparison. My guess is you've done this too.
CASE STUDY NUMBER 2
You have a hard day at work, a hard day. You go home, your wife, husband or partners here and the other person says, ‘I had such a hard day today, I had such a tough day’ and you reply, ‘You had a hard day? You had a hard day? Do you have any idea what I had to put up with today than you had a hard day today?’ And to be so competitive, we need to prove we are more miserable than the people we live with.
I gave this example in my class at Dartmouth Tuck school, and a young man raised his hand, he said, ‘I did that last week’. I asked him what happened, he said, ‘my wife looked at me, she said “Honey you just think you've had a hard day. It is not over.”
I got an email from a young man in my book “Triggers” and it is a very nice email. If any of you would ever send me such an email, it would make my day very happy. He said, “I want to send you an email today and say thank you,” he said, “I was in your class there at the Dartmouth Tuck school five years ago, and yesterday my wife called and I was busy and behind schedule and stressed out, and she started talking about how hard her day was. I was just getting ready to point out how her problems paled in significance to my own. I remembered your course and started breathing, and I thought, this is my wife, this is someone I love, this is not the enemy. I just said I love you. Thank you for everything you've done for the family.” And he said, “I went home. I spent $25 I bought her flowers, gave her the flowers, and said, I love you.” he said, “That was the best $25 I've ever spent.”
Well, as a young leader, before you speak, stop and breathe. Before you win, ask yourself, what am I winning?
Well, as a young leader, before you speak, stop and breathe. Before you win, ask yourself, what am I winning?
Now a second classy challenge of smart successful leaders is called Adding too much value. As a smart young person, it's hard not to do this- “adding too much value”. What does that mean? I'm young, smart, enthusiastic, I report to you and I come to you with an idea. I think it's a great idea rather than just saying a great idea, our tendency is to say “That is a nice idea, why don't you add this to it”
Well, the problem is, the quality of the idea may go up 5%, my commitment to execute the idea may go down 50%. It's no longer my idea, boss. Now it's your idea. Very difficult for smart, successful leaders not to constantly add value. Now one of the greatest leaders I've ever met in my life, I may talk about later, his name's Alan Mulally. Alan was the CEO of the year in the United States. I was Alan's coach. He was in the Ford Motor Company and the stock went from $1 to $18 and he had a 97% approval rating from every one of his employees. Amazing, amazing man.
Alan said when he was a young engineer and he went into management, his first employee quit. He kept turning in projects and Alan would have a red pencil and correct everything over and over and the employee finally said, ‘You're driving me crazy. You're a good engineer, but you're driving me crazy. I quit’. Well, Alan eventually became a great leader, he didn't start out as a great leader, though, and it's hard not to add value constantly.
One of my good coaching clients retired a few years ago, and his name is JP Garnier, he was the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline. I asked J P, ‘What did you learn about leadership as the CEO of this company?’ He said, ‘My suggestions become orders. If I say they are smart, they are orders, if they're stupid, they are orders. My suggestions become orders’. For nine years, I trained admirals in The New United States Navy. What's the first thing I used to teach the new admirals, is if you get that star, your suggestions become your orders. Admirals don't make suggestions. Because when admirals make suggestions, it becomes an order.
As a young leader, remember this, Every time you get promoted, more and more and more of your suggestions will become orders. More power you have, the more and more your suggestions will become orders, more and more people will do whatever you say. They're going to salute the flag. They're gonna go try to make it happen.
Every time you get promoted, more and more and more of your suggestions will become orders. More power you have, the more and more your suggestions will become orders, more and more people will do whatever you say. They're going to salute the flag. They're gonna go try to make it happen
In today's tough times, people need work.
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
They are afraid. They are highly unlikely to challenge their boss. You have to be very careful because the suggestions you make, (salutes) become orders. I asked my friend JP, ‘what did you learn from me when I was your coach?’ He said, ‘You taught me one lesson that helped me be a better leader and have a happier life’ and said, ‘before I speak, I breathe. And I ask myself one question. Is it worth it? Is it worth it? And as the CEO of this big company 50% of the time I find the discipline to stop and breathe and say, Is it worth it? What did I decide? Am I right? Maybe. Is it worth it? No.’
So as a young leader, before you speak, realize that performance is the function of
a) The quality of the idea x b) What is their commitment to making it work
And when we add too much value, that means the quality may go up a little, but your commitment may go down a lot.
So, really before you speak, ask yourself, is my comment going to improve their commitment? If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, breathe again, is it worth it? Sometimes it is anyway, but not always.
So, really before you speak, ask yourself, is my comment going to improve their commitment? If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, breathe again, is it worth it? Sometimes it is anyway, but not always
Now, at home, everything also applies at home, before you speak at home, breathe. “Is my comment going to improve this relationship with the person I love. If the answer is no, why am I saying it?”. If you have to ask at work about half the time, it's not worth saying! If you have to ask at home, it is almost never worth saying.
Yep, great advice, both at work and in your life! So thank you.
One of the other challenges, you know, potentially young leaders, they're obviously not running these companies, but oftentimes they have to work with other brilliant people who they might not have a direct line of authority, so to say. But they have to figure out, how do they influence them outside of that! So how would you say they can go about doing that?
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
This is a very important question, and obviously, when you're younger, you don't run the company. You know, other people are gonna have most of the power, not you. So how do you influence people when you do not have direct line authority? I'm going to share lessons that were shared with me, again by the great Peter Drucker. He taught me this, and I'll try to do my best to teach this to you.
Learning point #1 - Our mission in life is to make a positive difference not to prove that we're smart and not to prove that we're right.
Our mission in life is to make a positive difference not to prove that we're smart and not to prove that we're right
We get so wrapped up proving how smart we are, how right we are, we forget we're not here in life to prove we're smart. We are here to make a positive difference.
Learning point #2- Every decision in life is made by the person who has the power to make the decision, make peace with that. Not the smartest person or the most logical person or a fair person. Decisions are not made based on logic or rationality or fairness or goodness. Decisions are made based on one and only one variable, power.
Every decision in life is made by the person who has the power to make the decision, make peace with that. Not the smartest person or the most logical person or a fair person. Decisions are not made based on logic or rationality or fairness or goodness. Decisions are made based on one and only one variable, power
Whoever has the power to make the decision will make the decision, that's life.
The next learning point, if I need to influence you and you have the power to make the decision, there's one word to describe you, customer, there's one word to describe me, salesperson. The customer does not have to buy, the salesperson has to sell.
As a young leader, you sell what you can sell and change what you can change. If you can sell it, you sell it. If you can change it, you change it. If you cannot sell it and you cannot change it, you take a deep breath and you let it go.
You never stab your boss in the back in front of your direct reports. Why? If you stab your boss in the back in front of your direct reports, what are you teaching your direct reports to do when they disagree with you? You're teaching them to stab you in the back. If we say bad things about our parents in front of our children, what are we teaching our children to do? We're teaching our children to say bad things about parents.
Well, very important, as a young leader, you recognize this isn't your show. You influence what you can in the most positive way you can. You're not there to critique upper management, you're not there to point out you're smarter than everyone. You change what you can change and you make peace with what you cannot change.
Before you deal with any topic in life, ask yourself one question and this is in my book ‘Triggers’, ‘Am I willing at this time to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic’. If the answer is yes, you go for it, by the way, even if it's a big dream, you go for it. Mahatma Gandhi, he went for it. But he was making a positive difference. He wasn't just making ego points. Am I willing at this time to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic? If the answer is yes, you do it. If the answer is no, let it go. Don't waste your time talking about stuff, you're not gonna change anyway.
You change what you can change and you make peace with what you cannot change
By the way, Donald Trump doesn't care about you. You're not gonna change Donald Trump. You aren’t going to change, Mr. Modi there. Those people don't care about you. Ahh...and focus on what you can change. Not all this nonsense that you're not gonna change anyway.
Right! Very true!
So, Marshall, you are a great executive coach, and I would be curious, do you have a technique or two to share for young leaders on how they could potentially be a coach for their team members?
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
Yes, I do. I'm going to share this with you. And it's a very practical, proven technique that leaders can use at all levels, by the way. I've done this as a coach with CEOs and have coached seven CEOs in using this process and taught them how to do it. And I don't get paid if my clients don't get better and all seven got better by using this, I got paid seven times, so it's an amazing process. It's very simple. It's very good, especially during times of crisis like this. I'm gonna talk about how to use it but especially how to use it during times of crisis like today.
Six basic questions. Sit down with your direct reports and have a one on one dialogue that focuses on six basic questions.
1) Where are we going?
I'd say, look, here's where I see the larger organization going, that would be you as a leader and everyone you manage and then ask a personal question, ‘where do you think we should be going?’
2) Where are you going?
I see, here's where I see you and your part of the business going. Then ask a second question, ‘Where do you think we should be going?’
3) Doing well?
Here's what I think, you and your part of the business are doing very well on the positive side. And then ask a good question, ‘what do you think you're doing well, what are you most proud of?’ This is a very good question to ask, because sometimes as a leader, you don't realize what other people have done. And then I say, ‘you know, I spent all weekend working on this project. We thought it would help you. I'm so happy and, the way it worked out’. You might say,’Thank you. I didn't understand that. I didn't appreciate it. I want to recognize people for this.’
4) Suggestions for the future?
And I always suggest something called feed-forward more than feedback. You can't change the past anyway. Rather than humiliate people by talking about all they did wrong, just say, moving forward, here are some positive ideas I have for the future for you. And then ask a personal question. ‘If you were the coach for you, what ideas might you have for yourself?’ A very good coaching question, and then they may come up with better ideas than you have.
5) How can I help?
‘You know as your manager, what can I do to help you be the best as possible?’
6) What ideas and suggestions might you have for me to work on for the future?’
Six various very simple questions. The key to making this work could be summarized in a term called mutual responsibility. If I'm managing you, I would say, you know, on a regular basis I'm going to go through these six basic questions with you to make sure that we're aligned and everyone's in agreement.
If at any time you feel a lack of clarity, if it any time you feel overcommitted, not sure what's most important, I want you to take the responsibility to talk to me, because if I do my job on a regular basis and you do your job in between, there's no reason we should have any issues with lack of alignment, lack of clarity, unclear vision. We should be very well aligned.
And one other thing, especially during a period of crisis. I'm not going to say that the strategy today is going to be the strategy next week. Things may change very quickly. Here's an important point. I want you to have a clear strategy at any one point in time. At any point in time, I want you to have very great clarity on what's important now, what are we focusing on now, what are the issues now, and realize this may change.
Yeah, true. Marshall, you've obviously coached, and a lot of CEOs have had the benefit of having you as a coach.
Now, obviously, a lot of young leaders, you know, do not have that benefit. So how can they go about without having a coach? You know, learning or gaining that kind of learning experience?
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
Well, I mean to start with for me, I have over 300 videos online at my website- Marshall Goldsmith.com, which I give away. I'm giving away this talk so, you know, I give away all kinds of things to people. I'm old, and my mission is to make the biggest positive difference I can make in the limited time I have left to do it.
Most of what my coaching clients learn, they don't learn from me, they learned from everyone around them, their key stakeholders. It's called stakeholder centered coaching. And how does this process work? Well, you know, all my clients get confidential feedback from their co-workers, and I think confidential feedback is a great idea. I'm sure your company has formed if not, you can get it online. It's not that hard to do, and it's not very expensive. You can get confidential feedback from everyone on how they see you as a leader.
Then after you receive this feedback, you know, discuss it. You don't have to discuss the details, discuss the big points of what you learn with your manager. You might say, "Mr. Manager, here's what I've learned. I feel good about this, I want to get better at that” and then make sure your manager agrees. Then I would pick one or two key areas for improvement, for example, listening, and then go back and have a dialogue with each of your co-workers, could be peers, could be direct reports or management.
That sounds like this, you know, “Mr co-worker, I got this feedback and I feel really positive about a lot of it, and I want to thank everybody for participating and I don't know who said what, many people said also nice things, I am grateful and there are some things I want to do better, one is I want to be a better listener. If I have not listened to you or the other people, I'm sorry, please accept my apologies. There's no excuse.”
Now you can't change the past and say, 'You know I can't change the past, so I'm not going to ask you for more feedback about the past. I need to ask you for feedforward, ideas for the future. Please give me ideas that in the future if I were to be a better listener what can I do to be a better listener from your perspective?”. Whatever the person says, you sit there. You shut up. You're listening. You take notes and you say thank you. You don't judge and critique, you don't judge and critique!
Then, you don’t promise to do everything. Leadership is not a popularity contest, you say, ‘you know, Mr co-worker, I can't promise to do everything everyone says, but I can promise to listen and think of these ideas and do what I can. I can't change the past, I’ll change the future. Can I get better at everything? I can certainly get better at this one thing and if you do not mind, I'm going to involve you and ask you to help me get better.’
And then the key to making this work is over time you have to follow up on a regular basis. You'd say, ‘Mr. Coworker, two months ago I said I want to be a more effective listener, based on the last two months, give me ideas on the next two months.’ Four months, six months, eight months, but what happens if you do this? Well, we've got a study which I'm going to include in my package for you called Leadership’s Context Board.
This is research from 86,000 people around the world. And people who do this, get better. people who don't, don't. And they don’t get better because they go to a class or listen to a speech to actually have to do the hard work. And, by the way, scores in India are among the highest scores in the world. So this is something that works very, very well in India with a lot of research behind it.
You know, right now, we're obviously all going through the very tough pandemic times. What specific advice would you give leaders, especially young leaders, to lead in this time of crisis?
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
I'm gonna now share some learnings from an interesting parable I read called the Gita (Hindu Bible). If you're into the Gita, one of the great points Do not become attached to the end results of what you're doing
Do not become attached to the end results of what you're doing
This is very wise advice. Do not become attached to the end results of what you're doing. You do not have control over the end results. And that has never been more obvious than it is today. You did not create this virus. You have nothing to do with this virus yet it is impacting your life. You don't get attached to the end results.
Now, in Gita, the protagonist has two choices, bad and worse. Bad choice, worst choice. He's complaining, poor me, life isn't fair. What is he told? “Make a decision and do your best. You make a decision and you do your best.”
Well, this is great advice for today. The choices today are not always going to be good. You're gonna need to make a decision and you're gonna need to do your best. And sometimes you're gonna make the wrong decision. You're going to do what you think is right at the time and you're gonna do your best, that's all you can do!
You're going to do what you think is right at the time and you're gonna do your best, that's all you can do!
Now I want you to imagine, a golfer. I'm not a golfer, my friend Mark, a writer, who writes books with me is a golfer. You're a golfer, you're playing for the Country Club Championship. You had a beautiful drive down the fairway. There's a group of people in front of you who are very annoying, drinking beer, loud. Your beautiful drive straight down the fairway, there’s a can that's been left on the fairway and it careens over into the rough. Now you have a terrible drive. You are so angry.
‘Those idiots left a can on the fairway. My drive was perfect. This isn't fair.’ You're very angry. You walk toward the ball. What does a great golfer have to learn to do? Let go of the beer can and let go of the anger. Let go of the drive. You walk to the ball, let it go.
Develop a strategy. Your strategy may be, 'Well, I'm one shot behind. I'm going for the championship. I don't care. I'm gonna go for the green’. Low chance, go in for it. Your strategy maybe, ‘I'm three shots ahead, no problem so I’ll just as pitch into the fairway and still win’. You develop a strategy. Whatever it is, you develop a strategy. Then you walk to the ball, you focus and you hit the shot that is in front of you.
You don't think about winning the tournament, you don't fixate on the outcomes, you don't blame the person for the past. You make peace with what it is and you hit the shot in front of you. It's all in life you can ever do. Get the shot in front of you. You develop a strategy, you're clear on the strategy and you hit the shot in front of you.
You gotta let go of the past. You can't get distracted with the news, with all this nonsense, you can't let it drive you crazy. All you could do at any second in time is hit that shot that's in front of you.
One of the great leaders in my 100 coaches group and in my group, we have a special group in India now. One of the great leaders in our group was named Harry Kraemer and was the CEO of a large drug company called Baxter International. Harry was asked a hard question, ‘As a leader you’ve had to lay off people, you’ve had to fire people, you’ve had to make hard decisions. How do you sleep with yourself at night, knowing you've had to do things that actually hurt people?’ Harry said, 'I asked myself two questions.
Question number one, ‘Did I do what I thought was the right thing at the time? Maybe it wasn't the right thing, but I thought it was.’ and then...
Question number two, ‘Did I do my best? Now the answer is yes, I did what I thought was right, and I did my best. That's all I could do.’
As a young leader, he had to make peace. In your career, you will be called to be asked to make hard decisions.
My friend Alan, who was the CEO Of The Year in the United States, was the head of Boeing commercial aircraft forward when they were bankrupt. He probably had to lay off in his life, 50,000 people. He's had to make hard decisions. How does he sleep at night? Did I do what I thought was right? And did I do my best? The answer is yes and yes, take a deep breath, sleep at night, and be at peace. You've done all that you can do. As a leader, you're gonna have to make sometimes hard decisions, tough decisions.
It's a message from the Gita. Did I do the right thing? Did I do my best? That's all you can do.
A final question. A lot of the things that you've mentioned, and especially for young leaders, it becomes, you know, how do you separate the professional life from the personal life? So how do some of these things apply in their personal life as well or what advice would you give them?
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
Well, you know, when my daughter Kelly was 11 years old and my son Brian was nine years old, I began asking my children a question. A question we as parents don't ask enough. "And as a young leader, when you have children, it's very good to learn this question. What can I do to be a better parent?"
And as a young leader, when you have children, it's very good to learn this question. What can I do to be a better parent?
How can I, in my case, be a better father? The problem with asking this question is, you get the answer.
My daughter Kelly was 11 and she said, ‘Daddy, you travel a lot, that's not what bothers me. What bothers me is the way you act when you come home, you talk on the phone, you watch sports. You do not spend much time with me’. And she said, ‘One time it was Saturday and I wanted to go to a party at my friend's house and Mommy did not let me go to this party, had to stay home and spend time with you.’ And then she said, 'you spent not too much time with me, that was not right.’
Well, what can I say? Thank you. Daddy must do better. I said. ‘You know, Daddy's going to try to measure how many days I can spend four hours with my family?' I measure it every day. 1991 - 92 days, 1992 - 110 days, 1993 - 131 days, 1994 - 135 days. I made more money the year I spent 135 days, four hours with my family than the years I spent 20 days.
What did I learn? The San Diego Chargers American football team really didn't care about me. It took me a while to figure that out now. Now it's January-1-1995, both my children are teenagers. Daddy is proud. I have my little charts, I said, ‘Kids look 135 days with Daddy. What goal this year? How about 150’. They were like, ‘No, no, no, Daddy, no, no. You have overachieved.’
My son said '50 is much better'. Well, they both voted for a massive cutback of Daddy. I learned a good lesson-When they're little, it's important to do this because 'THEY NEED US'. When they get older, it's important for a different reason ‘WE NEED THEM’.
When they're little, it's important to do this because 'THEY NEED US'. When they get older, it's important for a different reason ‘WE NEED THEM’
And today you might be young and have young children. One day, you won’t be young. We need them.
I was teaching this class for a company called the Kaiser Permanente Company, a very large hospital firm in California, and a woman named Trudy raised her hand and she said, ‘I've been in your class twice. I've read everything you've ever written. Please ask people to do this with their parents.’
And she said, “I went to your class when my daughter was 17 years old. I asked my daughter, ‘What can I do to be a better mother?’ We had such a nice talk. Then my daughter asked me, 'How can I be a better daughter?’ Well, that was so sweet. We had a good talk. I should call my mother and said, ‘what can I do to be a better daughter?' and my mother said, ‘Daddy is dead. I live alone in the country. Every day, I take a long walk up the road to the mailbox and almost every day the mailbox is empty. Every day I feel so lonely and sad. It would mean so much to me, as your mother, if you just send me a little picture card or something. So when I walk to the mailbox, I would find something in my mailbox.”
She started sending her mother little pictures and cards every day. What did this cost her? Nothing. What did this mean to her mother? Everything.
She sent me an email three years later and said my mother just died. The last thing her mother told her was, ‘Thank you for doing that’. If your parents are still alive, this is a very nice thing to do for three reasons.
- It is good for them. Even if they say you have nothing to improve, they will be proud that you cared enough to ask.
- It is good for you. What is the number one regret children have when our parents die? Why didn't I thank them for all the nice things they did to help me. Why was I always judging them?
- If you do have little children, this is good for your little children. Why? Do you know the old people that you're calling up on the telephone? You're gonna be the old people. Do you want your child to call you up on the telephone? Your little child is not gonna listen to what you say, Mom and Dad, your little child's gonna watch what you do. Our values are not what we say, they are what we do.
Our values are not what we say, they are what we do
Now, my final advice for everyone is to take a deep breath. Imagine that you're 95 years old and you're just getting ready to die! Right before you take the last breath, you give your beautiful gift, the ability to go back in time and talk to the persons listening to me right now. The ability to help that person be a better leader. Even more important, help that person have a better life.
What advice would that wise old person have for the ‘you’ that's listening to me right now. I have some friends of mine that ask a lot of people that question who are dying. What are the answers from old people facing death? On the personal side, three things-
- Be happy now, not next week, not next month, not next year. Be happy now! You are in Bangalore, the great western disease has pretty much taken over India. What is the great western disease? I will be happy when I get the money, the status, the BMW, the condominium. I will be happy when.. exactly the opposite advice of the Gita. I will be happy when we all have exactly the same win. That old person facing death is when. Learning points from old people- I got so busy chasing what I did not have, I could not see what I did have when I had almost everything. Don't get so busy chasing what you do not have that you cannot see what you do have.
Don't get so busy chasing what you do not have that you cannot see what you do have
- Great advice for young leaders, friends and family. You're very smart people, I'm sure, but don't get so focused on climbing the corporate ladder that you forget the people who love you. Don't sacrifice your friends, your family with the corporate God. It's not worth it.
- If you have a dream, go for it. Because if you don't go for it when you're 28, you may not when you're 38, you probably will not when you're 88. It doesn't have to be a big one, maybe a small one. Go to New Zealand, speak Spanish, play guitar. Other people think your dream is goofy. Who cares? It's not their dream, it's your dream. It's not their life, it's your life.
All people that try to achieve their dreams are almost always happier with their lives. None of us achieve all our dreams. If we do, we just make up new ones. The point is not, ‘did I achieve my dreams?’ The point is, ‘did I even try?’
Business advice is not much different.
- Life is short. Have fun. If you think you're going to enjoy being a leader that's meaningful for you, the results are very important, and you have joy in the process, Do it. If you're only doing it to get promoted and you're miserable, it's not worth it. Money is not worth it. So number one, Be happy now and before you go into leadership, have a career in leadership, ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want in life? There is a price, do I want to pay that price to be a leader?’
- It's people. In a leadership role, do whatever you can to help people, and the main reason to help people has nothing to do with money or status for getting ahead. It's much deeper. The 95-year-old you will be proud if you did and disappointed if you don't.
And if you don't believe this is true, I've interviewed many CEOs who retired and asked a question, ‘what's important, what mattered’. None told me how big their office was. Then we talked about the people at work. Final advice, go for it.
Your world is changing, leadership is changing. Do what you think is right, you may not win, at least you tried. Old people, we almost never regret the risk we take and fail. We always regret the risk we failed to take.
Old people, we almost never regret the risk we take and fail. We always regret the risk we failed to take
And finally, it's been my honor to make this little tape for you. My mission in life is pretty simple. It's to help you have a better life and maybe help the people around you have a little better life. I feel very lucky to work with young people, you have a great life in front of you, a career. Hopefully, you can use a little bit of what I said in the years ahead to be maybe a better leader, have a better life, be a little happier, and then influence others down the road, so the same thing is true for them.
So finally thank you so much for inviting me to talk with everyone. It's my honor. Thank you very much.
Absolutely, a great honor. And thank you. Thanks a lot. I think I'm sure this is gonna influence everyone and we heard some great practical advice. Thank you very much and have a great day and stay safe.
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
Thank you so much