Coaching Techniques and Mindset from Marshall Goldsmith

Reading Time: 29 Minutes

What does it take to be a world class business coach or mentor?

In this episode, you’ll learn specific techniques that Marshall Goldsmith uses to coach some of the world’s top executives. You’ll also discover Marshall’s personal and professional mindset, which has led to massive results and abundance for himself and his clients.

After the Interview

About Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith is the author of the bestsellers What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and Triggers. In addition to executive coaching, he’s also a professor, author, and speaker.

Marshall Goldsmith is the author of the bestsellers What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and Triggers. In addition to executive coaching, he’s also a professor, author, and speaker.

Read the Transcript

Who Is Marshall Goldsmith?

Allison Dunn: Welcome to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am your host, Allison Dunn, and today we have the awesome author and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith.

Marshall is consistently ranked among the top executive coaches in the world. I’m super just honored to be able to have time with you today.

Some of its other accolades include her.

Marshall: Thank you for asking me.

Allison: Absolutely. My pleasure.

You are the only person in the world to win the Thinkers50 Award for the #1 leadership thinker, twice.

He is also a professor, speaker and author. His books include one of my top book recommendations which is What Got You Here Won’t Get You There as well as Mojo, Triggers and I think dozens of others.

Marshall: 41.

Allison: 41 total. That’s incredible.

Marshall, thank you so much for joining.

Marshall: I have six bestsellers and the other 35 were purchased by my mother, my father, and assorted relatives.

Allison: We have to count on family to come through for us to make us look good. That’s awesome.

Marshall: Exactly.

Allison: Fantastic. One of the things that I love most about your book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is, it’s so incredibly relevant around the things that we need to learn to stop doing. Won’t you agree?

Marshall: Right.

Allison: Yes.

Marshall: Yes.

Peter Drucker taught me that. He said, “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do, we do not spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop.” He said,“Half the leaders I met, they don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.”

Well, that one suggestion led to the book.

Habits Leaders Need to Stop Doing

Allison: That’s fantastic. When you think about things that leaders need to stop doing, what are the top 4 or 5 habits that you would say that they just need to just stop doing?

Marshall: The number one in the book, I was interviewed in the Harvard Business Review and asked, “What’s the #1 problem of all the successful people you’ve worked with over the years?”

The answer was, “Winning too much.”

What does that mean?

If it’s important, we want to win. If it’s meaningful, we want to win. If it’s critical, we want to win. If it’s trivial, we want to win, and if it’s not worth it, we want to win it anyway. Winners love winning.

In the game of life, everyone I work with is a winner.

Allison: Right.

Marshall: Most people you work with are winners. It’s hard for winners not to constantly win.

A case study I use in my class is, you want to go to dinner at restaurant X. Your husband, boyfriend, or partner wants to go to dinner at restaurant Y. You have a heated argument. You go to restaurant Y. It’s not your choice, the food tastes awful, and the service is terrible.

Option A, you could critique the food. Point out your partner was wrong and this mistake could have been avoided had only you listened to me.

Or option B, shut up. Eat the stupid food, try to enjoy it, and have a nice evening.

What would I do? What should I do? Almost all my clients would what I do, take the food. What should I do? Shut up.

Well, it’s very hard for smart, successful people not to constantly go through life winning.

I have—Dartmouth, I was teaching my class and I gave this example. You have a hard day at work. You come home, your wife, husband, or partner says, “I had such a hard day.” If we’re not careful, we say,” You had a hard day. You have any idea what I had to put up with today? Do you think you had a hard day?”

We’re so competitive, we have to prove we’re more miserable than the people we live with.

I gave this example at Dartmouth.

Allison: Guilty.

Marshall: A young guy raised his hand. He said, “I did that last week.”

I asked him, “What happened? “

He said, “My wife looked to me, she said, “Honey, you just think you’ve had a hard day. It’s not over.”

Allison: I think we’ve all been.

Marshall: Very hard.

Second one is, adding too much value.

Allison: OK.

Marshall: I’m young, smart, enthusiastic, you’re my boss. I come to you with an idea. You think it’s a great idea. Rather than just saying, “Great idea.” Our natural tendency is to say, “Well, That’s a nice idea.“

Why don’t you add this to it?”

The problem is the quality of the idea that may go up this much, my commitment execution may go down that much. Why? It’s no longer my idea, boss. Now it’s yours.

Very hard for smart, successful people not to constantly go through like, adding too much value.

A lot of the bottom problems revolve around classic challenges as smart people have.

Smart people in your life, you’ve taken test after test. It’s very hard not to prove us where we are over and over again. We’ve been reinforced for doing this 1000s of times in our lives. It’s hard to stop doing.

Allison: I would agree with that on.

OK, it’s:

  • Adding too much value.
  • Being too smart.
  • Winning

What would be your fourth one, would you say?

Marshall: Too much judging.

Allison: Judging.

Marshall: Yes, too much judging other people. One thing I always try to teach is and it’s good for family, even more in work:

Help more, judge less.

Allison: I completely agree.

When to Stop Adding Value

Allison: I think I almost feel like some of those overlap a little bit. When you’re trying to encourage someone who likes to win, who’s highly competitive, who likes to add that extra value, What’s the balance of that for someone and how can we self recognize when it’s happening?

Because I think it’s almost a physiological thing you see in someone else that maybe we often don’t recognize.

Marshall: Well, very simple. I’m not going to give you an answer. I’m going to give you a question.

Allison: I love that.

Marshall: Before speaking, breathe and just ask a question, “Is it worth it?”

One of my coaching clients was JP Garnier. He was a CEO GlaxoSmithKline. I said, “What did you learn from me as your coach that helped you the most?”

He said, “You taught me one lesson that helped me be a better leader and have a happier life.”

I said, “What was it?”

He said, “Before I speak, breathe and just say, ‘is it worth it?’ ” He said, “As the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, 50% of the time, I have 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.

For nine years, I trained the Admirals in the US Navy, What’s the first thing I teach the admirals? When you get that star, your suggestions become orders. Admirals don’t give suggestions. They’re orders. You give a suggestion, “Oh, yes, sir.” They go do it.

Well, it’s very important to breathe and say, “Is what I’m saying really worth it as opposed to that instinct to just talk? “

Allison: I think in all circumstances before we ever respond to anything, we should all just breathe and think, is it worth it? Even if you’re not even adding value, right? Just a good life lesson.

Marshall: In my book, Triggers I have a great question to ask before you do with any topic.

Peter Drucker said, “Our mission in life is to make a positive difference, not to prove how smart we are. We are not to prove how right we are.

We get so lost in proving how smart and right we are, we forget we’re not here on earth to prove that we’re smart or right. We’re here to make a difference. Positive difference. Before you speak, breathe and ask yourself, “Am I willing at this time to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?” If the answer is, “Yes,” do it. The answer is, “No.” Let it go.

We waste so much of our lives on things we’re not going to change anyway.

An example of my condo in New York. One of my neighbors was young woman, Lindsay Lohan. Have you ever heard of Lindsay Lohan before?

Allison: Yes, I have.

Marshall: How many millions of hours have been wasted people reading that Lindsay Lohan got drunk. Lindsay Lohan got stoned when Lindsay Lohan was in a car wreck.

Well, don’t waste your life on Lindsay Lohan and Donald Trump and the athletic team and all that other nonsense.

You want to have a great life, live your own life.

What I always tell people is, if you ever think my neighbor Lindsay Lohan is a loser, remember one thing. She’s not wasting her life reading about you.

Allison: That is, yes. Too true, right.

How to Modify Behaviors That Aren’t Working

Allison: One of the things that I remember you speaking at a conference about and I don’t remember if it’s in reference to Triggers or “What got you here won’t get you there” is, how do you— What techniques do you use to modify behaviors that aren’t working for executives? What challenges do you give them that have been effective?

Marshall: Well, what I do is I interview everyone around my clients and I write very detailed report about what they’re doing well and what they need to do better. Confidential, 360 degree feedback, average of 18 key stakeholders in my case.

Then they pick What’s most important to improve. If they’re not the CEO, the CEO needs to approve it. If they are the CEO, the board needs to approve it.

Then they’re taught to talk to people and say, “One on one, I got this feedback. Thank you. Here’s what I feel great about. Thank you for the good comments. I don’t know who said what but I got a lot of good feedback.” Then, “Here’s what I want to get better at. “

For example, “I want to be a better listener.” Then they apologize. “If I haven’t listened to you, I’m sorry. Please accept my apologies, no excuse.” Don’t make excuses, just apologize.

Then feed forward as for how they can do better in the future, not feedback in the past.

Say, “I want to be a better listener in the future. Give me ideas to help me.”

Then whatever the person says, sit there, shut up, listen, take notes, say “thank you.” Don’t judge and critique. Then never promise to do everything people recommend because leadership is not a popularity contest.

I’d say, “Mr. co worker, I can’t do everything everyone says. I’m going to listen and follow up and do what I can. I can’t change everything. I get better at this and I’m going to follow up with you and ask you to help me get better.” Very simple process.

Then I teach people to follow up on a regular basis and as I said, I don’t get paid if they don’t get better.

Better is not judged by me or my client. It’s judged by everyone around my client.

Allison: Can I share a quick personal story with you about that–

Marshall: Sure.

Allison: Particular piece of feedback?

My husband and I were driving in his truck and I made several comments on the directions, the turn, the stop, and it was not contributing to the loveliness of our Sunday afternoon.

Once we arrived at the restaurant, he sat across from me and I was like, “Are you OK?” And he was not, he was very displeased with me.

I was so taken aback at. I thought I was right in all of the instances of what I’d pointed out because one was an emotional reaction, one was just a suggestion and whatever, right? Adding value.

Our compromise on that was, “Well, thank you for that feedback. I would like and ask if going forward at any time while driving in the car together, if I overstep that bound again, would you kindly pointed out so that I can be aware of it and will make me more aware going forward? “

Do you want to know how many times he’s had to say something to me in the last three years?

Marshall: How many?

Allison: Twice. That’s your one warning. This is your one warning and I’m like, OK, like I really didn’t understand it but I needed him to show me.

Marshall: Yes.

Allison: Yes.

Marshall: That’s good.

Allison: Yes.

Marshall: You know what? All those little directional corrections probably made three minutes difference. Who cares?

Allison: Truly. You know what? It’s just such wise advice hindsight, right?

Marshall: Yes. Let go.

Allison: Let it go.

Marshall: Let it go.

Allison: I love it.

How to Stop Saying “No,” “But” and “However”

Allison: One of the things that we talked about is, when to not as how to stop or start saying “No” but in however those like combination words.

Marshall: Right.

Allison: How do you suggest people reframe their thoughts so that it can be additive in a positive way?

Marshall: It is very important.

One of the great people I work with, General Eric Shinseki, head of the US Army, 4 star general.

We’re in a room surrounded by 2- to 4-star generals. He says to me, “Marshall, who is your favorite customer?” I said, “Sir, my favorite customer is smart, dedicated, hard working, driven to achieve, creative, entrepreneurial, cares about the company, and customers, great values, high integrity, is a stubborn, opinionated, know-it-all, and never wants to be wrong.” I said, “Sir, do you think any of the generals in this very room may fit such a description?”

He said, “Marshall, we have a target rich opportunity.”

Well, this is great for stubborn people. No but however, because if the first word of our mouth is “No,” what is that? Shut up your butt. What is but or however, we disregard everything you said.

As you know, I fine my clients $20 every time they do this and they give the money to charity. One of my clients is stubborn. I’m reviewing his view, but Marshall. I said, “20.”

He said, “No.”



60, 80, 100.

He lost $420 in an hour and a half. At the end of the hour and a half, he said, “Thank you.” He said, “I had no idea I did that 21 times with you throwing it in my face.” In an hour and a half, 21 times.

How many times were I done it, had you not been throwing that my face? 50 times. A 100 times.

He said, “No wonder people think I’m stubborn. “

He got so much better at being a good listener just learning that. People say, “Well, what should I start a sentence with?” Anything else. There’s only three words there:

  • No
  • But
  • However.

Skip those.

Allison: Hundreds of others.

Marshall: There are a lot of other words. 1000s of other words. Picks something else. Don’t use those.

Allison: Yes, That’s such good advice. Fining. Does that work? Fining people as a behavioral change?

Marshall: Yes. I fine my clients. I’ve raised over a million dollars for charity fining people for stuff.

Allison: That’s awesome.

Marshall: They hate losing money.

My clients, I charge them $20 for every cent. $20. These are rich people. See, not all but they’re mostly rich people anyway. Like 20 and the money goes to a charity they pick. One “s guy got 20 bucks, 40 bucks, 60 bucks. He goes, “This is expensive.”

I said, “Excuse me. You made 35 million bucks last year. There’s $20 to the homeless child. Shut up. “

 “You’re right. I’m going to give. Take 50.”

The worst story occurred in India. I’m coaching Mr. Geam Realm [Sysco 00:15:22]. I don’t fear been to Delhi but he built the airport there in Delhi, India. I’m coaching him and Bill Gates flew to India with Warren Buffett to talk rich people into giving money to the poor.

My friend Mr. Geam Rael makes it $340 million donation to poor people in India for charity. $340 million. Really generous man. 2 days later, I’m coaching. Same charity. He goes, “This is expensive.”

I said, “Excuse me, you donated 340 million bucks to the charity 2 days ago. Now you’re complaining about 20 bucks? What is wrong with you? “

Then he goes, “Oh, I forgot.”

Well, the difference is him in front of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and every newspaper in India, writing a check for 340 million bucks and giving it to charity. You know what that’s called? Winning.

20 bucks: losing. He doesn’t care about 20 bucks.

Allison: No.

Marshall: Grew about 340 million bucks. Don’t like to loose.

Allison: Oh, my goodness.

Marshall: Hard for winners to lose.

The Most Effective Way to Develop New Habits

Allison: I would—I can see that. Other than money, like the money game because I would consider that a game, right? You’re winning or losing one of that.

What are the most effective training techniques that you’ve used for your clients when trying to break bad habits or new habits I guess for that matter, I mean, it’s 2020 a year?

Marshall: Leave room feed forward. Everybody learns to ask for ideas for the future. In feed forward, you have to.

I did this in Russia by the way with 50,000 people in one Stadium. We did the experiential activity of feed forward. 50,000 people at once is amazing. It was in a football stadium and it worked. They loved it. That was feed forward work.

He learned to say, “My name is. I want to get better at. Please give me ideas. Tell me.”

Then he asked for ideas for the future, not feedback about the past. You don’t argue. You don’t put people down. You say thank you. When you treat it like a gift. If you give me a gift, should I say stinky gift, bad gift, I don’t like your gift? No. I say, “Thank you.” You have to use the gift. You always thank people for the gift.

My friend Barry Jolie is the CEO Best Buy. He was ranked #2 CEO in America last year.

He has every employee in the company do this. They are– He said any of them, you could say, “What do you want to get better at? “

“My name is Jim. I need to be better at. Please give me ideas.” It’s a great idea. It gets everybody out of that ego. We’re all trying to improve and help each other. I think it’s a really good idea.

Allison: I run engagement and leadership programs and one of the modules to that is giving and receiving feedback and it is amazing how many people truly have not received feedback and they’re really uncomfortable in giving it as a gift. Yes.

Marshall: Well, That’s why I like feed forward because feed forward is focused on the future.

Allison: Right.

Marshall: It’s not what you did wrong, it’s what you can do better.

Allison: Yes. I think it does give it a completely different perspective of going forward. How can I do better? Or what can I do to help the team, kind of thing? Yes, it’s beautiful.

Follow Up With People You’re Coaching

Allison: In under the management theme of my questions, you’ve shown through research that consistent follow through is essential for leadership training to actually improve a manager’s effectiveness. OK.

Marshall: Right.

Allison: What are the best ways that a leader can follow up with either their people that they supervise, their husband, or their coach to find out if those changes are– If they’re making the changes necessary?

Marshall: Well, let’s start with the family and then we’ll go to the work.

Allison: Good because I can take the family.

Marshall: The family dimension…

I always ask people in my classes, “Do you believe customer satisfaction is important?”

 “Oh, yes.”

 “Should we ask our customers for input?

 “Oh yes.”

 “Should we listen?”


Then I always say, “Have you been asking your husband or wife, ‘What can I do to be a better partner?’”

Total silence.

Well, it’s good to do a work and it’s better to do at home. Get in the habit of asking your husband or wife, “How can I be better?”

They may say, “Dear, you have no room for improvement.” But as you learn that’s highly unlikely.

Allison: Right.

Marshall: We’ve all got a little room for improvement there.

It’s good to do with your kids. My daughter Kelly was 11. My son Brian was 9. I began asking my children a question, “What can I do to be a better father?”

Probably asking the questions you get to answer my daughter. Kelly said, “Daddy, you travel a lot. That’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is the way you act when you come home, talk on the phone, you watch sports, you don’t spend time with me. You said one time it was Saturday and I wanted to go to party at my friend’s house and mommy didn’t let me go. Had to spend time with you but then “, she said, “You spend no time with me.”

That was right. What can I say? “Thank you.”

What happened is, I started measuring how many days has been 4 hours with my kids. 4 hours, no TV, no movies with the kids for interacting.

  • 1991, 92 days.
  • 1992, 110 days.
  • 1993, 131.
  • 1994, 135.

I made more money. There’s been 135 days for us with the family in years been 20 days. What I learned?

San Diego Chargers, they don’t care about me.

You make more money. I think That’s an important element to bring out that we work so hard constantly, right?

Reducing Time Spent on Low-Priority Activities

Allison: What is it about that shift that you believe created that energy or that flow for you in your business?

Marshall: Well, I mean…

I didn’t make more money because I spent lesss time with the family. The point is, the time I was spending with the family wasn’t time I was investing in business anyway.

It was just nonsense, watching sports or TV or some ridiculous, meaningless stuff, right? I just cut got rid of that and That’s what really made the difference.

I’m now very sensitive about how I spend my time and I had this daily question process, which we can talk about later but one of my daily questions is, the time I spend on low priority activities and every day, I started trying to figure out how can I avoid spending time on things that really, they don’t matter?

It’s so easy, like with the internet is the worst. Do you ever have that you go to Google, you’re going to look something up. Takes 3 minutes. 3 hours later, you’re still online. Do you know why you went online in first place?

All these little triggers is URLs. You’re zooming around here, you forgot why you went online in the first place. It’s very hard in today’s high stimulus world to have the discipline to ask yourself, “Is this a good use of my time?” So much of it isn’t.

By the way, people have spent millions of dollars in an effort to get you addicted to media.

Allison: For sure. Very distracting.

Marshall: Not millions, billions and they’re good at it. They are very good at it. It is hard not to become addicted.

A few years ago, I wrote a an art– 20 years ago, I wrote an article. It said, “Within 20 years, media addiction will surpass drug addiction and alcohol addiction combined as a social problem.” We’re already there.

Allison: For sure.

Marshall: This is a huge issue, the average kids is flunking out of school. US spends 50 hours a week on non academic media.

Allison: Wow.

Marshall: Videos, games, it’s nonsense.

It’s very important to realize this stuff is addictive. To have the discipline to say, “Wait a minute, why am I doing this?

Allison: Right.

Marshall: Why am I doing a Google search for the net worth of Lindsay Lohan? Oh, who cares? Why am I doing this? “

Allison: I think bringing home the question which was the consistency part of it. I want to go back to just commend you when you said using a home example of the time with your children, what you did in 1991, how many hours and you started to track it, right?

The consistency of knowing, setting the goal of what you wanted to achieve and then actually measuring it. That’s awesome.

Marshall: Well, if you don’t measure it, you probably won’t do it or you’ll delude yourself.

Allison: That you’re doing it. Yes.

Marshall: You will delude ourselves to believing you’re doing it but if you don’t measure it, then when you measure, it’s sobering.

You realize how little you actually do and how our fantasy of how we spend our time seldom has anything to do with how we really spend our time.

Allison: Yes, very true.

Improving Family Relationships Through Feedback

Marshall: Yes. Then, it’s also good for us. I was teaching a class and a woman said, “There’s always something you’ve left out.” She said, “I’ve been to your class twice and that everything you ever wrote, There’s always something you’re left out.” It’s just as people who do this with their–

Allison: I’m sorry, with their what? I missed that part.

Marshall: With your parents.

Allison: Parents.

Marshall: Mom and Dad.

Allison: Yes, Mom and Dad.

Marshall: She said, “I went to your class and then I asked my daughter, “How could I be a better mother?’ We had such a nice conversation. “

She said, “My daughter asked me, ‘How can I be a better daughter?’”

“I thought I should call my mother and said, ‘What can I do to be a better daughter?” Mom said, ‘Dad’s dead. I live in a country and they take a long walk up the road with a mailbox. Almost every day, There’s nothing in the mailbox. It makes me so lonely.’ She said, ‘It means so much to me, in the picture a card or something. Don’t walk to mailbox. I’d send some.’”

She started sending her mother a little picture when it cost her nothing. I mean her mother. Few years later, she sent me an email, she said, “My mother just died. Last thing her mother told her that was, ‘Thank you for doing that.’“

If your parents are alive, this is a good to do for 3 reasons.

1 is, good for them.

2 is, good for you. Kids helping mom when dad dies. Why didn’t I thank them for the nice things he did? But I judge them all.

In 3, if you have little children, it’s good for kids.

Allison: Yes, That’s beautiful, Marshall.

Marshall: You know those old people on the phone? You’re going to be those old peoples.

Allison: Yes, for sure. That’s very beautiful. I love that.

Coaching Remote Workers

Allison: One of the things that I was thinking about today is that the whole leadership and today we have a complete remote, a significant remote workforce that has not existed in decades before.

Something like 1 in 5 companies today have completely remote workers.

Marshall: Yes.

Allison: From a coaching standpoint, from a leadership challenge, what do you see? Companies need to do when you’re not in that face to face relationship, where it is remote?

Marshall: Right. Well, and again, most of my career moves remote. I mean, I don’t. The people I coach are CEOs and multi billion dollar companies. Given my calendar and their calendar, if we had to be in person for every meeting, it would be impossible.

Allison: Truly.

Marshall: It’s almost all remote. What do you do? You use a telephone. You use, like we’re doing.

Allison: Right. Zoom.

Marshall: Conference, video conference, telephone. There’s all things you can do. You really don’t need to be in person for everything.

Allison: I would agree with that. I think utilizing every resource that you have is obviously the key to making it successful.

Marshall: Yes.

Allison: If you–

Marshall: Most of my one-on-one coaching is done by video conference, by phone, whatever.

The Question Marshall Would Love to Ask a Mentor

Allison: Right. Personal question, if you could ask any leader live living today or dead any question, what would you ask?

Who would you ask?

And what would you ask them?

Marshall: Buddha.

Allison: Buddha.

Marshall: I’m a Buddhist. I’d say, “Buddha. How did you figure this stuff out so well? “

Allison: That’s awesome. What would he say you think?

Marshall: I don’t know.

Allison: That’s awesome. All right.

My favorite topic, let’s talk about executive coaching. OK?

Marshall: OK.

The #1 Rule for Successful Coaching

Allison: You said that the number 1 rule for coaching is–

Do you know what your number 1 rule is?

Marshall: Great clients.

Allison: Well, I would totally would agree for me and you, it would have great clients. My take away on something that I read was, don’t waste your time if a client doesn’t want to change.

Marshall: The same thing.

Allison: Which I think you were absolutely correct.

Marshall: Have great clients. To say, “Yes, I was in my coaching.” As I said, I don’t get paid if they don’t get better. The client I spent the most amount of time with didn’t improve at all and get a pay. Client I spent the least amount of time with improve more than anyone I’ve ever coached.

200 people got better and I did get paid. This is very humbling. For those of your listeners with a background in mathematics, I made a chart. On one dimension was called the time spent with Marshall Goldsmith and it was improvement. There was a clear negative correlation between spending time with me and getting better.

I thought, well, this is a very troubling chart. I go talk to my client who’s the most I spent the least amount of time with, who was ranked 2014 the greatest leader, number 1 great CEO in America, number 3 greatest leader in the world by Fortune magazine. Alan Mulally, was a CEO of Ford stock went from $1 to 18 when he was there, an amazing man.

97% approval rating from all employees in a union company, they worship this.

Allison: Wow.

Marshall: Just a great leader. I talked to my friend Alan.

I said, “Alan, of all the people I’ve ever coached, you improved the most but I spent the least amount of time with you.” I then showed him my chart.” I said, “Way the chart looks if you’d never met me, you’d really be good.

I said, “What should I learn about coaching from you?“

He said, “2 lessons. “

Lesson 1:

Your biggest challenge is great customers. Great customers, your coaching process always works. You have terrible customers, it never works.

Number 2:

Never make coaching about yourself and your own ego or how smart you think you are. Make it about those special people you work with. How hard they work and how proud you are of them.

Well, these are great lessons. He said, “As a CEO Ford, my job wasn’t that different. “

You know what he said? “I don’t design the cars. I don’t build the cars. I don’t sell the cars and they’re great people. “

He said, “Every day I drove to work. I tell myself, leadership is not about me. Leadership is about them.“

Allison: For sure.

Marshall: These are hard lessons to get by the way, especially for coaches.

Let me practice with you. Are you ready?

Allison: I’m ready. I think.

Marshall: You had to change the behavior of a husband that had no interest in changing before and how that worked out for you?

Allison: Not well at all. As a matter of fact, it ended up in a big ugly divorce actually.

Marshall: How about mommy and daddy, have you tried that out? Does this change mommy and daddy who don’t want to change? Ever tried that?

Allison: Yes.

Marshall: How’s does that work?

Allison: Does not work.

Marshall: It does not work.

Allison: Requires a lot of breathing.

Marshall: A lot of breathing. I was teaching my class at Dartmouth.

I said, “Any of you tried to change behavior of Mommy and Daddy, they want to change? “

One raised her hand.

I said, “Are you trying to change mommy or daddy?”

She said, “Daddy.”

I asked her, “What’s daddy “s problem? “

She said, “He does not have a healthy lifestyle. “

I asked her, “How old is daddy? “

She said “94 years old. “

Allison: That’s hilarious.

Marshall: Leave the old man alone. He is 94. You want to smoke a cigar? Oh man, smoke 2. smoke pot. Who cares? He’s 94 years old.

Allison: That’s super funny.

Marshall: Let go. How about those minor corrections on teenage children?

Oh, let’s show the teenage child. Oh, Yes. They love that. They don’t think. No.

Allison: No.

Marshall: Yes. When the big points off things. Not worth it.

The key is great clients. In my coaching, if my clients are motivated and they want to change, they’re willing to work hard and they’re given a fair chance, they always get better.

Allison: Yes.

Marshall: If they’re not, I’m wasting my time. They’re not going to get better.

Allison: How did–

Marshall: I was ranked number 1 executive coach. Now what? Nobody “s watch me coach anybody? No windows. I’m a good coach. I have great clients. I get the number 1 clients. I tell everybody how wonderful I am.

Well, nobody thinks I’m good coach because I said so.

Allison: Right.

Marshall: They think I’m a good coach because all these great people say so. I have great clients.

How Marshall Got His First Coaching Client

Allison: How did you get your first coaching client?

Marshall: Well, I got into leadership development purely by accident then I get into coaching.

Leadership development. I met a very famous man named Dr. Paul Hersey. He had been in situational leadership with Ken Blanchard. He was kind enough to let me follow him around. I followed him around and try to learn to do what he did a little bit and one day he became double booked.

He said, “Can you do what I do?”

I sad, “Well, I don’t know. “

He said, “Can you do what I do?”

 “I don’t know.”

He said, “I’m desperate. Can you do it? “

 “I don’t know. “

 “I’ll pay you $1,000 for one day. “

It was 42 years ago, I was 28 years old. Poor kid from Kentucky. 1000 bucks. I was making 15,000 bucks a year.

I said, “I’m going to give it a shot coach. “

I went in, I did this program for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City. They were so pissed off when I showed up because it wasn’t him. When I got ranked first place of all speakers he said, “Well, send Marshall again. “

He said, “Do you want to do this again?”

I said, “Paul, 1000 bucks a day. Just any day you want. Sign me up. “

That’s how I got into leadership development and coaching also was pretty much by accident.

This CEO said I got this kid working for us young, smart, dedicated, hard working, driven to achieve jerk. He said it would be worth a fortune to me if I could change his behavior.

I said, “I like fortunes.”

He said, “I doubt it’ll work. “

I said, “Maybe it’ll work. “

He said, “I don’t.”

I said, “I got a deal for you. I’ll do it for them for a year. If he gets better, pay me. He don’t get better, it’s free. What did you say say?”


There was nothing called coaching then.

Allison: Right.

Marshall: There was nothing called coaching. I made this up. There was no field coaching. That’s how I got into quote coaching before it was called coaching.

Allison: When was coaching actually created? Do you know? Can you identify when that actually happened?

Marshall: I started doing what I was doing 40 years ago but I never heard of the term coaching then. Somebody may have been doing it but I never heard of it.

A Daily Self-Coaching Process

Allison: Right. I’ve got a couple of specific questions around coaching. I think one of them is being one of the, I’d say the world’s top executive coaches, who coaches you? Who do you, I mean, where do you go to get better coaching?

Marshall: Practice something called the daily question process every day.

Allison: OK. Tell us about that.

Marshall: Daily question process, a very simple process, it takes 3 minutes a day, help you get better at almost anything, and cost nothing. I’m going to teach it to all your listeners.

Allison: That’s awesome.

Marshall: People are skeptical in, 3 minutes a day cost nothing. Too good to be true. Half the people quit in 2 weeks and they don’t quit because it doesn’t work. They quit because it does work.

This is really easy to understand. It’s real hard to do. I have a woman called me every day to do this. Why? My name is Marshall Goldsmith. I got ranked number 1 coach in the whole world for years. I have a woman call me on the phone every day to do this, why? I’m too cowardly to do this by myself.

I’m too undisciplined to do this by myself and I need help and you know what? It’s OK. We all need help. I need help. I’m no better anybody else and it’s OK.

Now, how does it work? Well, you write down these questions, 7 boxes across. 1 for every day of the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Everyone is answer the Yes, No, or number. At the end of the week, you get a scorecard.

I will warn your listeners in advance that scorecard at the end of the week might not be quite as beautiful as a corporate values plaque you see stuck up on the wall. I’ve been doing this for years, you do this every day, you know what you quickly learn.

You learn that life is incredibly easy to talk and life is incredibly difficult to live. We do this every day, you don’t look at those talk values. Oh, those are pretty. Look at those live values. Yes, you are not so good.

One of my questions every day is how many times yesterday did you try to prove that you were right when it wasn’t worth it?

Allison: That’s one of your current questions?

Marshall: How many times did you try to prove you were right when it was not worth it? I don’t see too many zeros on that column for me.

Aren’t that old professor not prove he’s right all the time?

How many angry or destructive comments did you make about people yesterday? Not seeing enough zeros there either. We want to treat people with respect. Why are we stabbing people in the back? It is every day. It’s very sobering.

Did you realize, there is a big difference between talk and do. Everybody talks a great game, but they don’t want to get that new game. It’s hard to looking at mirror day after day. I’m not exaggerating. The reason I have someone call me every day is I’m smart enough to realize how hard it is. I know I wouldn’t do it by myself. It’s too hard.

Allison: Yes. Do you– I do remember you training on that. I’m just curious, is that identified in any of your books that you would point to

Marshall: I would go Triggers.

Allison: Trigger. OK, fantastic.

Marshall’s New Coaching Program

Allison: I’m just curious, did you change your 7 questions at all for the 2020 New Year or are you pretty– You’ve got this locked down. It’s the 7 most?

Marshall: Modified a little bit. I modified some of my questions to change the process a little bit. I’m going to institute a whole new coaching program now, starting in 2020.

Allison: That’s exciting.

Marshall: My friend, Alan Mulally, I mentioned was CEO Ford. He has a brilliant management system. He and I are doing a new book together. He has a brilliant management system and we’re combining Michael coaching process with his management system.

Allison: That’s exciting. That’s being rolled out now?

Marshall: Every week. Well, no, the book will be begin for a while but I’m doing it now.

Allison: OK.

Marshall: Every week, the Thinkers50 top 8 coaches. All 8 of us are going to talk in a conference like this. Every week about how we can do better? I think That’s a very positive thing.

Number 1, is the top Thinkers50 top 8 coaches in the world every week. Sends a lot of messages.

  1. We’re not better than anyone else. We’re just humans like the rest of people here.
  2. We need help.
  3. We’re not competing and showing off and trying to prove how better we are. We’re all just trying to help each other. I think for the field of coaching, it’s very positive.

How to Build a Success Snowball

Allison: I would agree. What would you attribute to your success snowball for lack of a better term?

Marshall: Build a brand.

Allison: Build a brand OK.

Marshall: Build a brand. Most coaches or many coaches. I don’t know most. Many coaches are excellent coaches and terrible business people.

Many coaches are really good coaches but they’re really bad business people. The average ICF coach makes what? $35,000 a year from coaching and make less than a bag boy. It’s embarrassing how little they make. It’s terrible.

Well, they’re terrible business people. Yet to realize There’s the coaching side and the business side. Many coaches have incredible problems with self promotion. Have you ever had any self promotion phobia yourself?

Allison: I have as a matter of fact.

Marshall: Go over it.

Allison: Yes.

Marshall: Have you ever had this thought, my good work should speak for itself. Have you ever had that thought?

Allison: I had. Well, I think everyone has had that thought for sure.

Marshall: No, I never had that thought. That is a silly thought. If your good work should speak for itself, no company would need a marketing function.

Allison: Yes.

Marshall: Good work’s not going to fly out of the sky and good work, right? You got to be your own marketing department. If you’re not, I commend you for doing this podcast. Why? I mean, it’s good, very good. Show some courage on your part and getting out there and my advice is:

Be the world’s expert at something. Don’t try to be the world “s expert.

I’m the world’s expert at helping successful leaders achieve positive long term change in behavior. That’s it. I’m not the expert at strategy or getting organized or any of those other fields.

I am the world’s expert at that. If you do a Google search in quotes “Helping successful” top 500 hits. 450 of me and the rest of the world is 50. It’s me for 50 years of world. Mine.

Well, game. Not my game, figure out your game and forget I want to be the world’s experts and drive that and really focus on building your own brand.

How Marshall Built His Brand

Allison: I love that. That’s what your search terms are known for and you’ve just really honed that in. That’s fantastic. Do you have any other– How did you build a brand that created that?

Marshall: Very fortunate, my father. He’s the guy that taught me to do that but he’s the one that told me that look, just put great people. You’re going to win focus, your whole coaching on great people, my book, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

What’s the subheading helping successful people get even better? That’s what the book is about. It’s not fixing losers, it’s helping successful people get even better.

Well, That’s what the book is about. Now There’s nothing wrong with doing other things. I don’t do those other things though. I do this and then you have credibility because you’re not pretending to do everything for everyone.

Allison: Right. Yes. Well, you are someone that I follow and that I just tremendously look up to for the impact that you’re having not only on the coaching industry but on the business industry of leadership so thank you.

Marshall: Well, I give everything away. All my material. You may copy, share, download, duplicate using church charity business anywhere you want to.

It’s all. Go to my website, I’ve got 200-300 videos, hundreds of articles. All free.

Marshall’s Best Books and Where to Follow Him Online

Allison: That’s awesome and that you just put that out there, is that the best way for people to follow you? Where are you most active? I see you all the time on LinkedIn.

Marshall: We have 1.3 million followers on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the best. I would go to LinkedIn, go to my website. It’s not hard.

YouTube. Go to my YouTube channel and add on YouTube. I’ve had over 3 million views of my videos and the nice thing it’s all free.

Allison: Right. Absolutely.

Marshall: Sometimes people send me notes from Corporation saying that I need approvals like I approve everything anyway but you need approvals. Happy to sign something. I mean, on the website says it’s all free.

Allison: Yes, I love your abundance. That is really fantastic.

Marshall: I’m getting older. I’m 70. Almost 71 and we’re all going to be equally dead here. Might as well do look good.

Allison: Well, I think you’re doing a lot of good.

Marshall: You all do little good while I’m here. Yes.

Allison: Yes.

Yes. In my wrap up thoughts you’ve written, you said 41 books and you’re working on another one right now.

42 on its way. My 2 top go to’s are Triggers and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Marshall: Those are the best ones.

Allison: Those are the best ones.

Marshall: Yes, I’d recommend those two.

Allison: Well, that was going to say, “Is there another book that you’d recommend that I should suggest?“

Marshall: The other ones I’ve written that I would recommend are Mojo.

Allison: Mojo. OK.

Marshall: It’s a good one. Then for women, How Women Rise. Sally Helgason is a lead author. I did that with her.

Allison: Yes, I love that one too.

Marshall: Yes, she’s. By the way, the top 4 books I did, all have one thing in common. They’re all incredibly well written.

Now, what? Can I say that without bragging? I didn’t write any of them. A lot of my ideas but I don’t write them. I’m a good writer but my 3 biggest selling books which are What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Mojo, and Triggers, were all written by my friend, Mark Writer.

He’s my agent and co writer. He writes the books. I have most of the ideas and he does the writing. He is a phenomenal writer, writing the new book together now called The Earned Life. He is an amazing writer and he’s a great agent.

We split everything 50-50. We have a great partnership and another learning for your listeners:

Don’t feel the need to do it yourself. I didn’t write my books. It’s OK. We split everything 50-50. I got the ideas, I get the brand. I give him ideas, he writes. We work together. We have a blog and he’s my agent.

Our book Triggers, he came to me said, “Marshall, I have a new idea for this book. I think we should call it Triggers. What do you think?

I said it’s a stupid idea. Triggers is a dumbest idea. I’ve ever heard of triggers selling a gun or horse. He said, “How dumb is it?”

I said, “It’s so dumb. I can’t believe you brought it up.”

He said, “I’ve just been to the publisher. I had offered $1.2 million advance for a book called Triggers. How do you feel about that book?”

“Hey, let’s do that thing!” Turned out #1 New York Times bestseller. So much for my knowledge. Hey, it’s good to have good partners.

Allison : It sounds like it is. That’s a great story.

How Marshall “Pays It Forward”

Marshall: Final thing I want to talk about, please, Coach project. I went to a program called “Design the life you love. “

The woman said, “Who are your heroes?”

“My heroes were kind and generous people are great teachers. “

She said, “You should be more like them.”

“I’m pretty generous but I could do better.”

I decided to adopt 15 people, teach them all I know for free, and the only price is when they get old, they have to do the same thing.

I made a little video and put it on LinkedIn and said, “My name is Marshall. I got to rank number 1 leadership thinker, #1 coach, #1 book. I’m going to adopt 15 people to coach for free and the only price is when you get old, you have to promise to do the same thing.”

I thought 100 people would apply. So far, over 18,000 people applied for adoption.

Now, I’ve adopted over 200 people and it’s just been an amazing project. I’m guessing, watching for you look at the list of people now they’re adopting people. Find some person you really like and get them to adopt you and then later you adopt some one else? That’s beautiful.

The people are amazing. These like president World Bank and the former head of the Girl Scouts and head of the Mayo Clinic and Dean of Harvard Medical School and I just talked to texted a for pal Gasol a pro basketball player.

Yes, just an amazing group of people and the whole thing is with no money, it’s all free. The only rules are, There’s no money, There’s no guilt, There’s no expectation. You just help others.

Marshall’s Final Advice

Allison: Thank you for all that you do, Marshall. Thank you. I think that you’ve answered all my questions and you’ve just added that extra bonus. Really abundant perspective. Is there anything I didn’t think to ask you that you wanted to also bring up?

Marshall: One final advice. Yes. My only best advice.

Take a deep breath. Imagine you’re 95 years old and you’re getting ready to die. What advice will the old person have for you? Whatever you think about, do that.

Friends of mine interviewed old people on a personal and professional side. 3 types of advice.

  1. Be happy now. Not next week, not next month. Be happy now. I don’t know for you but guessing you have many blessings. Yes. You know many people I work with. You have friends who have family, health. Compared to me you have. Don’t get so busy chasing what you don’t have, you can’t see what you do have.
  2. Stay close to friends and family. They’ll get so busy climbing the corporate ladder, you forget the people that love you.
  3. Have a dream, go for it. As you don’t go for it when you’re 35, you may not when you’re at the business advice in my favor. Have fun. Life is short. Do whatever you can do to help people. Then the final advice is, go for it. Old people. We almost never regret the risk we take and fail. We’ll always regret the risk that we fail to take.

Finally, thank you so much for inviting me to talk with you.

Allison: Thank you Marshall. Truly a pleasure. Again, I appreciate everything that you produce and I look forward to continuing to see your new work as they come out this year.

Marshall: Thank you so much.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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