Open Your Wallet – Open Your Mind!

Posted by Marshall Goldsmith

Open Your Wallet - Open Your Mind!
by Marshall Goldsmith

My coaching clients are either the CEOs or potential CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations. Most are men; most are older and most are, by any normal standards, rich.

There is a common assumption that old rich men don't really care about losing small amounts of money.


From my experience, most old rich men don't like to lose any money.

It is not the amount of money that matters. It is the losing that they hate.

Have you ever watched a group of executives play competitive golf for wagers involving small amounts of money? It is amazing how serious and animated they become. Wagers at the race track are another example. One of my friends laughed as he described collecting his two dollar bet after the horse he picked won by a nose. Jumping up and down in his excitement, he spilled his Coke and ruined his hundred-dollar shirt!

As a coach, I use small amounts of money to help executives change behavior. It is astonishing how well this works! For example, if my clients are perceived as stubborn and opinionated, and they want to become more open-minded listeners, I 'fine' them every time they begin a sentence with the words 'no,' 'but,' or 'however.' All of the money that I collect from my fines is donated to the charity of my client's choice. Over the past 30 years, I have raised over $300,000 for great charities by playing this game with my clients.

Why fines for 'no,' 'but,' or 'however'?

The word 'no' means 'you are wrong,' and the words 'but' and 'however' mean 'disregard everything that came before this word.'  A friend once described these as 'eraser words.'

As I was reviewing a 360-degree feedback report with one of my clients, his first words were, "But, Marshall ..." I smiled and replied, "That one is free. If I ever try to give you advice again, and you begin a sentence with 'no,' 'but,' or 'however,' I am going to fine you twenty dollars!"

"But," he replied, "that's not ..."

"That's twenty!" I laughed.

"No, I don't ..." he refuted.

"That's forty!" I continued.

"No, no, no!" he protested.

"That's sixty, eighty, one hundred dollars for charity!" I gleefully exclaimed.

Within an hour, he was down $420. It took another couple of hours before he finally got the point and said, "Thank you. I did that 21 times with you bringing it to my attention. You annoyed me so much that I would rather have died than paid you the money. The words kept coming out of my mouth anyway. How many times would I have done this if you had not brought it to my attention? Fifty? One hundred? No wonder people think I am stubborn. The first thing I do when people try to talk with me is to prove that they are wrong!"

The positive change in this executive, who was then the COO and is now the CEO of the company, was amazing. Within a couple of years, he was perceived as much more open and receptive to new ideas—and much less stubborn and opinionated—by all of his direct reports, his co-workers, and even his family members.

I also fine my clients when they say, "That's great, but ..." or "That's great, however ..." These eraser words end up destroying the value of recognition. They make sure that the receiver knows that the 'great' part doesn't count for much.

A few years ago, I was teaching a class at the headquarters of a major telecom company.  I mentioned the 'That's great, but ...' problem and my use of fines to change behavior. I predicted that many members of the class would continue to say these words—even after hearing my lecture, and even knowing that I was going to fine them.

One of the men in my class mocked me when I made these statements. He thought that such a simple behavioral request would be easy for him. He was so sure of himself that he offered to donate $100 to charity every time he did this—and boasted that he would never have to make a donation.

I made a point of sitting next to him at lunch. When I asked him where he was from, he told me that he lived in Singapore.

"Singapore?" I said.  "That's a great city."

"Yeah," he replied, "it's great, but ..."

He gave me a very chagrined look, chuckled and paid the money.

The next time you want to help your clients change minor behavioral 'tics' that are annoying everyone around them, try fining them small amounts of money, and then give the money to a great cause.

It may create a win for your clients—and, at the same time, it will create a win for the world!

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (2007, Volume 3, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Marshall Goldsmith, MBA, PhD, founder of Marshall Goldsmith Partners LLC, is a world authority on helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting behavioral change. His executive coaching expertise has been highlighted in Forbes, Fast Company and Business Week. The most recent of his 22 books is What Got You Here Won't Get You There (Hyperion, 2007). Learn more about Marshall in the WABC Coach Directory. Marshall can be reached by email at Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

Warning! Warning! Warning to Coaches! Get Over Yourself!!! by Marshall Goldsmith

Posted by Marshall Goldsmith

Over the past 30 years, I have had the opportunity to teach hundreds of thousands of leaders, human resources professionals and external coaches about the process of coaching for behavioral change. I am frequently asked the question, "What is the greatest challenge faced by a coach?"  Over time, my answer has changed. Today it is very clear and simple.

As coaches, our greatest challenge is overcoming our own egos.

As a reader of this column, and potentially a WABC coach, you are probably a well-educated, experienced professional. You have a sincere desire to help people and care deeply about their developing into better leaders. You have learned a lot, and you believe that you have a lot to give to your clients. If you are successful, you are also probably good at selling yourself—pointing out your qualifications and noting how you can help leaders improve.

Having great qualifications and believing in ourselves are positive qualities, and proficiency at personal marketing and sales is a basic requirement for success in our field. However, these same positive qualities that have helped us to become successful ourselves can get in our way when it comes to helping others.

Our Client's Dedication Means More Than Our Wisdom

Of all of my clients, the client that was viewed as improving the most was the client with whom I had spent the least amount of time!  He was the CEO of a huge organization and managed about 50,000 people. After our coaching engagement, I said to him, "I have spent less time with you than any client that I have ever coached, yet you and your team have shown the greatest improvement. What should I learn from my experience with you and your team?"

He thoughtfully replied, "Marshall, you should realize that success with your clients isn't all about you. It is about your clients, the people who choose to work with you." He continued, "In an important way, my situation is the same. I manage about 50,000 people. Every day, as a leader, I tell myself, 'The success of our organization is not about me. It is about them—the great people who are working with me!'"

This remarkable leader taught me a powerful lesson. I have coached clients who, like him, have achieved dramatic improvements. I have also coached clients who didn't change at all. I, the coach, was the same. The difference was not that I was appreciably better or worse. The difference was their dedication to achieving positive, lasting change—not my great insights or wisdom.

One of My Embarrassing Screw-ups

In spite of understanding the theory of 'make it all about them, not you,' I can still let my own ego get in the way of my work.

I was recently honored by Alliant International University (formed by the merger of the California School of Professional Psychology and United States International University). They decided to name their schools of business and organizational studies the 'Marshall Goldsmith School of Management.'  Our school's mission is to be a world leader in practical training related to the human side of organizations.

I love what I do, love my family, love where I live and love our new school. Everyone who knows me sees that all of my emails end with 'life is good.' I was brought up in a very poor neighborhood. Sometimes I cannot believe how lucky I am. Although it is good to be thankful and grateful about our own lives, it is not always good to assume that our blessings are the major topic of interest for the rest of the world!

Shortly after this school naming I was interviewing the team members of a client executive that I was going to coach. I really loved the company and was looking forward to working with the executive. As I introduced myself to each team member during our one-on-one sessions, I was so enthusiastic about myself, our new school and my great life, that I forgot why I was there! The person who had hired me called to send her regrets, noting that the team thought I seemed to be more interested in myself than I was in them. To put it bluntly, I was fired!

I should have been fired.

Learning for WABC Coaches

Wise people learn from their mistakes. Wiser people learn from others' mistakes. Learn from my stupid mistake!  Don't get so wrapped up in your own ego that you forget why you are there. Never forget that client success is more a function of their dedication than your wisdom. Don't make the coaching process about you—keep it all about them.

One of the greatest coaches that I have ever met has the fewest credentials—on paper. In fact, I am not sure that he could even 'make it' as a WABC coach. On the other hand, he keeps getting great results with his clients. Why?  He makes coaching about helping them learn from their direct reports, co-workers and family members. He plays the role of a caring facilitator rather than a 'know it all' expert.

The next time your start feeling 'smart,' 'qualified,' or 'wise,' remember this warning.

Get over yourself!!!

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Spring 2007, Volume 3, Issue 1). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

Power Tools For Leadership Success

Posted by WABC

By Katherine Craig

As an executive coach I have the opportunity to work with a diverse range of individuals at all stages of their leadership development journey. Over the past two decades I’ve created wide-ranging strategies to support my clients as they strive to improve their individual and team performance. While many of those strategies require long-term effort, there are some basic tips and tools that can be implemented for immediate results and I’ve shared some of those tips in my new book, Power Tools for Leadership Success (© Dog Ear Publishing, 2012). Here is an excerpt:

Power Tools—Turning Thought into Action

How many of us have gone to a conference, heard a speaker, or read about an idea that really fired our engine, only to have the inspiration fade away over time? We have every intention of implementing a new plan and changing our leadership strategy, but we get sucked back into the tornado of day-to-day operations, and the ideas blow away. Sometimes, we just don’t know how to begin to turn a concept into action.

That’s what this book is all about. At the beginning of each section, I’ll introduce a new concept that has been shown time and again to impact our ability to lead effectively. At the end of each chapter you’ll find the Power Tools. These are the concrete actions you can take to build your leadership skills.

If you master these tools, you’ve got a great beginning to great leadership. It may sound easy, but it can be extremely difficult. Your work environment may be surprisingly resistant to what seems to you like a brilliant idea. What separates a great leader from all the good leaders out there is the ability to turn thought into action over and over again. In other words, great leadership takes practice.

Be persistent in your pursuit to be a great leader! Constantly move from thought to action, and take your leadership—and your team—from good to great!

But First, the Blueprints

In the pages that follow, I’ll be sharing specific tools I’ve developed based on my 20 years of experience as an executive coach and mentor. These ideas didn’t come to me overnight: I’ve been able to build and refine them over time by maintaining a structure, or blueprint, that guides my progress. I strongly urge you to try this for yourself and give shape to your ideas, as well.

  1. Keep a notebook handy (electronic or otherwise). You have great ideas. When they come to you (mine happen immediately upon waking, so the notebook stays on my bedside table), you can write them down. Write them down as soon as you think of them.page1image24224
  2. page2image1144Review your ideas, at least once a week. You may find that the ideas follow a theme. Ask yourself these questions: Why did I think of this idea? Was it a solution to a problem? Is it a method to “freshen up” a stale operation? How can I apply this idea?
  3. Put rigour to your ideas. What resources will it take to try the idea out? How could I make this work? Your brain may have been tussling with a problem without you even being fully aware! Articulate the thought so that you can easily talk about it. Our brains do a funny trick of not being in partnership with our mouths when it’s time to share our ideas with peers or our boss. Say your idea out loud until it’s on the tip of your tongue and fluent.
  4. Sketch out an implementation plan. Often it’s wise to try the idea on a smaller scale before you go whole hog. I love the concept of a “test drive” approach. It gives everyone a chance to try the car before buying it. Think about seeding some champions around you. They are often the difference between implementation success and failure. Not familiar with seeding champions? Seeding champions refers to the practise of creating a core group of people who will help carry your idea across the organization. You can’t be in every discussion around every corner, but your champions can be, and they’ll carry your message in the positive fashion you desire. The more champions, the better!
  5. Act! Get out of your chair and carry out your implementation plan. Set some time aside in your calendar and do it...now.

If you want to read more, or access links to free resources, you can visit my website www.spearheadexecutivecoaching.com. Be the leader you admire now, and enjoy the journey!

Katherine Craig is CEO and founder of Spearhead Executive Coaching, a dynamic organization dedicated to developing excellent leaders at all levels to create healthy and profitable organizations. She welcomes your comments: katherine@spearheadexecutivecoaching.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

Don’t Leave Them Standing in an Empty Room

Posted by WABC


By Trudy Triner

As all corporate trainers know, there are very few leadership training activities that have an absolutely predictable outcome. But as I traveled around the world for a large Boston-based training and consulting organization, there was one activity that did. I referred to this activity as a "thrilling" experience as I introduced it to groups in France, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Hawaii. In truth, it was probably more thrilling for me to watch than for them to participate. But the learning was always profound, if sometimes frustrating and even a tad annoying.

Here's the activity. A class is divided into two groups: one is Management, the other is Staff. They are told that, working together, they must solve a physical challenge. That challenge requires Staff to complete a series of physical moves with their bodies, much like a Chinese checkers game. However, only Management is given complete instructions for the task. The two teams are in separate rooms. Only one person from Management can enter Staff's room at a time. And the activity begins.

Here's what happens time and time again. Management works diligently to solve the problem on paper in their room. They sweat. They try options. They even try moving pieces of paper or sugar packets or pencils to represent the Staff. Meanwhile Staff members wait and wait and wait. They begin to conclude that Management is trying to trick them or make fools of them. As time goes on, they begin to get angry. They disengage. Some start to read the newspaper. Others plot revenge and vow to do nothing Management asks. When a Management person finally appears, they usually have paper and pencil in hand, scribble a few notes, totally focus on the task, ignoring the people, and retreat to share their findings with their Management team as they continue to struggle to solve the problem. And so it goes, most often until the allocated time expires. The problem remains unsolved. Staff is frustrated and sometimes angry. The debrief is rich, but often emotion-laden. "Why did you treat us so badly?" Staff will ask. "We were just busy trying to solve the problem," Management says – truly surprised, and somewhat hurt, that their efforts weren't more appreciated.

The secret to success in this exercise, which is almost never discovered, is for Management simply to explain the problem to the Staff and ask for their help in solving it. Staff members become intrigued. They become engaged. They try alternative moves with their bodies and within a few minutes, they solve the problem. They are proud. Management is impressed and relieved. Everyone wins. And it almost never, ever happens!

I was reminded of this activity and its vivid demonstration of the futility of management trying to solve important problems without engaging staff when our Senior Leadership team asked for a training program that would help managers understand the need to engage employees in solving some of the most important challenges in our health-care organization. They wisely understood that without that engagement, it would be very difficult to meet the challenges in store for health care in the coming years.

We partnered with Richard Axelrod, co-author of You Don't Have to Do It Alone: How to Involve Others to Get Things Done, and designed a half-day program for our 650 leaders, managers, and supervisors. We called the program, Engaging Staff to Lead, believing that the ideal was to have staff become so involved, they actually led the improvement effort themselves. And it worked. We saw dramatic improvements in service scores and other important metrics.

After the training effort, the coaching and reinforcement began. During coaching sessions with managers who might be having trouble with staff engagement, I asked them, "How are you learning what's important to your staff?" "How are you supporting them in reaching their goals?" "What do you do to demonstrate your understanding of the world from their point of view?" "How are you demonstrating your appreciation for their efforts?" "Are you providing as much feedback as they feel they deserve?" And, "Are you providing a motivating challenge and empowering them to solve their own problems?"

A light bulb often goes off as managers answer these questions because these are the types of management behaviors that lead to staff engagement. I love those forehead-slapping moments when they realize they've neglected one or more of those elements of engagement. And they love walking away with a plan to engage their staff more fully and avoid all the negative ramifications of leaving staff standing in a room waiting for management to solve all the problems in another room. That is truly a lose-lose situation to be avoided at all cost.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (October Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 3). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


Axelrod, R. H., Axelrod, E. M., Beedon, J., and Jacobs, R. W. 2004. You Don't Have to Do It Alone: How to Involve Others to Get Things Done. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishing.
trudy-trinerTrudy Triner is a writer, speaker, and leadership consultant who has helped people be more successful in their work for over 25 years. She is also the author of a popular blog and a soon to be published book, Make Mom Happy By Mail, which encourages us all to connect with our parents in a meaningful way while the fleeting window of opportunity to do so is still open.
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If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.