2 Life-Changing Lessons No One Ever Taught You by Marshall Goldsmith

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Marshall Goldsmith

Lesson #1: It’s easier to see our problems (let’s call them behavioral challenges) in others than to see them in ourselves. For instance, often when I become self-righteous or angry about some perceived injustice, I realize that the deeper issue is often not with “it”, but in me.

Lesson #2: Although we may deny our behavioral challenges to ourselves, they may be very obvious to the people who observe us. There is often a great discrepancy between the self we think we are and the self the rest of the world sees in us. If we can listen and think about what others see in us, we can compare the self we want to be with the self that we are presenting. Then and only then can we begin to make the real changes that we need to make to align our stated values with our actual behavior.

Let me give you a personal example:

As a Ph.D. student at UCLA in the 70s, I had a self-image of being ‘hip.’ I believed I was involved in discovering deeper human understanding, self-actualization, and profound wisdom. One of my teachers, Dr. Bob Tannenbaum, had invented ‘sensitivity training’, published a popular article in the Harvard Business Review, and was a full professor. I was impressed!

In Bob’s class, we could discuss anything we wanted. So, for three weeks, I did a monologue about how ‘screwed up’ people in Los Angeles were. “They wear sequined blue jeans; they drive gold Rolls Royces; they are plastic and materialistic; all they care about is impressing others; they don’t understand what is important in life.” I ranted. (I’m not sure how growing up in a small town Kentucky had made an expert on LA people, but evidently it had.)

After listening to me babble for three weeks, Bob looked at me quizzically and asked, “Who are you talking to?”

“I’m speaking to the group,” I said.

“Who in the group are you talking to?”

“I’m talking to everybody,” I said, not knowing the treacherous path of self-discovery down which I was being led!

“When you speak, you look at only one person and address your comments toward only one person. You seem interested in the opinion of only one person. Who is that person?”

“That is interesting,’” I replied. After careful consideration, I asked, “You?”

“That’s right, me. There are 12 other people in this room. Why aren’t you interested in any of them?” he asked.

At this point, I decided that digging my hole deeper was better than admitting defeat, so I said, “Well, Dr. Tannenbaum, you understand the significance of what I am saying. You know how ‘screwed-up’ it is to try to run around and impress people all the time. You have a deeper understanding of what is really important in life.”

“Marshall, is there any chance that for the last three weeks all you’ve tried to do is impress me?” Bob asked.

I was amazed at Bob’s lack of insight! “Not at all!” I declared. “You haven’t understood one thing I’ve said! I’ve told you how screwed up it is to try to impress other people. You’ve missed my point, and I’m disappointed in your lack of understanding!”

He scratched his beard and concluded, “No. I think I understand.” I looked at the group and could see them nod and agree.

For six months, I disliked Dr. Tannenbaum. I devoted a lot of energy into trying to understand why he was so confused. Then one day, it clicked! The person with the issue about impressing other people was me. I was the one who had been trying to impress Dr. Tannenbaum. That day, I looked in the mirror and said, “Dr. Tannenbaum was right.”

So, let me ask you: Can you see in yourself what others see in you, or do you see in others what you don’t see in yourself? What are you going to do about it?

Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LBoiTu-C-U

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What Helps Leaders to Be Effective on a Global Level…and What Doesn’t – Part I

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By Jeremy Solomons

As business becomes more and more global, many organizations are asking themselves if an effective leader in one country or region can duplicate her or his success on a worldwide level?

For example, Lucia Mannone may have a proven track record in the southern European region, but is she still able to develop new client relationships, manage projects, and run teams in the very different markets of Latin America and East Asia? And if she can't, what is the best way to prepare her and other budding global leaders like her to be fully productive and effective in the future?

This is the first of three articles that will explore and explode some common myths around global leadership development and then come up with some alternative approaches that coaches can use to help all leaders be successful across international boundaries.

In order to do this, let's go back to Lucia. She is a 38-year-old Italian senior marketing officer for a German medical instrument company. The company headquarters are in Stuttgart and she is based in Milan. She has worked on Italian national accounts and then the southern European region for the last 12 years and her performance and that of her teams have been consistently high.

As her company is expanding in the key markets of Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea, she is now being asked to take on a more global role. Her technical knowledge is beyond compare and her ability to motivate her colleagues has been demonstrated again and again, even during economic downturns and company restructurings. But she has not traveled much beyond the Mediterranean, except for a professional conference in Baltimore and family holidays in Phuket and Cancun.

For someone like Lucia, the first step is usually to help her become more "culturally competent," but this can be interpreted and realized in many different ways.

Myth 1: The Behavioral Approach

A typical way to launch "cultural competence" coaching might be for Lucia to read one or two of the many books or websites that outline all the things to do—and more importantly, not to do—in a particular country.

If Lucia is like most businesspeople and she does not want to give offense or look stupid, it might be very helpful for her to learn how to give someone a business card in Osaka or what not to discuss at an initial business lunch in Monterrey. All of these hints and tips can certainly help with those important first impressions, but what happens after you kiss, bow, or shake hands?

Lucia might have done her homework and diligently learned the top 50 or 100 or even 500 etiquette tips for working and communicating with Brazilians or Koreans, but what would she do in situation 501? Unfortunately, she would have no idea what to do or say, because the behavioral approach on its own only gives the "whats" and the "hows" but not the "whys." There is no context for the content. No framework for the structure.

Myth 2: The National Values Approach

In order to get at the "whys," Lucia might then be directed to some well-grounded research on the differences between national values. The innovative works of Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars are frequently studied during this stage of global leadership development.

Through her reading, Lucia will probably be delighted to discover that the traditional importance that Italians place on such values as family, relationships, creativity, aesthetics, love, passion, and even calcio (football/soccer) are also shared by Brazilians. She might be surprised to find out that the Chinese value "face"—social harmony and personal honor-just as the Italians do. In China, it is called mianzi and in Italy, bella figura. And she might appreciate the warning that "respect" does not mean the same thing in Mexico as it does in Italy or that the Japanese are much more concerned with centralized authority than the autonomy-loving Italians.

Similarly, explanations of the different concepts of "quality" and "seriousness" in Germany and Italy might shed  light on some long-running tensions with certain people in the Stuttgart headquarters. But this approach can only help so far, because it is based on a rather dangerous assumption: that everyone—or even most people—within a national culture will conform to the norms of that culture.

This is a particularly dubious claim in the vibrant cultures of international business and among young people, where change is a constant and deviation from the norm is much more prevalent.

On an individual level, Engineer Lee may not be very Korean in his value system, because he studied for his undergraduate degree at Delft University in the Netherlands and his master's degree at MIT in Boston. And Señor Trujillo may not be very Mexican as he grew up in seven different countries on three continents as his mother was a diplomat.

And what about Lucia herself?

At first glance, it would seem that she is typically Italian, having lived and worked there her whole life apart from her frequent business trips around Europe and a few work and pleasure jaunts beyond the continent.

But what if you knew that she was an orphan from North Africa, who was brought up by her nonna (adoptive grandmother) in a clean, safe, but very modest home in a small town outside Naples. As a math genius and natural athlete, she excelled in school and was the youngest MBA ever to graduate from the prestigious Bocconi University in Milan. She is now married to a struggling artist and has three young children, one of whom has cerebral palsy.

How might these unique environmental and genetic factors affect her personal value system and how she behaves and communicates with other people?

We will explore this and related issues in the next Global Leader Development article to be published in the June issue of BCW.

In the meantime, if you want to respond to any of the points raised in this column, please email the article author.


This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across Nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Hofstede, G. (2005). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (Revised and expanded 2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hampden-Turner, C. and F. Trompenaars. Riding The Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

  Jeremy Solomons, is the UK-born and USA-naturalized founder and president of Jeremy Solomons & Associates, which helps current and future leaders to connect and communicate effectively across all cultures-national, organizational, professional, and individual. From his base in Austin, Texas, he coaches, consults, designs curriculum, facilitates, and trains in many areas of leadership. Contact Jeremy.

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Business Coaching in the Former Soviet Union, By Michael J. Horner

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Having spent the past seven years in the Republic of Kazakhstan, part of the former Soviet Union, I can say that it will be an uphill road to see business coaching done there with any degree of success. When we went to Kazakhstan in 2001, it was as volunteer humanitarian aid workers joining a NGO (nongovernmental organization) that asked us to design and build a microenterprise development project for the villages around the main economic capital of Almaty. After a couple months of language instruction, we launched into full-scale training and held our first seminar in February 2002. Almost 50 people attended from the city and many of the small villages, and we taught them how to come up with a business idea, how to formulate that idea into a plan and then, in one-on-one meetings after the seminar, we helped them to write a business plan including a full three-year cash flow.

In the summer of 2002, we funded our first group of business owners. We continued this type of training through December 2004 when we returned to the US for a couple of months break after coming close to nervous breakdowns. In total in the first four years, we trained more than 100 people and personally funded 25 people. This formed the basis for our return in June 2005, when we decided that in order to move through the obstacles I will describe in a moment, we needed to open a for-profit consulting and micro-lending firm, which we did in the fall of 2005. Little did we know that this move, combined with me going into partnership with a Kazakh man in a combined law/real estate/investment firm, would open us up to new and adventurous challenges.

The challenges that will face anybody (including Russian or local nationals) in the former Soviet Union are real, but not insurmountable. However, the cost of overcoming them must be counted before attempting to launch any type of venture in the former Soviet republics.

  1. Corruption - Corruption was bad when we arrived in Kazakhstan in the summer of 2001, but with the increased amount of oil money and governmental controls, it is getting worse, not better. When we arrived, there was corruption in the government but it was mainly in the customs control and tax police. In 2001, I was working with a Pakistani national who was opening one of the first sports stores in Almaty. During one of our sessions he told me that if I wanted to I could become extremely wealthy, but one thing was standing in my way. He told me that I was too honest and advised that I stop paying my taxes like I had been doing and applying for my business license like the law called for. He said if I would just pay a bribe to the officials that they would always look the other way. Well, corruption has become worse; now it is like a mold that grows and grows. At every level of government, bribes are not just commonplace, but expected. If you want to register land you bought as agricultural land and actually want to farm, you have to pay the register's office a bribe to register your land as what it is instead of something different. If you want to register it as something different, the bribe gets higher. And any and all officials' signatures and pichat (the all-important Russian stamp) are for sale. Corruption will not go away as long as the price of oil remains high and as long as the current regimes are in place, so be prepared to have to make very tough choices. We chose not to pay a lot of these bribes and it was part of the reason we are no longer working or doing business in the former Soviet Union.
  2. Distrust - Nobody trusts anybody! During the long, hard years of the Soviet Union, nobody knew who was an informer for the KGB, the dreaded secret police. Nothing has changed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In order to gain trust, you have to trust people who are not always going to trust you back. In order to be an effective coach, you have to be able to trust and be trusted. The key to overcoming this is to take on a lot of stress and continue to trust people even when it isn't reciprocated. This trust can have another effect. It can make you constantly look over your shoulder wondering when one of the people you have a trust relationship with will get caught up in the system of corruption, become too big (next point), and then be turned by the authorities into an informer. Will they put your name out there to get the spotlight off of them? My partner was somebody I trusted. When he overstepped the invisible boundary that is placed around you in business (almost like the caste system of India), he became a target. He eased the stress by pointing the arrow toward me, which very directly led to our leaving Kazakhstan. There are ways to overcome this distrust, but it is still many years from happening and with the current political maneuverings, I wonder if it is even possible.
  3. Invisible Boundary - When we first started to do business training, one of the people we funded told us that his plans for his cattle business were to build his herd up to 25 cattle and then all other cattle he would register in a relative's name. When I asked him why he would do such a thing, he looked at me like I was an idiot, and then explained the way the "mafia" works. Depending on the clan you were born into, you have certain rights and a set boundary as to just how much money and how large your personal business enterprise may become. If you overstep this invisible boundary, then you will be visited by the local official (may be government, may just be some guy who everybody knows is connected to the right clan—that the locals call the "mafia") who will inform you that your entire business is being bought by another "buyer." This "buyer" will give you a very "attractive" offer for your business, which you do not have the right to refuse. If you choose to refuse this "offer," then other things will happen and you will have no money at all. So the way to keep the spotlight off of you is to only grow your business as high as what you "think" the invisible boundary may be. This is at best a guess, but it is real and there are many small businesspeople today who, through hard work and perseverance, grew their business too big and then paid the price and had to start all over again. The going rate for a "buyout" of a business is about ten cents on the dollar. You will always know the "buyout" person, because they never seem to work but drive Hummer H2s, Porsche Cayennes, or whatever other $100,000 vehicle you can imagine. They live in the largest house in the village and have no apparent source of income, yet have large spending tastes. And they own everything around you: the largest plots of land, the best buildings in the region, you name it, they own it. The only way to overcome this challenge (especially as a foreigner) is to grow a small enterprise. Once that enterprise has grown to a size where you get your first visit from these guys (they call themselves "agashkas" meaning "older father" in Kazakh), it is time to downsize or outsource and create an entirely different business from the one that is now successful. This does mean more taxes and more outlay of capital in the beginning, but it is better than having your entire business taken away.

Those are the three biggest challenges to business coaching in the former Soviet Union. As one who has experienced all three of these challenges and lived to leave, this is not something that should deter somebody from wanting to start a coaching enterprise in this region. However, you should go with your eyes wide open and make great use of your local embassy. The local embassy can't keep things from happening to you, but they can keep you from going to a local prison on some trumped up charge that was only brought to separate you from the work you have started so somebody else can reap the benefits of your investment (if you don't believe this just read what is happening to the big oil companies today in these republics). You can grow a coaching business in these areas, but the ideal way is to find somebody who is well connected, pay them a large salary to stay away from the business and just use them as your shield. Be aware that when this person loses their shield through a change in governance, you should be ready to pack up and leave.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Michael J. Horner spent seven years in the former Soviet Union, initially doing microenterprise training and advancing into coaching those business owners upon their successful funding. Now returned to the US, he continues to coach small business owners on how to be more structured and invest themselves fully in their businesses. Contact Michael.
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Hybrid World: Coaching and the Complexities of Age, Values and Asian Business

Posted by Maya Hu-Chan

Hybrid World: Coaching and the Complexities of Age, Values and Asian Business
by Maya Hu-Chan

"I want a raise." With the ink barely dry on her contract and less than a year of tenure at Morgan Stanley, the young Asian woman plopped a thick stack of paper on her supervisor's desk. "What's that?" he asked. With the confidence typified by the post-80s generation in China, she proceeded to lay forth an explanation of how she had researched the salaries of her peers, conducted a comparative analysis, and concluded that she was underpaid and undervalued. After all, she was a graduate of one of the finest universities, an extraordinarily talented and aggressive professional, well deserving of a fast-track promotion. Taking a risk, her supervisor looked at her with a wry smile and stated firmly, "I'm not going to give you a raise based on this; you have to prove yourself." Surprisingly, the risk paid off.

This moment became a splash of cold water in her face, sparking a realization which led to reflection on the value of work, which led to her staying with the job, which led to a more rewarding professional experience. Two years later she got her raise. In the meantime, she had been in touch with her peers, most of whom had already burned out in their careers, pushing themselves forward without regard for merit or commitment, making demands and having those demands met by supervisors fearful of losing new talent. While their careers had crashed and burned, she took a learning moment and modified her approach. Her supervisor had become an effective coach whose push-back framed a learning point that would give her the balance she needed. This scenario, or something like it, is being played out in executive offices around the world in 2007.

A New Generation, Culture or Both?

Some would argue that in 21st century international business, age trumps nationality, and any understanding of how to coach Asian leaders must begin with an awareness of the generational changes sweeping the globe. Fortune magazine's May 2007 article, "Attracting the Twenty-something Worker" presents the new work demands laid forth by Generation Y. A wave of media attention has portrayed baby boomer children as being exigent and flexible. The case in Asia is similar, though not so simple.Fast Company's June 2007 cover story, "China's New Creative Class" notes the emerging blend of youthful innovation and more traditional Chinese culture.

The business coach entering today's global marketplace is challenged to address new dualities in business and culture. In Asia in particular, a radical shift toward business is blending with, but not eliminating, traditional values. The coach must meet clients in a new virtual space, which, as they say at the opening of the original Star Trek, takes us "where no man (or woman, or coach) has gone before." The traditional Asian veneration of age as wisdom is being counter-balanced by a wave of upstart entrepreneurs. The ancient value of working for the public good is being challenged by freewheeling competition. In the midst of this revolution, what are the implications for leadership and for the field of coaching? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Four Points for Coaching Asian Leaders

1. Get to know the 'Emperor or Empress'; look before you leap.

In terms of age and generational differences in Asia, highly educated professionals in their 20s and 30s working in a multi-national organization tend to be more outspoken, outgoing, and open to change than their predecessors. They admire the Western management style, whereas their parents' generation, now in their 50s and 60s, followed a more traditional Chinese work ethic.

In previous generations, it was typical to work very hard, be loyal to the organization, and not challenge authority. Among other influences, Confucianism was central to the belief system of the Asian psyche. These days, because of China's 'one-child policy,' sometimes the child of the family has become the 'Little Emperor.' He has often been told by his parents that he is a genius. Sought by the best companies and headhunters, the Emperor or Empress may challenge authority constantly, dismiss organizational loyalty, and work only in the areas that foster personal advancement.

2. Understand emerging Asian business and adapt your approach.

The emergence of Asia as a dominant force in the world economy, with China at the helm, is rapidly transforming the culture of business. In turn, tools for coaching global leaders must be brought up to speed. Despite the Morgan Stanley tale, it's not all about tempering the ambitions of young Asian business upstarts. In a recent report by Development Dimensions International (a firm leading in leadership talent and selection) entitled "Leadership in China: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy,"1 a principal finding was that "more than one-half" of leaders are "inadequately prepared for their roles in the new economy." Critical skills found lacking were the ability to motivate others, build trust, retain talent, and lead high-performance teams. Generic as these terms may sound, they point to a gap in Asian leadership.

Whether confronting the implications of age or culture, a balanced coaching approach is important. With little emperors or empresses who have grown up to become your clients, for example, it is important to:

• Think through things from their perspective and follow a process attuned to their belief system.

• Take a logical approach, convincing them that a change will get them further if they look at their behaviors and test out a new approach.

3. Develop a hybrid model for Asia meets the West; flip the model for the West meets Asia.

In the West, the land of WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) and 'tell it like it is,' a coach's direct criticism might be welcomed by the client as being just the right medicine. In the East, 'face' is highly valued. It is more important not to say point blank that someone is wrong, but rather to offer options to the benefit of the individual. In the hybrid approach, you:

• Listen, observe, and refrain from rigid labeling. Asian leaders may take feedback very personally, so don't fall into black-and-white judgments or make abrupt assertions.

• Go to their strengths first, exploring how they might be leveraged.

• Factor in your own age as the coach. With a more senior Asian client, a coach who is the same age or older may be perceived to have significant wisdom in the area under discussion.

• If you find yourself on a pedestal, find a subtle way to get off. You want to establish your credibility, but at the same time make it clear that you are not there to preach, but to empower the client.

• Don't give the impression that you don't know the answer.

A 2006 survey entitled "The Dream Team: Delivering Leadership in Asia" by Korn/Ferry International,2 one of the world's leading providers of executive human capital solutions, polled more than 300 senior executives as to what makes a business leader successful in Asia. In response to the question "Should a Western business leadership model be replaced in Asia by an Asian business leadership model?" 35.5% affirmed that "No, globalization warrants a model that is neither Western nor Asian, but includes elements of all best practices."

In the final run, the most successful global coach must both become a hybrid catalyst for the coaching process, and encourage the client to adopt a hybrid East-West approach for leadership. In Chinese culture, there is a fine balance that must be carefully dealt with to ensure that the right connection is made. When the coachee asks for advice, the coach should be careful about providing suggestions. The idea should not be 'this is my advice/these are my answers for you' but rather 'these are different options' and offer resources or point to best practices.

4. Keep your focus on the client.

Even more important than being culturally aware in the new Asian business world is to work with openness to the reality that every person on the planet has a unique background and personality. Don't make any assumptions; try to understand the leader. Don't assume that just because the leader is Asian he or she will have an indirect communication style. Don't assume that young Asian leaders are all petulant children; the continuum of personality is broad and varied in every age bracket. Leaders come in all sizes and shapes. Asians aren't always of the same ethnic background. For example, in the Greater China region, there are 56 cultures and ethnicities in Hong Kong, the mainland, and Taiwan.

Finally, the hybrid cultural and generation approach must always make the coachee the center of the conversation. It is about how the coach can help the coachee to reach his or her goal. Once the core data is in about the coachee, including 360-degree feedback, body language, perspectives, values, culture, and background, the coach's role involves mirroring and serving as a guide for moving forward. The coach is a neutral presence who stays positive and helps the client to keep looking into the future. With the foundation of a 'hybrid,' the coach serves as an important bridge for action and success in the challenging new realm of global business.



1 Leadership in China: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy, 2005 page 10, finding 4; Development Dimensions International Inc. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2 "The Dream Team: Delivering Leadership in Asia" 2007 Economist Intelligence Unit and Korn/Ferry International, page 4; Korn/Ferry: Los Angeles, Singapore, Shanghai.

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

Maya Hu-Chan is an international management consultant, executive coach, author, public speaker and leadership development educator. She is the co-author of Global Leadership: The Next Generation. Read more about Maya in the WABC Coach Directory. Maya can be reached by email at mayahuchan@earthlink.net.

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