Coaching Great Leaders: Find Your Mojo and Find Success!

Posted by Marshall Goldsmith

By Marshall Goldsmith

In my work, the most frequent question I hear is: What is the one quality that differentiates truly successful people from everyone else? My answer is always the same: Successful people spend a large part of their lives engaging in activities that simultaneously provide meaning and happiness. In other words, truly successful people have Mojo. Because the only person who can define meaning and happiness for you is you, I've recently written a book to help people to define and achieve Mojo.

Mojo is that moment when we do something powerful, purposeful, and positiveand the rest of the world recognizes it. To me, Mojo is about achieving two simple goals—loving what you do and showing it—and it plays a vital role in our pursuit of happiness and meaning. These goals are what govern my operational definition, which is: Mojo is that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside. Our Mojo is evident when the good feelings we have toward what we are doing come from inside us and are apparent for everyone else to see. There is no gap between the positive way we perceive ourselves-what we are doing-and how we are perceived by others.

There's something I haven't brought up yet and it may be the most critical piece of advice within this article: You should not feel obligated do any of this alone! If you want to improve your performance at almost anything, your odds of success improve considerably the moment you enlist someone else to help you.

I know this from personal experience, because for several years I have enlisted the help of a friend, Jim Moore, in achieving my own personal goals. Every day, no matter where either of us is in the world, we try to connect on the phone so Jim can ask me a series of questions. They're important day-to-day lifestyle questions such as "Did you say or do anything nice for Lyda [my wife]?" "How much do you weigh?" or "How many minutes did you write?" Jim happens to be an esteemed expert in leadership development, but his qualifications for this ritual rest more on the fact that he's a friend who's genuinely interested in helping me and will always make himself available for our daily phone call.

The process is incredibly simple. At the end of each day, Jim asks me twenty-four questions (the number has changed over time as my goals shift between maintaining my weight and being nicer to my family). Each question has to be answered with a yes, no, or a number. I record the results on an Excel spreadsheet and at the end of the week get an assessment of how well I'm sticking to my objectives. (I return the favor by asking Jim a series of questions about what matters to him.)

The results are astonishing. After the first eighteen months of adhering to this ritual, Jim and I both weighed exactly what we wanted to weigh, exercised more, and got more done (and I was nicer to my wife). As an experiment, we quit for about a year to see what would happen. Each of us put the weight back on and did not achieve nearly as much-a result that was both predictable, depressing, and sent us rushing to back to the program, where we resumed hitting our targets immediately. I was never unhappy, but my life seems happier and more meaningful to me when I use this process.

(To see my ‘daily questions,' Jim's daily questions, and get an article describing this process, go to MojoTheBook.com.)

The lesson is clear: we don't just have to rely on self-help!

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

 Marshall Goldsmith, MBA, PhD, 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. He is the WSJ and NYT best-selling author of What Got You Here Won't Get You There (Hyperion, 2007). His most recent book is Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back If You Lose It. Learn more about Marshall in the WABC Coach Directory. Contact Marshall.
If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

Senior Leadership Transitions: What Makes Them Work and What Causes Them to Fail?

By Patricia Wheeler, PhD

Today's senior leaders face high expectations that go beyond being an expert in one primary line of business, principal role, or segment of the organization. In our fast-moving environment of mergers, acquisitions, divestments, and sell-offs, leaders are asked to come up to speed even more quickly as well as influence an increasing number of stakeholders across their organization in order to be successful. Given this climate, how are these leaders faring? And what can coaches do to help?

In 2008, the Institute of Executive Development and the global coaching alliance Alexcel reported results of a year-long market study designed to examine transitions that senior-most leaders (those executives in the top five percent of their organizations) make and to identify what helps them succeed and what causes them to fail. Participants included approximately 150 executives and talent professionals from more than 100 organizations in 12 countries and 21 industries. Participants took an online survey consisting of 18 multiple choice questions, plus a number of deep-dive interviews, specifically on the subject of internal and external transitions, how many failed, and why they failed. Failurewas defined as when the leader failed to meet their organization's criteria for success by the two-year mark. (This did not mean that all leaders who were considered "failing" were fired or moved out of their roles.)

We found that one in three senior executives hired externally failed to meet their organization's criteria for successful performance within two years. This is consistent with and perhaps even more optimistic than results from some other studies, particularly those that focused on the entire executive population.

What was even more noteworthy was our finding that one in five senior leaders taking on new roles within their existing organization failed. The clear message here is that what makes a leader successful in one role in the organization will not necessarily continue to drive his or her success in the next role. We echo Marshall Goldsmith's words (and title of his book), "What got them here won't get them there." Organizations must ensure that they offer sufficient help to leaders making internal transitions.

Why did so many of the senior-most leaders fail to make successful transitions? The top two reasons cited by organizations we surveyed were lack of interpersonal skills and lack of personal skills. (Note: Each survey respondent could choose to cite more than one cause of executive failure.) Only 15 percent of respondents said leaders within their organization failed due to lack of technical or business skills. The highest cause of failure was leadership skill deficits, reported by 68 percent of organizations. Another 45 percent of respondents reported failure due to leaders' poor personal skills, including lack of focus and self-management. The implications are clear: obstacles to success in new roles are primarily due to what many organizations consider "soft" skills, i.e., those that focus on the quality and quantity of relationships that leaders craft and maintain.

So what can companies and executive coaches do to help? We gathered information on what companies are doing and what they deemed effective. Online onboarding and meet-and-greets are helpful for external hires, but clearly not sufficient for senior leaders. With leaders new to a company, mentoring programs and informal networks with other executives were the support modalities perceived as most effective. Customized assimilation plans and executive coaching were also helpful.

For internally transitioning leaders, the supports perceived as most effective were executive coaching and the creation of a customized assimilation plan. This speaks to the importance of creating a network of people that will help leaders differentiate the demands and needs of their old role from those of their new role, and develop more senior-level presence as they move through the leadership pipeline.

What does a customized assimilation program look like? Here is an example from my personal case files:

Mark had been with his organization, a Fortune 100 manufacturing division, for 14 years. He was promoted to a corporate vice president role. In this role (his 12th position in the company), he needed to rapidly form relationships with his new stakeholders, many of whom he knew from afar in his plant manager role but with whom he had never worked closely.

First, we reviewed the 360 evaluation generated for his former position. His strengths included his clear ethics, dependability, ability to collaborate with others, and easygoing manner. His primary leadership challenge was his tendency to be too easygoing with employee communication and feedback; we decided that in his new position, he would focus on giving clear, ongoing feedback (and FeedForward1) to his team and challenge himself to adopt a greater sense of urgency about results.

We crafted an assimilation plan that included an "all-hands" meeting with Mark and two levels of his direct reports. Mark organized and prepared to discuss his thoughts around issues including:

  • Team vision
  • Expected results
  • Key customers
  • First impressions of his role and of the team
  • Expectations of the team
  • Plan for ongoing review of progress.

We gathered anonymous information from the team, including:

  • Important stakeholders
  • First impressions of Mark and the reputation that preceded him
  • Questions for and about Mark.

Then we facilitated dialogue between Mark and the team on these areas. My continued role as coach was to help Mark stay aware of his leadership style, leverage his strengths, and navigate around his potential derailers. He created a contact plan to help him identify and reach out to key stakeholders in his new role. We also developed ways for him to hold himself accountable for ongoing FeedForward to his team, boosting both their performance and engagement scores.

Two years later, Mark continues to be successful in his role. Comparing his previous transitions to this one, he credits the plan with saving at least six month's worth of wasted time, false starts, and "water-cooler talk." According to Mark, the work on forming key relationships quickly and creating a platform by which these relationships are maintained and deepened was the most valuable benefit of his assimilation program.

In conclusion, as leaders today must manage more frequent and more complex transitions throughout their careers, it is crucial for organizations and their internal and external coaching resources to take clear steps to help these leaders succeed in their new roles. Making sure that they continue to monitor and develop personal and interpersonal skills is absolutely critical to optimizing performance in new roles, even when they have clear track records of success in their former positions.

Alexcel and the Institute of Executive Development will continue studying what makes senior leadership transitions work and what causes them to fail. We welcome dialogue with organizations and internal coaches who are achieving success in this area, as well as those who are struggling to develop more robust programs for their senior leaders.

1 This process, developed by Marshall Goldsmith, is a quick and proven method for helping successful people be even more successful. The practice of FeedForward requires a disciplined approach to following up with important stakeholders, which research has shown is the key ingredient to successful change. For more about FeedForward, see "Leadership Is a Contact Sport: The ‘Follow-up Factor' in Management Development" strategy + business, Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan, Fall 2004.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide  (June Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 3). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

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

Real Estate Leadership: Coaching for Growth Amidst a Changing Market

Posted by WABC

By Freddie Ray

Keller Williams Realty is the third largest real estate company in the United States, with over 670 offices. The organization is divided into regional franchise ownership groups and boasts a healthy complement of training to augment the success of its agent base. Residential real estate is the primary business of the company, with additional focus on commercial real estate and luxury homes.

The Partnership
Tipper Williams is the Regional Directory of Virginia for Keller Williams Realty. In the past 20 years, she has earned awards as a top salesperson, owned her own real estate company, and grown from salesperson to top leadership. During the term of this engagement, she has successfully led the largest franchise ownership group in the Keller Williams system.

Freddie Ray is the President and CEO of Motivation Coaching, an Executive and Leadership coaching company founded in March 2003.

The two met at a conference Freddie was attending with another client. "I was skeptical about hiring a coach," Williams said. "I chose her because of her success in business leadership and her credentials. She leads by example, she pushes me to be better than I thought I could be, and she challenges me to think before I act. Freddie has been my coach since 2005, and has helped me to grow as a leader, experience and respond to change, and helped me to focus on what is important for my teams and me to succeed."

The Challenge
At the beginning of the coaching engagement, the company identified desired results as leadership growth and business profitability. Tipper also had personal goals to achieve, including to exceed profitability goals and ultimately be promoted to the Regional Director position.

During the engagement, Tipper's role took her from Texas to Colorado to Virginia. Throughout, the desired results stayed the same; however, the issues were multifaceted. They included the lack of sustainable profitability in multiple offices, development and rollout of a new leadership position, the economic changes that disrupted the real estate market, and multiple moves that required Tipper to "start over" repeatedly-new roles in new states all within the same parent organization.

The Approach
Tipper was coached on leadership, accountability in systems development, business metrics, and change management.

In order to be successful, the client first had to learn what strengths augmented her efforts, and what behaviors hindered her success. First, a personality assessment was used to gauge her strengths and to open frank dialogue regarding leadership behavior. This allowed her to identify growth areas that would lead to greater success.

Second, the company was growing at a record pace, and this led to changes in position, changes in needs, and change management with teams. In order for Tipper to be successful, she had to focus on implementing systems that would allow for sustained success over time. These systems included hiring talent, developing business metrics to gauge current and potential growth opportunities, accountability systems to develop teams and new leaders, and more. Keller Williams Realty has a committed focus on training and development. In order for Tipper to succeed, she had to choose what company systems to implement, and how to apply those systems to individual and regional office needs.

"Gaining clarity is one of the best results I have from coaching. Weeding through everything that is thrown at me, stepping away from the challenges of a fast-paced industry and the frenzy of trying to be six places at one time, combined with the changing market and the needs of my team at times seemed impossible. Coaching with Freddie has taught me how to make sense of it all, how to identify what is most important, and how to make good decisions. Before, I might have made a decision based on what was right in front of me. Now, I have a process to follow."

Third, Tipper was faced with a multitude of changes. These changes included personally being moved from state to state, dealing with franchised offices that each had unique teams, and facing the uncertainty that came with the economic downturn. Change management became a major focus throughout the coaching engagement—from personnel to industry to leadership role-and continues into Tipper's newest position as Regional Director.

The overall key to this engagement is focus—focus on what is needed to be successful in business (sustainable profitability), on developing talent (hiring, training), on personal growth (change in positions, leadership scope), and more.

The Value Delivered
Tipper's results are many, and her commitment to success as well as to the success of the coaching engagement is tied to her "coachability." Throughout the process, she remained open to trying new things, to debriefing successes and failures, and to focusing on her goals and those of the company. This is a short list of some of her successes to date:

  1. Leadership skills development including business acumen, team building, and communication;
  2. Profitability for all offices under her watch, including franchise group success that exceeded company goals and benchmarks, placing her team at #1 for the group;
  3. Recruiting top leaders from competitive companies for office leadership positions, training them, and holding them accountable to goals;
  4. Systems rollout for sustained profitability;
  5. Regional training programs to augment team building and goal achievement;
  6. Successful rollout of the new "General Manager" position in the system, with record profitability numbers associated with groups in Colorado and Virginia;
  7. Attainment of the Regional Director role in Virginia;
  8. Attainment of a position on the Master Faculty for training at Keller Williams International;
  9. Change management to address the economic downturn and changes within the offices under her watch;
  10. Focus on a personal development plan to ensure growth as a leader, avoid stagnation, and lead by example.

Coaching enabled Tipper to stay focused amidst turmoil, to be accountable to the profitability goals set by the company, and to stay on track to attain her personal growth goals. "I don't say that something can't be done. Instead, I think in terms of how it can be done. I've always been an overachiever, and thought I could do it all on my own. I guess I thought I was supposed to do it on my own. What I found out was that I succeed when I'm challenged, and coaching has made me a better leader and helped me achieve my goals."

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Freddie Ray is the President and CEO of Motivation Coaching, Inc., providing executive and leadership services to corporations, organizations, and executives seeking improved leadership skills, increased productivity, teambuilding, and bottom-line revenue results. An accomplished business professional with over 20 years experience, her longevity and experience are highlighted by a solution-oriented approach. Since opening her company in March 2003, she has logged over 8,000 coaching hours. See the WABC Member Directory for more about Freddie. Contact Freddie.

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

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

Posted by WABC

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?

In the first column in this three-part series (WABC's Blog, December 6, 2012), we looked at how Lucia Mannone, a 38-year-old, Italian, senior marketing officer for a German medical instrument company with little global experience beyond Europe, could help her company expand in the key markets of Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea.

She could begin to become more globally competent through the “behavioral approach” of learning what to do and what not to do in different countries. Then she could move on to the “national values approach” of understanding whypeople behave the way they do in different countries.

But both approaches are limited in how far they can help because they only embrace some of the factors that affect human behavior and can easily lead to misleading stereotypes, e.g., “Mexicans are more interested in family, relationships, and security than in getting quality work done on time and moving up the career ladder” or “the Chinese are always avoiding conflict and will never directly own up to a mistake.”

So what are the other factors that may be influencing individual or group behavior?

Additional Factor 1

This columnist revisited the first stereotype, about Mexicans being family- and relationship-oriented, etc., while doing some recent values work for two teams at the central Mexican subsidiary of a large German company.

Although most of the members of each team were Mexican nationals who had never lived outside that country, they expressed a clear preference for such values as personal achievement, getting the job done, risk-taking, individualism, and egalitarianism, values that would not be considered as typically “Mexican” according to the research of Geert Hofstede and others.

Neither would these values be considered typically German.

So what was going on here?

Beyond national culture, it seems that organizational culture was at play.

These Mexican employees had deliberately chosen to work for an innovative, hi-tech, global communications company that happened to be headquartered in Germany and have a subsidiary in their hometown.

As this company expands across the world, it is developing its own unique value system and way of doing things, which may have little in common with the traditional culture and values of Germany or any other single country or region.

So, for example, if Lucia Mannone is now trying to develop a new strategic partnership with a large Korean chaebol (business family or conglomerate), she should probably spend a lot more time learning about that company’s values, history, traditions, and culture rather than focusing on those of Korea as a whole.

Additional Factor 2

Let’s go back to the oft-quoted lament that “the Chinese are always avoiding conflict and will never directly own up to a mistake.”

While this may be true in some cases, it is certainly not true in all of them; even if it does appear to be true in a particular case, it may be masking a much larger issue.

For example, a US-based hi-tech company was noticing that many of its software engineers, including all of the East Asian ones, were grossly underreporting errors in responding to monthly questionnaires.

It would have been easy to zero in on the East Asian engineers and try to deal with issues of national “face,” honor, and pride.

But then managers noticed that they were getting similar omissions from engineers at their offices in other parts of Asia, Europe, Latin America, and even North America.

Maybe the corporate culture was becoming too “success oriented” and employees were reluctant to report mistakes for fear of letting down their colleagues and harming their future career prospects?

But that was not the case at this organization, which did not have a hyper-aggressive, punitive culture. It was well understood that occasional errors were part of the learning process.

So what else was going on?

From careful analysis and many interviews, it seemed that the underreporting had more to do with the professional culture of the software engineers, for whom an “error” is like an admission of incompetence and failure.

So the managers decided to eliminate all mention of “errors” from the monthly questionnaires and instead they asked the software engineers for their lessons learned, best practices, and suggestions for improvement.

Suddenly, the managers starting getting a flurry of invaluable insights and ideas from the previously reticent engineers and, not coincidentally, errors were drastically reduced.

By recognizing the value and power of professional culture, global leaders can actually help their colleagues find a new way of connecting across the world.

In Lucia’s case, this may be a good way for her to build trust and rapport with her marketing counterparts in Tokyo or Buenos Aires, as they may well have studied exactly the same textbooks as she did in university, just in Japanese or Spanish.

Unfortunately, professional culture can sometimes work the other way if two “experts” butt heads over who knows best about some arcane technical issue.

But it is certainly something to bear in mind when trying to develop relationships and build business around the world.

Additional Factor 3

As any budding global leader can now see, it is a lot more than national customs and values that explain why someone behaves the way they do halfway around the world.

Like a “cultural detective,” a competent leader must try to decipher how behaviors are influenced by geographical, organizational, or professional culture…or a mixture of all three.

Even then they may not have the whole answer, because they also need to understand the “individual” culture of each employee, i.e., that created by their social background, family, race, ethnicity, education, sexual orientation, thinking style, character, personality, etc.

Just as Lucia Mannone may not be typical of her country, her company, or her profession, anyone she meets with around the world may well be similarly unique.

Given this complexity and uncertainty, how can a global leader possibly be effective with counterparts he or she may have never met nor ever meet?

We will explore this and related issues in the third and last Global Leader Development column to be published in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, if you want to discuss any of the points raised in this column, please email Jeremy Solomons directly at the email listed below.


This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 2). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


Adler, N. (2007). International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning

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

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

Hofner Saphiere, D. et al (2010). Cultural Detective Online Learning Series.http://www.culturaldetective.com

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.


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