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Marshall Goldsmith, author of Mojo, is a researcher and executive coach.
Marshall Goldsmith, author of Mojo, is a researcher and executive coach.

Leadership advice

Goldsmith: Engagement comes from within Add to ...

The case study I use to illustrate my point is when you want to go to dinner at restaurant X but your spouse or partner wants to go to restaurant Y. You agree to go to restaurant Y and the food tastes awful. Option A is to critique the food, point out your partner was wrong and this mistake would have been avoided if he or she listened to you. Option B is to shut up, eat the stupid food, try to enjoy it, and have a nice evening.

What would you do? What should you do?

Seventy-five per cent of my clients say they would critique the food. What should they do? Shut up, of course.

It’s very hard for successful people not to go through life constantly winning and being right. A variation to that is a second bad habit: adding too much value.

Here’s an example: I am young, smart, enthusiastic and I come to you – my manager – with a great idea. Rather than saying, “It’s a great idea,” the natural tendency as a manager is to say, “That’s a nice idea; why don’t you add this to it.” The problem is the quality of the idea may go up 5 per cent with the manager’s suggested addition but my commitment to it may go down 50 per cent as it’s no longer my idea. It’s very hard for smart, successful people not to go through life constantly adding value – especially engineers, scientists and individuals with technical backgrounds

One of my coaching clients, who was CEO of a pharmaceutical company, retired three years ago. I asked what he learned as CEO. He said: “My suggestions become orders. If they are smart they become orders, and if they are stupid they become orders. If I want them to be orders or I don’t want them to be orders, they become orders anyway.”

I asked him what he learned from me as his executive coach. He said, “To be honest, you only told me one thing in a year and a half I remembered: Before I speak, stop and breathe, and ask myself one question: ‘Is it worth commenting?’ ” He said 50 per cent of the time, he had the discipline to stop and breathe: “I’d ask, ‘Am I right?’ Maybe. ‘Is it worth it?’ No.”

It’s hard for us to hold back – not just at work, I should add, but at home.

You have a new book aimed at salespeople, based on the theme of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. At the core, what is your message for them?

The major theme for salespeople is: Don’t make it about yourself. Don’t make it about your own ego. Don’t make it about how smart you are. Make it about your clients.

We all have a tendency to believe it’s all about us – to focus on our own needs. But the key to effective leadership and sales is we’re better off if we can make it about others. This is even more important at home, by the way.

What led you to write about mojo – and what is the book about?

I’m a Buddhist. Mojo is essentially a Buddhist philosophy book. It’s about happiness and meaning. It’s about positive spirit towards what we’re doing, starting from the inside and radiating to the outside.

I see this when travelling. One flight attendant is motivated, upbeat, enthusiastic and positive, while another is negative, bitter, angry and cynical. What’s the difference? Well it’s not what is coming from the outside; it’s what is coming from the inside.

In our mojo research, my daughter and I learned there is an incredibly high correlation between happiness and meaning at work and happiness and meaning at home. People who are miserable at work tend to be the same people who are miserable at home. People who find meaning at work are the same people who find meaning at home.

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