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Interview with

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith

rvie by Mr. Makarand Rege

person, Paul Hersey.. He gave me an We then get paid only after our coaching
opportunity. I learned what he did. I was a clients have achieved a positive change in
college professor, and he offered me a job key leadership behaviour as determined by
making 1000 USD a day. I was making stakeholders.
15,000 USD a year at that time. Because
People often ask, can executives change
he was double booked, he asked if I wanted
"their behaviour?" The answer is definitely
to deliver a session in executive education
yes. If they did not change, we could never
for a very large corporation and I said "Sign
get paid (and we almost always get paid) At
me up". I did the session. It was extremely
the top of major organizations even a small
successful. And that is how I got into
INTERVIEW WITH Dr.MARSHALL positive change in behaviour can have a big
executive education business. So in that
GOLDSMITH impact. From an organizational perspective
sense it was very accidental.
the fact that the executive is trying to change
As my cab stops in front of the hotel Trident How I got into the coaching business was anything (and is being a role model for
( erstwhile Oberoi Towers ) the Arabian Sea also accidental. I was working with a CEO. personal development) may be even more
looks black and gray and the sky is little He said, "We have this young guy who is important than what the executive is trying
cloudy. It looks as if it may rain. Trident smart, dedicated, hardworking, driven to to change, one key message that I have
reminds me of the terrorist attack of 26/11 achieve, entrepreneurial, gets results, given every CEO that I coach is "to help
where this hotel was a victim and a witness stubborn opinionated, and all that. It would others develop start with yourself ."
to that tragedy." Good Morning!" The be worth a fortune to us to turn the guy
security guard at the gate brings me back to MR : Please explain feedforward process.
around. Do you think you could help us?" I
the present. The young lady at the reception said "Sign me up" He said "I don't think it MG : Providing feedback has long been
wishes me with both the hands folded in a would work." Then I came up with my idea considered to be an essential skill for
typical Indian way. and I said "I will work with him for a year. If leaders. As they strive to achieve the goals
It is 6.00 am. I sit in the lobby waiting for Dr. he gets better, pay me. If he does not get of the organization, employees need to know
Marshall Goldsmith the top most executive better it is free. "He said, "Sold ! " That is how they are doing. They need to know if
coach in the world. My appointment with him how I got into coaching. Both of those were their performance is in line with what their
is at 6.30am. There are people going for the reasonably accidental. (*Dr. Paul Hersey is leaders expect. They need to learn what they
morning walk on the Marine Drive. Some of a recognized authority on training and have done well and what they need to
them look thoughtful. May be they are development in leadership, management, change. Traditionally this information has
thinking about the delayed monsoon . The and selling and is best known for his work been communicated in the form of
lobby of the Trident is as majestic as it was. regarding situational leadership.) "downward feedback" from leaders to their
There is a soothing music being played in employees. Just as employees need
MR : What type of coaching do you do? feedback from leaders, leaders can benefit
the lobby and the a fragrance which fills the
Please explain behavioral coaching. from feedback from their employees.
place completely.
MG : There are several different types of
'Good Morning'! Marshall comes out of the
coaching. We only do behavioural coaching
elevator exactly at 6.30 am. gives a genuine
for successful executives not strategic
smile and bends forward as he shakes my
coaching, life planning or organizational
hand. He looks very fresh and charged up!
As we both move to the "Verandah" for an change coaching. We only focus on
early breakfast, it is difficult to believe that changing leadership behaviour. If our clients
the leading coach in the world who coaches have other needs, we refer them to other
the top CEOs of the world could be so simple coaches.
and unassuming. Marshall makes me We first get an agreement with our coaching
comfortable and as we both are having clients and their managers on two key
coffee, I start interacting with him. variables.
MR (MAKARAND REGE) : Marshall, thanks 1) What are the key behaviours that will
a lot for your time. How did you get into make the biggest positive change in
coaching? increased leadership effectiveness and
MG (Dr. MARSHALL GOLDDMITH) : The 2) Who are the key stakeholders who can
way I got into business was largely determine (six to eighteen months later) if
accidental. I worked with a very famous this change has occurred.
Mr. Makarand Rege is CEO & Executive Coach, Siddhartha Learning Systems, Mumbai.E-Mail:

| HRD News Letter | March 2010, Vol.25, Issue:12 16 Silver Jubilee Series
Employees can provide useful input on the with colleagues showed improvement that  And like any great entrepreneur, invest
effectiveness of procedures and processes barely exceeded random chance. This was your time and money in your future.
as well as input to managers on their true whether the leader had an external
MR : You are a Buddhist, how Buddhism
effective leadership. This "upward feedback coach, an internal coach or no coach. It was
has influenced your work?
has become increasingly common with the also true whether the participants went to a
advent of 360 degree multirater training programme for five days, went for MG : You see, my approach is really more
assessments". one day or did not attend training programme Eastern than Western. 'The Western
at all. approach would be more of a therapy type
But there is a fundamental problem with all
approach, focused on the past, where I sit
types of feedback. It focuses on the past, The development of leaders, we have
concluded, is a contact sport. there and analyse your behaviour, why you
on what has already occurred - not on the
are the way you are. My Buddhist philosophy
infinite variety of opportunities that can MR : What is your experience of working in can be summarized in there simple words
happen in the future. As such, feedback can India. "Be happy now," in my mind, this is heaven,
be limited and static as opposed to
MG : During my trip to India; I had the this is hell and this is Nirvana, it is not, "out
expansive and dynamic.
opportunity to work with many dedicated there". It is "in here". The great Western
Over the past several years, I have observed professionals at the Indian School of disease is "I will be happy when ……… this
more than ten thousand leaders as they Business (ISB) in Hyderabad. is fueled by our prevailing art form the
participated in a fascinating experiential commercial. The commercial says "You are
exercise. In the exercise, each participant I love teaching in India. Every participant in Unhappy. You spend money. You become
is each asked to provide feedforword that my programme was eager to learn. Their is happy!" I don't believe that anyone can
is, to give someone else suggestions for nothing that a teacher loves more than become happy by having more. I also don't
future and help as much as they can. In the dedicated students who want to learn. I was believe that anyone can become happy by
second role, they are asked to accept amazed at the sincerity and interest shown having less. We can only find happiness and
feedforward - that is to listen to the by participants in my course. There was satisfaction with what we have. Life is good
suggestions for the future and learn as much absolutely none of the cynicism or when we make it good. I also sign my emails
as they can. The exercise typically lasts for skepticism I sometimes encounter in the this way to remind myself (and hopefully to
10 - 15 minutes, and the average participant U.S. or Western Europe. As a rule, people help others).
has 6 - 7 dialogue sessions. Feedfoward in India have a deep respect for education
helps people envision and focus on a and for educators. At the end of the two days My coaching philosophy is based upon
positive future not a failed past. By giving I was given a lovely card with a personal Buddhist principles. I believe that we have
ideas on how they can be even more thank you note from each participant. I was no "fixed identity" but instead we are ever
successful we can increase their chances very moved by their gratitude. changing. My coaching approach involves
of achieving success in future. helping people let go of the past and focus
The world has changed a lot in the past few on becoming what they want to become. I
MR : Have you done any research that has years. In the past brilliant students like the pioneered the concept called feedforward
documented how leaders can change ones I met at ISB, all dreamed of going to which is the essence of my coaching
behaviour? America or Europe, for a quality education.
Now they can get a quality education in
MG : We reviewed leadership development India. In the past, brilliant young students My understanding of Buddhism is Buddha
programme in eight major corporations. all planned on leaving India to get great jobs. suggested that each of us test ideas and
Although all eight companies had the same Now they can get great jobs in India. only use the ideas that work for us (including
overarching goals - to determine the desired his own ideas). In my coaching I ask
behaviors for leaders in their organizations MR : Do you have any advice for young
executives to get ideas from many sources
and to help leaders increase their people in the current scenario?
and use only the ideas that work for them. I
effectiveness by better aligning actual MG : My advice to young people who are don't try to "convince" or "make" my clients
practices with these desired behaviors, they just entering working is simple; do anything.
used different leadership development
methodologies : offsite training versus onsite  It is tough out there, and it is only going As Buddha suggested we can share our
coaching, short duration versus long to get tougher. ideas and let them be helpful to those who
duration, internal coaches versus external  Forget about security. are open to hearing us. By letting others "do
coaches and traditional classroom based only what works for you" we can let their
 Like it or not, even if you start out with a
training versus on the job interaction. positive experience say far more than our
large corporation, you are going to be
Rather than just evaluating "participant an entrepreneur.
happiness" at the end of the programme  Make peace with reality and your life is MR: Marshall, thanks a lot for the interview!
each of the eight companies measured the going to be a lot better. MG: Thank you!
participant's perceived increase in
leadership effectiveness over time. In an era of uncertainly, nothing can be taken As I say good bye to Marshall and present a
"Increased effectiveness" was not for granted. Young people are going to have small book on 'Buddha' by Osho, he says
determined by the participants; it was to develop skills and talents that make them "Thank You I love such books" and he does
assessed by preselected coworkers and globally competitive. And they are going to Namaste with both his hands folded !
stakeholders. need to keep upgrading and changing their
skills and talents to fit the needs of an ever I come out of the hotel; the Marine Drive is
Time and again, one variable emerged as changing market place. My final advice. in its true colours with many vehicles plying
central to the achievement to positive long on the road. I wave for a cab and now the
term change: The participant's on going  Forget about taking a year off. sun has started shining as if trying to bathe
interaction and follow up with colleagues.  Don't spend your adult years "Finding the Maximum City in it's glow. As the cab
Leaders who discussed their improvement yourself" starts, the Arabian Sea now looks blue and
priorities with their coworkers and then  Unless you are rich, don't buy the flat I wonder how some one like Marshall
regularly followed up with these coworkers screen T.V. When you are poor, live life Goldsmith can be so down to earth after
showed striking improvement. as a poor person, don't try to live like a reaching those heights!!
Leaders who did not have on going dialogue rich person. Life is Good !! 

Silver Jubilee Series | HRD News Letter | March 2010, Vol.25, Issue:12 17