BLOG: Leadership InsightsGet Email Updates
Last day to request your FREE copy of Marshall Goldsmith presenting on The Positive Actions Leaders Must Take to Start Winning Again
[adrotate banner=”3″]In this presentation, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith speaks about building employee engagement and happiness. This program was filmed in 2010 and broadcast to leaders worlwide as part of The Thought Leader Series. Following the program, Roger Young from Linkage sat down for a short Q&A session with Dr. Goldsmith. Click here to receive your FREE copy of the program on DVD.
Roger Young: Our first question is from Shilpa out of Bangalore, India. Would the person trying to increase the MOJO quotient in his or her life be viewed as being a selfish person?
Marshall Goldsmith: My greetings to our friend from Bangalore. You know, that is the biggest change I have gone through while writing the book. When I wrote the book, it was designed to convey that this is good for you. Afterwards, I began to realize how important it is to everyone else. Imagine our children. What message do we send to those people who we love if we don’t act happy? What message do we send about the joy they are bringing into our lives? What message do we send about work if we do not think that what we are doing is meaningful? What message do we send to our customers? The great leaders I work with are not people who are greedy or selfish. These are people who find meaning and a higher purpose and I think that’s the opposite of being selfish. We are doing two things at once. We are helping ourselves and at the same time we are helping other people.
Roger Young: So is MOJO something that is contagious?
Marshall Goldsmith: Very well put. MOJO is contagious.
Roger Young: On the flip side of that, NOJO, as you mention in your book is also contagious, correct?
Marshall Goldsmith: NOJO is unfortunately contagious, too. If you don’t want other people to make destructive comments, don’t make them yourself.
I have this thing about fining my clients when I catch them doing or saying bad things. I fine my clients and we donate the money to charity. I have raised $450,000 for charity by doing this. It’s a fun activity and it works amazingly well. A woman attending one of my classes once decided: “I am going to fine my two teenage children because they are so negative. I am going to fine them a dollar every time they make a nasty, destructive comment. My husband and I will be charged $10.” She sent me an e-mail six months later saying: “I am amazed at how much more positive my children have become and I am ashamed at how much money my husband and I have lost.”
I can’t measure happiness for you and I would make no effort to.
Roger Young: Here is another question that just came in from the University of Texas. How do you handle situations with people who are really cynical and negative and refuse to see anything positive? How do you respond to them?
Marshall Goldsmith: Here’s the key: What is your power relationship with that person? This is a very important question. Are you their manager? If they are working for you, you can say this is part of your job, you are a professional and this is part of your professional responsibility.
Let me give you an example all the way at the top. One of my good coaching clients is one of the biggest CEOs in the world. I am working with her number two person. The coaching is about behavioral change. The number two person, the CEO and I are in the same room. The number two person looks at the CEO and says: “Does this behavioral coaching mean I have to watch what I say and how I act in every meeting for the rest of my career?” The CEO answered: “Welcome to my world. That is exactly what it means. You want to be the boss? You act like it.” Well, I think every employee needs to get that message that this is their job.
Now let’s assume you do not have power over this person. That’s a whole different situation. Then you have to ask yourself, can I influence this person in a positive and realistic way? If the answer is no, tell yourself that even though you probably cannot influence them in a positive and thoughtful way, you can still make a difference for yourself and therefore for the people around you.
Showtime! That’s what I tell every CEO I coach.
Roger Young: Absolutely. Our next question comes in from the Linkage Network out of Athens, Greece.
Marshall Goldsmith: Hello, Athens. I love working in Athens. Talk about high MOJO scores. One of my favorite places to work in the world. What’s the question?
Roger Young: Can you afford to be happy and nice to everyone at all times? And how about the difficult decisions we have to make?
Marshall Goldsmith: A very important point to make. I am in no way suggesting that you shouldn’t deal with performance problems. I look at my friends, Frances Hesselbein, Alan Mulally and of course especially General Eric Shinseki. Alan unfortunately has had to lay off people, sometimes thousands. General Shinseki had to order young soldiers to do things that lead to their death. Frances Hesselbein, who is the head of Girl Scouts, has had to make hard decisions. None of these people are Pollyannaish. They all have a mission, they are all serving that broader mission and they still have MOJO while they are doing it.
Let me give you just a couple of guidelines on how to do this. Let’s say you are my direct report. You want to do X and I want to do Y. I listen to you, I hear what you have to say and I know you are going to be happier doing X. I still believe Y is the right answer. Every decision is made by the person who has the power to make the decisions. I can say: “You know what? I have heard what you said, I know you want to do X and in this case, I’m the manager and I have chosen to do Y. Here’s why I want to do Y, let’s do it.” I don’t have to prove you wrong; in fact, it’s better if I don’t try to prove you wrong—very good simple philosophy.
Why does anyone care where Ashton Kutcher had lunch today? You don’t increase your MOJO’s scores by worrying about where Ashton is living today. You increase your MOJO score by wondering where you are living today.
Roger Young: Thank you. Another question just came in. This one is from Elizabeth at AT&T. How do you measure happiness?
Marshall Goldsmith: I can’t measure happiness for you and I would make no effort to. Elizabeth, I will let you define it in any way you want to define it. You’ve got a 1 to 10 scale and can roughly calculate your life relative to where you are and where you’ve been. It’s purely subjective. Where does it come from? It just comes from you. The key is: If you knew you were going to have to evaluate yourself at the end of the day or at the end of a task, chances are you would simply do better. The very fact that I have to evaluate myself every day makes me happier.
Roger Young: In the book you talk about the MOJO paradox. Specifically that our default response in life is to experience inertia. Can you give us examples of inertia at work and in your personal life?
Marshall Goldsmith: I will start with an example in my own life. If I had to look back on my career, my biggest regret would have to do with inertia. My mentor, a man with fantastic MOJO scores, a great thinker and leader, Dr. Paul Hersey gave me many opportunities. There is no way I would be who I am today if it were not for great teachers like Dr. Hersey.
I had been in my career for a couple years. Dr. Hersey gave me some coaching and said: “Marshall, you are too good at what you do. You are running around selling days, you make a lot of money. If you are not careful, you will never make the long-term investment to be who you could be.” He was talking about inertia. It wasn’t that I was sad or unhappy; I just could have done more. I could have had a more meaningful life. I could have been happier but I was kind of settling. It wasn’t until I was probably 45 years old that I started working with Frances Hesselbein and Peter Drucker and really began to challenge myself and realize that Dr. Hersey was right. In our careers, we often fall into this inertia trap. We are coasting, we are drifting; maybe comfortably drifting but we are still drifting. And if we are not careful, we are going to look back on life and say: “I could have done more. I could have been better.”
A personal example—and this is a funny one. I am always flying on a plane, right? Well, you get off the plane and what’s the first temptation you get at a hotel? Turn on the TV. Well, some stupid made-for-TV movie is on – and the people from Texas will appreciate this – with some mother in Texas killing her cheerleader daughter’s friend. Well, two hours later, you finish washing this idiotic movie and you say to yourself; “Why did I spend two hours of my life on this garbage?” You don’t get enough sleep and you are in a foul mood. I gave this example in a class once and one guy raised his hand and you know what he said? “I watched that movie twice.” I asked why he watched it twice. He says “I don’t know. It was stupid the first time.” Well, it’s inertia.
The average American teenager spends 7 1/2 hours a day on non-academic media. That’s a disaster.
And by the way, even worse: The Internet. The Internet is a killer. How many people out there have ever blown two hours on the Internet? And at the end of two hours were like “Wow, what was that about?” By the way, on a serious note: A tough statistic. This is not in the book because it wasn’t done at the time. Kaiser Permanente: The average American teenager spends 7 1/2 hours a day on non-academic media. That’s a disaster. We are talking about texting, video games, TV. 7 1/2 hours a day and that’s the average teenager, the ones who are flunking out, 10 or 12 a day. It’s a disaster. I travel around the world. These kids are going to get stepped on. Their competitors are not spending 7 1/2 hours a day on that garbage.
And I have a question. Why does anyone care where Ashton Kutcher had lunch today? You don’t increase your MOJO’s scores by worrying about where Ashton is living today. You increase your MOJO score by wondering where you are living today. Live your own life with the people you love; Ashton Kutcher, he don’t love you. He might love Demi Moore, but he don’t love you.
Roger Young: So many organizations today are going through and experiencing tremendous change. So when you look at MOJO at the organizational level, what are some things that leaders, senior leaders and people at all levels can do to increase MOJO?
Marshall Goldsmith: What I would do is start at the top and lead by example. Just like my friend Alan who e-mailed today. Ford’s MOJO’s going up. And I could tell you who is leading that charge. He is. You start with yourself. Then you challenge the next level down. As a leader, every day, you are going to show up. You are going to be positive. You are going to be motivated. You are going to be enthusiastic. Let me give you the analogy I use. I love my clients, they are human. So every now and again they start whining. I am very intolerant of whiners. And the analogy I use is a Broadway play. Have you ever watched anybody at a Broadway play stand up and say my foot hurts today, I feel bad, my aunt died last week?
Roger Young: The show must go on.
Marshall Goldsmith: Showtime. That’s what I tell every CEO I coach. Showtime. You are the leader, it’s showtime. You are up, you are positive, you are enthusiastic, and you communicate. This is meaningful. You make it meaningful. I think it is very important to have that personal responsibility spread throughout the organization, to the operational level. Challenge those people at the operational level to tell you what they can do to increase their own experience with happiness and meaning—as opposed to just saying: What am I going to give you to make you happy?” Less entitlement and more personal responsibility. Treat people like adults who take ownership of their own lives, not children.
Just be happy now. Not next week, not next month, not next year—now.
Roger Young: Why is MOJO so important in what you’ve called the New World?
Marshall Goldsmith: Well, I think it’s so important in the New World because work is so much more important. Again, you are working 60 or 80 hours a week in a professional job. Work is important. It is your life. And if you are not having a meaningful experience in those 60 or 80 hours, you are losing and it is painful. So before you say or do anything, you should take a deep breath and ask yourself: “Is what I’m about to say or do in the best interest of myself and the people I love?” If the answer is no, well, that may not be what you want to be doing this year. We need to look at our lives and think of how to maximize our happiness and meaning on this little journey through Earth.
Roger Young: Here’s a question that’s coming in from the Panama Canal Authority. I lead some people who I don’t think are capable of being happy. What advice do you have when dealing with these types of people? Get rid of them? They are still talented and they contribute but they can have a tendency to bring the rest of the group down.
Marshall Goldsmith: I wrote an article about this in either my Harvard Business or Business Week blog but I will give you the gist of it right now.
There is nothing wrong with being an individual contributor and if you’ve got somebody who is a fantastic individual contributor and their job doesn’t really involve a lot of teamwork, let them be an individual contributor. And maybe they have a bad attitude or they are not too upbeat and motivated but they are still contributing. It’s okay.
I will give you a funny example. This is years ago. I worked in a high tech company and I had to give feedback to the top five people. These are very famous people, I won’t mention any names but you know who they are. And one of the guys, he’s a brilliant technical guy. He’s one of the smartest humans I have ever met in my life. Gifted, he invented things that everybody in this room would know who invented them. And his boss put him on the management committee—kind of in recognition for his great work as one of the top five people.
Well, I’m going through his 360 feedback and everybody is saying he is arrogant. He wasn’t really arrogant. He would just be sitting in these meetings and do e-mails. He wasn’t doing e-mails because he was arrogant or a bad team player, he was doing e-mails because he had no idea what was going on. They were talking about financing in Brazil; he didn’t know anything about that stuff. He’s a geek, he’s a techie guy.
Well, I talked to the CEO and I said that he didn’t even want to be on the management committee. He didn’t need the money. This wasn’t some kind of honor for him. He was rich. He was worth $50 million anyway, what did he care? I told him to leave the guy alone, let him go off to his office and do computer things and come up with brilliant ideas that make everybody billions. Don’t torture this guy by making him come to stupid management committee meetings.
So sometimes the right answer is everybody doesn’t have to be a member of the same team. On the other hand, if you do have to be a member of a team, teamwork is part of your job. That’s a whole different issue; that shouldn’t be negotiable. Then you tell the person: “Suck it up and pitch in.”
Old people almost never regret the risk they took and failed. They almost always regret the risks they failed to take.
Roger Young: Another question here. How does having another person check your MOJO status help you maintain your MOJO?
Marshall Goldsmith: Well it’s interesting. And I think this varies from person to person. For me, and I’m just speaking for me (and by the way, I think the idea of the checklist is great whether you have a peer coach or not.) I just do better with another person. I am very extroverted and it’s a little harder to BS another person than it is just myself. If I spent two hours watching a cheerleader movie last night and the coach asks: “What did you watch?” Well, I feel like an idiot…and you know why? Because I have been an idiot! If I have somebody else that’s kind of checking in, I am just a little less likely to act like a complete idiot.
Roger Young: I want to ask one last question here if we have time. I want to get your feedback or your suggestion on coaching. What bit of coaching advice would you give to people?
Marshall Goldsmith: This is the best advice listeners are ever going to get from a coach in this or any other lifetime. Here it comes. Are you ready? Take a deep breath.
I want to imagine that you are 95 years old, just getting ready to die. But right before you take that last breath, you are given a wonderful gift. The ability to go back in time to talk to the person you are right now. What advice would a wise 95-year-old, who knows what matters and what doesn’t would give you? A friend of mine asked many old people what advice they would have. Three things emerged:
First thing: Be happy now. We all know of the Great Western disease that’s sweeping the world” I will be happy when…” (When I get that money, and the status, and a BMW…) Just be happy now. Not next week, not next month, not next year—now.
Secondly: Friends and family. Many of you work in wonderful companies. But let me tell you, when you are 95-years old on your deathbed, how many employees do you think will be there waving goodbye?
And three: If you have a dream, go for it. If you don’t when you are 35, you may not when you are 85. Old people almost never regret the risk they took and failed. They almost always regret the risks they failed to take.
Life is short. Have fun. The greatest leaders I’ve met are not victims or martyrs, they love showing up every day. What you do can help people and it’s the opposite of being selfish. Help people and when you are 95 you will be proud you did (and disappointed if you did not.) That’s reason enough. That’s the only performance appraisal that matters anyway. The final thing I like to say to everyone is thank you very much.
Roger Young: Thank you, Marshall.
Women in Leadership Institute™
NOV. 1–4, 2022 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
Enrich Your inbox
with timely, relevant leadership insights
Join more than 15,000 others and subscribe to Linkage Leadership Insights: your resource for leadership development-related topics that matter to you, from the advancement of women leaders to diversity and inclusion and purposeful leadership. Plus, get all the latest Linkage news delivered to your inbox.
Start Your Journey
Speak with a Linkage expert today