Practical Advice from the Master Executive Coach

Climbing stairs to success imageDr Marshall Goldsmith may be the most acclaimed executive coach of our times. He was recently recognised as one of the 15 most influential business thinkers in the world, in a global bi-annual study sponsored by The London Times. Marshall is one of a select few executive advisers who have been asked to work with over 120 major CEO’s and their management teams. He is the million-selling author of numerous books, including New York Times best-sellers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – a Wall Street Journal #1 business book and winner of the Harold Longman Award for business book of the year.

I had the opportunity to have an extended interview with Marshall for my new book.

(To get the full interview which is just one of a dozen other great ones – go to

During our interview, Marshall revealed how his PhD supervisor changed his life, in what may have been his first ever informal coaching session. Mid-way through his PhD, he had developed a reputation for being a “negative, whiny, judgemental pain in the butt”. His supervisor sat him down and went on to give him two options. A – continue what he was doing, get fired and never graduate or B – let go of issues he has no control over, and learn to have some fun. Marshall went on to choose the second option.

This meeting would shape him as a man and as a coach. He said after the meeting: “I came to this realization, not only did I have more fun, I made a more positive difference in the world. Rather than trying to judge everyone around me, I decided I’d be better off helping them. Rather than being self-righteous or acting better than everyone, I thought maybe I would just try to understand them the best I could.” This reasoning parallels Buddhist philosophy, which Marshall as a Buddhist aims to adhere to and has led to a coaching process known as Feed Forward.

“Buddha said, only do what I teach you if it works for you, if it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it. Well, the way I teach Feed Forward, you ask for input, you take the ideas as a gift, if it works for you use it, but if it doesn’t work for you don’t use it. You don’t judge or critique people who give you ideas. You learn to shut up and say thank you, and you use what you can use and if you don’t use it, you still say thank you and are grateful. It is amazing how this simple concept has changed my coaching philosophy and it’s really the center of how I work with my clients.”

The most important thing Marshall teaches is how to ask for input. He aims to inspire his clients to ask the right questions that will lead to better performance stating that the question ‘how can I be better?’ is one we do not ask enough. He said it is then important to listen in a non-judgmental way and treat the input as a gift that can be used to create an empowering future, which is much more important than criticizing errors of the past.

He said: “I teach people how to respond to something called ‘360 degree feedback’ in a very positive way. Something like, ‘thank you very much for participating in this process, overall I’m very grateful for the opportunity and I know you’re time is valuable and thank you for helping me.’ A lot of my feedback is very positive and I teach someone to go through what the positives are and express gratitude.” Once this is done, then all he has to do is encourage the client to pick one or two simple areas to improve and involve all key staff in the process to ensure the correct follow up occurs.

Towards the end of our interview, Dr Goldsmith went on to bust one of the most common myths about coaching highly successful clients. “The common misconception is that these people would not respond well to simple things and they want complex things. That would be wrong! These people are incredibly busy and they do not have time for complex things. If it’s not positive, simple, focused, and fast they probably won’t do it anyway. So, I find the higher up you go, the more people respond in a positive way to things that are positive, simple, focused, and fast as opposed to complex and convoluted.”

I hope you enjoyed this brief article on my interview with Marshall. If you would like to obtain the full interview, which is just one of a dozen amazing interviews in the book Destiny Defining Decisions – go to


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