Marshall Goldsmith is the co-founder of the California-based firm Marshall Goldsmith Partners, an executive coaching firm delivering “measurable change in the behaviour of leaders at all levels of the organization”. He talked to Des Dearlove about achieving personal goals.
Every night, Marshall Goldsmith gets a phone call. It doesn’t matter where he is in the world or how many hours he has worked that day: the phone still rings. On the other end of the line is Goldsmith’s long-time friend and coach, Jim Moore. Every night, Moore asks him 13 questions.
The first question is always: “How happy are you?” Twelve others follow: “How much walking did you do? How many push-ups? How many sit-ups? Did you eat any high-fat foods? How much alcohol did you drink? How many hours of sleep did you get? How much time did you spend watching TV or surfing the Internet? How much time did you spend writing? Did you say or do something nice for your wife? Did you say or do something nice for your children? How many times did you try to prove you were right when it wasn’t worth it? How many minutes did you spend on topics that didn’t matter or that you can’t control?”
Goldsmith calls them his baker’s dozen. “They’re the same questions each night,” he explains, “and knowing Jim will call and that I have to answer them honestly is my method of following up on my goal of becoming a healthier individual.”
Goldsmith knows all about personal goals. He is the world’s leading – and best-paid – executive coach. It is to him that corporate America’s elite turn for help with changing their behaviours. Executive coaching is a growing market. As senior managers are under increasing pressure from organizational stakeholders, executive coaches, especially those with a proven track record with top managers, are in increasing demand. Marshall Goldsmith is at the top of the pile.
He is ranked among the top 10 executive educators by the Wall Street Journal, and profiles in the New Yorker and the Harvard Business Review confirm his place at the top of his chosen profession. Goldsmith has coached more than 70 CEOs and worked with executives of Fortune 500 companies, including General Electric, Boeing and Motorola. The respected business professor CK Prahalad described Goldsmith as “the best diamond cutter in the business. He can take a rough diamond and polish rapidly to reveal its brilliance. He is one of a kind.”
“I have a very narrow focus,” says Goldsmith. “I don’t do life planning, career planning, strategy or personal productivity. I am the best in the world in my narrow area – or maybe second best. My speciality is interpersonal skills – behavioural issues. The focus is strictly on helping successful leaders get better.”
To get better, however, executives have to accept there’s a problem, says Goldsmith. He recounts the story of one executive he coached. “Although regarded as hard-working with high potential, his offhand behaviour towards co-workers meant he was seen as a complete jerk.