Lessons From Drinking With a Leadership Guru

Accountability Growth mindset


Key Point: What if you could spend a few hours having a glass of wine with this dude? His book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, was ranked as America’s No. 1 best-selling business book in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He is one of a select few advisors who have been asked to work with more than 80 major CEO’s and their management teams. He also delivers top-rated keynotes, seminars and workshops. He’s been a member of the board of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for 10 years. He has been a volunteer teacher for US Army Generals, Navy Admirals, Girl Scout executives, international and American Red Cross leaders, (where he was a National Volunteer of the Year).

This man has a Ph.D. from UCLA. He teaches executive education at Dartmouth’s Tuck School and frequently speaks at other leading business schools. His work has been recognized by almost every professional organization in the leadership world. The American Management Association named him as one of 50 great thinkers and leaders who have influenced the field of management over the past 80 years. Business Week listed him as one of the most influential practitioners in the history of leadership development. He was recognized as a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources, America’s top HR honor. His work has been featured in a New Yorker profile, Harvard Business Review interview and Business Strategy Review cover story (London Business School).

Major business press acknowledgments include: The Wall Street Journal (one of the top 10 executive educators), Forbes (one of five most-respected executive coaches), India’s Economic Times (as one of five rajgurus of America), The UK’s Economist (one of three most credible executive advisors in the new era of business), and Fast Company (as America’s preeminent executive coach). His 23 books include: The Leader of the Future (a Business Week best-seller), Coaching for Leadership and the upcoming Developing Your Successor (in the Harvard Business Memo to the CEO series). The bio above, as many of you have already determined, belongs to the renowned Dr. Marshall Goldsmith.

On the night of May 7, I did spend a few hours over a glass of wine with Marshall. It was three of us, in the ultra hip Hotel Le Germain lounge in Calgary. Just Marshall, a big time CEO and me. That same day, before getting to Calgary, he talked to the CEO of Ford (CEO of the year , Alan Mulally), the head of The World Bank (Dr. Jim Yong Kim), Dave and me. He finally hit the big time with us (haha). I learned so much from this man during our time together that evening that I am going to share it with you over a couple of blogs.

So what did I learn? Lesson No. 1 (and you get this insight from Marshall before 99.9 percent of others).

Marshall and his Yale educated Ph.D. daughter, have been doing research on employee engagement. Here is what they are finding out (totally in sync with The Character Triangle). When we ask people active questions versus passive questions, employee engagement improves significantly.

A passive question would be, “are you engaged in your work?”

An active question would be, “did you do your best to be engaged at work?”

The point is that the person who has the most to gain from employee engagement is the employee. When active questions are asked, self-accountability emerges. When we ask passive questions, the response is environmentally driven rather than personal. (For example; the organization is responsible for me being engaged more than me taking responsibility).

Character move:

  1. An active question begins with a phrase like: “Did I do my best to..?” Learn to distinguish active versus passive questions.
  2. Ask yourself and your team active questions. The four BIG ones according to Marshall are: A. Did I do my best to be happy today? B. Did I do my best to find meaning today? C. Did I do my best to be engaged today? And D. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  3. Recognize that the only way people will change and commit to improve their engagement is because in their hearts they want to, AND they recognize they have the most to gain from doing so! 

Active questions in the Triangle,

– Lorne

P.S. – Stay tuned for more lessons from “drinking with Marshall!”