Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Acting Like A Professional or Acting Like a Phony?

"It's the avenue, I'm taking you to, 42nd Street!" The singers sing, the dancer's dance and the actors act. On Broadway there is always something wonderful on stage. In many ways, Broadway is the definition of "performance."

I am inspired by great theater. Every night, great performers pour their hearts into each production. Some have headaches, some have family problems, but it doesn't really matter. When it's show time, they give it all they have. Although it might be the thousandth time an actor has performed the part, it might be the first time the customer sitting in the fourth row has seen the production. To the true performer, every night is opening night.

Like great actors, inspirational leaders sometimes need to be consummate performers. When they need to motivate and inspire people, they do it. It doesn't matter if they have a headache. They do whatever it takes to help their organization succeed. When they need to be "on," like the Broadway stars, it's show time.

One of the greatest leaders I know is Frances Hesselbein, the former executive director of the Girl Scouts of America and now chairman of the Leader to Leader Institute. I am not alone in my assessment of her talents. Peter Drucker once noted that she was perhaps the most effective executive he had ever met. As a tribute to her leadership skills, President Clinton awarded Frances with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be given to a U.S. civilian.

Frances is also one of my best friends. Like all humans, Frances faces the same problems we all face. Just like you and I, she has lived through health problems, tragedies with friends and family issues. Like all great professionals, when it is time for Frances to work, she is always there. I have seen her turn down an invitation from the U.S. president to give a talk (at no fee) for a non-profit organization in a small town. When she makes a commitment, if it is humanly possible to be there, she delivers. It doesn't matter that a "better deal" came along later. She not only makes an appearance, she is up, she is positive, she is inspirational and she gets the job done.

Until recently, I always had a dilemma. As an executive educator, who helps successful leaders achieve a positive change in behavior, I, in a way, teach people how to act. When is acting part of being a professional? When is acting part of being a phony? I want to help leaders learn how to be great performers, but I never believe that they should be phonies or unreal. How can I, as a coach, understand the difference?

My client Ted helped me answer this question. I worked with him for a year, trying to help him fit in a corporate culture where he really didn't belong. At the end of the year, I finally said, "Why don't you leave? You are so miserable that you are starting to depress me!"

He finally saw the light, left the company and is now doing something he loves. There was nothing wrong with the company. There was nothing wrong with Ted. He just didn't belong there. It wasn't him.

If you are in the right job in the right company, and you are learning how to perform to the best of your ability, you are being a true professional. If you are in the wrong job in the wrong company and you learn to act so that you can better fit in, you are just being a better phony. It still isn't you out there.

Today Ted is a lot happier. He spends his time thinking up creative ideas in his new company, and he's having a ball. He is not only adding value for the company, he is also adding value for the world.

Think about your job. As a professional, is your job consistent with the person that you really want to be?

If the answer is "yes," be like the great actor. Be like Frances Hesselbein. Put on a great show. Be the consummate professional. Learn to keep developing your ability to perform, so you can get even better than you are today. If you love what you do, a great coach might even help you get better.

If the answer is "no," change jobs as soon as you can. Why bother to become a better phony? Even if you do get a coach and learn to modify your behavior, it won't count for much. Why? It won't really be you.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fallacy of Leaders

There is a huge fallacy about the process of helping people change for the better. Sometimes the best leaders may be the ones least noticed.

We focus too much on the salesperson rather than the customer. We focus on the speaker rather than the learner. We focus on the coach rather than the person being coached. We focus too much on the leader rather than the people doing the work.

It's certainly true in my coaching. Of the great clients I have had the privilege to work with, Mike may be my star pupil. His coworkers judged him to have improved more than anyone I've worked with.

Mike managed a division of about 40,000 people in one of the world's largest organizations. His CEO recognized that Mike was a great leader and wanted him to expand his role by providing more leadership in building synergy across divisions. The CEO asked me to work with him.

Mike eagerly accepted this challenge and involved his team. Together, they established the most rigorous project-management process I've ever seen. Each person took responsibility for creating positive synergy. They regularly reported on their efforts in reaching out to colleagues across the company to build teamwork. They kept learning from all of their colleagues. They thanked people for ideas and suggestions and followed up to ensure effective implementation.

And yet, as I told Mike, "I probably spent less time with you than any client I have ever coached. What should I learn from my experience with you and your team?"

Mike quietly pondered my question. "As a coach," he said, "you should realize that success with your clients isn't about you. It's about the people who choose to work with you." He modestly chuckled, then continued. "In a way, I am the same. The success of my organization isn't about me. It's all about the great people who are working with me."

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom about leadership. If you read the literature, you'll see that much of it exaggerates -- if not glamorizes -- the leader's contribution. The implication is that everything grows out of the leader. She's responsible for improving you. She's the one who guides you to the promised land. Take the leader out of the equation, and people will behave like lost children.

Not so. As the ancient proverb says, "The best leader, the people do not notice. When the best leader's work is done, the people say, 'We did it ourselves.' "

That's why I don't hold myself up as "coach as expert." I'm much more a "coach as facilitator." Most of what my clients learn about themselves comes not from me but from their friends, their colleagues, and their family members. I just try to provide help when needed and assist them in not wandering too far off the course that they have chosen.

For example, let's say you want to do a better job of listening. It's possible that a coach can explain to you how to be a better listener. The advice will probably be reasonably logical, supportable, and hard to dispute. But it will be generic. It's much better to ask the most important people in your life, "Please give me some ideas on how I can do a better job of listening to you."

They can give you specific, concrete suggestions that relate to them -- how they perceive you as a listener -- not vague ideas that you can read in a book. They may not be experts on listening, but they actually know more about how to listen to them than anyone in the world.

I cannot make the successful people I work with change. I don't try. Too many people think that a coach -- especially an accomplished one -- will solve their problems. That's like thinking that you'll get in shape by hiring the world's best trainer and not by working out yourself.

Truly great leaders, like Mike, recognize how silly it is to think it's about the coach. Long-term success is created by the 40,000 people doing the work -- not just the one person who has the privilege of being at the top.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, June 28, 2010

Invest in People, Not Words

Ultimately, our actions will say much more to employees about our values and our leadership skills than our mission statements ever can. If our actions are wise, no one will care if the words on the wall are not perfect. If our actions are foolish, the wonderful words on the wall will only make us look more ridiculous.

Companies have wasted millions of dollars and countless hours of employees' time agonizing over the wording of statements that are put on plaques and hung on walls. There is a clear assumption that people's behavior will change because the pronouncements on plaques are 'inspirational' or because certain words 'integrate our strategy and values.' There is an implicit hope that when people ... especially managers ... hear great words, they will start to exhibit great behavior .

Sometimes these words morph to keep up with the latest trends in corporate-speak. A company may begin by striving for 'customer satisfaction', then advance to 'total customer satisfaction', and finally reach the pinnacle of 'customer delight'.

But this obsession with words belies one very large problem: There is almost no correlation between the words on the wall and the behavior of leaders. Every company wants 'integrity', 'respect for people', 'quality', 'customer satisfaction', 'innovation' and 'return for shareholders'. Sometimes companies get creative and toss in something about 'community' or 'suppliers'. But since the big messages are all basically the same, the words quickly lose their real meaning to employees ... if they ever had any in the first place.

Enron is a great example. Before the energy conglomerate's collapse in 2001, I had the opportunity to review Enron's values and even saw a wonderful video on Enron's ethics and integrity. I was greatly impressed by the company's espoused high-minded beliefs and the care put into the video. Examples of Enron's good deeds in the community and the professed character of Enron's executives were particularly noteworthy. It was one of the most smoothly professional presentations on ethics and values that I have ever seen. Clearly, Enron spent a fortune 'packaging' these wonderful messages.

It didn't really matter. Despite the lofty words, many of Enron's top executives either have been indicted or are in jail.

The situation couldn't be more different at Johnson & Johnson. The pharmaceutical company is famous for its 'Credo', which was written many years ago and reflected the sincere values of the leaders of the company at that time. The J&J Credo could be considered rather quaint by today's standards. It contains several old-fashioned phrases, such as 'must be good citizens' support good works and charities ... and bear our fair share of taxes ... and 'maintain in good order the property that we are privileged to use'. It lacks the slick PR packaging that I observed at Enron.

Yet, even with its less-powerful language and seemingly dated presentation, the J&J Credo works ... primarily because over many years, the company's management has taken the values that it offers seriously. J&J executives have consistently challenged themselves and employees not just to understand the values, but to live them in day-to-day behavior. When I conducted leadership training for J&J, one of its very top executives would spend many hours with every class. The executives' task was not to talk about compensation or other perks of J&J management; they were there to discuss living the company's values.

My partner, Howard Morgan, and I completed a study of more than 11,000 managers in eight major corporations. (See 'Leadership Is a Contact Sport', s+b, Fall 2004.) We looked at the impact of leadership development programs in actually changing executive behavior . As it turns out, each of the eight companies had different values and different words to describe ideal leadership behavior. But these differences in words made absolutely no difference in determining the way leaders behaved. Ironically, one company spent thousands of hours composing just the right words to express its view of how leaders should act ... in vain. I am sure that the first draft would have been just as useful.

At many companies, performance appraisal forms seem to undergo the same careful scrutiny as credos. In fact, more effort seems to be given to producing the perfect words on an appraisal form than to managing employee performance itself. I worked with one company that had used at least 15 different performance appraisal forms and was contemplating yet another change because the present sheet 'wasn't working'! If changing the words on the page could improve the performance management process, then every company's appraisal system would be perfect by now.

Companies that are doing the best job of living up to their values and developing ethical employees, including managers, recognize that the real cause of success ... or failure ... is always the people, not the words.

Rather than wasting time on reinventing words about desired leadership behavior, companies should ensure that leaders get (and act upon) feedback from employees ... the people who actually observe this behavior. Rather than wasting time on changing the words on performance appraisal forms, leaders need to learn from employees to ensure that they are providing the right coaching.

Ultimately, our actions will say much more to employees about our values and our leadership skills than our words ever can. If our actions are wise, no one will care if the words on the wall are not perfect. If our actions are foolish, the wonderful words on the wall will only make us look more ridiculous.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Friday, June 25, 2010

Feedback, Honesty and Change

If you really want to know how your behavior comes across to your colleagues and clients, stop looking in the mirror and admiring yourself.

Remember the character Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street? Michael Douglas won an Oscar for his portrayal of this rude, larcenous wheeler-dealer. Well, I worked with a real-life investment banker who in some ways could have inspired the Gekko character.

A significant part of my practice as an executive coach is working with supremely successful people who may need to change some behaviors to achieve the next level of success. The man I coached -- let's call him Jim -- wasn't amoral and unethical like Gekko, but he had the same competitive fires. He sometimes treated people like gravel in a driveway. They were the pebbles; he was the SUV. Jim's score for treating direct reports and colleagues with respect was an astounding 0.1%. That is, out of 1,000 managers rated, he was dead last!

But Jim put up equally astounding numbers with his trades. His profit contribution was so vast that the CEO promoted him to the company's management committee. This should have been the apex of Jim's young career. Instead, it exposed his bad side as well. The firm's leaders, who had been insulated from Jim's behavior, were suddenly in a position to get a firsthand dose of his "lead, follow, or get out of my way" style. In meetings, they saw that there was often no checkpoint between Jim's brain and mouth. He was surly and offensive to everyone, even mouthing off to the CEO (his biggest supporter), who finally called me in to "help Jim change now."

When I met Jim, he was clearly delighted with his success. He was making over $4 million a year, so professional validation was coursing through his veins like jet fuel. I knew that breaking through to Jim by challenging his performance would be tough. He was clearly delivering financial results. So I sat down with him and said, "I can't help you make more money. You're already making a lot. But let's talk about your ego . How do you treat people at home?"

Jim insisted that he was totally different outside the office, that he was a great husband and father. "I don't bring my work home," he assured me. "I'm a warrior on Wall Street but a pussycat at home."

"That's interesting," I said. "Is your wife home right now?"

"Yes," he said.

"Why don't you give her a call and see how different she thinks you are at home than at the office?"

He called his wife. When she finally stopped laughing at her husband's statement, she concurred that Jim often acted like a jerk at home, too. The kids agreed as well!

"I'm beginning to see a pattern here," I said. "As I told you, I can't help you make more money. But I can get you to confront this question: Do you really want to have a funeral that no one attends other than for business reasons?"

For once, Jim looked stricken. "They're going to fire me if I don't make my numbers, aren't they?" he asked.

"Not only are they going to fire you," I said, "but several people will be dancing in the halls when you go."

Jim thought about that for a minute and then said, "I'm going to change, and the reason I'm going to change has nothing to do with money and it has nothing to do with this firm. I'm going to change because I have two sons, and if they were receiving this same feedback from a person like you in 30 years, I'd be ashamed to be their father."

Within a year, Jim's scores on his treatment of people shot up past the 50th percentile, above an already high company norm. He probably deserved even better, since he started so far down in the ditch. He also doubled his income.

The lesson: Our flaws at work usually don't vanish when we go home.

The moral: Anybody can change, but they have to want to change.

Sometimes you can deliver that message by reaching people where they live, not where they work.

The action plan for leaders (and followers):

If you really want to know how your behavior comes across to your colleagues and clients, stop looking in the mirror and admiring yourself.

Let your colleagues hold the mirror and tell you what they see. If you don't believe them, do the same with your loved ones and friends -- the people in your life who are most likely to be agenda-free and who truly want you to succeed. We all claim to want the truth. This is a guaranteed delivery system.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, June 24, 2010

7 Leadership Must Have Skills

Here are the seven "must have" skills you need to be a good leader. I was asked what advice I have for a leader when their boss says they need to exhibit more self-confidence while still being collaborative and authentic. This is a great question.

I rarely encounter this issue in my work with CEOs and potential CEOs because people at the top of huge organizations don't often have self-confidence problems. But I have had several inquiries lately about helping future leaders who need to demonstrate more self-confidence.

Here are a few suggestions that I give leaders who have self-confidence issues:

1. Decide if you really want to be a leader. Many of the MBAs who report self-confidence issues are brilliant technicians. They often find the uncertainty and ambiguity of leading people very unsettling. They are looking for the 'right answers'‚ similar to the ones in engineering school. In some cases, brilliant technical experts should continue to be brilliant technical experts ... and not feel obligated to become managers.

2. Make peace with ambiguity in decision making. There are usually no clear right answers when making complex business decisions. Even CEOs are guessing.

3. Gather a reasonable amount of data, involve people, then follow your gut and do what you think is right.

4. Accept the fact that you are going to fail on occasion. All humans do.

5. Have fun! Life is short. Why should you expect your direct reports to demonstrate positive enthusiasm, if they don't see it in you?

6. Once you make a decision, commit and go for it. Don't continually second guess yourself. If you have to change course, you have to change course. If you never commit, all you will ever do is change course.

7. And finally, demonstrate courage on the outside, even when you don't feel it on the inside. We are all afraid on occasion -- that is just part of being human. If you are going to lead people in tough times, you will need to show more courage than fear. When direct reports read worry and concern on the face of a leader , they begin to lose confidence in the leader's ability to lead.

Originally published in Harvard Business Online, 2008.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Making Money in Chaotic Times

The economy will always have its ups and downs. That's why our company has two playbooks: one for running the company in an up period and another in a down period. If we enter a down period, we immediately switch to the down period playbook with its set o

To answer your question, I decided to turn to Philip Kotler, the well-known marketing guru at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Phillip has just recently published a book with John Caslione called Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence. Here's his advice:

PK: Having two playbooks, one for good times and one for bad times, is a good start but far from sufficient. For example, at the start of a downturn, companies tend to cut their hiring, advertising, and new product development. But to do this mechanically without addressing the causes of the downturn, the actions of their competitors, and the perceived length and depth of the crisis doesn't make sense. I am against robot responses.

A company can make money in bad times. Some companies will be favored because they are known to offer good value for a low price, such as Wal-Mart and McDonald's. Their sales will increase and although their profits might be lower than in good times, they will do fairly well.

Other companies have a number of options:

• Lower your prices to create a better ratio of value to price. You can lower your list prices or initiate more sale promotions (discounts, two for the price of one, etc.)

• Introduce a lower-cost version of your offering where you have removed some features or benefits. It will probably cannibalize your higher priced offer, but it is better to cannibalize yourself than to have competitors do this to you.

• Add some additional benefits to your standard offer. Offer free shipment, extend your guarantee, or create a more generous return policy. In the latter case, Hyundai recently offered to take back a purchased car if the buyer loses his or her job. GM and Ford have offered to make the laid-off car-buyer's payments for them.

In taking any of these steps, make sure that your company doesn't dent the favorable aspects that have drawn customers to prefer and respect it. For example, a company that is admired for its level of service should never cut its service quality and risk losing this point of differentiation and preference. The key is to understand your customers' new problems and to consider how you can help them solve or resolve these problems. You have to coach your customer about possible solutions.

These are some ways to respond to the current downturn. But what about anticipating the next one? Every company is vulnerable not only to an economic downturn but to other disruptions that may come from technological change or from new global competitors. So the question becomes: how can companies do a better job of anticipating disruption? Companies generally do a poor job of monitoring the environment for clues to these threats. They lack an early warning system that might pick up weak signals of change. An early warning system would greatly reduce the level of surprise and chaos felt by a company that was too naïve.

The company then has to go further and imagine additional possibilities even before there is a sign that they might be taking place. For example, General Motors might ask: "What if China finds a way to make a battery that can hold a charge for 200 miles instead of the 90 miles that we are hoping to get out of our new battery?" A company must imagine new surprises.

Business is now exposed to continuous turbulence, not occasional turbulence. We aren't going back to normal times. The "new normality" is one of turbulence coming from two big forces, namely technological advances and globalization. All this spells higher risk and vulnerability.

There is a little rainbow in all of this. Change presents opportunity as well as vulnerability. The companies that succeed are those who look more at the opportunity side than the vulnerability side. If your company is having trouble, so are your competitors. If you are better funded, you can initiate lower prices or better benefits that they can't match. You can end up buying some of your competitors or putting them out of business.

Your customers, suppliers, and distributors are all suffering. Think about how to help them. Think about developing a new business model, a new product or service, a lower cost distribution channel, a lower cost supply chain. Rather than just relying on a rulebook, be more robust, resilient, and responsive to changing conditions.

MG: Thank you for Philip! Readers, for more on responding to the challenges of increased turbulence, please go to Please send in your comments about how your company is making money in today's economy.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Do You Have an Excessive Need to Be Yourself?

One of the 20 annoying habits discussed in my book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, is "an excessive need to be me." What do we mean by "an excessive need to be me?"

Each of us has a pile of behaviors that we define as "me." These are the behaviors, both positive and negative, that we think of as our unalterable essence.

While many of these "me" behaviors may be positive (e.g., "I am smart" or "I am hard working"), some may be negative (e.g., "I am a bad listener" or "I am always late").

If we buy into our behavior definition of "me," which most humans do, we can learn to excuse almost any annoying action by saying, "That's just the way I am!"

Some years ago, I worked with a CEO who was generally regarded as a great leader of people but was seen as lacking in the ability to provide positive recognition. As we reviewed his 360-degree feedback report, he snorted, "What do you want me to do, go around praising people who don't deserve it? I don't want to look like a phony!"

"Is that your excuse for not giving recognition?" I asked. "You don't want to look like a phony?"

"Yes," he replied. He then went into a tirade about why he shouldn't give recognition:

1. He had high standards — and people didn't always meet them.
2. He didn't like to hand out praise indiscriminately — because this cheapened the value of praise when it was deserved.
3. He believed that singling out individuals could weaken the team.

I asked him, "Why can't doing a great job of providing positive recognition be you? It's not immoral, illegal, or unethical is it?"

"No," he conceded.

"Will it make people feel better?"


"Will they perform better as a result of this well-deserved positive recognition?"


"So please explain to me — why aren't you doing it?"

He laughed and replied, "Because it wouldn't be ME!"

That was the moment when change became possible. He realized that he was not only hurting his employees' and company's chances for success — he was hurting his own chance for success. He realized that he could shed his "excessive need to be me" and not be a phony.

The payoff was enormous. Within a year his scores on giving recognition were in line with his other positive scores on leadership.

The irony was not lost on him. He accepted the fact that the more he focused on his employees, the more they worked to benefit the company — and that benefited him.

It's an interesting equation: less me + more them = more success as a leader.

Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself resisting change because you are clinging to a false — and probably pointless — notion of "me."

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, June 21, 2010

Are You Full of Mojo or Nojo?

What is your attitude toward what you do? Is it positive or negative? What do you radiate to people?

<img src="" width="370" height="215" />
I am currently working on a new book, called MOJO. Unlike my book What Got You Here Won't Get You There, which focused on classic behaviors that successful people get wrong, MOJO will focus on one attribute that all successful people share.

My mentor and friend Dr. Paul Hersey is a pioneer in the field of leadership development as well as a wonderful teacher. Many years ago, he taught me the value of using operational definitions. For example, when Dr. Hersey taught classes he would explain what he meant when he used the words "leadership" or "management." He made no claims that his definitions were better than anyone else's; he merely noted that, for the purposes of his class, his definitions captured what he meant when he used these words.

<b>Defining Mojo</b>

Because "mojo" is a word that can have many different meanings, I'd like to follow Dr. Hersey's example and give you my operational definition. (And like Dr. Hersey, I make no claim that mine is a better definition that anyone else's.) My operational definition of mojo: that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts on the inside and radiates to the outside. As I ponder this definition, I realize that Dr. Hersey is a professor who demonstrates incredible mojo every time he teaches!

When I think about the truly successful human beings that I have met in my journey through life—the people who are succeeding at both what they do and how they feel about themselves—I realize they all have mojo. We see people with mojo in every occupation and at every level of an organization. I was recently working at Centegra, a health-care organization in Illinois. I watched as their CEO, Mike Eesley, gave awards to employees who best demonstrated their organization's values. I was amazed at the great attitude—the mojo—shown by award-winners in such diverse occupations as cafeteria workers, technicians, nurses, and administrators. These people were all demonstrating mojo.

While I enjoyed observing these exuberant and motivated people get their awards, I thought about the thousands of people in similar jobs around the world who don't demonstrate mojo, the people who had a negative spirit toward what they were doing. That, too, starts on the inside and is apparent on the outside.

<b>When There's No Mojo</b>

In defining a term, it is often useful to think about its opposite. Mark Reiter (my agent, fellow writer, and friend) and I struggled to come up with a word that describes the opposite of mojo. We finally found the word that we were searching for: Nojo! I love it! Even the sound of it communicates the meaning.

When you get the chance, observe two different employees doing exactly the same job at the same time. One could be the embodiment of mojo while the other is the poster child for nojo. Case in point: flight attendants. For 32 years, my work has taken me around the world. On American Airlines alone, I just passed the dubious milestone of more than 10 million frequent flyer miles! All this flying has given me the chance to interact with thousands of flight attendants.

Most are dedicated, professional, and service-oriented. They demonstrate mojo. A few are grumpy and act like they would rather be anywhere else than on the plane. They demonstrate nojo. I've seen two groups of attendants doing exactly the same activity, at the same time, for the same company, probably at around the same salary, yet the messages that each is sending to the world about their experience is completely different.

<b>How's Your Mojo?</b>

How can we recognize mojo or nojo in ourselves and in others? Start by evaluating yourself and the people you meet on their mojo or nojo qualities, using the table at the top of the story.

What are you learning? How can you either change yourself or your activities to empty the nojo in your life and fill it up with mojo?

Terri Funk Graham, a chief marketing officer and fellow San Diegan, pointed out to me that consumer brands can either increase our mojo or fill us with mojo! Think of some of the brands that you know. Which are making us feel more mojo? Which, without intending to, are increasing our quotient of nojo?

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Friday, June 18, 2010

Marketing in the Age of Turbulence

Of late, marketing has been over-identified with marketing communications, to its detriment. Great marketing operations find opportunities and develop and launch successful solutions, and if properly used, are the company's growth engine.

I recently interviewed Philip Kotler, the well-known marketing guru at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, about the value of marketing in today's turbulent environment. Who better to give us his insight on the subject than Philip, who has just recently published (with co-author John Caslione) a book called Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence. Following are excerpts from our conversation.

Philip, in these troubled times, companies are cutting their marketing budgets—in fact, marketing is one of the first departments to be cut. Do you think it is a wise move to cut the marketing budget?

Yes, if the marketers cannot provide performance metrics for their expenditures. Marketers have had it easy in the past, getting lots of money for 30-second commercials without having to produce any evidence of their sales or profit impact. Advertising was a matter of faith, not reason. The plot was to get a large share of voice so that the brand was locked in the customers' memories. Hopefully the message promised something distinctive and the customer who wanted that point of difference would automatically choose that brand.

My guess is that only 1 out of 10, maybe only 1 out 20, advertising campaigns really makes a financial contribution. That means that the average company has only 1 chance in 10 or 20 that its ad campaign will create a memorable and motivating message. I don't like those odds.

Years ago, Will Rogers quipped, "If advertisers spent the same amount of money on improving their products as they do on advertising, they wouldn't have to advertise them." This theme was recently elaborated by Jean Claude Larreche in his new book Momentum. He claimed that heavy advertising spending is often on products that have little distinction. The company would be smarter to save that money and use it to build a better product.

Is cutting out the less-defensible parts of the marketing budget enough to do in difficult times?

No. I can even imagine where the proper step is to increase the overall marketing budget and spend more. A down period introduces as much opportunity as it does chaos. For example, customers are ready to switch to lower-price store brands and away from the more expensive national and international brands. Retailers such as Kroger (KR), Tesco (TESO), and others are strengthening their private brands and offering two or three private brands on the model of "good, better, and best." Today, more people are fishing to solve the problem of having a good dinner with little cost. This is good news for companies that make fishing rods, nets, and bait. Some companies see cracks of sunshine in this otherwise gloomy picture.

Are there any marketing maxims that must be preserved even in bad times?

Yes. I would mention three:

1. Understand your target customers and solve their problems in a better way than your competitors.

2. Build your brand promise that is delivered by everyone in your business network (employees, distributors, suppliers).

3. Innovate continuously in your products, services, and supply chain.

What changes should marketing departments make in these times?

Most marketing departments are tactical, not strategic. They can do marketing research and marketing communications (ads, brochures), and have other skills for developing and launching a product. But they don't really drive the company's growth strategy. I know of a pharmaceutical company that only calls in a marketer when it wants to decide on the color for a new pill. Where was the thinking done about what diseases the company should pursue, how big the opportunity is, should the solution be in the form of a pill, liquid, or patch, and so on?

I am not arguing that the marketing department should call the shots on growth strategy. I am asking for marketing to be a proactive collaborator in developing the firm's growth strategy. Yet marketing for the most part remains busy with details.

The recent appointment of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) is a good sign. A CMO presumably joins the senior management group to help plan the company's future. He or she brings in the voice of the customer into the company's thinking and tries to get management to move from marketing to "consumering." develops better ways to get customer insight; develops better metrics for measuring the impact of different marketing efforts; protects and enhances the company's brands; and brings in new marketing technologies and skills to the marketing department.

What is preventing the marketing department from taking on a stronger leadership role?

Most marketers have been hired into a marketing department because they are right-brain trained—that is, creative. They are less well-trained in their left brain, the part that thinks about numbers, finance, and evidence. But they have to deal with managers who by and large are left-brain trained. (Anyone interested in this subject should read the recently published book War in the Boardroom: Why Left-Brain Management and Right-Brain Marketing Don't See Eye-to-Eye—and What to Do About It by Al and Laura Ries). The key need then is to put into the marketing department some sharp left-brain people or two-brain people who can work with the other managers. Once department managers begin to deal with some two-brain strategic marketing managers, marketing will play a stronger leadership role.

What else are you busy thinking about?

In our newly released book, Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in The Age of Turbulence, John Caslione and I have built a Chaotics Management System for dealing with the increasing level of turbulence and disruption in the modern world. We talk about early warning systems, scenario planning, risk and uncertainty, new opportunities, and robust and resilient company departments. We offer a comprehensive way for managers to monitor the new economy and make better and quicker decisions.

Thank you for your time, Philip.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quack with Dignity, Lame Duck

For many leaders, it is hard to make the announcement that they will soon be passing the baton of leadership to their successor. The common fear is that if they declare their intentions too soon, they will become lame ducks. No one wants that to happen.

Almost every leader goes through this inner dialogue as part of the challenge of "slowing down." This fear, which often results in postponing the announcement about succession until the last minute, inhibits what could have been a much smoother transition.

Face it: When you are nearing the time to exit, you will become a lame duck! That is okay. Eyes will immediately turn to your successor as their vision for the team, department or company will mean more than yours. Colleagues who have encountered your disapproval for their pet ideas will just "wait it out" and re-sell their ideas to your successor. People will start sucking up to him or her the way they used to suck up to you.

So what's the solution? Make peace with being a lame duck—before it happens. Your life, your successor's life, and the lives of your coworkers will be a lot better.

In anticipation of his retirement, one of my favorite CEO clients, bought a stuffed duck and wrapped up one leg. He brought this plush "lame duck" with him to a few meetings. His direct reports and his successor thought this was hilarious. Beyond providing humor, this literal lame duck helped to break the ice about the potentially awkward topic of his upcoming departure. The moral of this story? Be a happy and productive lame duck.

And bear in mind that it's not all that bad to be a lame duck. Use this time to coach your successor behind the scenes. Transfer authority before it is necessary. Support your successor in whatever way you can. Build his or her confidence.

Involve your successor in important decisions and ensure as best you can that he or she agrees with any long-term goals before they are announced. After all, this is the person who is going to have to live with these goals for the next few years—and is going to have to make them work.

The key to being a really great lame duck is to make tough, unpopular decisions that you know will be good for the company in the long run. Don't get caught up on "finishing on a great note" or making sure that you look good. Focus on putting your successor into a spot where he or she will succeed. This type of class and self-sacrifice is rare, but this is your last chance to do the right thing for the long-term benefit of the company, your successor, and even yourself. Don't waste it!

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Effectively Influencing Decision-Makers

These 11 rules about how you can influence decision-makers to adopt your ideas will benefit your career—and the organization you work for.

"The great majority of people tend to focus downward. They are occupied with efforts rather than results. They worry over what the organization and their superiors 'owe' them and should do for them. And they are conscious above all of the authority they 'should have.' As a result they render themselves ineffectual."—Peter Drucker

One of my first blogs was called "The Art of Influencing Up." In the last couple of years, I have received countless questions from leaders who not only need to influence up but also influence across in their organizations. In this post, I would like to share a more comprehensive version of my ideas on how to make a positive difference when you do not have direct line authority.

Please be warned in advance, this post is longer than my regular ones.

Peter Drucker has written extensively about the impact of the knowledge worker in modern organizations. Knowledge workers can be defined as people who know more about what they are doing than their managers do. Many knowledge workers have years of education and experience in training for their positions yet have almost no training in how to effectively influence decision-makers. As Peter has noted, "The greatest wisdom not applied to action and behavior is meaningless data."

The 11 guidelines listed below are intended to help you do a better job of influencing decision-makers. In some cases, these decision-makers may be immediate or upper managers—in other cases they may be peers or cross-organizational colleagues. I hope you find these suggestions to be useful in helping you convert your good ideas into meaningful action.

1. Every decision that affects our lives will be made by the person who has the power to make that decision, not the "right" person or the "smartest" person or the "best" person. Make peace with this fact.

As simple and obvious as this statement may seem, I am amazed at how few (otherwise intelligent) people ever deeply get this point. When your child comes home from school and complains, "It’s not fair! The teacher gave me a 'C' and I really deserved an 'A.' "" we, as parents, should say, "Welcome to the real world, kid. In life you have to accept the fact that decision-makers make decisions—and that you are not always the decision-maker." Once we make peace with the fact that the people who have the power to make the decisions always make the decisions and we get over whining that "life isn't fair," we become more effective in influencing others and making a positive difference. We also become happier.

2. When presenting ideas to decision-makers, realize that it is your responsibility to sell, not their responsibility to buy.

In many ways, influencing ultimate decision-makers is similar to selling products or services to external customers. They don't have to buy—you have to sell. Any good salesperson takes responsibility for achieving results. No one is impressed with salespeople who blame their customers for not buying their products.

While the importance of taking responsibility may seem obvious in external sales, an amazing number of people in large corporations spend countless hours blaming management for not buying their ideas. Former Harvard Professor Chris Argyris pointed out how "upward feedback" often turns into "upward buck-passing." We can become disempowered when we focus on what others have done to make things wrong and not on what we can do to make things right.

If we spent more time on developing our ability to present ideas and less time blaming others for not buying them, a lot more might get accomplished.

A key part of the influence process involves the education of decision-makers. To again quote Drucker: "The person of knowledge has always been expected to take responsibility for being understood. It is barbarian arrogance to assume that the layman can or should make the effort to understand the specialist." The effective influencer needs to be a good teacher. Good teachers realize that communicating knowledge is often a greater challenge than possessing knowledge.

3. Focus on contribution to the larger good—not just the achievement of your objectives.

An effective salesperson would never say to a customer, "You need to buy this product, because if you don't, I won't achieve my objectives." Effective salespeople relate to the needs of the buyers, not to their own needs. In the same way, effective influencers relate to the larger needs of the organization, not just to the needs of their unit or team.

When influencing decision-makers, focus on the impact of your suggestion on the overall corporation. In most cases the needs of the unit and the needs of the corporation are directly connected. In some cases they are not. Don't assume that executives can automatically make the connection between the benefit to your unit and the benefit to the larger corporation.

4. Strive to win the big battles. Don't waste your energy and psychological capital on trivial points.

Executives' time is very limited. Do a thorough analysis of ideas before challenging the system. Don't waste time on issues that will only have a negligible impact on results. Focus on issues that will make a real difference. Be willing to lose on small points.

Be especially sensitive to the need to win trivial non-business arguments on things like restaurants, sports teams, or cars. People become more annoyed with us for having to be right about trivia than our need to be right on important business points. You are paid to do what makes a difference and to win on important issues. You are not paid to win arguments on the relative quality of athletic teams.

5. Present a realistic "cost-benefit" analysis of your ideas—don't just sell benefits.

Every organization has limited resources, time, and energy. The acceptance of your idea may well mean the rejection of another idea that someone else believes is wonderful. Be prepared to have a realistic discussion of the costs of your idea. Acknowledge the fact that something else may have to be sacrificed in order to have your idea implemented.

By getting ready for a realistic discussion of costs, you can prepare for objections to your idea before they occur. You can acknowledge the sacrifice that someone else may have to make and point out how the benefits of your plan may outweigh the costs.

6. "Challenge up" on issues involving ethics or integrity—never remain silent on ethics violations.

The downfall of Enron, WorldCom, and other organizations have dramatically demonstrated how ethics violations can destroy even the most valuable companies. The best of corporations can be severely damaged by only one violation of corporate integrity. I hope you will never be asked to do anything by the management of your corporation that represents a violation of corporate ethics. If you are, refuse to do it and immediately let upper management know of your concerns. You need to take this action for the ultimate benefit of your company, your customers, your co-workers, and yourself.

When challenging up, try not to assume that management has intentionally requested you to do something wrong. In some cases, inappropriate requests may be made because of misunderstandings or poor communication. Try to present your case in a manner that is intended to be helpful, not judgmental.

7. Realize that powerful people are just as human as you are. Don't say, "I am amazed that someone at this level…"

It is realistic to expect decision-makers to be competent; it is unrealistic to expect them to be anything other than normal humans. Is there anything in the history of the human species that indicates when people achieve high levels of status, power, and money, they become completely 100% wise and logical? How many times have we thought, "I would assume someone at this level…" followed by "should know what is happening," "should be more logical,&qu "wouldn't make that kind of mistake," or "would never engage in such inappropriate behavior."

Even the best of leaders are human. We all make mistakes. When your managers make mistakes, focus more on helping them than judging them.

8. Treat decision-makers with the same courtesy that you would treat customers—don't be disrespectful.

While it is important to avoid kissing up to decision-makers, it is just as important to avoid the opposite reaction. A surprising number of middle managers spend hours trashing the company and its executives or making destructive comments about other co-workers.

Before speaking, it is generally good to ask four questions:

• Will this comment help our company?

• Will this comment help our customers?

• Will this comment help the person I am talking to?

• Will this comment help the person I am talking about?

If the answers are no, no, no, and no, don't say it! There is a big difference between total honesty and dysfunctional disclosure. As we discussed earlier, it is always important to "challenge up" on integrity issues. It is inappropriate to stab decision-makers in the back.

9. Support the final decision of the organization. Don't tell direct reports, "They made me tell you."

Assuming that the final decision of the organization is not immoral, illegal, or unethical, go out and try to make it work. Managers who consistently say, "They told me to tell you" to co-workers are seen as messengers, not leaders. Even worse, don't say, "Those fools told me to tell you…" By demonstrating our lack of commitment to the final decision, we may sabotage the chances for effective execution.

A simple guideline for communicating difficult decisions is to ask, "How would I want someone to communicate my final decision when that person disagreed with me?" Treat decision-makers the same way that you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. If you stab your boss in the back in front of your direct reports, what are you teaching them to do when they disagree with you?

10. Make a positive difference—don't just try to "win" or "be right."

We can easily become more focused on what others are doing wrong than on how we can make things better. An important guideline in influencing up is to always remember your goal: making a positive difference for the organizations.

Corporations are different from academic institutions. In an academic institution, the goal may be just sharing diverse ideas, without a need to affect the bottom line. Hours of acrimonious debate can be perfectly acceptable. In a corporation, sharing ideas without having an impact is worse than useless. It is a waste of the stockholders' money and a distraction from serving customers.

When I was interviewed at the Harvard Business Review, I was asked, "What is the most common 'area for improvement' for the executives that you meet?" My answer was "winning too much." Focus on making a difference. The more other people can be "right" or "win" with your idea, the more likely your idea is to be successfully executed.

11. Focus on the future—let go of the past.

One of the most important behaviors to avoid is whining about the past. Have you ever managed someone who incessantly whined about how bad things are? When people consistently whine, they inhibit any change they may have for bettering the future. Their managers tend to view them as annoying. Their direct reports view them as inept. Nobody wins.

Successful people love getting ideas aimed at helping them achieve their goals for the future. By focusing on the future, you can concentrate on what can be achieved tomorrow, not what was not achieved yesterday. This future orientation may dramatically increase your odds of effectively influencing decision-makers. It will also help you build better long-term relationships with people at all levels of your organization.

In summary, think of the years that you have spent "perfecting your craft." Think of all of the knowledge that you have accumulated. Think about how your knowledge can potentially benefit your organization. How much energy have you invested in acquiring all of this knowledge? How much energy have you invested in learning to present this knowledge to decision-makers so that you can make a real difference? My hope is that by making a small investment in learning to influence decision-makers, you can make a large, positive difference for the future of your organization.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Travel Tips from a Road Warrior

Over the years, I have flown millions of miles for my work. I have logged more than 10 million frequent flyer miles on American Airlines alone! Already this year, I have visited Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Athens, Dubai, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Johannesburg, London (three times), Stavanger, and many cities in the U.S. and Canada.

A lot of people find traveling for business difficult. Some people don't like leaving home and family. Others find the logistics hard to handle. People who know how much I travel often ask me, "How do you do it?"

Here are some of my suggestions for making business travel easier:

1. Pack light. (This is easier for me than most humans, since I wear a green polo shirt and khaki pants almost every day.) Take what you need. Don't give yourself options. Make a decision on what you are going to wear—and just wear that. Use the hotel laundry. If you are staying for more than one day, they can clean your clothes. You probably won't have to have a unique outfit every day.

2. Don't book the latest possible flight. Things happen. Whenever you can, give yourself a back-up option or build in room for things to go wrong.

3. Get to the airport with time to spare. Given today's security precautions, last-minute arrivals can be a disaster. I have seen many late passengers trying to jump ahead of everyone in line and get angry with security people who are doing their jobs. Life is short. Don't do this to yourself and other people at the airport.

4. If at all possible, don't check your bags. If I checked my bags on every trip, hundreds of hours of my life would be spent standing by conveyor belts. This doesn't even factor in the extreme hassle and aggravation that comes when your bags are lost or misplaced.

5. Eat before you get on the plane. I have heard hundreds of fellow passengers grumble about how bad airplane food is. You don't have to eat it! While some components of air travel have gotten worse, others have improved. The quality of food and quantity of options at major airports is exponentially better today than it was 30 years ago, when I started flying.

6. Don't drink alcohol on the plane. The only time that I ever drink when flying is when I have two glasses of wine before an overnight flight. I am able to do that because I am going to sleep immediately, and all I have to do after I walk on to the plane is find my seat. If I am not going to sleep immediately, I find that drinking does more harm than good.

7. Learn to sleep on the plane. I have a unique approach, which works for me. I put on a blindfold, put the blanket over my head—then go to sleep. I often speak in front of large groups. I have to think about my voice. Having the blanket over my head holds in my body moisture and helps prevent the dry throat problem that occurs when we sleep on a long flight. Another benefit: When you have a blanket over your head, no one talks to you.

8. To help conquer jet lag, forget about where you have been—and where you are. As soon as you board the plane, set your watch to the time zone where you are headed. Never say, "Do you realize what time it is where I began this journey?" This type of thinking just screws up your mind and makes things worse. If you are headed to Bangalore, and it is 10 p.m. there when you board the plane, say to yourself, "I am in Bangalore, and it is 10 p.m."

9. As much as we complain about air transportation, I am amazed at how well the system works. In my 30 years of being a "road warrior," I have only missed one client meeting because of travel issues (a blizzard in Chicago).

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Be a Better Listener

You may think you're a pretty good listener, but do the people around you disagree? Has anyone ever looked at you with a disappointed expression and said, "Are you listening?" My guess is the answer is yes.

Have you ever then replied to the person in an annoyed voice, "What do you mean, am I listening?" and then repeated what he or she said verbatim—to prove they were wrong? My guess is again, yes.

Did your annoyed response dramatically improve your relationship with that other human being?

Say You're Sorry

My guess this time is no.

Even if you were listening, how much of an "I care about you" message were you sending to that other human being by taking a defensive posture? Zero. What that other person was really asking was, "Why don't you care?" Was proving them wrong about listening really worth it? I don't think so.

So, the next time someone looks at you and says, "You're not listening," apologize. Just reply, "I am sorry. I will try to better in the future."

Look Like You Care

How do to better? Start looking like you care. As others speak to us, how do they know that we aren't listening? They don't. They only assume that we aren't listening because we don't look like we are. If we remember to look like we care, we will not only be reminding ourselves to listen better, we will also be reminding ourselves to communicate a sense of respect for the person who is speaking to us.

Here are several ideas to help you not only listen better, but to look like you are listening, and to demonstrate caring to the person who is speaking to you:

1. After having a dialogue with friends, colleagues, or family members, ask them to give you a 1-10 assessment of how much you looked like you cared about their remarks.

2. Find a partner and practice communication while recording it on video. Turn off the sound and just watch your nonverbal behavior. How much caring and respect are your communicating?

3. Try to eliminate all distractions when others are speaking to you. When you are doing other work, answering e-mails, or doing something on your computer while someone is speaking to you — you may not look like you care.

4. Ask questions that let the other person know you have heard what they have to say and would like to learn more.

While this advice can be very important at work, it may be just as important at home. Now that you've had a test-run, you're ready to employ a few following listening tactics in more of your interpersonal encounters. Try these:

• Listen.

• Don't interrupt.

• Don't finish the other person's sentences.

• Don't say, "I knew that."

• Don't even agree with the other person, just listen!

• Don't use the words "no," "but," and "however."

• Eliminate any striving to impress the other person with how smart and funny you are. Your goal is to let the other person feel that.

If you can do these things while you're in a conversation, you will inevitably find that the other person will think you are a great person! All because you listened. You'd feel the same if someone made you feel like the most important person around—all by just listening! If you want people to feel good in your presence, that's all you have to do. Just listen.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Friday, June 11, 2010

Being an Effective Global Leader

My company is stretching into areas of the world I've barely heard of — we are definitely broaching the unknown. As a leader, what do I need to be successful as globalization changes the rules of the game?

MG: To help me answer this question, I contacted Maya Hu-Chan of the Global Leadership Development Center at Alliant University's Marshall Goldsmith School of Management. Maya is an international management consultant and certified executive coach who specializes in global leadership, executive coaching, and cross-cultural business skills. Maya and I co-authored Global Leadership: The Next Generation, from which we learned much about facing the challenges of globalization.

First, we learned that globalization is here to stay. It has proliferated into our daily lives. It is not only organizations that are going global; it is individuals, families, and friends. For instance, you may call computer support from your home in San Diego and reach a technical assistant in India; or your son may reach out to a video game creator in Germany and become Facebook friends with a whole slew of Europeans over night. Disney was right; it is a small world after all!

Second, we learned that today's global leaders build partnerships. As the organization standardizes and integrates its operations worldwide, leaders are required to align themselves with supply chains which may appear seamless in a strategic plan but which, in reality, involve real people with diverse cultural backgrounds and communication styles. The new organizational prototype demands new individual skills to meet this complexity; it presents planning and communication challenges requiring new tools in response.

I asked Maya, what to elaborate on her experience in coaching leaders to build global partnerships. Here is her response:

MG: A foundational element for any global leader is the need to look at the big picture while at the same time consulting with key stakeholders at every level. A recent client of mine, a Thai vice president with a high-tech multinational, faced exactly this dynamic. As his coach, I helped him to approach this duality with cultural sensitivity and awareness, using the appropriate communication approach to get the message across.

Since his outreach spanned not only hierarchy but continents, his strategy would have to meet the complexity of the landscape. He began his first management initiative by interviewing his supervisor, and then his boss's supervisor, clarifying short and long-term goals by asking questions like "what's our mission?" and "what's our strategy?" From there he consulted with his team, planned a two-day retreat, and followed up with regular virtual staff meetings spanning Asia, the United States, and Latin America. The result was to clarify the group's direction by being specific about what they want to accomplish.

In some ways, the work of equipping global leaders is that of creating more "un-CEOs." New leaders are those who are adept at building partnerships, both one-to-one and one-to-many, as a matter of habit. They emphasize horizontal leadership such as peer coaching, for example, to help project stakeholders help each other.

In my work with multinational corporations, my global clients have often pointed out that building partnerships is one of the most important competencies for global leaders of the future. Leaders have to successfully build trusting and long-term strategic relationships, internally and externally, and leverage those relationships, in order to get the job done.

Finally, remember to be curious about other cultures and enjoy the challenges of communicating in a competitive, fast-paced global business environment.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Don't Give Up on Change

Change is hard. It takes forever and I don't even know if it's working. Any tips for making this process easier?

Change takes longer than we think and the process is difficult. Acknowledging these facts can make your attempts more successful. My co-author Dr. Kelly Goldsmith, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, and I researched why people give up on their goals. We discovered that there are five common reasons. Understanding these roadblocks will help you apply some preventive medicine — and increase the odds that you won't fall into the same old traps.

1. Ownership

"I wasn't sure that this would work in the first place. I tried it out — it didn't do that much good. As I guessed, this was kind of a waste of time."

The classic mistake made in leadership development, coaching, and self-help books is the promise that "This will make you better!" After years of experience in helping real leaders change real behavior in the real world, I have learned a hard lesson. Only you will make you better.

To have a real chance of success, you have to take personal ownership and have the internal belief that "This will work if, and only if, I make it work. I am going to make this work."

2. Time

"I had no idea that this process would take so long. I'm not sure it's worth it."

Goal setters have a chronic tendency to underestimate the time needed to reach targets. In setting our goals for behavioral change, it's important to be realistic about the time we need to produce positive, lasting results. Habits that have taken years to develop won't go away in a week. Set time expectations that are 50% to 100% longer than you think you will need to see results — then add a little more.

3. Difficulty

"This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. It sounded so simple when we were starting out."

The optimism bias of goal setters applies to difficulty as well as time. Not only does everything take longer than we think it will, but it also requires more hard work than we anticipate.

In setting goals, it's important to accept the fact that real change requires real work. Acknowledging the price for success in the beginning of the change process will help prevent the disappointment that can occur when challenges arise later.

4. Distractions

"I would really like to work toward my goal, but I'm facing some unique challenges right now. It might be better if I just stopped and did this at a time when things weren't so crazy."

Goal setters have a tendency to underestimate the distractions and competing goals that will invariably appear throughout the year. A piece of advice that I give all of my coaching clients is: "I'm not sure what crisis will appear, but I'm almost positive that some crisis will appear."

Plan for distractions in advance. Assume that crazy is the new normal. You will probably be close to the reality that awaits.

5. Maintenance

"I think that I did actually try to change and get better, but I have let it slide since then. What am I supposed to do — work on this stuff the rest of my life?"

Once a goal setter has put in all of the effort needed to achieve a goal, it can be tough for him to face the reality of what's needed to maintain the new status quo. When one of my high-potential leaders asked his boss, the CEO, "Do I have to watch what I say and do for the rest of my career?" the CEO replied, "You do if you plan on ever becoming a CEO!"

Here are the cold, hard truths. Real change requires real effort. The "quick fix" is seldom a meaningful one. Distractions and things that compete for your attention are going to crop up — frequently. Changing any one type of behavior won't solve all of life's problems. And finally, any meaningful change will probably require a lifetime of effort.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Are You Encouraging Suck-ups?

Every company claims to discourage suck-ups. Every leader claims to despise suck-ups. If we all hate suck-ups so much, why does so much sucking-up go on?

Sucking-up happens because we all tend to create an environment where people learn to suck-up to us. We can easily see this in others. It is just hard to see in ourselves. You are probably thinking, "Marshall is making a good point. I see others do this all of the time. Of course, I find it to be disgusting!"

As a test of our unconscious tendency to encourage sycophants, I always ask participants in my executive education classes this question, "How many of you own a dog that you love?" Big smiles cross the faces of these leaders as they wave their hands in the air. They beam as they tell me the names of their always faithful hounds. Then we have a little contest. I ask them, "At home, who gets the most unqualified positive recognition? Is it (a) your husband, wife or partner (b) your kids or (c) your dog?" More than 80 percent of the time the winner is the dog.

I next ask these same executives, "Do you really love your dog more than the other members of your family?" They laugh and say no. My next question, "Why does the dog get the most unqualified positive recognition?"

Their replies are always the same: "The dog doesn't talk back." "When I come home the dog is always happy to see me!" "Even if I come home late (or drunk) the dog doesn't care." "The dog gives me unconditional love -- no matter what I do!"

In other words, the dog is a suck-up.

If we aren't careful, we can wind up treating people at work like dogs. We can unconsciously recognize people who recognize us.

The best way to stop this behavior is to recognize that we all have a tendency to fall into this trap -- and the higher we move up in the organization, the bigger the trap gets.

I teach leaders to rank order their direct reports four ways:

1. How much do they like me? I know that you cannot be sure. What matters is what you think. Only bad suck-ups look like they are sucking-up. Great suck-ups appear to be your "true friends."

2. How much are they like me? Some leaders don't favor people who like them; they favor people who remind them of themselves. A common variation from an engineer might be, "He may be a jerk, but he is an engineer." As if people who are not engineers don't have brains.

3. What is their contribution to our company and its customers?

4. How much positive personal recognition do I give them?

If we are honest with ourselves, in a surprisingly large number of cases, we may find that recognition is more influenced by 1 or 2 than it is 3. And that (without meaning to) we may be falling into a trap that we despise in others -- playing favorites.

Make this ranking yourself. After doing a thoughtful review, start monitoring your own behavior. Make sure that you are recognizing people at working for doing what is right for the company -- not for making you feel good about yourself.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Delegate More Effectively

When C-level executives are asked what change they could make to become a more effective leader, one of the most common answers is, "I need to delegate more!"

My caution to these executives is always the same: Don't delegate more. Delegate more effectively.

Delegation is not a quality like "demonstrating integrity" or "complying with the law." Honest, ethical and legal behavior is always appropriate -- delegation isn't. Inappropriate delegation can do more harm than good.

I saw an extreme example of the "empowerment is good" flaw in one of America's largest companies. The CEO naively believed that his employees would always rise to the occasion and see the value of their learning through mistakes they made. He eventually promoted people to levels that were far beyond their capabilities. These people were not ready for the challenge. Perhaps they could learn from their mistakes when the mistakes cost thousands of dollars, but the company went bankrupt when the mistakes cost billions.

When feedback from direct reports indicates that a manager needs to delegate more effectively, the dissatisfaction could come from one of two causes: The direct reports may feel that their leader is micro-managing or getting overly involved with subordinates, or the direct reports may not feel micro-managed at all, but see their leader engaged in tasks that could be done effectively by someone at a lower level in the company.

To help leaders ensure effective delegation, my advice is simple:

Have each direct report list her or his key areas of responsibility. Schedule one-on-one sessions with each person. Review each area of responsibility and ask, "Are there cases where you believe that I get too involved and can let go more? Are there cases when I need to get more involved and give you some more help?" When leaders go through this exercise, they almost always find that in some cases, more delegation is wanted, and in others it is not. In fact, more help is needed.

Ask each direct report, "Do you ever see me working on tasks that someone at my level doesn't need to do? Are there areas where I can help other people grow and develop, and give myself more time to focus on strategy and long-term planning?" Almost invariably, direct reports will come up with great suggestions. For example, for several of my C-level clients, team management has emerged as an area where letting go can both free up executive time and help develop direct reports. Too many top executives feel a need to schedule team meetings and then act as traffic cop during the meeting to ensure that the time schedules are met and that agendas are completed. This meeting management task can usually be delegated on a rotating basis to direct reports. This helps direct reports understand the agendas of the peer team members and allows them to develop their skills in building collaboration and reaching consensus.

In one example, a CEO was frequently traveling. He would not schedule any team meeting when he was on the road and was falling behind on some important projects. A team member suggested that he did not have to be present at every meeting and that the team could still get a lot done without him in the room. He was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Decisions that involved cross-divisional cooperation were made effectively without involving him. Another advantage was that his direct reports were getting on-the-job training that could help them take on larger responsibilities in the future.

On the other side of the coin, a division president learned that his employees consistently wanted more direction on one key topic. The company was operating in a rapidly changing environment. His direct reports didn't need to be told what to do or how to do it in terms of technical details. They needed to know how their work was fitting into the larger strategy of the corporation and how their efforts were aligned with their peers both in the division and across the company. By establishing regular bi-monthly check-in meetings with each person, the president was able to increase the effectiveness of the team and help them build better relationships across the company.

What are your next steps? When are you getting too involved? When do you need to get more involved?

Ask yourself these tough questions. Then ask the people who are working with you. The answers may save your time and increase your team's effectiveness.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule