Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Moving On? How to Tell Your Successor (And Your Team)

This can be difficult. At some point in the succession process, you will have to let your successor know that he is next in line. Though the person you are grooming to replace you must be told, there is not tried-and-true formula for choosing the perfect time.

I've seen this done many ways. In one instance, the successor was chosen years in advance. Everyone knew he was next in line and had years to adjust to the process. This case worked well, but this type of succession does not always work.

In another instance, the successor was part of a three-person competition for the job. He was notified just before he was to take the position. This case worked in this instance, but I would not recommend it every time.

Each succession is unique; however, there are common factors to consider when making your choice. First, how many possible, qualified candidates are available? If there is more than one potential candidate, then waiting ... and getting more information ... will help you make the right decision. If there is clearly a "best choice," there are no other close-running candidates, and the person is likely to leave the company if not being assured of the position, then waiting to tell him or her may be a mistake.

Once you have determined when to tell your successor he is next in line for the position, you will have to figure out how to let his colleagues know of your decision. Many of these executives may well have thought that they had a chance at the job! You may have thought you were being clear about these other executives' chances at the position, but you cannot assume they got the message. Here are two important steps to take:

1. Coach your successor on how to handle each of his key stakeholders ... individually. Some of them will be thrilled with the news, some of them will be angry, some disappointed, and some hopeful. This is to be expected. Role-play with your successor how he will handle these different reactions, before he talks with each stakeholder.

2. Talk with each stakeholder one-on-one before your successor does. Be sensitive to their responses, which may be quite emotional if they had hopes for the job. Let them know that the final decision has been made and do whatever you can to encourage their support of your successor. Be prepared that they may be disappointed, angry, or even leave the company. This is part of it.

Finally, you will probably have second thoughts after the announcement is made. Let them go! Once you have made your final commitment, do not verbalize any doubt. Do whatever you can to minimize your ego and maximize your successor's chances for a successful transition.

My advice is to realize that each succession is different and for each, though there is no magic formula for success, following a few simple steps will ensure the process is a much smoother one.

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, July 27, 2010

Preparing Your Successor for Success

In most cases, I believe that hiring an executive coach to assist with this process can be very useful. However, you as the leader need to be responsible for the entire process. You know what it takes to be the next leader of your company (or division, or unit, or team) even more than the very best behavioral coach.

I'll share a few ideas with you here about the coaching process. Review them, do what works for you, and if you think it will help, hire an outside coach to do the rest.

Assuming that your successor has some work to do to improve her stakeholder relationships, that she is motivated to change, and that she will be given a fair chance to do so, let's get started. (If these three things are not in place, reconsider your choice of successor!)

First, your incoming leader needs to know that her behavior will matter a lot to the people she is leading. They will be listening to her, watching her, and they will care deeply what she does. Her best chance of success is to learn how to act like a leader before she gets the job, not after.

To help her learn the role of the leader, involve key stakeholders to determine the strengths and challenges she faces. There are a few reasons to do this:

* She will need the support of these key stakeholders if the "succession" is going to be a success. Your perceptions may completely miss the important input of stakeholders who may be better positioned to point out things that are not in your area of expertise.

* Your successor will learn much more if she gets input from you and her key stakeholders. Learning from multiple sources is often far more effective than learning from one person.

* Stakeholders who help your successor become psychologically involved in her success and thus are more likely to want to see her succeed.

You can also use these meetings to encourage key stakeholders to support your successor by:

* Being open-minded.

* Focusing on the future, not the past.

* Being helpful and supportive, not critical or judgmental.

* Telling the truth!

* Picking a behavior of their own to improve.

Which key stakeholders should be involved in this process? Your successor will need different types of feedback from quite different, yet equally important, stakeholder perspectives. To that end, the following groups would be well advised to participate: board members, peers, direct reports, and in some cases customers and suppliers. Now that you have the stakeholder list, ask yourself: "What key stakeholder relationships are most critical for me to ensure that I do a great job of leading the company?" Make a list of names. Make sure that each of these names are on the "feedback" list for your successor.

My personal approach to this type of developmental coaching involves asking each stakeholder three simple questions:

1. What are this person's existing strengths that will help her be a great leader in the future?

2. What are this person's challenges that may need to be overcome if she wants to lead?

3. If you were her coach, what specific suggestions would you give her -- either strategic or tactical -- that, if she followed them, would help her become a great leader?

Now that feedback has been gathered, it is time to figure out what your succession candidate needs to change, wants to change, and is willing to change, and then it is time to begin the coaching process.

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, July 26, 2010

What to Know About Coaching Your Successor

Preparing your successor can be a leader's greatest challenge. If you handle it the right way while you are still at an organization, it can mean that your successor enters to applause while you bow out gracefully. So what do you need to know about coaching so you can ensure a smooth transition?

First, let's assume you've done your due diligence on the process with your successor. That means you've decided whether or not you will coach your successor; you have hired an executive coach for those areas in which you are not an expert; and you've involved key stakeholders in determining your successor's strengths and challenges. You've also reviewed all the feedback ... keeping in mind to look for trends, consider the organizational environment, and highlight key patterns; and you've had organizational surveys taken so you understand how you as a leader have influenced your organization.

Finally, you have gathered many interesting, provocative ideas for leadership success by asking each preselected stakeholder three simple questions:

1. What are the person's strengths that will help him or her be a great leader?

2. What are the developmental challenges that he or she may need to overcome in order to be a great leader?

3. If you were this person's coach, what specific suggestions would you give him or her ... either strategic or tactical ... that would help the successor become a great leader?

Now that you've done all of these things, it is time to establish what you need to know about coaching. First and foremost, stop and look at yourself. It is good to be aware of common problems leaders have that can limit their effectiveness as coaches. Following are a few for you to review. Who knows? You may have one or two of these problems yourself.

Why doesn't he/she act like me?

It is natural for successful human beings to place great weight upon their own strengths and undervalue their own weaknesses, especially when evaluating others. Add to this the fact that the more successful we become, the more we likely we are to fall into the superstition trap, which simply put is, "I behave this way. I am successful. I must be successful because I behave this way." And you have the recipe for thinking that your way to success is the only way to success.

Yes, you certainly are successful because you behave in certain ways. It is also true that you are successful in spite of some of your behavior patterns.

If you take a good look at your strengths and weaknesses, you may come to realize that you tend to forgive the weaknesses in others whose weaknesses mirror your own. You may also come to realize that you punish those whose flaws ... even though they may be very minor ... fall in your area of strength. Let me explain.

Years ago I worked with a CEO who was a great communicator. He had the best verbal communication skills of anyone I have known. When it came time to pass the baton, he could not accept the fact that his successor, whose strengths were strategy and marketing, was not as great a communicator. He was so dogged about this point that the board had to intervene and the CEO was forced to leave. This could have been a positive succession, but it turned out to be an unfortunate event for the previous CEO. You don't want this to happen to you.

Why doesn't he/she think like me?

It is easy for good leaders to believe that their strategic thinking is "right,;" that the way they approach situations is the correct one. This is one of those beliefs that you are going to have to let go of if you're going to have a positive process. While it can be hard to watch your successor make different decisions than you would make, try not to reverse them unless it is a decision that will hurt the company.

Your successor, not you, is going to lead the organization in the future. Let him or her begin to make a difference while you're still at the company. Put your ego aside.

Why doesn't he/she love my friends?

If you respect and admire someone, you may overvalue their input, and the converse is true as well. It can be hard to face that your successor may respect and admire someone you don't. Their personal preferences will be different from yours. Respect this and let them choose their own trusted advisers.

You may notice after the transition that the status and power of some of your good friends is actually lessened. They may not be "in the circle" at the top. As a result of this loss, they may leave the company. Both you and they may find this tough. If you know your friends will not support the new leader, especially for personal reasons, take them aside. Try to convince them that this is the best leader for the future of the company. Explain that the leader needs support and a clean slate. Set your successor up to win.

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, July 23, 2010

CEOs: Don't Sabotage Your Successors

A few years ago, I learned a very important lesson about leadership succession during a coaching assignment. In my work, I get paid only if my clients achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. I did get paid for this assignment, but I found that I would rather not have taken it.

A CEO asked me to coach his potential successor, the CFO. It didn't take long before I just felt that the CEO just didn't like the CFO. I had the distinct feeling that he really didn't want this guy to get the job.

I brought it to his attention: "I just don't think you like the CFO." I said.

"He's not my favorite person. But, I guess I like him O.K.," the CEO told me.

I wasn't convinced. "Look, it's just you and me talking here. There is no reason to play games with me," I said. "If you don't want him to get this job, why are we even having this conversation? I don't even know this guy. I don't care if he becomes the CEO or not. Why would you want me to coach him ... or to work on developing him as your successor, if you really don't want him to have the job?"

"You're right!" he grunted. "I think he's kind of a jerk. I've never liked him very much ... even though I've tried."

"Then why are we having this conversation?" I asked again.


He replied, "I have to admit, he has made a tremendous contribution in helping our company. We have done a fantastic turnaround ... without him it would have been impossible. If your coaching process can really help him improve his interpersonal skills, he deserves to be the CEO of the company."

I was still skeptical. "Are you sure?" I asked.

"I think so ... no, I am positive," he replied.

When I heard, "I think so," my gut said, "Leave now!" Unfortunately, I didn't listen to my gut.

"If he makes great improvement in the interpersonal areas that we discussed, are you going to recommend him to be your successor?" I asked. "Are there any other reasons he may not get the job, such as a lack of technical or functional skills?"

"No, along with being great in finance, he is strong enough in all of the other functions to do a fine job as the chief executive," the CEO concluded. "His only issues revolve around interpersonal behavior."


I worked with the CFO for more than a year, and all but one of his raters said they saw him as making great improvements in interpersonal relationships. Can you guess who was the only person to see "no change?" That's right: It was the CEO.

The CFO confronted the CEO and pointed out that everyone else gave him high marks for having improved his interpersonal relationships. Still, the CEO did not recommend him for the big job. The CEO finally ... and very reluctantly ... admitted that the CFO had in fact made great improvements where he was supposed to, which was of course clearly documented and hard to dispute. However, the CEO now concluded that the CFO lacked the "adequate marketing skills." This was odd, as it was the CEO who had told me a year earlier that the CFO's marketing skills were just fine.

The CFO was understandably upset. He had been promised the big job if he improved his interpersonal skills, which he had. He pointed out this fact, as well as the fact that he had turned down other, lucrative offers in anticipation of getting the CEO job. He went to the board and let the members in on what had happened. Basically, he told the board, "Either make me the new CEO ... or write me an extremely large check."

The board knew the CFO had been made a promise that was unfairly reneged on, and the directors opted to write an extremely large check. Because the CFO had improved, I was paid for my coaching, but I still regretted taking the assignment. Looking back, I feel I was used as a pawn in a political chess match. The CEO had given the green light to my being hired while believing that the CFO wouldn't improve. When he did, the CEO pulled the "lacks marketing skills" card out from up his sleeve. All of our hard work ... the CFO's, his team's, mine ... cost the company lots of money and wasted time. (Well, actually, the time wasn't wasted: The CFO did improve interpersonally, and he felt he could use in the future what he had learned during our work together.)


Since that coaching opportunity, I have had many other experiences that reinforce my belief that, if you, the leader, don't want a potential successor to have your job, you are likely to sabotage or at least be less than helpful in the succession process.

The most famous quotation illustrating this point came from Henry Ford II. When asked why he didn't promote Lee Iacocca to the top job, he replied, "Sometimes you just don't like somebody."

What can you, the leader, learn from this story? If you really don't want a potential successor to get the job, don't fool yourself or your potential successor. You will look for problems until you find a reason to cut him or her out of the running.


Before you write off a potential successor, look in the mirror. Maybe the problem is you. My friend Roosevelt Thomas is an expert in diversity. He addresses the favoritism issue by encouraging executives to differentiate between preferences, which are personal and relate to you as an individual, and requirements, which are organizational and relate to the job. If your dislike for a potential successor is just a matter of personal preference and the candidate is the most qualified person to help the company, get over yourself. Be open-minded about succession planning and try to help this person succeed.

It's better not to jerk around potential successors. It's not fair to them or to the company and shareholders. After careful analysis, if you don't want this person to be your successor, don't fake it. Don't pretend you are interested in developing him or her for the job. Work with someone you can support. If you cannot find someone you can sincerely support, either stay in your job or look externally and start recruiting some new talent.

Readers: I would greatly appreciate hearing about any examples of how personal preferences can stop promotions and sabotage coaching.

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, July 22, 2010

Talent on Demand

Finding, retaining, and developing talent is one of the toughest business challenges executives face. It's made even tougher because many of the practices executives use don't work in today's uncertain environment. With the absence of job security and the likelihood of lifetime employment with one company a thing of the past, the open labor market means you may be investing in talented people who will leave your firm for a competitor. I invited my friend Peter Cappelli, a Wharton professor, author of Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty, and a recognized world authority on human capital, to discuss his new approach to talent management. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:

MG: First, what is talent management?

PC: A simple definition is anticipating the needs for talent and setting out a plan to meet those needs. While most observers think of "talent" as referring to managerial jobs, actually, any positions that are hard to fill or crucial to the organization count as "talent."

What's wrong with the way we do talent management now?

Survey evidence suggests that most companies no longer do any talent management. A generation ago, 96% of large employers in the U.S. had dedicated departments to do workforce planning, according to a Conference Board study done in 1966. Now, less than a third even attempt to forecast demand for talent. Some estimates suggest that less than one in five companies attempt to plan for internal succession.

The companies that attempt to do talent management in a sophisticated way use old-fashioned models from the 1950s that assume we know with great certainty what the demands will be in the future.

These models require the ability to plan accurately well into the future. The estimates of demand fall apart because the business environment is so uncertain. Our internal "pipelines" of talent also prove misleading because of unpredictable attrition. The talent plans then turn out to be wrong, in that employers end up with more managers or other kinds of talent than they need, leading to layoffs; in other cases they end up with not enough of the skills they need, causing work to be turned away.

So, what do we do instead?

The problem for talent management is to deal with and manage that uncertainty. We do this by adapting techniques that are already well known from supply-chain management. To begin, we ask, what happens when our forecasts for demand turn out to be wrong, as they almost always will? What does it cost us? We can be wrong in two ways: Actual demand is greater than our forecast, and we have a shortage of talent; or actual demand is less than we thought, and we have a surplus of talent. What will it cost us in each case?

The idea of having a "deep bench" of talent costs us money. A deep bench is inventory. And human capital is the most expensive form of inventory ... we have to keep paying while people are "sitting on the bench," and the most ambitious ones are likely to leave, taking our investments in them.

Falling short on talent, on the other hand, can be offset in most cases by outside hiring, contracting, or temp workers. Once we know which cost is greater, then we plan accordingly. If our best guess is that we will need 100 additional middle managers, and we think the costs of going long are greater than the costs of going short, then we should try to develop fewer than 100 middle managers ... say, 90. And if it turns out that we fall short, then we use outside hiring to make up the gap. This allows us to respond to the uncertainty in ways that don't break the bank.

The biggest concern with development seems to be attrition ... that we invest in employees and they leave.

The problem from the employer side is that they advance the investment and then hope for a return. But employees can take this investment and look for jobs elsewhere at higher wages. So the employers end up paying for this twice ... first the investments, then higher wages. There are many ways to adapt to this problem, but perhaps the most creative is to find ways to get employees to share the costs of development.

Many companies have started doing this by asking for workers to volunteer for additional developmental assignments. But they have to keep doing their regular job in the process. So the development is essentially done on the employee's dime.

What do the employees get out of this new approach?

The ability to quit and find a job elsewhere gives employees options that they didn't have during the lifetime employment period. In order to keep employees from leaving, most employers give them more say about managing their careers.

Virtually every company now has electronic job boards that create something like an internal marketplace for talent. We're moving toward [a system] where employees and their employers shop for talent. Balancing the interests of employees and their employers is the key, and a number of companies have arrangements to negotiate compromises.

This has been fascinating, Peter. Thank you! I love to point my readers to new approaches to the significant challenges they face today, such as talent management.

Readers, as always, I would love comments from you. Peter can be reached at

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, July 19, 2010

Be Flexible, Attract Talent

In this time of economic uncertainty, the pressure to control costs is at a peak. With hiring freezes and layoffs, companies increasingly are asking themselves how to produce the results they need with limited or decreasing human resources.

One innovative firm in the Bay Area, Flexperience, has created a different talent market: experienced professionals who seek flexible work opportunities. I spoke with Lisa Kay Solomon, vice-president of business development for Flexperience, about how organizations can build sustainable talent management strategies through flexible work. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:

Why is flexibility so important? Don't we have to work more, not less, to stay competitive globally?

Over the next 5 to 10 years, all trends indicate that flexibility will move from a "nice to have" perk to a necessary condition of employment. As aging boomers slowly retire, they are being replaced by upcoming millennials who have a very different attitude about work and the ideal job, placing flexibility and quality of life over steady career advancement and security.

Technology makes it possible to work almost from anywhere, and the increasingly global economy will force mobility and flexibility in dramatic ways. Organizations will have to fundamentally rethink how they hire and sustain the best and brightest.

So what are some of the best practices around flexible work and flextime?

What we've learned from our clients and partners is that flexibility is not a "one size fits all" proposition. It has to work within the established culture, values, and business requirements of the company. Additionally, the company has to provide the right technologies that enable its employees to be productive anytime, anywhere, such as laptops, VPNs, PDAs, video cameras, high-speed access, and teleconferencing tools. These allow team players to focus on the work they need to get done from anywhere, anytime, without being hindered by office-time logistics and excessive travel expenses.

A lot of times, flexible work practices start as an informal process launched as a one-off to keep a key employee engaged. If these informal programs demonstrate anecdotal and measurable results, they often set the stage for a more formal flex program down the road.

How are companies responding?

Some companies get it immediately ... they are grateful to have a partner that helps them find and coach their talents on how to work in a very fluid and flexible way. Others are slower to adapt their systems to handle "nontraditional" work resources into their processes. Many of them know that they need to change, and we're starting to see more companies appointing a person or task force responsible for exploring a flexible work policy.

It has been particularly exciting to see how our initial successes have helped shaped new dialogs within management teams about their future human capital strategies. For example, one of our Fortune 500 clients has hired its first part-time direct hire because of the very evident efficiency and commensurate high ROI it experienced with one of our part-time placements. Another, Timbuk2, hired its first part-time HR director because it saw the incredible value she could provide during her three days in the office. Method Home Products used one of our professionals to cover a maternity backfill and saw firsthand the benefits of avoiding extra stress on the other members of the department by asking them to cover her work while she was out. This creates goodwill among everyone, leading to a more sustainable and loyal workforce.

What about people who want to work flexibly? What advice would you give them on how to go about advocating to their employer that they should be allowed to work in nontraditional ways?

There is an increasing amount of useful data and advice on the business benefits and cost savings around flexible work. Every employee looking to change their work arrangement should go armed with a business case on how the new arrangement delivers a measurable ROI to the company.

Additionally, the employee should have a clear communication plan that details when and how s/he will be available to the rest of the team and what they can expect from her. Credibility and trust are absolutely essential when starting out these arrangements. Every missed call or deadline could be a deadly strike against their reputational asset, leading to general cynicism about the program. There are some great resources out there, like the When Work Works program, that provide extensive guides for both the manager and the employee on how to engage in productive conversation about flexible work.

What advice do you have for companies that want to start a flexible work program?

Creating a flexible work program is a process. We encourage our clients to find a cross section of respected performers throughout the company to support the program. It's especially helpful to have a senior-level champion to shepherd the effort. The other critical element is to start slow, with low expectations ... kick it off with a "pilot" and communicate to the different stakeholders what you hope this "experiment" can teach you. Communicate early successes widely while managing expectations appropriately along the way. You rarely get docked when a pilot program doesn't turn out 100% as expected, but you will certainly hear it if you launch a companywide program that falls flat!

For more about Flexperience, got to

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, July 16, 2010

Self-Confidence for Leaders

You won't get to the top without it. To build your self-confidence, believe in yourself, don't worry about being perfect, and put up a brave front.

I was recently teaching in a seminar for MBA students at the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business. A young second-year student seemed anxious to talk with me. He finally asked: "I have read your book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. In the book you talk about classic challenges faced by your clients. I noticed that you never discuss self-confidence problems. How do you deal with your client's self-confidence problems?"

This was a great question. It made me realize that I rarely encounter self-confidence problems in my work with CEOs and potential CEOs. It is almost impossible to make it to the top level in a multibillion-dollar corporation if you do not believe in yourself. On the other hand, I am frequently asked to speak at business schools (in fact five this month), and I have noticed that students in my seminars often want to talk about it.

I will share a few suggestions about how you can build your self-confidence, as it is a key quality that leaders must possess. I also hope you, my readers, will offer your own suggestions.

- Don't worry about being perfect. There are never right or wrong answers to complex business decisions. The best that you can do as a leader is to gather all of the information that you can (in a timely manner), do a cost-benefit analysis of potential options, use your best judgment ... and then go for it.

- Learn to live with failure. Great salespeople are the ones who get rejected the most often. They just "ask for the order" more than the other salespeople. You are going to make mistakes. You are human. Learn from these mistakes and move on.

- After you make the final decision ... commit! Don't continually second-guess yourself. Great leaders communicate with a sense of belief in what they are doing and with positive expectations toward the achievement of their vision.

- Show courage on the outside ... even if you don't always feel it on the inside. Everyone is afraid sometime. If you are a leader, you direct reports will be reading your every expression. If you show a lack of courage, you will begin to damage your direct reports' self-confidence.

- Find happiness and contentment is your work. Life is short. My extensive research indicates that we are all going to die anyway. Do your best. Follow your heart. When you win, celebrate. When you lose, just start over the next day.

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, July 15, 2010

How to Spot the Uncoachables

Even if you are the best coach in the world, if the person you are coaching shouldn't be coached, the coaching isn't going to work. The good news is that the "uncoachables" are easier than you think to spot. How do you know when someone is uncoachable? How do you detect a lost cause? Following are four indicators that you are dealing with one of these people:

1. She doesn't think she has a problem.

This successful adult has no interest in changing. Her behavior is working fine for her. If she doesn't care to change, you are wasting your time! Let me give you an example of a nice woman who didn't think she had a problem. My mother, a lovely woman and much-admired first-grade teacher, was so dedicated to her craft that she didn't draw the line between inside and outside the classroom. She talked to all of us, including my father, in the same slow, patient manner, using the same simple vocabulary that she used with her six-year-olds every day. One day as she graciously and methodically corrected his grammar for the millionth time, he looked at her, sighed, and said, "Honey, I'm 70 years old. Let it go." My father had absolutely no interest in changing. He didn't perceive a problem. So no matter how much, how hard, or how diligently she coached, he wasn't going to change.

2. He is pursuing the wrong strategy for the organization.

If this guy is already going in the wrong direction, all you're going to do with your coaching is help him get there faster.

3. They're in the wrong job.

Sometimes people feel that they're in the wrong job with the wrong company. They may believe they're meant to be doing something else or that their skills are being misused. Here's a good way to determine if you're working with one of these people. Ask them, "If we shut down the company today, would you be relieved, surprised, or sad?" If you hear 'relieved,' you've got yourself a live one. Send them packing. You can't change the behavior of unhappy people so that they become happy: You can only fix behavior that's making people around them unhappy.

4. They think everyone else is the problem.

A long time ago I had a client who, after a few high-profile employee departures, was concerned about employee morale. He had a fun, successful company and people liked the work, but feedback said that the boss played favorites in the way he compensated people. When I reported this feedback to my client, he completely surprised me. He said he agreed with the charge and thought he was right to do so. First off, I'm not a compensation strategist and so I wasn't equipped to deal with this problem, but then he surprised me again. He hadn't called me to help him change; he wanted me to fix his employees. It's times like these that I find the nearest exit. It's hard to help people who don't think they have a problem. It's impossible to fix people who think someone else is the problem.

My suggestion in cases like these? Save time, skip the heroic measures, and move on. These are arguments you can't ever win.

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, July 14, 2010

Keeping Your People Engaged in Tough Times

Keeping employees' committed and motivated during tough economic times seems like a tall task, especially after downsizing or program cutbacks. What should I do to keep our employees 'in the game'?

Marshall: I hear this concern every where I travel these days. Who doesn't? My friend Joe Wheeler, Executive Director of The Service Profit Chain Institute, recently co-authored a book with Harvard Business School Professors James L. Heskett and W. Earl Sasser, Jr. entitled The Ownership Quotient, Putting The Service Profit Chain to Work for Unbeatable Competitive Advantage. I asked him for his perspective on this question. Here's his take:

Joe: Managers across the country are facing tough decisions as they try to manage their cost base against diminishing demand. In many cases, this affects labor costs and the potential for layoffs, furloughs, or other cutbacks. These disruptions can have a nasty impact on employee morale and commitment.

In our book, we studied the practices of organizations like Wegmans Food Markets, ING Direct, and Harrah's Entertainment ... organizations we characterize as "service profit chain leaders." They achieve a large percentage of 'owners' in their employee base ... employees that are highly engaged and demonstrate an 'ownership' mentality. These employees recommend new employees to the organization, and participate in efforts to improve current products, services, and processes. This engagement inevitably leads to greater success for the company, and is of significant benefit especially during tough times.

Here are three things you can do to maintain and foster an ownership culture:

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Of course you're busy searching for business to keep the organization afloat. But employees with an ownership mentality want to know what is happening in their company. Set aside time regularly to provide your employee-owners with information that will help them understand their short-term job prospects. Just as important, provide them with specific plans for using the next 18 to 24 months to reposition the organization for the next decade.

There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in many organizations today. In some cases, it interferes with quality and productivity. Merely recognizing employee concerns can help alleviate them. Relatively inexpensive employee counseling can become memorable at times like these. These actions, coupled with incentives that elicit new ideas for improving operations can send important positive messages at a time of stress. They can foster "ownership" behaviors ... loyalty, high productivity, and referrals of others as potential employees ... that enhance the lifetime value of members of the organization.

2. Appeal to the Better Nature of Your Employee-Owners

The current economic crisis provides the national government with the basis for establishing a citizenry characterized by volunteerism. It provides you with the "burning platform" necessary to enlist everyone in transforming your organization to win the competitive battles of the future. It's a great time to engage employee-owners in coming up with ideas to deal with the downturn. This doesn't have to involve an elaborate "program," just an organized appeal.

It may involve juicing up an already existent effort. For example, at Baptist Health Care, an organization regularly cited as one of the best places to work, managers lead discussions on subjects such as survey results and solicit ideas for ways to improve customer service as part of an ongoing Listening and Learning program. The resulting "customer snapshot reports" compile all employee observations and ideas for general distribution.

3. Upgrade Talent: Avoid the Freeze

Winners like to work with winners; losers like to work with winners; but winners don't like to work with losers. Who are the losers? Ironically, many times it's not those who are performing at a sub-par level; they often can be coached and supported in ways that help them improve their productivity. More frequently, it's those who violate the norms of the organization and can't manage by the values shared by others. In the context of the organization and its culture, they are regarded as "jerks" by their colleagues ... jerks who are tolerated because of the ability to "make the numbers." But most often, the "losers" are simply those who are not inspired and excited about the business, who go about performing the necessary but not the extra.

Now is the time to let go of the losers, thereby raising the average level of talent in the organization. That doesn't mean a freeze on hiring, however. Instead, it may be a great time to take advantage of a depressed talent market by making a few strategic hires of long-sought candidates from competitors or other organizations.

Marshall: Thank you Joe! This is great advice. To learn more about The Ownership Quotient visit or email Joe here.

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, July 13, 2010

4 Tips for Efficient Succession Planning

One of the most common leadership development questions that I hear from executives is, "Why does succession planning feel like such a waste of time?"

I do a lot of work on executive coaching and succession with my good friend, Jim Moore. Jim is the former CLO of three major companies. Here are some of our thoughts on how to make leadership succession a more relevant process in your company.

Many of the CEOs we talk with these days express concern about the lack of bench strength in their companies. They are very worried that they lack sufficient "ready now" candidates to replace planned & unplanned losses of key leaders. As a result, the future continuity and performance of the business is at risk. These same executives also tell us that their companies have been doing succession planning for years. On average, the executives we meet give their succession planning process a grade of C+ and they give their execution of succession plans a grade of D. If you are among the companies who are not happy with the impact of your succession planning process, you have plenty of company. Here are four practical ideas on how you can get more impact from your organization's succession planning efforts.

1. Change the name of the process to from Succession Planning to Succession Development.

Plans do not develop anyone ... only development experiences develop people. We see many companies put more effort and attention into the planning process than they do into the development process. Succession planning processes have lots of to-do's ... forms, charts, meetings, due dates and checklists. They sometimes create a false sense that the planning process is an end in itself rather than a precursor to real development. Many humans fall into the same trap regarding physical fitness. We have may have fantastic plans in place to lose weight. We may be very proud of our plans , which include detailed daily goals for diet, alcohol consumption, and exercise. And if our execution were half as impressive as our planning, we would be very svelte. Our focus should be on weight loss, not planning for weight loss.

2. Measure outcomes, not process

This change of emphasis is important for several reasons. First, executives pay attention to what gets measured and what gets rewarded. If leadership development is not enough of a priority for the company to establish goals and track progress against those goals, it will be difficult to make any succession planning process work. Second, the act of engaging with senior executives to establish these goals will build support for succession planning and ownership for leadership development. Third, these results will help guide future efforts and mid-course corrections.

The metrics a company could establish for Succession Development might include goals like the percent of executive level vacancies that are actually filled with an internal promotion vs. an external hire, or the percent of promotions that actually come from the high-potential pool. Too often, we find companies measure only the percent of managers that had completed succession plans in place.

3. Keep it simple.

We sometimes find companies adding excessively complex assessment criteria to the succession planning process in an effort to improve the quality of the assessment. Some of these criteria are challenging even for behavioral scientists to assess, much less the average line manager. Since the planning process is only a precursor to focus the development, it doesn't need to be perfect. More sophisticated assessments can be built into the development process and administered by a competent coach.

4. Stay realistic.

Following are two classic examples how succession plans may lack realism:

The head of engineering is a high performing leader who has the potential to be COO. She has always been in an engineering role. If she had sales experience, she would be even more ready to be the COO so her development plan is written to include a job move to be head of sales. However, this company would never take the risk of putting someone without sales experience in the top sales job ... so her development plan perpetually says, "move to a sales job" even though that will never happen.

The CFO is a high performing leader who has passed all the assessment criteria to be a high potential, ready-now candidate for the CEO job. He is told he is the top candidate. However, the CEO can't stand the guy, and as a result, he will never get the job as long as that CEO has a say in the matter.

While development plans and succession charts aren't promises, they are often communicated as such and can lead to frustration if they aren't realistic. Bottom line, don't jerk around high performing leaders with unrealistic development expectations. Only give the promise of succession if there is a realistic chance of its happening!

We believe the four suggestions above can help shift your organization's focus from planning to development ... and achieve increased depth in your bench strength.

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, July 12, 2010

Evaluate How You Fit Your Company Culture

While moving up the organization, I've noticed a high turnover in the senior ranks. It seems like a lot of talented people who were once successful fail to make the grade. How can I increase the likelihood that I will not end up like these casualties?

MG: This is a significant challenge for executives today. How can you avoid being another turnover casualty? Nat Stoddard and Claire Wyckoff recently wrote about this in their new book The Right Leader: Selecting Executives that Fit. I asked them to give us their take on this question.

Nat and Claire: Thank you Marshall! Your reader's observation is absolutely correct. Over 64 percent of new CEOs (whose data is most readily available) fail to make it through their fourth year in the job, while 40 percent are gone in 18 months. Turnover rates for all senior executives have increased significantly during the past decade ... in excess of 50 percent. In fact, they're up over three times the rate that they were throughout most of the 1990s.

The problem is not that executives can't do their jobs. The problem often lies in the fact that they may not fit the situation well enough to deliver the changes expected of them. By "fit" we mean how well an executives' character (especially their values and beliefs) aligns with the culture of the company ? where the necessary and expected changes must be delivered. If the character of the leader is not closely aligned with that of the organization, then, as Peter Drucker originally pointed out, followership will not occur ... people won't trust a leader who doesn't share their values, and, without trust, they will not follow him or her. It is this lack of proper "fit" that causes so many senior executives to fail.

When you're considering a promotion or a move, the key is to ensure not only that your skills and abilities match up with the needs of the organization, but that you fit well with the organization's culture. There are three things to consider: the culture of the organization at large, that of the team of which you will be a member, and that of the team you'll be expected to lead.

The following are a few suggestions for reducing the risks of becoming a casualty of cultural conflict:

1. Know thyself. We encourage candidates to take a number of psychological and behavioral assessments. It is vital to understand yourself as fully as possible ... especially your business-related beliefs and decision-making processes. It's also helpful to identify those aspects of different cultures that you relate to and those you don't. Write them down and refer to them as you gather data about the opportunities under consideration.

2. Inquire about the cultures at hand. Do the people you are interviewing treat culture as "that soft 'people' stuff?" That in itself tells you a great deal about the relative importance of culture in this organization, and its members' understanding of the challenges facing newly appointed leaders like yourself.

3. Use your network to verify what you have observed about the company's cultures. Former employees, suppliers, or consultants can shed light on what you will actually encounter. You can also ask to obtain permission to talk to a few potential peers, direct reports, your boss's boss, and members of the board. Think through the questions you want to ask about "how things get done around here" to get a sense of how much agreement there is about the makeup of the organization's culture.

Remember, while a new situation may seem like the perfect match, failing to fit adequately with the company cultures you encounter will increase your chances of becoming a turnover statistic. What's more, the higher up you go in any organization, the more important fit becomes ... and the more difficult it is to recover from a situation that "just didn't work out."

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, July 09, 2010

Human Nature: The X Factor in Economic Theory

According to Dan Ariely, author of the book "Predictably Irrational" and the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University, behavioral economics is an important and useful tool for society because it takes into account the irrationality of human nature. I loved this book ... and highly recommend it. I've asked Dan to give us his take from a behavioral economics perspective on the current economic situation. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:

How is behavioral economics different from standard economics?

Standard and behavioral economics are interested in similar topics, i.e., the choices people make; the effects of incentives; the role of information; etc. However, the starting point for behavioral economists is how people behave, often in a controlled lab environment, which often leads to different conclusions about the logic and efficacy of many things, including mortgages, savings, and health care in both business and personal realms.

Won't the market fix consumer mistakes?

Why would the market fix mistakes instead of aggravating them? Behavioral economics argues that many people will make the same mistake and these will aggregate in the market. Take the subprime mortgage crisis, for example. In this case, many people made the same mistakes, and the market has worked to make the aggregation of mistakes worse.

How would behavioral economists and rational economists view the sub-prime crisis differently?

Behavioral economists view the crisis based on the assumption that human behavior is irrational: For example, when the housing market was hot, bankers assumed that their customers didn't want their house to go into foreclosure, and that they would act accordingly. The first assumption was correct ... no one wanted their house to go into foreclosure. But the second assumption, that consumers knew what to do in order to make sure they didn't lose their house, was wrong.

Then, smart bankers introduced interest-only mortgages. From a standard economics perspective these mortgages allow for extra flexibility. People could pay only the interest and use the rest of the money to pay other expenses such as credit card debt, or health-related expenses. These loans would be ideal if people were purely rational. But we're not.

Borrowers were told by the banks the maximum amount they could borrow, not the optimal amount they should borrow. Given a regular mortgage borrowing maximum of $400,000 and an interest-only borrowing maximum of $650,000, would the average consumer borrow $400,000 with the interest-only mortgage and this way gain flexibility, or would they borrow to the new max? Unfortunately, people often borrow to the max, gaining no flexibility and in the process exposing themselves to a much higher risk in the real-estate market.

So, we're irrational and make risky decisions based on greed?

We are fallible, easily confused, not that smart, and often irrational, but there is a silver lining. We are innovative, creative, and adaptable. For instance, we've designed chairs, shoes, and cars to complement and enhance our physical capabilities. If we take some of the same lessons we've learned from working with our physical limitations and apply them to things that are affected by our cognitive limitations ... insurance policies, retirement plans, and health care ... we'll be able to design more effective policies and tools that are more useful in the world. This is the promise of behavioral economics ... once we understand where we are weak or wrong we can try to fix it and build a better world.

Imagine that we took into account how difficult it is for people to calculate the correct amount of mortgage that they should take. Instead of creating a calculator that told us the maximum that we can borrow, it helped us figure out what we should borrow. If we had this type of calculator (and used it), I believe much of the sub-prime mortgage catastrophe could have been avoided.

Say for instance someone has a choice between leasing a Ford (F) Focus and leasing a Lexus ... most people would go for the Lexus! It may not be what they should borrow, but it is the maximum and so they go for it and hope for the best.

This is one idea; there are many ways to think about how to improve our lives. And, this is why behavioral economics is so optimistic, useful, and important for our personal life and for society.

Thank you Dan! Readers if you would like to learn more about behavioral economics go to Please share your views on the irrational nature of economics.

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, July 08, 2010

7 Steps to Leadership Self-Confidence

One key factor in leadership success is self-confidence. How can future leaders learn to demonstrate more of this? 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. 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.

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, July 07, 2010

4 Ways to Bounce Back From Setbacks or a Layoff

Today's business world is increasingly challenging--with economic unrest and rapid changes in infrastructure. Many good people have recently found themselves facing job insecurity and layoffs. I contacted my good friend and best-selling author Karen Salmansohn for some tips on bouncing back and even thriving in the face of adversity. Here's what she said:

1. To those of you who have just endured a career adversity, join the crowd--and by the way, it's a very distinguished successful crowd.

Many members of the Fortune 500 Club could easily earn membership in the Misfortune 500 Club. Successful people are not people who never fail; they are people who know how to fail well. They have learned to use the leverage of a failure to push themselves up higher.

Bill Gates relishes the lessons of failure so much that he purposely hires people who have made mistakes. Roberto Goizueta, Coca-Cola's CEO, says the risk-taker mentality is the very reason he hired back the guy who launched New Coke--a huge marketing failure. Goizueta recognized that you can become uncompetitive and dangerously inactive if you let "avoiding failure" become your motivator. "You can stumble only if you're moving," he says.

If you've recently stumbled and fallen in your career, re-focus on how your risky thinking makes you more knowledgeable. See work failure as "fullure"--full of many lessons.

2. Think like a lion about your firing. Graham Thomas Chipperfield, a lion tamer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was bitten by Sheba, one of his 500-pound lionesses.

Before he got back in the cage with her, he analyzed the event from her point of view. First, he recognized that lions tend to think of the trainer as another lion. So, when he attempted to break up a fight between her and another lion--Sheba figured that he wanted to join fight!

Did Chipperfield blame Sheba for her inaccurate thinking? No. He took time to see the biting from her perspective. This is the same technique as that used by many therapists--beginning with Freud--called "mimesis." Through such role-play from offending party's perspective, patients can better understand why someone has "bitten" them and hopefully avoid being bitten again. If you've been fired, rejected, yelled at, take time today to see things from "Sheba's Point of View," so that perhaps you can avoid this happening again.

3. If you ask depressing questions, you will get 100% depressing answers. For example it does no good to ask yourself: Why didn't I...? What if...? Why me...? Would you accept some of the mean questions you ask yourself if they came from an outside source? Doubtful! So you have to "stop 'em and swap 'em" immediately for these questions that bounce you upward: What can I do to move forward? How can I grow from this challenge? What's within my control to change?

4. Shrink negativity into "nuggetivity." Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to think negative thoughts to three-minute nuggets, three times a day. Set aside a specific time of day when you will allow yourself to think negative thoughts. Whenever a negative thought enters your head, tell yourself it will have to wait until your preset Negativity Appointment. Who knows, maybe you won't even want to think negatively once this time swings around?

Marshall: Thanks Karen! What an uplifting interview. For more career and happiness info pick up Karen's new book The Bounce Back Book: How to Thrive in the Face of Uncertainty, Setbacks and Losses, or go to

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, July 06, 2010

Building Partnerships Across the Organization

I've had questions from leaders who find themselves in a company that was formed through several mergers. While they hear talk about "synergy" and "cross-organizational teamwork," they don't always see this in practice.

The number one reason for mergers is synergy - which will, hopefully, lead to more profitability. If there is no "1+1=3" effect in joining with another organization, why bother to do it?

In spite of seemingly great synergy, many mergers fail. The main cause of failure is not bad strategic fit. It is the lack of integration of people and culture. The question is critical - not only to the success of companies formed through mergers - but to almost all huge, global corporations.

Here are a few basic suggestions for managers that may help building synergistic partnerships across your organization:

1. Review the larger company goals, then focus on how your unit's objectives relate to overall corporate success.

2. Identify other parts of the business that may be impacted by the work of your group and let them participate in the development of your goals and plans.

3. Have each person in your group identify cross-organizational colleagues with the potential for synergies and partnerships.

4. Develop a disciplined procedure through which each person regularly reaches out to their cross-organizational partners and asks "How can we better help each other?"

5. Establish monthly team meetings for sharing what has been learned and ensuring accountability.

6. Rather than defending your viewpoints, or protecting your organization try to methodically balance your views with those of your colleagues to build a sense of shared commitment to larger objectives.

7. Establish a regular best practices forum (this can be done online) in which participants from all areas of the organization discuss what is working. (GE has done a fantastic job of making this happen.)

8. Be willing to transfer some of your best talent to other parts of the business. This will both facilitate cross-organizational synergy and help develop potential corporate-wide leadership. (Admittedly, this one is much easier in theory than in practice!)

9. Finally, go first. If we wait for the other people across the organization to reach out to us - and they wait for us to reach out to them - both parties will only succeed in waiting, not in building partnerships.

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, July 05, 2010

What to Do When You're Suddenly in Charge

When times are tough, becoming a new leader or CEO from outside the organization is both a blessing and a curse.

The good news is that the world's not going to immediately blame you for the company's problems. The recession has lowered performance expectations. And the board has confidence in you.

The bad news is that the company does have serious problems you need to fix. And the economy may get worse before it gets better, inhibiting your chances for an effective turnaround.

So what are some of my suggestions for a new CEO entering into a difficult situation?

My first: Don't trash your predecessor. Whatever happened in the past happened. You cannot change that. Your predecessor probably had good relationships with many of the executives who are still in the company and are running key divisions and key functions. Do whatever you can to learn from your predecessor. Although a few CEOs are asked to leave because they engage in immoral or illegal activities, most are asked to leave because they just make mistakes. Your predecessor probably did many things right. Your predecessor knows ... perhaps more than anyone ... the key relationships that you will need to develop in order to be a success. Go out of your way to build a positive transition.

For instance, I have a colleague who has been working with the Obama team on the transition from President Bush to President Obama. He has been pleasantly surprised at the level of help and cooperation offered by leaders in the outgoing administration. He has found them incredibly helpful in sharing the 'nuts and bolts' of running the government and found them to be grateful that they are being listened to and treated with respect.

My second suggestion is to respect the history and tradition of your organization. Consider my friend Frances Hesselbein, who won admiration from management gurus for her incredible turnaround at the Girl Scouts of the USA in the 1980s. In her thirteen years at the helm, she dramatically increased membership and raised significantly more money. She also focused on the importance of diversity and made an organization that was becoming irrelevant – relevant again. While she worked very hard at creating a vibrant organization that met the needs of changing times, she always respected the history and traditions that had made the Girl Scouts a great organization in the past. (Ms. Hesselbein and I are on the Leader to Leader Institute board of governors, of which Ms. Hesselbein is the chairman.)

My third suggestion is write off whatever you can – now! As an incoming CEO in a tough situation, you need a brutally honest assessment of the problems faced by your company. Turn over every rock! Let your executives know that they will not be punished for disclosing concerns now – but that they will be fired if you find out later that they did not tell you the truth about what is really happening.

One of my favorite clients, who eventually succeeded in turning around a disaster, tried valiantly to implement this strategy. He thought that he was being clear with all division presidents. By year's end the company had written off over $1 billion, which was by far the largest write-off in the history of the firm. As it turned out, one key division president, who was near retirement, had "fudged the numbers" in an effort to look good in his last year. When this mistake came to light, the company had to write off another $200 million the next year. The CEO told me that the $200 million write-off that occurred the second year did more damage to the reputation and stock price of the company than the billion-plus write-off that had occurred the first year.

My final suggestion: Be a role model for humility and continuous learning. Kent Kresa, who in the 1990s led an amazing turnaround at defense-contractor Northrop (now Northrop Grumman), developed a profile for the desired behaviors of the leaders in the company. He personally received feedback on his own leadership behavior. Kent worked hard at improving himself and set the example for all of his executives ... who also did the same thing. If you want others to develop ... start with yourself! The positive role modeling by Kent and his executive team did more to encourage other leaders to focus on their own improvement than any amount of 'preaching' or courses on leadership.

Ultimately for a company to change, individual leaders need to change. By being a positive example of learning, agility and personal development, you can inspire your leadership team to do the same. (I worked with Northrop and Mr. Kresa as consultant in the early 1990s, helping them with a large executive education effort.)

If you are a new leader in a tough situation, I cannot guarantee that following these suggestions will ensure your success. But I do believe that following these suggestions will improve your odds in turning around a tough situation.

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, July 02, 2010

7 Ways to Make Sure You Hire the Right Person

Hiring the right people is not as simple as it sounds! Millions of managers ask themselves this same question every day. I asked my friends Geoff Smart and Randy Street (HBS '97), co-authors of the instant New York Times bestseller Who: The A Method for Hiring, if they would answer this question. Following is their answer.

GS & RS: It's hard to hire the right person because managers use "voodoo hiring" methods that don't work. Unsuccessful hiring is every manager's #1 problem. They don't teach you how to hire in high school, college, or even at Harvard Business School!

Hiring managers who invent their own approaches, most of which are horrible, not only waste time, but also produce a 50% failure rate on average. And, in tough economic times like these, getting your business's house in order from a talent perspective is of paramount importance if you are going to weather the storm.

We conducted the largest research ever done to solve this problem of unsuccessful hiring. We distilled 13 years of consulting insights across hundreds of companies, performed exclusive interviews with over 20 billionaires and 60 other CEOs and investors to collect their best advice and stories on this topic, and completed a university-sponsored scientific study of 313 CEO careers.

What did we learn? We learned 7 things that managers can do today to improve their hiring success rate from 50% to 90%. We call this the "A Method For Hiring."

Write a written "scorecard" with quantifiable outcomes you expect a person to deliver. It's time to be precise -- not fuzzy.
Identify what elements of your culture you must have in candidates.
Source the best candidates using your network and think twice before over-relying on ads, job boards, and recruiters.
Consider paying a much bigger referral bounty to your employees who source A Players who are hired. One high performing company, for example, pays its employees a $100,000 hiring bounty for people who are hired (paid out $10k per year for 10 years of start date if both the referring party and the referred party are still employed).
Select the right person by conducting at least one extremely thorough, 3-hour, chronological interview. Really dig in. Find out for each job the person has had:
What was the person hired to do?
What were his or her biggest accomplishments?
What were his or her mistakes?
What would his or her bosses say about them (which can be verified with reference checks).
Why did he or she leave?
Watch out for red flags like: candidates who don't take responsibility for past mistakes, or who speak poorly of most of their bosses. Watch out for the 20 behavioral derailers that Marshall Goldsmith writes about in What Got You Here Won't Get You There.
Sell candidates by remembering the 5 Fs of what candidates care about:
Fit (with your company)
Family (support for joining your company)
Freedom (to make decisions)
Fortune (and glory)

You can do it. Master the A Method for Hiring. Enjoy more career success. Make more money. Have more time.

MG: Thanks Geoff and Randy! This is great advice. To learn more about the A Method for Hiring, go to or email Randy Street.

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, July 01, 2010

Those 20 Key Habits that Hold You Back

People who have read my book "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" often tell me they found themselves several times in the book!

What habits could you stop that are holding you back from getting to the top?

Look at the list below to find the 20 habits I often find in successful people. I help successful leaders become even more successful by helping them stop these habits:

1. Winning too much: the need to win at all costs and in all situations - when it matters, when it doesn't, and when it's totally beside the point.

2. Adding value: the overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.

3. Passing judgment: the need to rate others and impose our standards on them.

4. Making destructive comments: the needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.

5. Starting with "No," "But," or "However": the overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone, "I'm right. You're wrong."

6. Telling the world how smart you are: the need to show people we're smarter than they think we are.

7. Speaking when angry: using emotional volatility as a management tool.

8. Negativity, or "Let me explain why that won't work": the need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren't asked.

9. Withholding information: the refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.

10. Failing to give proper recognition: the inability to praise and reward.

11. Claiming credit that we don't deserve: the most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.

12. Making excuses: the need to reposition our annoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.

13. Clinging to the past: the need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.

14. Playing favorites: failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.

15. Refusing to express regret: the inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we're wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.

16. Not listening: the most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.

17. Failing to express gratitude: the most basic form of bad manners.

18. Punishing the messenger: the misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.

19. Passing the buck: the need to blame everyone but ourselves.

20. An excessive need to be "me": exalting our faults as virtues simply because they"re who we are.

Source: by Marshall Goldsmith, with Mark Reiter, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There", pp. 40-41 Hyperion Books. Available from

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