Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is an executive educator, leadership coach, and pioneer in his field. Having spent nearly four decades in the executive coaching industry, his methods are trusted by CEOs, HR professionals, large organizations, and top executives worldwide.
According to Goldsmith, his mission is simple: “to help successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior; for themselves, their people, and their teams.” Practical advice and 360-degree feedback are the foundation of his approach, which has earned him praise and recognition from Thinkers50, Inc., Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the Institute for Management Studies, the American Management Association, and more.
Free tips, tools, resources, content, and materials from the Thinkers50 “World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker” are available on Goldsmith's website. For more on his ideas and methods, you can also browse his collection of bestselling books. His titles have been recognized by the New York Times and translated into over 30 languages.
Goldsmith is the author or editor of more than 30 books on topics such as leadership development and behavioral change. Below, we have shared some of his bestselling titles and more about his upcoming release, The Earned Life. For a full list of Goldsmith's titles, click here.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (2007)
MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It (2010)
Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be (2015)
The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment (2022)
With a forty-year career in leadership development and executive coaching, Goldsmith is no stranger to writing articles. For more from Goldsmith on topics such as team building and behavioral change, visit his website to browse a complete catalog of his articles. This catalog includes Goldsmith's publications from the years 2002-2020. Sample articles include:
While Goldsmith does not share new videos every week, his website and YouTube channel are filled with intriguing content that is fit for the modern world. His recent uploads include three playlists, each with its own unique message that he delivers in 6-7 short lectures. Playlists include Becoming the Person You Want to Be, Triggers, and Leadership is a Contact Sport. Sample videos include:
Marshall’s keynote talks cover behavioral change, leadership development, and challenges and opportunities in leadership. Examples include “Triggers: Creating Behavior that Lasts, Becoming the People and Organizations We Want to Become” and “Coaching for Leadership: Developing Ourselves, Coaching Our People, and Building Engagement.”
For more from Goldsmith, visit Methods of 100 Coaches, his “online leadership education platform” that provides access to interactive courses on behavioral change. In addition, it features exclusive content from “the world’s top leadership educators, coaches, and thought leaders.” Annual and monthly memberships are available, with monthly memberships starting at $49 per month.
Goldsmith has created two apps “to help successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior; for themselves, their people, and their teams.” Learn more about Marshall Goldsmith Coaching and Impact Yourself Daily below.
Triggers and Behavioral Change
In life, we often have no control over the triggers that we encounter. Start choosing how you respond to triggers and reclaim control of your behavior with a bit of help from Goldsmith!
Take a moment to envision the version of yourself that you want to be. What habits does this version of you have? How do they react during moments of uncertainty or frustration? Do they eat healthy and workout often? How do their words, actions, and reactions make other people feel? Are they optimistic or pessimistic? How do they choose to spend their time?
Right now, you’re probably imagining someone with a positive outlook; someone who lives in the moment, spends their time wisely, and maintains genuine relationships with family and friends; a version of you that is happy, healthy, kind, respectful, and respectable. While it would be nice to be this version of yourself 100% of the time, odds are that you’re not. Why? According to Marshall Goldsmith, the answer is simple: triggers.
A trigger is “any stimulus that impacts [your] behavior.” Common triggers include thoughts, events, and people. As Goldsmith describes, “A trigger will always produce an impulse, and that impulse will lead to a behavior. If we can do something different, we can change the cycle.” To change the cycle, or change your behavior, you must be aware of the simple choice before you when faced with a trigger. You can either (1) act on impulse and let your behavior be driven by your environment or (2) acknowledge your impulse, take a deep breath, and let the person you want to be decide how to respond. Hint: Goldsmith recommends the latter!
An Exercise for Charting Your Triggers
If you have a specific behavioral goal in mind, Goldsmith recommends that you chart any triggers
“that influence the quality of your performance/progress towards [this] goal.” By classifying your triggers based on the six distinctions below, you can more effectively understand, anticipate, and respond to them. This being said, a trigger can be:
- “Direct or indirect”
- Direct – produces an immediate response
- Indirect – “takes a roundabout route to influence [your] behavior” (i.e., you see a commercial of a family on vacation, think of the vacation you are planning, and remember to buy your plane tickets)
- “Internal or external”
- Internal – comes from within (i.e., your thoughts and feelings)
- External – drawn from the external environment via the five senses
- “Conscious or unconscious”
- Conscious – “requires awareness” to invoke a behavior
- Unconscious – “beyond [your] awareness,” but influences your behavior nonetheless
- “Anticipated or unexpected”
- Anticipated – you understand where and when this trigger may present itself and can prepare yourself for it as a result
- Unexpected – you are surprised or caught off guard by this trigger (this is typically displayed in your behavior)
- “Encouraging or discouraging”
- Encouraging – positive reinforcer that pushes you to continue on the path you’re on
- Discouraging – happenings that urge you to cease whatever you’re doing
- “Productive or counterproductive”
- Productive – “push [you] toward becoming the person [you] want to be”
- Counterproductive – “pull [you] away from” becoming the person [you] want to be
During Goldsmith's time in the executive coaching industry, he’s learned that effective leadership is a relationship between a leader and their colleagues. The same is true for leadership development.
Leadership development, or “any initiative that makes people better leaders within their business, nonprofit organization, community, or personal life,” is a process. It takes time, and more importantly, it takes continual contact between a leader and their colleagues. When both parties are involved in leadership development, leaders naturally increase their effectiveness, colleagues perceive them as “people who care,” and long-term behavioral change is more attainable within their organizations. Because of this, Goldsmith and his colleague Howard Morgan have come to classify leadership development as “a contact sport.”
To grow as a leader (and develop authentic relationships within your organization), Goldsmith recommends discussing improvement priorities with your colleagues and following up. This can be as simple as asking for input, interacting on a regular basis, and checking in to “see if progress is being made.” For more detailed advice on how to follow up and, in turn, become a more effective leader, follow Goldsmith's feedback framework below. This behavioral change model is key to building more effective leaders and stronger organizations, because it teaches leaders how to effectively “reach out to co-workers, to listen and learn, and to focus on continuous development.”
Goldsmith's Behavioral Change Model for Leadership Development
Soliciting feedback is key to a leader’s success, and Goldsmith has one simple question to help you solicit feedback the right way. That question is, “How can I be a better ___?” Whether you are asking how to be a better leader, facilitator, advocate, or supporter, this question is helpful in revealing your opportunities for growth. In other words, the answers you receive can help you to understand “where [you] are, where [you] need to go, and to measure [your] progress along the way.”
If you receive feedback and immediately feel the urge to express your opinion about it, it’s time to rethink your reaction! Instead of speaking before you think, practice being an active listener when you ask for feedback. An active listener “listen[s] with respect.” To be more specific, they make eye contact, remain aware of their body language, ask questions, and stay engaged without interrupting. By making a conscious and continuous effort to be an active listener, you will take small steps toward better interpersonal encounters. Not to mention, you’ll avoid being perceived as someone who (1) is in denial or (2) makes excuses for their behavior.
After listening, you must respond, but before you do this, Goldsmith reminds you to think. After all, “what [you] say is proof of how well [you’ve] listened.” To accurately demonstrate how well you’ve listened to the feedback you’ve received, consider both what you will say and how you will say it. Take a moment to breathe and think. These tips from Goldsmith will help you avoid common pitfalls when responding to feedback, such as speaking with anger or “trying to prove how smart [you] are.”
Next, show your appreciation! When you receive feedback, your response should always be positive and include a “thank you.” By showing your appreciation, you’re less likely to come off as arrogant or defensive and more likely to find the true value in what others are sharing with you. To help his clients model this behavior, Goldsmith asks them to compare receiving feedback to receiving a gift. When you receive a gift, (hopefully) your initial reaction is to thank whoever gave it to you. Practice mirroring this behavior when you receive feedback, suggestions, or ideas from co-workers, and you’re sure to become a more effective leader.
Respond and Involve
Overall, your response should be “positive, simple, focused, [and] fast.” Instead of promising “to do everything people suggest” you do in the future, you should simply promise to listen, consider every suggestion, and “do what you can.” These latter promises are favorable because they can be kept, and they will make stakeholders (whom you have involved in the leadership development process) feel as though their responses are heard and valued.
Change and Follow Up
As a leader, you’ve more than likely learned that change is not easy. However, change is possible with time, effort, dedication, and consistency. To change yourself, your team, and/or your organization for the better, “the best time to start is now.” Consider what changes you are willing and able to make in the present and make a conscious and continuous effort to follow up with your co-workers, or stakeholders. In the words of Goldsmith, “that’s more than enough. For now.”
- Publisher summaries for What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, MOJO, Triggers, and The Earned Life
- Approved PR and press materials, available on Marshall Goldsmith's website