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What I Learned From Being Marshall Goldsmith’s Coach

In 2004 I was engaged in the soul-stretching process of earning a PhD in Consulting Psychology. One of the requirements in my executive coaching class was to interview a local executive coach. We were each randomly assigned someone to interview. Fortune smiled upon me. My assignment was Marshall Goldsmith.

At the time, I had never heard his name. I did not know that he was ranked by Forbes Magazine as the #1 executive coach in the world, nor did I know that he was one of the originators of 360 feedback and the developer of FeedForward. (A powerful way of gaining positive, forward looking ideas for personal and professional growth and development.) This was all before Google became such a big part of our lives. I was simply given his email and told to set up an interview.

Marshall responded to my email and we began our relationship. I was fascinated from the beginning. He entered the room singing, “Like a Rhinestone Cowboy”. I knew the words, so I joined in.

He sat down, drew himself in close, slapped me on the knee, stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I am Marshall Goldsmith. I am famous for being the #1 executive coach in the world. What are you famous for Andrew?”

His questions prompted one of the most amazing existential moments I have ever experienced. In a flash, I reviewed my life and I responded, “I am famous for being the father of five children.” His eyes grew red with emotion and he said, “That is a helluva lot more important than what I am famous for. Let’s chat.” (Worth Noting: Stacy and I are now famous for being the parents of seven children and two grandchildren.)

My response cleared the way for us to push aside the things that mattered least and engage in the things that matter most. Marshall, immediately took me under his wing and began to care deeply for my success. The deeper our relationship grew, the more he invited me to help him grow his own success.

Marshall was looking for someone to help him accelerate his growth. I was there at the right time. Suddenly, I found myself employed to be the personal coach of the world’s most famous executive coach. (Naturally, we did the happy dance in my house that day.) I have learned so much from this relationship and it continues to present me with some very wonderful opportunities.

Marshall had one rule: “help me without being negative.” Up until our engagement, I had seen coaching as a way to give someone the bad news. I wondered how I could help Marshall improve and hold him accountable without pointing out his weaknesses. It didn’t take me long to figure out that Marshall didn’t need that from anyone.

Marshall and I began to use a process that I previously used to engage my own employees. I call it the Daily Question process. When Marshall asked me what it was, I simply said that I would call him every day and ask him important questions. When he said, “what questions?” I said, “I don’t know yet because you haven’t told me what questions you want me to ask you.”

My answer was so aligned with his own work that we immediately began discovering what his questions would be. For the next 18 months I called him every night at 10:30 PM, no matter where he was in the world. This meant that I had to adjust my clock for the many time zones he traversed. Since that time we have engaged again and again in the process of asking Daily Questions.

As we collaborated on Marshall’s own personal and professional development plan we discovered two very important truths about the Daily Question process: 1) Most of us want to improve the quality of our life but we only know how to measure quantities so we think about what we are going to get instead of who we want to become. 2) Qualities can be measured, but not by the same metrics we use to measure quantities. In order to measure them we have to develop a revolutionary way of accounting for what matters most.

The more we worked together the more we understood the power of Daily Questions. I continue to use the process with my clients, but Marshall has now used it with thousands of leaders. His best selling book Triggers – details much of the work we did together and captures the way many others have helped him expand our ideas.

As I think about the way this message continues to grow in the world, I am drawn to understand the differences between influence and impact. An impact pushes up against, and leaves a mark, but that mark usually heals very quickly and the impact is soon forgotten. An influence flows through and continues to be felt long after the influencer has moved on. Eventually, no one will even recall the source, but the message continues to resonate. You can experience more of my thoughts on this in the video below.

Daily Questions help us behave in ways that are consistently aligned with our own values. That is how we become an influencer instead of an impacter. If we want to really make a difference then we must set aside our excuses and live into our own values. Here is how Marshall describes what he learned from our work together in his own words.

Who are you becoming? How are you measuring your success? What can I do to help? Give me a call and let’s start our own relationship. Don’t be surprised if I answer while singing, “Like a Rhinestone Cowboy”

Life is Good!

Andrew – 760-559-3548

Leading With Your Legacy In Mind