On Monday, I had the privilege to spend an hour with Marshall Goldsmith, one of the leading executive coaches on the planet and 3 times NYT best selling author.
I was struck by his humility, sense of purpose and joyfulness. As someone once wrote about him, in the dictionary against the word ‘Joy’ is a picture of Marshall. His smile lit up the room and convulsed his whole face.
He was in in town courtesy of AIM WA for a one day conference, and I had a precious hour the afternoon before to interview him for a Business News article.
His central point was that to become a better leader, manager, CEO or even person, you have to do the simple things well everyday. “Becoming better involves doing some easy things, which in essence are very straightforward; but actually doing them consistently, every day, that’s hard.”
It’s so easy to let things distract us, let the day or the week or month get away from us, and we never really do the things we should be doing, the things we set out to do. Losing weight is easy in itself, it means do more of the right exercise and eat the right diet, but this invariably involves tremendous discipline, and that is really, really hard.
Read about all this interview in my article, but one thing I did not write about was something he said to me at the very end of my time with him … and it was immensely powerful, in a personal ‘smack you in the chest’ way:
“Now, I bet your company listens to your customers right? You survey them? Maybe hold focus groups, listen to what they say about you?” he asked.
I nodded, and he went on quickly …
“… You think that’s important to give them great service? To find out what they want, so you can act on what they say? ”
Obviously, I thought, but I had an feeling this was leading me somewhere uncomfortable, into a trap …
“… you realise it’s important for your business to be responsive to your customers?”
“Yeah, ” I said, “critically important, we’ve implemented NPS scores, which I send around the team, and we have an NPS wall which gets updated on the latest feedback.”
“Right,” he said, “Now, are you married, with kids?” he asked me.
Interesting change in direction, I thought.
“Yes, 21 years, and we have 2 lovely kids, a girl aged 14 and boy 12”, I replied.
“Great!”, he said, “now when was the last time you asked your wife how you can be a better husband?”
Ouch! This is where he was heading.
“Errrr… not sure I have ever actually said that in so many words,” I blathered.
“…Or asked your kids how you can be a better Dad?”
Hmmmm, nope, probably not done that either.
“So, ” he went on, “how about asking your wife later today that question, and your kids? Do you think you’d know what they’d say?”
“Errr… “, I was still recovering from this direct question to the solar plexus, “I reckon my kids would say they want more time with me, and I have no idea what my wife would say – probably, again more ‘her and me’ alone time, going out together, etc.”
“Try it tonight” said Marshall, “it’s funny isn’t it that we ask questions to our customers, who, let’s be honest, we don’t really care about one to one, but to those we love most, we don’t ask these questions?”
“I only say it to make the point – doing these things is not hard in and of themselves, but it’s hard to actually implement, and we don’t tend to do it.”
I asked him how many people say they have asked their kids and wife this, and what replies he gets.
“Most have not asked it, but some have. Once you get past the kids saying ‘more toys or money’, what they really want it is for you to turn off your devices and give them more attention. Be careful asking your wife though, as sometimes it makes you look guilty, like you’re having an affair or something! Why otherwise would you ask such a guilt-laden question?!”
So, I went back that night and asked my wife and kids about how I could be a better Dad/husband. Once we chatted, the kids definitely spoke about attention. My wife, bless her, is still getting back to me … it could be a long list!
BTW, it’s Marshall Goldsmith’s birthday today – happy birthday Marshall!
Top Photo – Attila Csaszar, Business News.