Article: Marshall Goldsmith to leaders: Be a facilitator, not a director

Executive Coaching

Marshall Goldsmith to leaders: Be a facilitator, not a director

The world-renowned executive coach shares his insights on skills that leaders should possess to succeed in a world of work upended by the pandemic.
Marshall Goldsmith to leaders: Be a facilitator, not a director

Marshall Goldsmith is a world-renowned leadership thinker, executive coach and also the New York Times #1 bestselling author of Triggers and What Got You Here Won't Get You There.

A pioneer in the field of leadership and coaching for behavioural change, his success is built upon a practical, no-nonsense approach to leadership. He is the leading expert in his field and his singular ability to get remarkable results for top leaders has drawn over 150 CEOs and their management teams to address ‘change’ in the workplace. Marshall Goldsmith has been recognised as one of the Top Ten Business Thinkers in the World and the top-rated executive coach at the Thinkers50 ceremony in London since 2011.

In his latest bestseller The Earned Life, Goldsmith lays out a powerful roadmap for ambitious people seeking a higher purpose that will last a lifetime. 

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters on his India visit for an event hosted by HR consulting firm Randstad India, Goldsmith shared his insights on skills that leaders should possess to succeed in a world of work upended by the pandemic.

Edited excerpts:

You have been a leadership coach for decades. What are the key common traits of great leaders/CEOs?

I was part of a huge study on ‘the leader of the future’.  Many characteristics of great leaders have been and will remain the same.  Qualities like integrity, dedication, developing people and customer focus – along with other you can figure out – have been and will be consistent.  Five qualities were seen as differentiating the leaders of the future from the leaders of the past:

  • Global thinking.
  • Cross cultural appreciation.
  • Technological savvy.
  • Building alliances and partnership.
  • ‘The leader as facilitator’ not ‘the leader as director’

In your view, which skills should leaders have to succeed in a world of work upended by the pandemic?

Leaders have to work diligently to ensure that people at all levels are aligned.  This is particularly challenging when everything (as you rightly say) is upended.  I have had great success with ‘The Six Question Process’ … Where are we going? Where are you going? What is going well?  What are key suggestions for improvement? How can I help? What suggestions do you have for me? 

In using the Six Question process, it is generally recommended that the executive have a one-on-one dialogue with each direct report approximately once each quarter. In most cases the initial dialogues may take more time, but the process generally lasts about 30 minutes after the first couple of sessions. The "rules" of the process are very simple. Both parties are asked to: 1) Make each question a dialogue, not a dictate, 2) Focus on the future, not the past and 3) Listen to the other person's ideas, implement what they can, and not try to "prove" the other person is wrong.

The Six-Question Process for feedback and coaching is a practical tool that executives can use to become more effective coaches. The six questions are merely meant as broad guidelines. In some cases, a Five-Question or Seven-Question approach may be better suited to a particular situation. Executives should be flexible in tailoring this process to fit their unique situations. The key to success is for both executives and direct reports to cover the most important topics on a regular basis and to be available to each other for special situations. From my experience few direct reports need or want more coaching than this.

How do you see the future of work evolve?

Work is going to become much more fluid.  People will more rapidly change companies and careers.  The HR role is going to be much more critical to the company’s success.  In a simple world with a steady workforce, HR is much less important.  In a complex world with an ever-changing workforce, HR is much more important.

Employees are revolting when asked to return to the physical office. Do you think this trend will accelerate, and employees would rather quit than go back to the office?

The answer is, ‘It all depends!’  Companies are going to have to ‘do what is right’ to achieve their mission and serve their customers.  To the degree that they can make this happen and meet the desires of the new workforce, they will win.

What is your message for those leaders to come out stronger on the other side of the pandemic and operate from a space of influence and resilience embedded with a deep level of empathy?

In my new book, The Earned Life, I have devoted an entire chapter to empathy.  I believe that ‘singular empathy’ is being who you need to be for the people you are there to serve – not just extolling the virtue of ‘how much you care’.  As my book points out, we can have too much caring!  This is why doctors are not allowed to operate on their children.  Many HR leaders have experience ‘burn-out’.  Like my friends who are doctors – and have to watch people die every day, HR leaders need to learn how to ‘let go’ and not carry their concern with them all day.

Finally, you have been a mentor to top corporate leaders. Who has been your mentor, and what did you learn from that person?

I am blessed to have had many wonderful mentors, including Paul Hersey, Peter Drucker, Frances Hesselbein and Alan Mulally.  They have all helped me in a way that I discuss in The Earned Life.  They have always told me, ‘You can be more!’

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Topics: Executive Coaching, Leadership Solutions, Strategic HR, Leadership, Leadership Development, #FutureOfWork

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