Posts Tagged ‘values’

Advice from Your Best Expert

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Do you know what’s most important in your life?

I want you to imagine that you’re 95 years old – and on your death bed. Before taking your last breath - you’re given a great gift: the ability to travel back in time - the ability to talk to the person who is reading this column - the ability to help this person be a better professional and, more importantly, lead a better life.

The 95-year-old you understands what was really important and what wasn’t, what mattered and what didn’t, what counted and what didn’t really count. What advice would this wise “old you” have for the “you” who is reading this page?

Take a few seconds to answer this question – personally and professionally. Jot down words that capture what the old you would be saying to the younger you that is here now.  My next suggestion is simple - just do whatever you wrote down! Make that your resolution for this year and next.

A friend of mine actually had the chance to interview people who were dying and ask them what advice they would have had for themselves. The answers he got provide wonderful advice for all of us.

One recurring theme was to “find happiness and meaning - now,” not next month or next year. The great Western disease lies in the phrase, “I will be happy when . . .” The wise old you has finally realized that the next promotion, the next achievement, or the corner office really won’t change your world that much. Many older people said they were so wrapped up in looking for what they didn’t have that they seldom appreciated what they did have. They often wished they would just enjoyed life as they were living it.

Another common response revolved around friends and family. You may work for a wonderful company, and you may think that your contribution to that organization is very important. When you are 95 years old and you look at the people around your deathbed, very few of your fellow employees will be waving good-bye. Your friends and family will probably be the only people who care. Appreciate them now and share a large part of your life with them.

Older people offer other valuable advice: “Follow your dreams”. Figure out your true purpose in life, and go for it! This doesn’t apply just to big dreams; it is also true for little dreams. Buy the sports car you always wanted, go to that exotic locale you always imagined yourself visiting, learn to play the guitar or the piano.

If some people think your vision of a well-lived life is a bit offbeat or even goofy, who cares? It isn’t their life. It’s yours. Old people who pursued their dreams are always happier with their lives. Few of us will achieve all of our dreams. Some will always be elusive.

So the key question is not, “Did I make all of my dreams come true?” The key question is, “Did I try?”

I was involved in a major research project involving more than 200 high-potential leaders from 120 companies around the world. Each company could nominate only two future leaders, the very brightest of its young stars. These are the kinds of people who could jump at a moment’s notice to better-paying positions elsewhere. We asked each of them a simple question: “If you stay in this company, why are you going to stay?”

The following are the top three answers.

“I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting and I love what I am doing.”

“I like the people. They are my friends. This feels like a team. It feels like a family. I could make more money working with other people, but I don’t want to leave the people here.”

“I can follow my dreams. This organization is giving me a chance to do what I really want to do in life.”

The answers were never about the money. They were always about the satisfaction. When my friend asked people on their deathbeds what was important – and I asked young, global leaders what was important – we got exactly the same answers!

When you’re looking for what’s most important, don’t look ahead. Look behind. Be happy now - enjoy your friends and family – and follow your dreams.

This is great advice for everyone who wants a fulfilling career. It’s also great advice for everyone who wants to live a meaningful life.

Life is good.

Marshall

MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

www.MarshallGoldsmithFeedForward.com

Upcoming Schedule:

September 15, 2008 - New York - SHRM - contact Marshall if interested

October 2, 2008 - The Conference Board - Download Schedule - Register with discount: NM1

October 8, 2008 - Boston - Linkage: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” one day program

October 13, 2008 - Palm Desert, CA - Global Institute of Leadership Development - Register with discount: GILD08-PW

October 29, 2008 - Japanese Business Executives - Tokoyo, Japan

October 30, 2008 - Japanese Business Coaches - Tokoyo, Japan

December 2, 2008 in San Francisco - Linkage: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” one day program

Love What You Do

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

I wrote an article for Fast Company awhile ago about loving what you do.

I talked about Warren Bennis. Warren Bennis has always been one of my heroes. Dr. Bennis is a distinguished professor and founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California and a visiting professor at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. His books on leadership have sold over a million copies. Along with being one of the greatest teachers and writers in our field, he’s also a good guy. At various stages in my career, he has taken the time to give me words of recognition, support, and encouragement. His consideration has meant a lot to me. Besides being successful and brilliant, he’s thoughtful. These words don’t always go together.

One day Warren and I were speaking to a group of educators from many of the top MBA programs. As Dr. Bennis was discussing his latest views on leadership, he decided to “take a detour.” He began to ponder his own journey through life and the lessons he’d learned. He openly reflected upon his personal struggles — not as a teacher of leadership but as a practitioner of leadership — when he was the president of the University of Cincinnati. His voice noticeably quavered as he recalled one of the most important moments in his career. As he was speaking to a university audience in his presidential role, one of his friends in the room unexpectedly asked: “Do you love what you do?”

A long, awkward silence filled the room as he pondered the question. As a president, he searched for the right answer, but as a human, he wanted the real answer. Finally, in a quiet voice, he replied, “I don’t know.”

That revelation plunged Warren into deep reflection. It dramatically altered his path through life. He had always thought that he wanted to be the president of a university. It had not dawned on him that after he got there he might not actually enjoy the life of a university president.

Do you love what you do? This may be the seminal question of our age. In yesterday’s world, where professionals worked 40 hours a week and took four weeks of vacation, this question was important, but not nearly as important as it is today. I remember visiting, in the early 1980s, the corporate headquarters of one of the world’s most successful companies at 5 p.m. There was almost no one there. You could fire a cannonball down the hall and not hit anyone. Those days are gone. It was much easier to find meaning and satisfaction in activities outside of work when we were under a lot less pressure and worked far fewer hours. Not only did people have more time, they weren’t as tired.

Almost all of the professionals I work with are busier today than they ever have been in their lives, working 60 to 80 hours a week. They feel under more pressure than ever. Cell phones, PDAs, and emails forever tether us to our work, whether we like it or not. Put it all together and — if you don’t love what you do — it can be a kind of new-age professional hell. We can be wasting our lives waiting for a break that never comes.

My good friend Dr. Srikumar Rao puts it this way:

“Life is short. And uncertain. It is like a drop of water skittering around on a lotus leaf. You never know when it will drop off the edge and disappear. So each day is far too precious to waste. And each day that you are not radiantly alive and brimming with cheer is a day wasted.

Stop right now and evaluate your life. YOUR LIFE. As it is right now. Are you, by and large and daily variations aside, happier now than you have ever been? Do you have the inner conviction that you are on the path that is just right for you, the one that is transparently leading you to fulfillment in many dimensions – in your career, in relationships, in spiritual development?

If the answer is, NO, ask yourself, WHY NOT?  The first step to getting there is to refuse to accept anything less.”

Dr. Rao is offering his Creativity and Personal Mastery(CPM) course beginning October 5, 2008 in Los Angeles.  For more information check out: http://www.areyoureadytosucceed.com

Life is too short.  In the new world, we don’t have to love everything that we do, but we need to find happiness and meaning in most of our professional work.

Life is good.

Marshall

https://MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

http://www.MarshallGoldsmithFeedForward.com

UPCOMING EVENTS:

August 25-26, 2008 - Indian School of Business - Hyderabad

September 15, 2008 - New York - SHRM - contact Marshall if interested

October 2, 2008 - The Conference Board - Download Schedule - Register with discount: NM1

October 8, 2008 - Boston - Linkage: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” one day program

October 13, 2008 - Palm Desert, CA - Global Institute of Leadership Development - Register with discount: GILD08-PW

October 29, 2008 - Japanese Business Executives - Tokoyo, Japan

October 30, 2008 - Japanese Business Coaches - Tokoyo, Japan

December 2, 2008 in San Francisco - Linkage: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” one day program

Documenting Soft Values

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Measuring and documenting are a way of life in business. We keep close tabs on sales, profits, rate of growth, and return on investment. In many ways, part of being an effective leader is setting up systems to measure everything that matters. It’s the only way we can know for sure how we’re doing.

When you think of the importance we put on measurement, you would think that we would be more attuned to measuring the “soft-side values” in the workplace: how often we’re rude to people, how often we’re polite, how often we ask for input rather than shut people out, how often we bite our tongue rather than spit out a needlessly inflammatory remark. Soft values are hard to quantify but, in the area of interpersonal performance, they are as vital as any financial number. They demand our attention if we want to alter our behavior — and get credit for it.

When my children were young, I decided that I wanted to be a more attentive father. So I asked my daughter, Kelly, “What can I do to be a better parent?”

“Daddy,” she said, “you travel a lot, but I don’t mind that you’re away from home so much. What really bothers me is the way you act when you are home. You talk on the telephone, you watch sports on TV, and you don’t spend much time with me.”

I was stunned, because one, she nailed me and two, I felt like an oafish dad who had unwittingly caused his daughter pain. There’s no worse feeling in the world. I recovered quickly, however, by reverting to a simple response that I teach all of my clients. I said, “Thank you. Daddy will do better.”

From that moment, I started keeping track of how many days I spent at least four hours interacting with my family without the distraction of TV, movies, football, or the telephone. I’m proud to say that I got better. In the first year, I logged 92 days of unencumbered interaction with my family. The second year, 110 days. The third, 131 days. The fourth, 135 days.

Five years after that first conversation, even though I was spending more time with my family, my business was more successful than it had been when I was ignoring them. I was beaming with pride — not only with the results, but also with the fact that, like a skilled soft-side accountant, I had documented them. I was so proud, in fact, that I went to my kids, both teenagers by this time, and said, “Look kids, 135 days. What’s the target this year? How about 150 days?”

Both children suggested a massive reduction in “Dad time.” My son, Bryan, suggested paring down to 50 days. Their message: You have overachieved.  I wasn’t discouraged. It was an eye-opener. I was so focused on the numbers, on improving my at-home performance each year, that I forgot that my kids had changed too. An objective that made sense when they were 9 and 12 years old didn’t make sense when they were teenagers.

Soft-side accounting has other benefits. If you track a number, it will remind other people that you are trying. It’s one thing to tell your employees or customers that you’ll spend more time with them. It’s a different ball game if you attach a real number to that goal, and people are aware of it. They become much more sensitized to the fact that you’re trying to change. They also get the message that you care. This can never be a bad thing.

Everything is measurable, from days spent communicating with employees to hours invested in mentoring a colleague. All you have to do is look at the calendar or your watch — and count.

Once you see the beauty of measuring the soft-side values in your life, other variables kick in, such as the fact that setting numerical targets makes you more likely to achieve them. Another measurement that I tracked was how often I spent 10 minutes each day engaging my wife and each of my kids in one-on-one conversations. Ten minutes is not a long time, but it’s a significant improvement on zero. I found that if I measured the activity, I was much more likely to do it. If I faltered, I always told myself, “Well, I get a credit toward the goal, and it only takes me 10 minutes.” Without that measurable goal, I was much more likely to blow it off.

Life is good.

Marshall

MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com

www.MarshallGoldsmithFeedForward.com