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Guest: Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, recognized industry-wide as one of the top business thinkers, authors, teachers, and executive coaches in the world.
Episode in a Tweet: Scrap the trivial victories and focus on leading your company to meaningful growth.
Quick Background: I’m very excited to share this episode with my friend, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith. After 40 years of improving businesses and changing lives, Dr. Goldsmith is still going strong because he believes that we’re all here to help people, and make the world a better place. That’s why his website features a robust library of free material that all entrepreneurs and CEOs should have bookmarked as a learning resource.
On this episode, Dr. Goldsmith discusses the dangers of turning your business into a competition, and how effective CEOs learn to prioritize positive, impactful actions over winning trivial, and potentially harmful, victories.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
Key Insights on Winning vs. Leading
1. You can’t always be the boss.
It’s hard for CEOs to admit when they don’t have all the power. You might have a board you answer to, or a 50/50 partner who has to sign off on a big decision. Sometimes your clients or customers might be “in charge” of a particular situation. One of Dr. Goldsmith’s mentors told him, “Every decision in the world is made by the person who has the power to make that decision. Make peace with that.” When you don’t have final say, then it’s your job to do what you can to influence the decision maker in a positive way.
2. Winning isn’t everything.
Good CEOs and entrepreneurs are naturally competitive people. We focus on goals, take action to hit those goals, and tally those bullseyes as wins for the company. But Dr. Goldsmith cautions that a CEO who gets too caught up in winning might be a long-term loser. As CEO, it’s not your job to “win” every argument. It’s not your job to prove how smart you are, how right you are. Your job is to make a positive impact on your company, your employees, and your customers. If you catch yourself turning every trivial issue into a battle that you, the CEO, must win to prove something, it’s time to reassess your priorities.
3. Be a poet, not a plumber.
One away to escape trivial battles is to avoid trivial tasks. You’re the CEO. Your number one responsibility is the company’s vision. Instead of micromanaging your staff to remind everyone who’s in control, you should be setting big targets for your company’s future and focusing on executive-level activities that will help you reach those goals. Before you take on any task, ask yourself, “When I do this, is it going to help me accomplish my larger goal?” If not, it’s a maintenance issue, call in one of your plumbers. That’s what plumbers do — they fix stuff. Poets think big and inspire those around them to do the same.
4. Embrace feedback.
If you’re too focused on claiming every victory, you might have created a culture in which your employees keep their heads down and their ideas to themselves. That’s not good for anyone. Asking for input, especially on big picture goals, is one of the best ways to make sure your employees buy-in and take ownership of what the company is trying to accomplish. You and your key team members should also be giving each other feedback, and holding each other accountable for following through on recommended improvements. “Treat every idea like a gift,” advises Dr. Goldsmith. That goes double for ideas from trusted mentors or your executive coach.
5. Adapt your leadership style.
There’s more than one way to be the boss. If you’re opening yourself up to feedback from your team members, you might identify ways in which you can adapt your leadership style on a person-by-person basis. This Situational Leadership challenges the CEO to pick a leadership style that suits the readiness of the person being led. A new employee might require a firm hand as he or she gets on board with office processes. A C-suite colleague might appreciate if you acted more like a coach and less like a superior. If you’ve hired the absolute best person for a job, maybe all you need to do is just get the heck out of their way and let them do the job you hired them to do.
1. The boss can’t always be the boss. Admit when you’re not in control and do what you can to influence a positive outcome.
2. If you treat your business like a competition, you’ll get bogged down trying to win every trivial victory. Focus on making a positive impact on the company’s big picture goals, delegate the small stuff.
3. If you’re too focused on showing everyone how right you are, your employees might be too afraid to be wrong. Don’t let your ego create an environment that stifles creativity, and improvement.