July 2016



Marshall Goldsmith

The biggest problem, he says, is the overwhelming desire to win.

"The people I coach are very successful people, so it's very hard for winners to not constantly win. Even if it's trivial and not worth it, we still want to win - because we love winning. It's a very deep habit," he says.

He says that wanting to win at all costs and in all situations can affect interpersonal relations and alienate people, amounting to a Pyrrhic victory. So before you react, ask yourself if it's something worth winning, he says.

Another common mistake that Dr Goldsmith observes in leaders is the penchant for "adding too much value". Or, put another way, the bad habit of wanting to add one's two cents worth in every discussion.

"For example, a young, smart and enthusiastic worker comes up to you with an idea. You think it's great. Instead of saying it's a great idea and leaving it at that, your natural tendency is to say - why not add this or change this instead?" he says.

While it may seem to be better for all parties if ideas are improved upon, Dr Goldsmith says it is not always the case.

He explains that the problem with this is that the quality of the idea may go up by 5 per cent, but the commitment of the young worker to execute it will go down by 50 per cent. That's because it is no longer the young man's idea, but the leader's.

"We get so wrapped up trying to improve the quality this much, but we damage the commitment even more," says Dr Goldsmith.

Leaders who cannot resist adding their opinions to matters they are unsure about may also find that, very often, those viewpoints become orders that get followed without question, no matter how ridiculous they are.

Suggestions become orders. If they are smart, they are orders. If they are stupid, they are orders. And if it wasn't meant to be orders, they become orders anyway," he says.

His advice: Before you speak, take a breath and ask yourself if what you are about to say is worth it. Leaders may find that there is more to gain by not trying to "add value".