Tag Archives: leadership

Self-Questioning: A Magical Move that Leads to Success!

Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book, Triggers, was released on May 19 and is a New York times #1 Best-Seller. This guest blog is from his latest Thinkers50 blog at Marshall Goldsmith Library.

The act of self-questioning—so simple, so misunderstood, so infrequently pursued—changes everything! It is a “magic move” that leads to success. It is a triggering mechanism, and its objective is to alter our behavior – for the better.

What is this magic move called The Daily Questions Process?

Daily questions are such an important part of my life that I do a self-questioning exercise every day and have for years. I value the process so much that I teach all of my clients this exercise in my coaching engagements and classes!

Every day I challenge myself by answering 32 questions that represent behavior that I know is important, but easy to neglect given the pressures that surround all of us today. The number 32 isn’t magic, the idea is to just ask the number of questions that seems ‘right for you’.

Each question is put on an Excel spreadsheet and is answered with a ‘yes’ (use a 1 to represent this on the spreadsheet) and ‘no’ (use a 0 on the spreadsheet) or a number. The process moves very quickly!

In my case, I have a woman call me and I read my answers to her. This helps ensure accountability.

One rule: there is no negative feedback. No matter what answer I give, she says nothing that might produce guilt. She might make positive comments that reinforce success – but this isn’t necessary.

Here are some of the questions that I ask myself. Please remember my questions reflect my values, and might not work for you. Please use these just for example and write your own.

First, I begin with six ‘active questions’ that lead to higher satisfaction with life. Each question begins with, “Did I do my best to…” The good thing about beginning these questions with “Did I do my best to…” is that it is very difficult to blame someone else for my failure. No one can be responsible for “Did I do my best to…” but me!

Did I do my best to:

  1. Increase your happiness?
  2. Find meaning?
  3. Be engaged?
  4. Build relationships?
  5. Set clear goals?
  6. Make progress toward goal achievement?

In terms of the happiness question, my philosophy of life is simple: Be happy now. I have a great life—wonderful wife and kids, good health, love my job, and don’t have a boss. If I am not happy today, someone is screwed up and that person is me!

In spite of all my blessings, I can still sometimes get caught up in day-to-day stress, forget how lucky I am and act like an idiot. It helps to get this daily reminder of the importance of happiness and gratitude.

Here are more of the questions that I ask myself:

  1. How meaningful were your activities?
  2. How many minutes did you watch TV?
  3. How many hours did you sleep?
  4. How many sit-ups did you do?
  5. What is your weight?
  6. Did you say or do something nice for Lyda?
  7. Did you say or do something nice for the kids?
  8. How many alcoholic drinks did you have?
  9. How many minutes did you spend trying to change things you can’t control?
  10. How many clients are not up-to-date?

Some of my questions are about health, such as “How many sit-ups did you do?” (This works. Today I did 200 sit-ups at once. Not bad for a 66-year-old guy!)

Disciplined follow-up is the key to the success of my teaching and coaching. One question is “With how many clients are you current on your follow-up?”

My relationship questions include, “Did you say or do something nice for your wife? Your son? Your daughter?” I am certainly not a perfect husband or dad, but this process helps me get better.

Why does this process work so well?

Because it forces me to look at and live my values every day. If I believe something matters I put it on the list and do it! If I really don’t want to do it, I can see the long string of 0s next to my daily attempts, face the reality that it isn’t going to happen, and let it go.

Imagine that a coach was going to call you every night and listen to you answer questions about your life. What questions would you want to ask yourself, every day?

Now, try it out. Write the questions that you would need to ask yourself every day. Even the process of writing questions will help you better understand your own values and how you live or don’t live them on a daily basis. If you really have courage, recruit a coach or friend and start asking daily questions to each other. You might be as amazed at the results as I have been.

Marshall has more leadership tips in his SoundviewPro course: Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

New Courses from SoundviewPro

We’ve just released a new batch of courses on our website at SoundviewPro. Check them out below and see which ones fit your current career needs.

Creating a Fiercely Loyal Brand Community with Sarah Robinson

You can create a loyal following by following the set of strategies outlined in this course. Sarah Robinson gives you a ground-level view of how to help your company connect and communicate with the people who will convert others to become fans of your brand.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12: Fundamentals with Stephen Monastra

Why pay someone to digitally edit your photos when you can do it yourself? This course will give you the techniques to do everything from scanning, color balancing, cropping and adding effects to your photos.

Microsoft Word 2010: Beyond the Basics with Gemma Cretella

Design newsletters, create flyers and edit documents all with one program! This course will help you move beyond the basics and learn the finer points of Microsoft Word 2010.

Creating an Insanely Positive Workplace Culture with Larry Johnson

Make your workplace an insanely great place to work. This course will give you the steps to help your company build a culture about which employees will rave.

The Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor  with James Lukaszewski

Get into the inner circle of your organization by learning how to become a trusted strategic advisor. This course will help you develop the communication and strategy skills necessary to become a go-to strategic advisor for your boss.

The Leader’s Journey with Ron Price

Powerful principles to become a better leader form the basis for this course. Whether you are beginning your leadership career or in need of a tune-up, leadership expert Ron Price will provide you with strategic principles to guide you to get the best out of yourself and your team.

QuickBooks Online 2014: Essentials with Davita Pray

Make the switch to QuickBooks Online. If you’ve been hesitant to migrate from the desktop version of this popular accounting application, this course will give you a complete overview of why there’s never been a better time to change. Learn how to set up and navigate QuickBooks Online and perform day-to-day transactions from a Certified Public Accountant and certified QuickBooks Pro advisor.

Do You Think Triggers Will Change People’s Lives?

Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book, Triggers, will be released on May 19th. This blog is his answer to those with questions about the concept of behavioral triggers.

The sole purpose of this book (Triggers) is to help you become the person you want to be, to help you change your life. In Triggers, I won’t tell you who you should want to be. I won’t judge you or tell you who should become.

I will tell you why we don’t become the people we want to be. And, I do this for the sole purpose of helping you become the person you want to be. For instance, I explore the Two Immutable Truths of Behavioral Change. These will stop change in its tracks!

  • Meaningful change is very hard to do. It’s hard to initiate behavioral change, even harder to stay the course, hardest of all to make the change stick. Adult behavioral change is the most difficult thing for sentient human beings to accomplish.
  • No one can make us change unless we truly want to change. This should be self-evident. Change has to come from within. It can’t be dictated, demanded, or otherwise forced upon people. A man or woman who does not wholeheartedly commit to change will never change.

What makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging—and causes most of us to give up early in the game—is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course.

How do triggers work?

Belief triggers stop behavioral change in its tracks. Even when the individual and societal benefits of changing a specific behavior are indisputable, we are geniuses at inventing reasons to avoid change. It is much easier, and more fun, to attack the strategy of the person who’s trying to help than to try to solve the problem.

We fall back on a set of beliefs that trigger denial, resistance, and ultimately self-delusion. They sabotage lasting change by canceling its possibility. We employ these beliefs as articles of faith to justify our inaction and then wish away the result. These are called belief triggers and a few of them (there are many!) include:

  • ‘I have willpower and won’t give in to temptation.’
  • ‘Today is a special day.’
  • ‘At least I’m better than…’

The environment also triggers us. Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behavior. When we experience “road rage” on a crowded freeway, it’s not because we’re sociopathic monsters. It’s because the temporary condition of being behind the wheel of a car, surrounded by rude, impatient drivers, triggers a change in our otherwise friendly demeanor. We’ve unwittingly placed ourselves in an environment of impatience, competitiveness, and hostility—and it alters us.

Some environments are designed precisely to lure us into acting against our interest. That’s what happens when we overspend at the high-end mall. Other environments are not as manipulative and predatory as a luxury store. But they’re still not working for us.

The environment that is most concerning is situational. It’s a hyperactive shape-shifter. Every time we enter a new situation, with its mutating who- what- when- where- and- why-specifics, we are surrendering ourselves to a new environment—and putting our goals, our plans, our behavioral integrity at risk. It’s a simple dynamic: a changing environment changes us.

The Solution

The solution I describe is to identify our behavioral triggers (any stimuli that impacts our behavior). These can be direct or indirect, internal or external, conscious or unconscious, etc.

The more aware we are, the less likely any trigger, even in the most mundane circumstances, will prompt hasty unthinking behavior that leads to undesirable consequences. Rather than operate on autopilot, we’ll slow down, take time to think it over, and make a more considered choice.

We already do this in the big moments. It’s the little moments that trigger some of our most outsized and unproductive responses. The slow line at the coffee shop, the second cousin who asks why you’re still single, the colleague who doesn’t remove his sunglasses indoors to talk to you.

Isn’t it time to learn how to be who we want to be in every moment possible? If your answer is “Yes!” then this book is for you.

To learn more from Marshall Goldsmith about improving leadership skills, try his SoundviewPro course: Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

Leadership Lesson: Respect The Bull, Not His Reputation

John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, is an executive coach and the author of many books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership. This blog appeared first at Forbes.

“Some guys made heroes out of [bulls].,.. In their mind they become impossible to ride.”

That is Gary Leffew, owner of a bull riding school that bears his name. As he explains in a New York Times documentary by Joris Debeij that kind of talk is self-defeating. “I tell my students not to hang around with people who make a bull sound impossible… tell you all the reasons why you can’t ride him.”

Rather Leffew advises, “Walk over to a winner and you ask him about the same bull and he goes, ‘Oh man you got him, that’s one I wanted.’” According to Leffew, 95% of people who opt to ride bulls fail at it chiefly because they cannot handle the mental aspect of bull riding.

Leffew knows of what he speaks; he won a world championship in 1970 at the age of 26 and is now in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. As a California kid his first love was motorcycles, but after seeing a rodeo he switched to riding bulls, something his father thought was safer.

A secret to Leffew’s approach is meditation, a practice he has being doing since his early twenties. “The goal is to dance with [the bull]. When you are dancing, you become one with the person you are with.” Same with bull riding. As Leffew told Caitlin Ryan for the blog The Last Word, “You’re so mentally in tune with [the bull] you go there together… The rankest bulls I ever rode… were always the easiest rides.”

Meditation is core to Leffew’s teaching. Students learn to meditate so they can prepare themselves mentally along with preparing themselves physically through their technique. His school has groomed more than a dozen World Champions. “If you’re willing to suffer through the temporary setbacks, there’s nothing you can’t achieve,” says Leffew.

While few of us will every climb on the back of a two thousand pound animal that has been bred for generations to buck and pitch whatever or whoever is on its back to the ground, Leffew’s lessons have meaning for anyone facing long odds… or any odds at all.

Mental preparation is critical to success. Too often the temptation is to prepare externally for a challenge while ignoring internal preparation. That is, executives go to great lengths in doing the work – doing research and marshaling resources – that they ignore their own mental state. Sometimes it does not matter; you are on the winning team. But when adversity strikes you are at a disadvantage because you have not strengthened your inner self. You may buckle at the first sign of resistance and like some bull riders overestimate the challenge.

One way to prepare is through the practice of mindfulness, which is the state of being fully present in the moment. You are aware of self and situation as well as what you can do or not do. As a leader mindfulness focuses also on situational awareness, being focused on the environment you are in and preparing yourself to deal with it.

Meditation is one method for learning to become more mindful but not the only way. What is required for mindfulness is learning to take stock of yourself regularly as a means of gaining perspective on your performance and your interaction with others. It is a form of self-discipline that requires commitment, the willingness to reflect and rigor to do it regularly.

Such mental prep may not ready you for the rodeo circuit but it will enable you to ride the bulls you face in your business.

Learn more about leadership from John Baldoni in his SoundviewPro course Do-It-Yourself Leadership.

Coaching Us To Do The Right Thing

John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, is an executive coach and the author of many books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership. This blog appeared first at Forbes.

When you do something right, do not seek recognition for it.

That was the essence of a comment that Dean Smith made to John Feinstein about not wanting to be remembered for helping to desegregate restaurants in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1958. Feinstein, an author and sportswriter for the Washington Post, had covered Smith for years and got to know the man personally.

Remembering Smith for NPR on the occasion of his death, Feinstein noted how Smith entered a lunchroom with a black man who was a member of Smith’s church. This was a risky move for a young coach to do in the segregated South, and years later Smith’s pastor related the incident to Feinstein. When Feinstein recalled the story to Smith, the coach was disappointed that his pastor had noted it. When Feinstein pressed Smith as to why he would not be proud of his actions as a young man, Smith replied, “John, you should never be proud of doing the right thing, you should just do the right thing!”

Far be it from me to disagree with Coach Smith but I believe it is important to recognize people for doing the right thing. A self-effacing character such as Smith who won two NCAA titles and made 11 trips to the Final Four never wanted a fuss made about him, even asking the University of North Carolina not to name the arena in his honor but rather for the players. In this instance UNC did override Smith’s request.

Smith was a righteous man who stood up for causes larger than himself politically and as a coach for his players. He radiated integrity and so remembering him now for the good things he did is a way to honor his memory. Reporters around the nation hailed Smith as a good coach but an even better man. President Obama, who awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, noted Smith’s triumphs on the court but also cited his involvement in Civil Rights, his recruitment of UNC’s first black players and his 96% graduation rate.

Now is also a time to remind us that we do live in a world that is shaped by good men who do good things. Too often if we focus on the news we learn more bad than good in terms of conflict between people, nations and religions. Digesting such evil day after day it is easy to fall into the trap that evildoers outduel the righteous.

Very often I am asked in interviews about the sad state of the world, specifically the fact that there seem to be too few role models or good leaders. I always disagree. Certainly those who make headlines are executives who make mistakes that end up costing their companies millions. Daily we witness the gridlock that paralyzes national and state politics because elected officials favor partisanship over governance. It is easy to turn cynical.

That said I try always to mention the good example of leadership we have all around us. Everyday we see men and women of good intention struggle against the odds to do what is right for their businesses or their organizations. These are people who teach by their example. Like Dean Smith they don’t seek recognition; they seek to make a positive difference.

For that reason remembering a man such as Smith who did the right thing is to hold a light up against the darkness. In doing so we illuminate a path forward where good deeds are noted, not to the benefit of patting people on the back but for the reason of reminding the rest of us that we can do better because good men and women show us the way.

Learn more about leadership from John Baldoni in his SoundviewPro course Do-It-Yourself Leadership.

Announcing New Courses for February

We’ve added several new course this month that you’ll want to check you, covering leadership, sales, software and more.

Transform Your Organization with the Executive Checklist with James Kerr
Learn how to better set your organization’s direction and manage change. In this course, taught by veteran expert management consultant James M. Kerr, you’ll learn to develop a strategic plan, engage your employees and help create your company’s vision for the future.

Creating a Networking Lifestyle to Grow Your Business with Guy Dunn
If you’re looking to improve your career, your focus should be on others, not yourself. In this course, you will learn how to take a strategic approach to networking. You’ll learn how to create a networking plan, execute specific action steps and ensure timely follow-up that gets results.

A Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence with Morag Barrett
There are certain situations that bring on stress and cause you to perform at less than your best. In this course, global executive coach Morag Barrett will help you increase your self-awareness, recognize your emotional triggers and control the situation to keep you on the path to success.

Sales Onboarding – Keys to Success with David Leaver
As top sales management consultant David Leaver will tell you, sales onboarding is not a one-time event. Learn a powerful framework to help your sales professionals connect learning to growth and create effective execution to win more sales.

Final Cut Pro X: Beginner with Sean McKnight
Learn the basic video editing skills for Final Cut Pro X. This course will teach you the basics and includes a set of media files to allow you to edit your own version of the project created by the instructor.

Microsoft Excel 2010: Advanced with Robert Devine
Challenge yourself and maximize your skills in this advanced course for Microsoft Excel 2010. You’ll learn the full functionality of UserForms. You’ll also learn how to connect to a database and format and fit database records to a worksheet.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6: Intermediate with Tim Walker
Learn to combine creativity and complexity and produce professional videos. In this course, you’ll learn editing techniques to help you tell a compelling story that gets attention. To sharpen your skills, this project-based course will have you create an intro video, photo montage, short documentary and a commercial.

Enjoy!

The One Question You Need to Ask Yourself before You Say Anything

Marshall Goldsmith has twice been recognized as the top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50. This blog first appeared on his website.

Conflict is an unavoidable part of our lives, whether we’re CEOs, entrepreneurs, parents, spouses, engineers or ditch diggers. In some cases, conflict stimulates us to accomplish great things. It can also drag us off course, eroding our relationships, stalling our careers and keeping us from becoming the people we want to become.

So which conflicts are useful and which are counter-productive? As an executive coach, I’ve been helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior for more than 35 years. My experience with great leaders has led me to develop a simple formulation, one that can help you avoid pointless skirmishes and help you take on the challenges that really matter. Follow it, and you will dramatically shrink your daily volume of stress, unpleasant debate and wasted time.

I phrase it as a question:

AM I WILLING
AT THIS TIME
TO MAKE THE INVESTMENT REQUIRED
TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE
ON THIS TOPIC?

It pops into my head so often each day that I’ve turned the first five words into an acronym, AIWATT (which I find appropriately rhymes with Say What?). AIWATT doesn’t require you to do anything, it merely helps you avoid doing something you’ll regret.

Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘I don’t need to repeat a simple question to know which battles are worth fighting.’ But I believe that all of us – even the most brilliant and successful – need exactly this kind of help. In my new book Triggers (Crown, May 2015), I make the case that relying on structure – even something as simple as the AIWATT question – is key to changing our behavior.

Why? Because in every waking hour we are bombarded by people, events, and circumstances that have the potential to change us – the triggers in the title of my book. We often fail to appreciate just how much these triggers affect us, and how difficult it is to fend them off without some kind of support.

AIWATT is just one of the tactics I suggest. Of course, it isn’t a universal panacea for all our interpersonal problems, but it has a specific utility. It’s a reminder that our environment tempts us many times a day to engage in pointless arguments. And, it creates a split-second delay in our potentially prideful, cynical, judgmental, argumentative, and selfish responses to our environment. This delay gives us time to consider a more positive response.

Let’s look at the question a little more closely.

“Am I willing” implies that we are exercising volition – taking responsibility – rather than surfing along the waves of inertia that otherwise rule our day. We are asking, “Do I really want to do this?”

“At this time” reminds us that we’re operating in the present. Circumstances will differ later on, demanding a different response. The only issue is what we’re facing now.

“To make the investment required” reminds us that responding to others is work, an expenditure of time, energy and opportunity. And, like any investment, our resources are finite. We are asking, “Is this really the best use of my time?”

“To make a positive difference” places the emphasis on the kinder, gentler side of our nature. It’s a reminder that we can either help create a better us or a better world. If we’re not accomplishing one or the other, why are we getting involved?

“On this topic” focuses us on the matter at hand. We can’t solve every problem. The time we spend on topics where we can’t make a positive difference is stolen from topics where we can.

Like closing our office door so people hesitate before they knock, asking ourselves, “Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?” gives us a thin barrier of breathing room, time enough to inhale, exhale, and reflect before we engage or move on. In doing so, we block out the chatter and noise – we make peace with what we are not going to change – freeing ourselves to tackle the changes that really matter in our lives.

You can learn more about becoming a better leader at Marshall Goldsmith’s SoundviewPro course Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

Imagination: Use It Or Lose It

John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, is an executive coach and the author of many books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership. This blog first appeared at www.forbes.com.

How can a one-footed worm kick a soccer ball?

You cannot “put too much thought into such things… [Y]ou have to allow room for imagination and just let things be as they are,” replied Richard Scary, Jr., son of the famous children’s author speaking about one of his father’s greatest creations, Lowly Worm.

The above question was posed tongue in cheek by Scott Simon of NPR’s Morning Edition Saturday. The interview was conducted in connection to the publication of The Best Lowly Book Ever, which was initiated by his father (who died in 1994) but finished by the son, known as Huck Scary. Judging from the interview, Huck has the same kind of wit and humor that his father depicted in his books, which are treasured by parents for their wit and children for their imaginative turns and both for their style and beauty.

Most important, as is evident from Scary senior’s work is a respect for his audience. Richard Scary “loved to put a lot of things on the pages so the children would have a lot to look at, and he also wanted the parents to have a good time.” Scary wanted to entertain children by catering to their own vivid and fanciful imaginations. A child won’t question how a worm can kick a ball. That’s a question for grown ups.

It has become an axiom that as children mature they lose their sense of imagination. Certainly the structures of formal education — coupled at times with a need for conformity — does not encourage imagination and in some areas it is devalued. That said, the world has been shaped by the creative energies of people who refused to stop imagining, whether they were at drawing table or a research bench, or work on CAD screen or managing a new business. Creativity abounds.

Part of the imaginative process is as Huck Scary, pointed out is to stop thinking literally. There is a need for literalism in learning the basics of one’s discipline, or disciplines like science, engineering and medicine, but once we have the rules down we can innovate to our hearts content.

A perfect metaphor for such thinking is jazz, an oft-cited example of free flowing creativity. Jazz musicians will often begin with a standard tune – be it by Harold Arlen or Dave Brubeck – and after playing the melody, the basic thirty-two bars will let it rip into an improvisational tour de force that accents the musicianship of the combo. Think Charlie Parker with his dazzling riffs, Miles Davis with his soaring trumpet solos, or Oscar Peterson with his classically inspired piano maneuverings. It sounds incredible in the hands of such masters. What we forget however is the hours of practice that talented musicians pour into their crafts in order to create sounds that sound spontaneous and unencumbered.

Creativity then is based on substance which in turn becomes transformed by the energy that an artist, scientist or entrepreneur expends in producing something new and something different. Most importantly, as we see in the work of Richard Scary as well as in jazz, there is always purpose. The phrase creativity for its own sake gives short shrift to the intention that creator gives to the work.

Management by nature is administrative. It is designed to make things work operationally. At the same time management without innovation becomes stale and stolid; it degenerates into bureaucracy where policy dictates behavior to denigration of the individual.

Managers then need to fight back against burdensome bureaucracy in order to enable individuals and teams to think clearly and freshly. Why? So they can contribute purposefully. Creativity nurtures the organization and for that reason it must be fostered and stimulated.

Time spent reading Richard Scary – or other great children’s authors – might be a good place to learn how to turn off our literal mindedness in favor of imagining as a child might just how a one-footed worm could kick a ball.

As Huck explained, “Kids understand that Lowly can kick a ball. They don’t care that he can’t back up and then run forward and kick it, but he kicks it.”

Simple when you imagine it!

You can learn more about leadership from John Baldoni at his SoundviewPro course Do-It-Yourself Leadership.

How to Get Ahead When Life’s not “Fair”

A guest blog with Marshall Goldsmith, twice recognized as the top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50.

Have you ever worked with someone who incessantly whined about how unfair things are, how bad, how wrong or how irrational? When people constantly whine and complain, they inhibit any chance they have for impacting the future. Their managers view them as annoying, and their direct reports and co-workers view them as inept.

Nobody wins.

In the words of the late Peter Drucker, “Every decision that impacts our lives will be made by the person who has the power to make that decision – not the ‘right’ person, or the ‘smartest’ person, or the ‘best’ person – make peace with this fact.”

As simple and obvious as this statement may seem, I am amazed at how few (otherwise intelligent) people ever deeply ‘get’ this point. When your child comes home from school and complains, “It’s not fair! The teacher gave me a ‘C’ and I really deserved an ‘A’! We, as parents, should say, “Welcome to the real world, kid! In life you have to accept the fact that decision-makers make decisions – and that you are not always the decision maker.” We will always have bosses, teaches, analysts or Boards who give us ‘grades’ that we disagree with.

What can you change, and what is beyond your control?

On the surface, acceptance—that is, changing what we can change and being realistic about what we cannot change in our lives—should be the easiest thing to do. After all, how hard is it to resign yourself to the reality of a situation?

You assess it, take a deep breath (perhaps releasing a tiny sigh of regret), and accept it. And yet acceptance is often one of our greatest challenges. Rather than accept that their manager has authority over their work, some employees constantly fight with their bosses (a strategy that rarely ends well).

Rather than deal with the disappointment of getting passed over for a promotion, they’ll whine that “It’s not fair!” to anyone who’ll listen (a strategy that rarely enhances their image among their peers or gets them that promotion).

Rather than take a business setback in stride, they’ll hunt for scapegoats, laying blame on everyone but themselves (a strategy that rarely teaches them how to avoid future setbacks).

When enthusiasm fades, the initial cause is often failure to accept what is and get on with life.

A few years ago, a reporter at the Chicago Tribune asked me if managers today are more abusive than any time in history (a logical question in a discussion of executive behavior).

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “We still have many inequities and bad bosses, but life is much better than it was two hundred years ago. We used to have Kings, minimal worker rights, and human beings who were ‘owned’ and had no rights at all. In the developed world it can be bad today, but human beings are making some progress.”

We’ve come a long way. Most major companies now believe in certain “inalienable rights” at work. We have the right to be treated with respect. We have the right to be judged by our performance and character rather than by a fluke of lucky birth. If we’re women, we have the right to be paid as much as a man for doing the same job. When inequities such as these arise, they’re worth arguing over. These are the battles that we should be fighting.

But a lot of small stuff remains. A colleague gets a promotion we thought we deserved. The boss showers a rival division with money, ignoring our area. We’re given a hiring freeze while others get every new person they ask for. This is the stuff that still makes us howl, “It’s not fair!”

Such “equity” moments resemble one another in one clear way: A decision has been made that we disagree with. What’s worse, we believe that we are not getting a good explanation—although that doesn’t stop us from re-asking, which is the same as arguing over it. And when we do get another explanation, it’s not good enough for us.

Arguing that “It’s not fair!” doesn’t change the outcome. It doesn’t help our organizations or our families or ourselves. It only lowers our passion. By recognizing this classic trap, we can better determine which battles to fight—and which ones to avoid. At work, and even more so at home, even if we succeed at winning with this whine, it’s not worth the cost.

Once we make peace with the fact that the people who have the power to make the decisions always make the decisions – and we get over whining because ‘life isn’t fair’ – we can become more effective at influencing others, making a positive difference, and even become the person who makes the decisions!

We can fight the battles that are really worth fighting, and quit bugging the world because, “The teacher gave me a C!”

Learn more about being successful in work and life at Marshall Goldsmith’s SoundviewPro course Engaging Ourselves at Work and in Life .

It’s Showtime! One Key to Continual Motivation

Marshall Goldsmith is today’s guest blogger. Marshall is the three-time top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50.

Let me start with two well-known phrases:

  1. All the world’s a stage” is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare’s As You like It.
  2. The show must go on” is a phrase in show business, meaning that regardless of what happens, whatever show has been planned still has to be staged for the waiting patrons.

Until recently, I always had a dilemma regarding the “stage” of business. As an executive educator, who helps successful leaders achieve a positive change in behavior, I, in a way, teach people how to act.

So here’s the dilemma: When is acting being professional? When is acting being phony? I want to help leaders learn how to be great performers, but I never believe that they should be phonies. How can I, as a coach, understand the difference?

And what makes you “buy” your boss’s, colleague’s, subordinate’s, or even a salesperson’s “act?” The answer is we buy someone’s act when they truly love their profession. We are with them when their “act” is part of the fabric of who, and what they are – and we can feel it in our interactions with them.

Let me give you two divergent examples.

First, one of the greatest leaders I know is Frances Hesselbein, the former executive director of the Girl Scouts of America and now chairman of the Leader to Leader Institute. I am not alone in my assessment of her talents. Peter Drucker once noted that she was perhaps the most effective executive he had ever met. As a tribute to her leadership skills, President Clinton awarded Frances with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be given to a U.S. civilian.

I am deeply honored that Frances is also one of my best friends. Like all humans, Frances faces the same problems we all face. She has lived through health problems, tragedies with friends, and family issues. And, like all great professionals, when it is time for Frances to work, she is always there. I have seen her turn down an invitation from the U.S. president because she had already committed to a talk (at no fee) for a non-profit organization in a small town. When she makes a commitment, if it is humanly possible to be there, she delivers. It doesn’t matter that a “better deal” came along later. She not only makes an appearance, she is upbeat and positive, she is inspirational, and she gets the job done.

For Frances, the show must go on, and she takes the stage with love, heart, and passion.  She believes in the core of her soul in what she is doing and anyone around her feels it and knows it. Simply put, everyone buys her act – because her act is truly Frances.

My second example is my client Ted, who helped me answer my dilemma question. I worked with him for a year, trying to help him fit in a corporate culture where he really didn’t belong. At the end of the year, I finally said, “Why don’t you leave? You are so miserable that you are starting to depress me!”

He saw the light, left the company, and is now doing something he loves. There was nothing wrong with the company. There was nothing wrong with Ted. He just didn’t belong there. It wasn’t him.

In the case of Ted, when his show had to go on, he was simply going through the motions. When he took the stage, people around him did not truly buy his act – and Ted did not really buy his own act.

I learned through Ted that despite his greatest efforts, he was being phony when he did not love his work.  And loving your work is what makes great performers rise to the occasion.

On Broadway – Their Act Is No Act

This is why great Broadway performers are able to pour their hearts into each production. At times they overcome headaches, family problems, and more. Because, the show must go on.

Like great actors, inspirational leaders sometimes need to be consummate performers. When they need to motivate and inspire people, they do it. And we are inspired (or buy their act) because they are 100 percent invested in their work and the cause.

Believe in Your Act

If you are in the right job in the right company, and you are learning how to perform to the best of your ability, you are being a true professional. If you are in the wrong job in the wrong company and you learn to act so that you can better fit in, you are just being a better phony. It still isn’t you out there.

Today, Ted is a lot happier. He spends his time thinking up creative ideas in his new company, and he’s having a ball. He is not only adding value for the company, he is also adding value for the world.

Think about your job. As a professional, is your job consistent with the person you want to be?

If the answer is “yes”, be like Frances Hesselbein. Put on a great show. Be the consummate professional. Learn to keep developing your ability to perform, so you can get even better than you are today. If you love what you do, a great coach might even help you get better.

Every day we all take the stage. And, when you take the stage and the show must go on – are people buying your act? And, most of all are you buying your own act?

If the answer is “no”, change jobs as soon as you can. Why bother to become a better phony? Even if you do get a coach and learn to modify your behavior, it won’t count for much. Why? It won’t really be you.

Learn more about how to stay motivated at work with Marshall’s SoundviewPro course Engaging Ourselves at Work and in Life.