What Got You to be VP Won’t Get You to be CEO!

Apr 24, 2024

The great Western disease is, I’ll be happy when… When I get the money. When I get a BMW. When I get this job. When I get the relationship. Well, the reality is, you never get to when. The only way to find happiness is to understand that happiness is not out there. It’s in here. And happiness is not next week. It’s now.

“After living with their dysfunctional behavior for so many years, people become invested in defending their dysfunctions rather than changing them.”

“It is a whole lot easier to see our problems in others than it is to see them in ourselves.”

“Anybody can change, but they have to want to change.”

“Fate is the hand of cards we’ve been dealt. The choice is how we play the hand.”

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith

In the spirit of International Coaching Week 2024, we’re celebrating the incredible impact of Marshall Goldsmith, a renowned coach, author, and thought leader. His book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” is a must-read for any aspiring leadership coach.

From CEO to Coach: A Life of Giving Back

During my own coach training, I discovered Marshall’s work and was immediately struck by its truthfulness. Having been a corporate leader myself, I deeply resonated with his insights. I knew these principles could have made me a far more effective leader.

Fortunately, I had the chance to connect with Marshall on LinkedIn and even visit him at his ranch. He embodies generosity, always willing to help without expecting anything in return. His spiritual practices add another layer of depth to his coaching philosophy.

The Challenge of Coaching CEOs

One of the biggest challenges for leadership coaches is understanding how to work with CEOs. Marshall offers a key piece of advice: CEOs are busy and value their time. They don’t need a coach to tell them what to do; they need someone to challenge their thinking and open their eyes to new possibilities.

Coaching vs. Advice: Walking the Tightrope

The question of “advice vs. coaching” is a common dilemma. While coaching isn’t about providing solutions, it should be solution-focused to help clients achieve their desired outcomes. Marshall helped me resolve this dichotomy I faced early on. Marshall said, “No CEO is going to waste their time with you as a coach if you try to get them to gaze at their navel. Their time is worth far more than what they are likely to pay you. They don’t want your solutions. They want you to challenge their thinking and have them be aware of other options.”

The key lies in reframing perceptions, not leading the client to a specific answer. Effective coaches help clients discover their own path, not dictate it. Client outcomes are a shared responsibility. Effective coaches understand that while they facilitate self-discovery, the client ultimately drives their own progress.  However, coaches should strive to create an environment that fosters awareness and empowers clients to achieve their goals. If a client requires a more directive approach, transitioning to a mentoring relationship might be appropriate. This shift should be clearly communicated and agreed upon by both parties to ensure ethical coaching practices.

The Coaching “Bible”: 21 Habits for Success

Marshall’s book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” outlines 21 “bad to good” habit shifts that every leader should consider. These are essential lessons that deserve a prominent place on every CEO’s desk. In my coaching practice, I find them even more valuable than competency frameworks.
Here are just a few of these life-changing nuggets of wisdom:

  • Avoid “Yes, but…” or starting with “No.” It comes across as dismissive.
  • Offer praise publicly, but give criticism privately.
  • Never steal credit for someone else’s work.
  • Always apologize sincerely when you hurt someone.
  • Think before you speak, especially when angry.

These may seem like common sense, but these habits can become ingrained and hinder a leader’s growth. Letting go of these negative tendencies is crucial for advancement in today’s corporate world.

Stakeholder-Centered Coaching: A Systemic Approach

Marshall emphasizes the importance of stakeholder-centered coaching, which incorporates a systemic approach and leverages feedback effectively. This method is invaluable for teamwork and creates a circle of support around the team, considering both those impacted by the team and those who impact them.

Join Us for a Fireside Chat with Dr. Marshall Goldsmith!

To celebrate International Coaching Week 2024, Coacharya is thrilled to host Dr. Marshall Goldsmith for a fireside chat on Executive Leadership on May 14th, 2024, at 7:30 PM IST. In conversation with Coacharya CEO and co-founder Pranav Ramanathan, the conversation will delve into the multifaceted world of Marshall Goldsmith. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from a master! Register today and explore Marshall’s insightful books beforehand.

Coacharya is proud to be associated with the International Coaching Federation in celebrating the ICW. Watch this space for our speaker lineup and themes for the ICW.

Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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