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Optimum Talks Blog

What makes leadership seem so simple yet so hard to do?

by Optimum Talent
May 10, 2012

This is the question I was left with after attending the leadership symposium yesterday in Calgary with Marshall Goldsmith, the world’s authority on leadership.

Marshall left me with a number of powerful yet straightforward thoughts that if applied consistently – should help to improve my leadership capability.

  1. Quality x Commitment = Probability of Success
    How often are we as leaders quick to find fault in others, happy to share insight to help improve an already great idea or eager to prove our intellectual prowess?  Every time we do so we run the risk of decreasing commitment by making the idea we are commenting on our own, thereby deflating the person who developed it to begin with.  Starting a sentence with, “Great work, BUT ….” means that there really is NO great.  Even worse, perhaps you really don’t care about the effort and thought that has already been invested.  Every time you start a sentence with “no”, “but” or “however” – understand that you are demonstrating that you have NOT heard a single word the other person said.  Interestingly, if you eliminate all the parts of your daily interactions that contain comments that make you look good or someone else look bad you will gain back 65% of that time.  Talk about an instant productivity improvement!

Often, the potential increase in quality from sharing our view is smaller than the corresponding decrease in commitment.  Our desire to win and add as much value as we can may have the opposite effect (i.e. decreasing the probability of success).  The lesson? Before wading in with your seemingly brilliant value-add comments, pause and ask yourself, “is it worth it?”


  1. “Help More, Judge Less”
    At least two messages are imbedded in this quote.  First, it is equally important to consider how you will contribute, as it is to consider what you will contribute.  Reflect on how you want to show up in every interaction.  Are your words and actions consistent with your values and beliefs?  Second, when was the last time you reached out to ask key people you interact with, ‘what do I need to do to be more effective?’  Marshall called this concept feed forward.  It is opposite of feedback.  We say we value our customers, that people are our greatest asset and that those we live with are important and yet we seldom, if ever, ask them what we can do to be better.  Why is that?


  1. Measure your performance each and every day
    Conduct a self-assessment on a scale of 1 to 10 against a set of questions linked to the things you believe are most important.  Or better yet, work with an accountability partner, colleague or coach so that you feel a bit of pressure to do something when your score is low.  Questions might include:  Did I plan my day and did I actually stick to the plan? If you are like me and getting on in age, this next one is important – Have I completed my annual health check?  Did I make time for my family?  Did I do my best to be happy; find meaning; be engaged; and, build positive relationship?  The questions are up to you.  Pause now and think of the handful of things you believe are important.  How did you do today in relation to each?  Tomorrow is a luxury.  Use your time now to get at what truly matters.

So, there you have it. Three seemingly simple thoughts you might readily disregard.  Inertia is the enemy of positive change and successful execution.  Perhaps this is why leadership seems so simple yet so hard to do.

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