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Marshall Goldsmith on Breaking the 12 Habits Holding Women Back

This episode is packed full of actionable tips and truth bombs. Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has been named the World’s #1 Executive Coach and the World’s #1 Leadership Thinker. Marshall has coached over 150 major CEOs, is the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers and has decades of experience helping men and women win.

Marshall is the first male guest on When Women Win! He has recently co-written with Sally Helgesen an incredibly powerful book called “How Women Rise”, which breaks down the 12 habits holding professional women back in the workplace.

While structural and systemic changes must be made to the workplace to give women equal opportunity to rise, this book rather focuses on things that a woman herself can control to make herself more effective. I was blown away by the insights and I recommend the book highly to all women, dads of daughters, HR managers, and CEOs out there.

It was also a humbling experience to be coached on air, during my own interview. In the end I was hit with a well-deserved fine (charitable contribution) for starting too many sentences with “but” and “no”. I really want to thank Marshall for this eye-opening experience.

Here’s a few of the insights and quotes from our chat:

“When men and women get an offer, men negotiate – women say thank you.”

“Don’t fall into the trap of being indispensable.”

“The average woman leader gets better 360 feedback than the average male leader.”

“Don’t worship the corporate God.”

“Don’t be ashamed to need help.”

To further upgrade your skills head over to where Marshall makes all his material available for free. You can also find Marshall on LinkedIn where he has over 1 million followers.

A big thank you to Naseba, Moustafa Hamwi and Right Selection for making this episode possible.

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Rana Nawas: (00:00)

Ladies and gentlemen, my guest on today’s show is the first man on When Women Win. Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has been named the world’s number one executive coach, and the world’s number one leadership thinker. Marshall has coached over 150 major CEO’s, is the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers and has decades of experience helping men and women win. He has recently co-written an incredible book called “How Women Rise” which breaks down the 12 habits holding professional women back. While we definitely need to modernize the workplace to give women equal opportunity, this book rather focuses on things that a woman can control to make herself more effective. I was blown away by the insights and I recommend the book highly to all women, HR managers, and CEOs out there. I was also being coached throughout our conversation and only realized this when I was hit with a large fine for using too many naughty buts and knows, so let’s get into it.


Rana Nawas: (01:08)

Marshall, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today on When Women Win.


Marshall Goldsmith: (01:12)

Very happy to be here and thank you for the good work you’re doing.


Rana Nawas: (01:15)

Thank you. So I think it’s fair to say you’re the world’s number one executive coach and I just have a question. What exactly does an executive coach do?


Marshall Goldsmith: (01:23)

Well, what I do is I help very successful people achieve positive lasting change in behavior. So I’m not an expert on business or strategy. I’m an expert on the more human side, leadership behavior. So if you do a google search, helping successful leaders in quotes, the first 500 hits are me. So I’m the authority on that one topic.


Rana Nawas: (01:47)

Okay and do they come to you specifically telling you they have a behavioral issue or do you kind of work it out with them?


Marshall Goldsmith: (01:52)

Well, I get hired for a few reasons. One, I get hired by the board to coach the CEO. I may get hired by the CEO to coach himself or herself or may get hired by the board or the CEO to coach the future CEO.


Rana Nawas: (02:05)

Okay, great. And how did you end up becoming a coach?


Marshall Goldsmith: (02:11)

Well, I met a very famous man named Dr. Paul Hershey and he worked with Ken Blanchard. He invented something called situational leadership. Probably the highest paid consultant in the world in our field at the time. I was 28, he got double booked. He said, can you do what I do? I said, I don’t know. He said, I need help, can you do it? I said, I don’t know. He said, I’ll pay you a thousand bucks for a day. I was making 15,000 bucks a year and by the way that was 41 years ago, I was 28. So you know what I said? Sign me up, coach. I did this program, that client was very angry when I showed up because it wasn’t him. But I got ranked first place of the whole speakers, they said send him back, that’s how I got into executive education.


Rana Nawas: (02:46)

Wow, incredible.


Marshall Goldsmith: (02:46)

A lot of life is luck.


Rana Nawas: (02:46)

Yeah, amazing and you’ve also written a lot of books.


Marshall Goldsmith: (02:49)



Rana Nawas: (02:50)

38 books. So how do you find the time to write 38 books during your extensive travel and coaching career?


Marshall Goldsmith: (02:58)

Well now, this book, “How Women Rise”, I didn’t write it. She wrote it. So I’m the second author. I’m a very good writer. She’s a better writer. Kelly Helgeson wrote this book. She’s good. And I’ve done three mega sellers. “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” “Mojo” and “Triggers.” I didn’t write any of them. Those are done with my comrade, Mark Rider. So he’s my agent and he writes the books. So I talk. He writes. I talk. He writes. So we have a great relationship. So again, all three of those books I can say this without bragging, they are phenomenally written because I didn’t write them. If I give you the secret of writing a New York Times best seller having done a few, find someone who can write it. Have them write the book.


Rana Nawas: (03:36)

Excellent, love it. But I mean that’s


Marshall Goldsmith: (03:45)

Oh you said but.


Rana Nawas: (03:45)

I did, I couldn’t help myself. I know, I just read your book.


Marshall Goldsmith: (03:45)

$20. Taking notes now.


Rana Nawas: (03:48)

You must have a secret or tips on writing books other than get someone else to write.


Marshall Goldsmith: (03:54)

Well you could get a secret on anything. It’s not just writing books. It’s called the daily question process. I’m going to teach your viewers something. It takes three minutes a day, costs nothing, help them get better at anything. People are skeptical. Three minutes a day, costs nothing and helped me get better at almost anything. Sounds too good to be true. Half the people quit within two weeks. They don’t quit because it doesn’t work. They quit because it does work. So I’ll teach you something and it works. It’s very easy to understand, incredibly difficult to do. You get out a spreadsheet, you write down a series of questions of whatever is most important in your life, friends, family, work, whatever it is. Every question has to be answered with yes and no or a number. Seven boxes across, one for every day of the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and fill it out every day. At the end of the week, the Excel spreadsheet will give you a report card. I will warn you in advance, the report card at the end of the week may not be quite as beautiful as the corporate values plaque stuck up on a wall. I’ve been doing this for many years. You know what you learn when you do this. Every day. You learn that life is incredibly easy to talk and life is incredibly difficult to live. You do this every day. You don’t hear those talk values or those live values. They’re not as pretty as the talk values, not as pretty. I pay a woman to call me everyday to make sure I do this.


Rana Nawas: (05:12)

Every single day?


Marshall Goldsmith: (05:13)

You know what? My name is Marshall Goldsmith. I got ranked number one leadership thinker in the whole world and number one coach in the whole world. I have a woman call me every day just to listen to me read questions I wrote and provide answers I wrote every day because my name is Marshall Goldsmith. I’m too cowardly to do this by myself and too undisciplined. I need help and it’s okay. You need help. We all need help


Rana Nawas: (05:39)

Absolutely, you make that point brilliantly in the book which is, you know, you can’t do it on your own. In fact, I’m going to come to that in a little while.


Marshall Goldsmith: (05:46)

At least I can’t.


Rana Nawas: (05:47)

I’m sure nobody can.


Marshall Goldsmith: (05:49)

One thing I’m very proud of in my book “Triggers”, 27 major CEOs endorsed the book. Why am I so proud? Thirty years ago no CEO would admit to having a coach. They would have been ashamed, embarrassed to have a coach. Today, these important people. I’m president World Bank, I need help. I’m CEO of the year in the United States, I need help. I’m CEO of the world’s largest drug company, I need help. So it’s really good I think for us to get over this silly macho I can do everything on my own nonsense.


Rana Nawas: (06:13)

Yup. How do you find a coach that works for you though, right?


Marshall Goldsmith: (06:17)

Well, very good question. I mean, I’m gonna give you very counterintuitive advice. Do not tell the coach what you need.


Rana Nawas: (06:23)



Marshall Goldsmith: (06:24)

Ask the coach what he or she does. You say, what are you best at? You see, you tell a coach what you need. There’s too many coaches. They’ll have a tendency, oh yes, I can do that. Don’t do that. Say, what are you best at? If they say they’re best 50 things, no they’re not. Nobody’s good at 50 things. So you see for me, I have a specialty, helping successful leaders achieve positive lasting change in behavior. I don’t do getting organized. I don’t do giving speeches. There’s many things I don’t do. Not good or bad, I just don’t do those things. So really find out what does a coach do and then does that match what you need? Don’t tell the coach what you need though.


Rana Nawas: (07:05)

So I just read “How Women Rise” in 24 hours.


Marshall Goldsmith: (07:08)

Thank you.


Rana Nawas: (07:08)

Absolutely, and it’s a book I highly recommend to everyone. Obviously the audience it’s targeted at is professional women.


Marshall Goldsmith: (07:15)

It is, yes.


Rana Nawas: (07:16)

Yet I see the value in getting it for men who have daughters, working wives, mothers, or CEOs of companies who have women in the company who want to rise.


Marshall Goldsmith: (07:26)

Now, very subtle point. This book does not make a value statement that says women should want to get ahead. What it says though is if you do, this is designed to help you.


Rana Nawas: (07:36)

Got It.


Marshall Goldsmith: (07:37)

It doesn’t say you should, it just says if you are a woman and you would like to add more power, more influence, this will help you. The definition of power is influence potential. Now, you might say, I don’t want more power. Well, that means you don’t want more potential to influence the world. That’s the definition of power. Well, I think it wouldn’t be bad if more women had more power and that’s what this book is about.


Rana Nawas: (08:03)

Agreed. Now before we get into the 12 habits holding women back, I’d like to pull out some major themes that resonated with me.


Marshall Goldsmith: (08:09)

Sure, sure.


Rana Nawas: (08:10)

Could you tell us where the phrase “speaking while female” comes from and I hear you, I totally get it. That the book is about how women can empower themselves and fix themselves but there are certain structural things around us that I just wanted to ask, especially this one “speaking while female.”


Marshall Goldsmith: (08:27)

Well, what happens is in some cases women say the same thing as men, but it doesn’t get heard. It’s kind of like the man then comes up with the same point five minutes later and people start paying attention to it and it just doesn’t get heard and then other times women can be put in stereotypical boxes, which is you’re too aggressive, you’re not aggressive enough as opposed to just dealing with them for what they’re saying and who they are. Again, on the positive side, this is all better than it used to be. On the negative side, it certainly hasn’t gone away.


Rana Nawas: (09:00)

Let’s get into it. 12 habits. Our listeners will have to get the book. Must get the book to get to each and every one. So let’s talk about habit one, the reluctance to claim your achievements and this is huge, right? And I get asked this a lot like how important is self promotion and how can I do it safely without coming across badly?


Marshall Goldsmith: (09:21)

Right. Well and again, I’m a great believer in self promotion. Now why are you talking to me? Because I’m good at self promotion. Why do I have a million followers on LinkedIn? Because I’m good at self promotion. Well, as an author, as a speaker, you either do or do not want people to hear what you had to say. Well, if you want to hear what you have to say, you have to be good at self promotion because you have to be good at marketing. It ties into another chapter of the book and that’s this foolish belief that my good work should speak for itself. Have you ever heard that before?


Rana Nawas: (09:55)

All the time.


Marshall Goldsmith: (09:55)

My good work should speak for itself. What a bunch of nonsense. Is God supposed to fly out of the sky recognizing your good work? God probably has better things to do this week than recognize your good work. If people’s good work should speak for itself, no company would need a marketing function. There would be no marketing. What, you just do good work and it quote speaks for itself and it’s all taken care of. Well, that’s not the real world. Now, in the real world you can’t assume your good work is going to speak for itself. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. Your good work doesn’t speak for itself and if you believe in yourself, don’t be hesitant to promote the product.


Rana Nawas: (10:32)

But how do you do that? Oh no, did I say but. Oh no, forgive me, you’re right. Okay $50 now. Okay, alright. So how do you do that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (10:45)

Well, I think the first thing is, let me just talk about a few specific. One, women are much less likely to negotiate for price than men.


Rana Nawas: (10:53)

For salary


Marshall Goldsmith: (10:56)

For salary. Not a theory effect. Man gets the offer, negotiates. Women gets the offer, says thank you. So really, you’re your own agent.


Rana Nawas: (11:05)

Marshall, I have a question about that. Don’t women and men get treated differently when they negotiate?


Marshall Goldsmith: (11:11)

They may or may not. The reality is women don’t negotiate.


Rana Nawas: (11:14)



Marshall Goldsmith: (11:15)

They don’t negotiate. So you’re not gonna find out until you do. If you don’t negotiate, you’ll never know. You’re making an assumption. The second thing is many women, and it ties into another thing, are hesitant to leave their jobs. They feel they’re letting their teams down. They fall in love with the team. Nothing wrong with that, if you want to stay that team forever. Only reality is, that’s where you’re getting stuck. You’re getting stuck because you won’t leave the team. Whereas men say here’s 10 percent more, you know, bye bye team. Moving on. Well, I’m not saying women should want to get ahead. You can’t have it both ways.


Rana Nawas: (11:50)



Marshall Goldsmith: (11:50)

You can’t want to get ahead and then not want to get ahead at the same time. So one thing is don’t be ashamed to have a plan for your life. The word ambition has different feelings with women and men. Men almost always hear the word ambitious as positive. Women sometimes see it as negative. As trying to get ahead, being greedy, whatever. Well, the whole idea of the book is, I don’t think the world would be a worse place if more women were in high levels of power and authority. So go for it.


Rana Nawas: (12:19)

Easy. Let’s do it.


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:21)

It’s highly unlikely you’re going to get there if you don’t go for it.


Rana Nawas: (12:24)

Yeah, no, I understand.


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:26)

No, I understand.


Rana Nawas: (12:29)

I’m not doing well here, Marshall


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:31)

I’m gonna teach you something, ready? The most common phrase used by smart people, when people tell us something we agree with, no I agree with you or in your case, no I understand.


Rana Nawas: (12:43)



Marshall Goldsmith: (12:43)

It doesn’t make any sense, does it. Yes, I understand.


Rana Nawas: (12:46)

Thank you for that.


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:47)

So we’re so afraid the other person may not recognize how brilliant we are that no I understand means no I already knew that.


Rana Nawas: (12:53)

Let’s come back to self promotion.


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:55)



Rana Nawas: (12:56)

What recommendations do you have for women to do this?


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:58)

Well, the first thing is figure out what you want. You’re highly unlikely to get what you want if you don’t know what it is. Number two is don’t undersell yourself. For example, women, they get this thing about well apply for the next job. They’re much more likely to say, I’m not sure I’m qualified. I’ve never done that before. Whereas a man who’s never done it before is going to say, yes, I can do this. Right? Well, don’t undersell yourself. Don’t undersell yourself and don’t put yourself down. Be willing to go for that next level and also don’t be ashamed. Don’t be ashamed to be ambitious. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed, you have nothing to be embarrassed about and again, just go for it. Look at it this way. If you believe the world would be better off if you were at a higher level in this company, why shouldn’t you try to be at a higher level in this company?


Rana Nawas: (13:56)

I believe that a lot of women do feel that way. They do feel that they could do a better job.


Marshall Goldsmith: (14:00)

And I agree. That’s what the whole book about.


Rana Nawas: (14:02)



Marshall Goldsmith: (14:03)

And then the point is, don’t be hesitant to go for it.


Rana Nawas: (14:07)

Yup. So let’s talk about habit three, overvaluing expertise.


Marshall Goldsmith: (14:11)



Rana Nawas: (14:12)

Because you can imagine a situation where a woman is constantly trying to hone, hone, hone her expertise against some imaginary arbitrary standard. How do we, why does that happen?


Marshall Goldsmith: (14:25)

Well, it goes back to this perfectionism thing. The need to prove that you’re as good or better than a man or anybody else for that matter and then what happens is it ties into another theme of the book and that’s sacrificing your career for your job. So what happens is, I’ll give you a personal example of where I did this in my own life. I was working for the New York Stock Exchange and my client, who’s now my friend, Rick Culley was there and I got ranked 4.8/5 from the speaker. So I go to Rick and I said, Rick, how can we do better? Rick said, you’re asking the wrong question. 4.8/5 is about as good as you’re going to get. Some people don’t get fives. You should be writing more, thinking more, reading more. Really focusing on how you can make a much larger contribution as opposed to changing the stupid 4.8 to a 4.9. He was so right. It was great advice. Women fall into the same trap I did much more than men do, which is, look, you’re doing a 95% quality job, now let it go. Take that extra five percent, by the way, which by the way, the extra five percent is going to take you about half your time rather than focusing on this extra five percent, really say, how can I get someplace else? How can I broaden my horizon? How can I make a bigger, larger contribution to the world?


Rana Nawas: (15:41)

Right, to take that time and effort and use it more wisely.


Marshall Goldsmith: (15:45)

Exactly, because you’re sacrificing a little here, but you may be gaining a lot there.


Rana Nawas: (15:51)

What’s the cue for us to know all right, it’s time to?


Marshall Goldsmith: (15:55)

Well, the first thing is you really need to focus in on the future and you need to structure your day so that you don’t sacrifice tomorrow for today. Structure your day so you are investing in the long term. Structure today so you are leveraging and building relationships across the organization. Structure your day so you’re not just doing tasks. The other problem with doing this great job is let’s say I’m your boss. I give you something to do. She does a great job. As a recognition and reward for that great job. What do I give you now?


Rana Nawas: (16:28)

More of the same more.


Marshall Goldsmith: (16:31)

More. She does another great job. Guess what you get now, more and then eventually you become indispensable.


Rana Nawas: (16:41)



Marshall Goldsmith: (16:41)

That’s what you get for it.


Rana Nawas: (16:43)

And that’s the last place you want to be.


Marshall Goldsmith: (16:44)

Indispensable means she’s never going to get promoted.


Rana Nawas: (16:48)

Actually, a former boss of mine used to say the best thing I can do is make myself indispensable, which he was great. Okay and you brought in some other habits, so let’s talk about those instead of going one by one. So sacrificing your career for your job.


Marshall Goldsmith: (17:06)

That one is one that had the biggest learning for me. Sally came up with that one and I never even thought of the concept because again, we have kind of naively been brought up to believe if I do a good job, I will be promoted. Well, number one, that’s not true, and number two, it shouldn’t be true because the next job is not this job and you really should be promoted based on your potential for the next job, not your performance necessarily just for this job. So I think women particularly caught into that. I have to do a great job and they get so focused on doing a great job that the job takes on a life in and of itself, sometimes at the expense of their career. They’re focused so much on the team the company, they won’t leave. They feel it’s disloyal to leave. Well, you know what? I always tell people, you go to work, you do a great job. You don’t worship the corporate God. Corporate God doesn’t worship you. Well you work for GE, right? Hey I missed the numbers a few quarters. Bye Bye.


Rana Nawas: (18:11)



Marshall Goldsmith: (18:12)

Bye Bye. That’s life.


Rana Nawas: (18:13)



Marshall Goldsmith: (18:14)

I’ve seen a lot of people who worship the corporate God and welcome to security guard and the box and 35 years later you’re walking out the door and don’t do that. No. It’s okay to leave and you know, my cup. I coach CEOs and I tell them, you know, hey, sometimes its time to go. After about five, six years, you know, it’s time to leave.


Rana Nawas: (18:35)



Marshall Goldsmith: (18:35)

Don’t hang around too long and that’s not that you’re disloyal. It’s just, it’s good to leave. It’s good not to be there forever to, you know, get stuck.


Rana Nawas: (18:44)

It’s good for them and it’s good for the company.


Marshall Goldsmith: (18:45)

It’s good for the company, I completely agree.


Rana Nawas: (18:48)

And so let’s


Marshall Goldsmith: (18:49)

By the way, 100% of the people I have told to leave that have left, 100% have thanked me. The only that person didn’t leave was a woman leader. She’d been there seven years. I told her, why are you here? You’ve been here seven years. One more year, one more year, one more year. She got fired and great person. Look, hang around too long. Also, if you’re at the CEO level, it’s like you’re throwing the dice. One year, you’re going to get bad throat. Well, you’ve been there 10 years, out. That’s what happens.


Rana Nawas: (19:21)



Marshall Goldsmith: (19:25)

Life. I don’t feel too sorry for her. She’s worth tens of millions, nobody’s starving.


Rana Nawas: (19:30)

No, no. They’re all okay.


Marshall Goldsmith: (19:33)

The people I coach, there’s no starvation. It’s a little psychologically tough.


Rana Nawas: (19:41)

They’ll live.


Marshall Goldsmith: (19:41)

I feel sorry for starving kids in Africa, really. These people are not objects of sympathy.


Rana Nawas: (19:46)

No, but let’s talk about relationships.


Marshall Goldsmith: (19:49)

But let’s talk?


Rana Nawas: (19:51)

Oh, thank you for all of these lessons, Marshall. So et’s talk about building rather than leveraging relationships because this is one that really hit home for me personally. I’ve always been lauded for like, oh, you’re so good at building relationships. Go do sales, regional director of Africa, this, this, this, and then it occurred to me after reading the book, my God, I’ve done nothing to leverage them.


Marshall Goldsmith: (20:13)

Well and again, I think it’s very healthy to look at relationships as win-win. Men are more likely to see relationships as win-win, not a bad thing. I’m going to give you something, on the other hand, down the road, kind of expect you to give me something to. This is a two way street. Women are much less likely to think that way and always feel bad about asking for payback.


Rana Nawas: (20:37)

Feels a bit shameful, maybe.


Marshall Goldsmith: (20:38)

Yeah. It’s like, I mean manipulative. I should just give out of the goodness of my heart and never expect to get anything back. Well, the reality is if you want to get promoted in an organization, a lot of it is subjective and a lot of it’s relationships and you need to be able to sometimes say, I put money in the bank a long time. It’s time to get some back out now, and I’ve done this and this and this and I really appreciate you help me with that and that and that. Also, most people don’t mind you asking them to help, they’re happy to.


Rana Nawas: (21:09)

And fundamentally, I think also is that you have value to add and you have to remember. That when you ask someone to help you, that you have to believe in your ability to add value to them. So it’s worth their while.


Marshall Goldsmith: (21:21)

Yeah, it’s win-win.


Rana Nawas: (21:23)

I think, yeah. Where possibly the breakdown would happen in a lot of women that I know is undervaluing their own value, like impact.


Marshall Goldsmith: (21:31)



Rana Nawas: (21:31)

Great. So we talked about allies. Let’s talk about that some more and listing allies from day one.


Marshall Goldsmith: (21:35)

Let me ask you a question cause your saying you didn’t do this, didn’t think of it or?


Rana Nawas: (21:42)

Didn’t think of it. It literally didn’t occur to me to leverage relationships. Now, having said that, I’ve been fortunate in the workplace. I’ve had sponsors pull me up. I wouldn’t be, I wouldn’t have got to where I got without that, without male allies pulling me up along the way. It was eyeopening when I realized that it had never occurred to me consciously, hey, let me leverage that relationship. It just hadn’t occurred to me. It’s not that necessarily I would feel bad about it, it just, I didn’t think of it.


Marshall Goldsmith: (22:18)

Right, you didn’t think that way. Which is an important way to think because if you do want to become, let’s say you do want to become a CEO and let’s say you are a good person and you believe it helped the company in the world if you became more powerful and you become a CEO. Fine. Then the decisions made by the decision maker. If you leveraged relationships, it’ll improve your odds on becoming a CEO. It’s okay.


Rana Nawas: (22:42)

Yep. Win-win.


Marshall Goldsmith: (22:43)



Rana Nawas: (22:44)

Yup. Let’s go into that. Let’s talk about allies.


Marshall Goldsmith: (22:48)



Rana Nawas: (22:49)

What do you mean by allies in the workplace?


Marshall Goldsmith: (22:51)

To me, anybody that you have a win-win relationship where you are trying to help them and they are simultaneously trying to help you and you’re perfectly comfortable saying, you know, I really want to move to this next level in the company. Can you help me?


Rana Nawas: (23:04)

And that can be juniors, peers, seniors.


Marshall Goldsmith: (23:09)



Rana Nawas: (23:09)

And you talk about that being important from day one. Why is that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (23:12)

Well, because what happens, it ties back to overvaluing expertise in the job, sometimes it gets into the tomorrow problem with women. I’ll do that tomorrow, next week. That’s a good thing I should think about. Now, I’m very busy though. Well, once you keep doing that, tomorrow thing never comes. It never comes. It never comes. Why don’t people do what I teach? I’ve collected research from tens of thousands of people have been in my classes and measure do they do what I teach and do they get better and people do this stuff get better and people don’t get better. They stay the same. Why don’t people do what I teach is typically we have a dream. A dream sounds like this. You know, I’m incredibly busy right now given pressures of work and home and new technology that follows me everywhere and emails and voicemails and global competition, I feel about as busy as ever have sometimes I feel over committed. Every now and again, I don’t tell others my life feels a little bit out of control, but you know, I’m working on some very unique and special challenges right now and I think the worst of this is going to be over in four or five months and after that I’ll take two or three weeks and get organized and spend time with the family and begin my new healthy life program. Everything’s going to be different and it won’t be crazy anymore. Have you ever had a dream that resembles that dream?


Rana Nawas: (24:32)

Yes, I think everyone I know has. One day, one day it’ll all calm down and I’ll focus on this. That one day never comes.


Marshall Goldsmith: (24:39)

And if you don’t get started in the beginning thinking this way, you may never think this way.


Rana Nawas: (24:45)

Got it, okay. Well, we talked about the perfection trap a bit, but could you go into that a little bit more?


Marshall Goldsmith: (24:52)

Yeah and again, the average woman gets better 360 degree feedback as a leader than the average man.


Rana Nawas: (24:59)

Sorry, the average woman gets?


Marshall Goldsmith: (25:01)

Better 360 degree feedback as a leader than the average man. Now this doesn’t mean every woman gets better feedback than every man, it just means statistically the average woman gets better 360 degree feedback than the average man. Not a theory, that’s a fact. For the women I work with, the average woman has one issue to do with consistently and amazingly more than the average man. The desire to be the perfect everything to everyone, wife, mother, friend, daughter, boss, team member, the perfect everything, and women are too hard on themselves. You can’t be the perfect everything to everyone. I was just in India, women there got a bonus problem. They have to be the perfect daughter in law.


Rana Nawas: (25:40)

Yes. The in-laws in India, wow.


Marshall Goldsmith: (25:43)

The perfect daughter in law. And by the way, let’s face it, you’re never quite good enough for her little prince, are you?


Rana Nawas: (25:50)

No, never.


Marshall Goldsmith: (25:50)

And the food? Oh, that’s okay.


Rana Nawas: (25:55)

We talk about that a lot at Elevate Dubai, at the businesswomen network that I run. This it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to not be okay.


Marshall Goldsmith: (26:05)

Yeah. You can’t be perfect about everything.


Rana Nawas: (26:07)

Certainly not all the time.


Marshall Goldsmith: (26:08)

Right, let go.


Rana Nawas: (26:10)

Yeah. I love your term in the book, oh, well. Like just, oh, well, you know, my kids have to eat frozen nuggets tonight. Oh, well. I wasn’t there to make fresh sweet potato mash, you know.


Marshall Goldsmith: (26:29)

Live goes on.


Rana Nawas: (26:31)

Yes. Let’s talk about the disease to please and this definitely affects a lot of women and also a lot of men I know, to be honest. Where does this come from?


Marshall Goldsmith: (26:42)

Well again, I think that the feeling that I have to please everyone or there’s something wrong with me, you know, that if I don’t please everyone around me there’s something wrong with me and unfortunately social media is making this worse. Oh my God, my own daughter, who’s normally sane right, probably kill me for telling you the story. But my own daughter, who’s a professor at Vanderbilt. She already has tenure, right? She’s only in her thirties, she’s a brilliant woman. The kids are one, she has twins, one in a one year old birthday party. She wants to have a forest themed birthday party. Kids are one. What does that mean? She says, my wife baked cookies that looked like acorns, but the cookies have to look like acorns. So my wife cooks a cookie, but they don’t really look a lot like acorns. Right? Then she tells her wife, well maybe you should redo the cookies. My wife is just going, can I shoot you, what is wrong with you? Well, she puts it on Pinterest, of course. That’s all. That’s all.


Rana Nawas: (27:50)

Again, perfection.


Marshall Goldsmith: (27:51)

Prove everyone I’m a good mother, you see. I had these cute little acorn cookies. Who cares? These kids are one year old. They don’t care about cookies.


Rana Nawas: (28:02)

Yeah. No, you’re right.


Marshall Goldsmith: (28:03)

No, you’re right.


Marshall Goldsmith: (28:08)

You’re right. Yes, you’re totally right about the social media. Making everyone’s life worse, including mine right now, definitely feeds into the perfection trap, social media, and also to the disease to please. They’re very connected and that’s something that I’ve noticed. A lot of these themes are very


Marshall Goldsmith: (28:27)

They’re all connected.


Rana Nawas: (28:30)

Yeah. How does one say no? I think I’m not a pleaser. I think I’m not. My husband tells me I’m not a pleaser and I believe him. Yet I still have trouble saying no to some things. For example, if I don’t want to take a meeting or how does one say no without coming across badly?


Marshall Goldsmith: (28:51)

A couple of things. One is how many times do I get asked to do things? The standard response is, you know, I just published our new book with Sally Helgason “How Women Rise.” I’ve just been buried with request. I normally would love to do this. On the other hand, I’ve been buried in requesting and can’t make new commitments at this time. Please ask again in the future. How many times have I’ve written that? Everyday.


Rana Nawas: (29:17)

Pretty well rehearsed, I imagine.


Marshall Goldsmith: (29:21)

Everyday. Over and over, everyday.


Rana Nawas: (29:25)

So have your, know your rationale and then just repeat the mantra.


Marshall Goldsmith: (29:31)

Yeah, exactly and don’t feel guilty. Number one, it’s true. Number two, I don’t have to feel ashamed. There’s only so many hours in a day.


Rana Nawas: (29:38)

Right, great. Let’s talk about minimizing. I like this one because it involves body language. Could you tell us a little bit about that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (29:43)

Again, this one Sally taught me this one. More her observations in mind because I didn’t pay attention to this, but women tend to have with body language sometimes minimize themselves. She gives an example of a meeting and people are coming in late and the women are all scooting in and make it more room.


Rana Nawas: (29:59)

The men have their arms draped around chairs, yeah.


Marshall Goldsmith: (30:02)

And women also minimize though themselves in their language. Well, I kind of know a little bit of this or this might be okay or well I hope you don’t mind if I tell you about blah blah, blah, and they can sometimes minimize their impact in the way they talk about themselves too, so it just gets back to that. Don’t put yourself down. Don’t minimize yourself with your language and don’t minimize yourself with the way you look.


Rana Nawas: (30:27)

Yeah, the caveating has to go. All this caveat before, you know, may I ask a question? I call women on that now. Of course you can, that’s why you’re here. Great. Too much, what’s this habit number 10? Too much.


Marshall Goldsmith: (30:43)

That ties in into women’s radar. So Sally talks about how many of these qualities are positive in a lot of ways. For example, the idea of not taking too much credit is a positive thing in many ways. The idea of not over promoting yourself can be very positive to a point, but somebody wrote a book once called “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Brilliant book and you can overdo these things. You can overdo these things and the point is back to this point, it’s the same thing. Now women have more what’s called radar and you could go back to, at least Sally does, the hunter gatherer difference. Women tend to be more focused on the broad picture, the men are more focused on the narrow. Not good or bad, just different. On the other hand, let’s take a board of directors. I’ve worked with lots of board of directors. The last thing they need is people talking too much. Women talk a lot more than men. Not a theory, a fact. Women pick up more than men. Not a theory, a fact. The reality is the rest of the world could care less and so you could talk too much. You could share too much information. You could over qualify as opposed to just getting to the point.


Rana Nawas: (32:04)

That’s too much, great. And I think this also ties into letting your radar distract you.


Marshall Goldsmith: (32:09)



Rana Nawas: (32:10)

So get to the point


Marshall Goldsmith: (32:12)

And also, women can be more sensitive than men. Again, each one of these is a blessing and curse kind of thing. So the good news is you’re more sensitive. The bad news is you’re in a meeting with a board of directors and one person has negative nonverbal communication. Rather than just ignoring them, you may focus on that which distracts you from the rest of the meeting. Whereas most of the board would rather just get to the punchlines. You know, they just want to move on.


Rana Nawas: (32:35)

Yep. Yep and the last habit we’re going to talk about from “How Women Rise” is ruminating.


Marshall Goldsmith: (32:41)

Yes that’s worrying too much, which is connected to perfectionism and one of the most common themes I had with women much more than men is, well, one, don’t be so hard on yourself. Two, don’t worry so much. Make a decision. Move on. If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out and nobody’s perfect. Don’t ruminate, don’t worry too much. I had a very interesting experience oddly enough from a hedge fund guy illustrating this point, this I was listening to two hedge fund guys. One was worth a billion dollars, the other worth three billion dollars. And the billion dollar guy was interviewing the 3 billion dollar guy. And the 3 billion dollar guy was a very fascinating guy. He quit managing other people’s money and the billion dollar guy said, why’d you do that? He said, you know, when I was younger, I didn’t worry so much. I just made decisions and I made obviously billions for people and lost billions. In fact, I lost billions, didn’t bother me. He said, when I got older, I started thinking, these are retirees and I started worrying about it and he said, I became much less effective, wasn’t willing to take risk anymore. Oddly enough, the more he ruminated over things and worried about things, he didn’t become more effective, he actually became less effective because he was unwilling to take risk. Well, you know, to get ahead in an organization, you have to take risks. You can’t worry about it forever. You have to make decisions. Some of them are going to be wrong


Rana Nawas: (34:07)

And you need to be okay with that.


Marshall Goldsmith: (34:08)

And you need to be okay with that and just move on and not sit there and say, oh, I should have. I wish I would have. Ruminating and I, Sally talks about rumination is good for cows, it’s not so good for people.


Rana Nawas: (34:17)

Yeah, I read that. Well, I love the practical suggestions at the end of “How Women Rise.” So in particular, the to don’t list. Could you tell us a bit about that because I’ve never seen that before.


Marshall Goldsmith: (34:30)

I like the idea of to don’t and then for me, I do this on my daily questions. One of my everyday is how many times yesterday did I try to prove I was right when it wasn’t worth it


Rana Nawas: (34:40)

And do you still do that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (34:41)

I still do that, of course. It’s hard for the old professor not to be right all the time and so it’s just an instinctive habit. So, and you know, I mean my problem is not doing what I do, my problem is stopping. Sometimes I’m on the plane, sometimes on an eight hour flight, sometimes some a poor man sits next to me occasionally makes an awful mistake, what do you do for a living? Eight hours later, why did ask? I end up coaching the poor guy, I have collected thousands of dollars.


Rana Nawas: (35:20)

Alright, so the to don’t list, definitely include that in your daily question. What should I stop doing? Because that’s why a lot of these habits are bad habits. I mean, this is actually the bad habits, right? The 12 habits are bad habits. So these are things we need to stop as opposed to things we do, which is


Marshall Goldsmith: (35:35)

Don’t do them all the time, right.


Rana Nawas: (35:38)



Marshall Goldsmith: (35:38)

One of mine is don’t start sentences with no but, it’s a bad habit, you see.


Rana Nawas: (35:42)

Well this I think is going to cost me a lot, today.


Marshall Goldsmith: (35:44)

The money all goes to a charity of your choice.


Rana Nawas: (35:47)

Does it?


Marshall Goldsmith: (35:47)

Yes. You can donate a book as well. What’s a good charity?


Rana Nawas: (35:51)

Amnesty International.


Marshall Goldsmith: (35:52)

Well fine, well you’re donating the money. Isn’t this nice?


Rana Nawas: (35:54)



Marshall Goldsmith: (35:54)

How much money have I raised for charity harassing my friends? Over $1,000,000.


Rana Nawas: (35:58)

Well, if this is harassing then you’re coaching by harassment, I love it or harassing by coaching.


Marshall Goldsmith: (36:04)

I’ve raised over a million dollars and it doesn’t hurt anybody.


Rana Nawas: (36:07)

Oh, wonderful.


Marshall Goldsmith: (36:08)

It’s a nice idea.


Rana Nawas: (36:10)

Another thing that I speak about often at our Elevate events and our networking events is how nobody achieves anything on their own. How you need to build your tribe, find your tribe, and you talk about that a lot. I mean, what advice do you have for women on building their tribe?


Marshall Goldsmith: (36:22)

Well, I think one thing is don’t be ashamed to need help. Don’t be ashamed. You know, once we get over this macho, I can do it on my own nonsense. Life is so much better. Well, I need help? You need help.


Rana Nawas: (36:40)

And all the CEOs you mentioned need help.


Marshall Goldsmith: (36:41)

How many of the top 10 tennis players have coaches? 10. Why do they have a coach? They’re smart enough to realize they need help. That’s why they’re the top tennis player. They would never be there if they didn’t have coaches. Well we all need help and it’s okay. Just getting over that macho. I could do it on my own thing. You can do something on your own, not so much.


Rana Nawas: (37:04)

And the other aspect of building your tribe is, it doesn’t all have to be close friends, you know, it can be acquaintances. Loose ties, right? You have a massive track. You’re on


Marshall Goldsmith: (37:15)

Well I’m adopting people, do you know my adoption story?


Rana Nawas: (37:18)



Marshall Goldsmith: (37:18)

So what happens is I went to a program called Design the Life You Love and in the program we were asked to, it was done by if you ever get a chance to interview her name is Iyshay Bersel, one of the world’s top designers. Oh she’s, I love her. She’s wonderful, you should interview her. So she wrote a book called “Design the Life You Love” and then she said, who are your heroes? And my heroes were all very nice, generous people who are great teachers and they never charged me any money. And she said, you should be more like them. So I thought, that’s so sweet. I should adopt people. I decided to adopt 15 people, teach them everything I know for free and the only price is when they get old, they have to do the same thing. Pay it forward. So I made a little selfie video and put it on Linkedin. It turned out to be the most widely viewed video in the history of Linkedin.


Rana Nawas: (38:05)

How many applied?


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:06)



Rana Nawas: (38:07)

for 15 spots


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:09)

Well turned out to be 100, but 16,000 people applied. So now I’ve adopted all these people and it’s just wonderful and so I teach them all I know for free and they help each other and the only prices though then they had to adopt other people. It’s so nice.


Rana Nawas: (38:26)

Yeah, that;s social impact. That’s really positively changing the world.


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:29)

Very positive and the reality is the biggest winner of the whole thing is me.


Rana Nawas: (38:34)

How’d you figure that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:35)

I get more out of it than they do. It’s so wonderful. So nice. Such a nice idea.


Rana Nawas: (38:42)

I’m going to check that out, if I may.


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:46)

You should apply for adoption.


Rana Nawas: (38:48)

I will. When’s the next round?


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:49)

I don’t know. I’m always looking at new adoptees.


Rana Nawas: (38:52)

Okay, well count me in now. You’ll get an email from me tonight.


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:56)

I would be honored for you to be my adopted daughter.


Rana Nawas: (38:58)

Oh, that’s incredibly generous and kind. I do want to ask you about Alan Mulally. You mention him as a role model in the book. Tell me why.


Marshall Goldsmith: (39:06)

Well I mean Alan, I was hired to coach Alan many, many years ago and as is often in life, those that want help the most need it the least. He was already one of the greatest leaders that ever lived and I spent less time actually coaching him than anyone I’ve ever coached, 200 people got better and I asked him, what should I learn by coaching from you? He taught me so many lessons. He said, great lesson is your whole job is pick great customers. I picked great customers, I always win. I don’t get paid if they don’t get better. I get paid nothing for the entire coaching assignment and she learned quickly. You need great customers and Alan has taught me so much about life that he number one, is very clear in the way you deal with people. When you treat people with respect, you have fun, you don’t hurt other people. You’re not cynical, you’re not sarcastic. He’s an amazing guy and he’s incredibly generous. So he’s one of my adoptees. He’s so sweet. He called me, I want to be adopted too.


Rana Nawas: (40:14)

Alan Mulally, you’re in.


Marshall Goldsmith: (40:18)

Yeah and he in Ford, the stock went from $1 to 1840.


Rana Nawas: (40:23)

That’s incredible, in a short period of time I think.


Marshall Goldsmith: (40:25)

He’s a union company, Ninety seven percent approval rating from every employee, in a union company. They normally hate CEOs. They love this guy. He’s just an amazing human being. A great friend of mine, so he’s one of my 100 coaches and he is personally at least five or six times, spent six hours with all these people helping them.


Rana Nawas: (40:44)



Marshall Goldsmith: (40:44)

Amazing man, for free. Just a generous, nice, good human being. Aside from being a spectacular leader is also just a great person. So I love the guy and so he’s a wonderful friend of mine and just a great role model for, you know, giving back and being a great leader and also, I mean, nice guys can’t finish first. Well he’s a nice guy in the world, he certainly finished first.


Rana Nawas: (41:12)

Well that’s an incredibly inspirational thing to remember because a lot of people say that in the corporate world. Nice guys always finish last or whatever.


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:20)

He didn’t finish last.


Rana Nawas: (41:22)

No, he did not. Amazing. Well, my last question, Marshall. If you could have coffee with one person from history, who would it be and why?


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:29)

Buddha. I’m a Buddhist.


Rana Nawas: (41:31)

Are you?


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:31)

Yes, I have been a Buddhist for years. Yes. So I would have


Rana Nawas: (41:36)

What would you ask?


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:38)

I wouldn’t ask him much.


Rana Nawas: (41:40)

Just hang out.


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:41)



Rana Nawas: (41:42)

Love it. Well, thank you so much for your time. I can’t tell you how impactful this has been.


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:48)

Thank you so much.


Rana Nawas: (41:48)

And for the book “How Women Rise” I mean, this is the perfect book for When Women Win Podcast.


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:55)

Well, thank you for the good work that you’re doing.


Rana Nawas: (41:57)

Thank you and how can listeners find you, Marshall? LinkedIn, is that best?


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:59)

Yeah, I give everything away. All my materials online. You can copy, share, download, duplicate it, use in Church, charity, nonprofit, use any way you wish. Linkedin, facebook, everything. Linkedin, I have the most followers. Yes.


Rana Nawas: (42:13)

Okay, thank you so much. All this will be in the show notes guys. Thank you.


Marshall Goldsmith: (42:17)

Thank you.


Rana Nawas: (42:19)

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. To find show notes, give feedback, and sign up for our monthly newsletter, go to our website Also remember to head over to Itunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe to When Women Win. Finally, make sure you’re following us on instagram @WhenWomenWinPodcast. Thanks and have a great day.



End Of Transcript