Getting an A+ in Gratitude


Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. ~ Cicero

Being grateful to people who contributed to our success is not a common practice. Probably this is due to lack of role models for us to watch and emulate. Marshall Goldsmith is very passionate about being grateful and saying ‘Thank You’ to people. If you meet him in person, you will sense his gratitude and thankful feeling in the first 5 minutes.

In his coaching practice, he recommends leaders to do the following.

  1. List 25 people who have made a positive difference to their career. In addition to workplace colleagues, this list can include their friends/relatives/family/teacher/role model and so on.
  2. Write a ‘Thank You’ note to these people (e-mail/personal letter/written note)

I read about this idea two years ago and didn’t take action though the idea appealed to me immediately. I was worried about what would others think when they see such a note from me! What if they think I am phony or dramatic or naïve? Finally I decided to let go of others’ opinion and did this exercise. I did this because I wanted to ‘walk the talk’, not just ‘talk the talk’. Before I recommend this to my coaching clients, I wanted to get a firsthand (not vicarious) experience.

I wrote 24 names in my list. The list included my managers, virtual team leads, mentors at Toastmasters club, motivated colleagues, mentor coach, coach friends etc. Many people on the list are now in different organizations or countries and I took 3 days to gather their contact details (Thanks to LinkedIn). I sent a short note of gratitude in an e-mail comprising 160 words.

As I hit the ‘send’ button for each e-mail addressed individually, my excitement and feelings of gratitude intensified. I sensed a great amount of energy rushing in my body. It was a phenomenal experience!!! After I sent the 24th e-mail, I felt like a guru of gratitude and was no longer bothered about the outcome of these e-mails. I genuinely meant what I said in the e-mail and I knew I wasn’t playing around.

Three things happened as a result of this activity (though I didn’t expect any).

  1. Most people replied back and said they were touched by that e-mail. They felt honored to know the fact that they have a hand behind my success and I acknowledge that hand.
  2. Some people also shared their thoughts about me and how I inspired them to perform well (this was a pleasant surprise to me)
  3. Few people loved this idea, they are now planning to take this forward and send a ‘Thank You’ note to people who contributed to their success

If you like this exercise, please go ahead and act on this NOW! I promise, the bliss you will experience after the activity is infinitely greater than the pinch you feel while doing this J

Thank You for reading, acting and sharing!!!

The Art Of Allowing


Delegation is the art of allowing your team members to finish tasks, own responsibility, perform at their peak and showcase their talents.

Micromanaging and not effectively delegating pop up in majority of 360-degree feedback reports that I have administered to leaders. I recently worked with a leader (let’s call him Mr Khan) to get anonymous feedback from his direct reports and peers. Lack of delegation skills, not allowing his direct reports to shine came as the common feedback point.

Initially Khan was shocked to know what people thought about him. According to him he was delegating tasks well and allowing his team to showcase their work. He was puzzled and wasn’t able to understand how else he can delegate. When a leader improves his/her leadership attributes – it’s crucial to focus on changing behavior as well as perception of his team members. This is the corner stone of Marshall Goldsmith’s coaching methodology.

I sat with Khan and discussed the two questions he would ask all of his direct reports (in One-on-One meetings) to understand and change his behavior. Khan agreed to intently listen to their answers and not make any judgment or challenge their viewpoints. The goal was to understand his team’s thinking and decide later what to change. He also wrote their answers in a notepad for future review and reference.

  1. In what areas you want me to involve more and give you a helping hand?
  2. In what areas you want me to involve less and STOP poking my nose?

Last week Khan met all his direct reports to get answers to the above questions. Their answers gave him a new perspective about delegation and ownership of tasks. It’s important to know their perception about Khan and his style of delegation. Currently he is focused on changing his behaviors and allowing his leaders to shine and own.

The crux of Marshall’s process is monthly ‘follow-up’ meetings with key stakeholders. Khan is committed to meet his direct reports every month for 5-10 minutes to check on his progress and garner more ideas to become better in delegation.

After 6 months, we plan to do an anonymous mini-survey on Khan’s behavioral changes with his direct reports to measure the progress of change and follow-up meetings. With Marshall’s framework, behavioral change is guaranteed and measurable!!!!

Are you having challenges with delegation?

Do your direct reports think you are micromanaging?

Is it difficult for you to trust people and give ownership of tasks?

To start the process of change, sit with your team, review the above 2 questions, listen to them and consciously commit to change. More importantly, commit to have a monthly follow-up meeting with them to understand your progress. All the best!

PS : I acknowledge the picture from the net.

The Three Envelopes


The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses.

~ Napoleon Hill

In my coaching and trainings assignments, I invariably encounter people who are always blaming their colleagues, manager and team for failures. They blame others to justify why things cannot improve or change. A coach can narrate relevant stories and metaphors to broaden and stretch people’s way of thinking. This story originally comes from master coach Marshall Goldsmith. The story you are reading below is his thoughts dressed in my words.

The CEO (Jim) of a large organization stepped down from his position. During the farewell party the retiring CEO handed over 3 sealed envelopes to the incoming CEO (John). Numbers 1, 2 and 3 were printed on those 3 sealed envelopes respectively. Jim said to John; open these envelopes when the organization is not making good profits and you don’t seem to know what to do. They have profound advice in them and you should open them in the ascending order of printed numbers. With a smile of gratitude, John agreed to follow the outgoing CEO Jim’s instructions.

After 9 months, sales went down by 30% and his executive team was struggling to get a grip on the situation. While sitting alone in his office that night, John opened the first envelope entrusted by the previous CEO. The letter has just one sentence in bold letters – Blame Jim, the previous CEO.

John called the press conference next morning and blamed the erstwhile CEO for this setback and he ridiculed Jim’s unwise decisions.

Now he had a second chance to prove his leadership and get the results back on track. He attempted a few changes and nothing seemed to work. In the next 12 months, the company sales reached the lowest number in that decade. John felt helpless. He opened the second envelope. It had one sentence in bold letters – ‘Blame the economy’.

In the press release next morning, John elaborately articulated the ill-effects of current economy on the company profits. By this time he had become an expert in blaming others and passing the buck.

Nothing seemed to work for John and that same year the organization declared losses. His executive team drafted a plan for workforce reduction. Buffeted by the third setback, John started looking for reasons to blame and opened the third envelope with new hope. He was shocked to read the words in the letter this time – Prepare three new envelopes for the new CEO.

I hope you get the deep message embedded in this humorous anecdote and avoid the game of blame. If you know someone who is currently smitten by this ‘blame game’ please share or narrate this story to that person. Let’s hope this story lights the candle of responsibility in leaders.

PS : I acknowledge the graphic from the net. Let’s focus on the message, not be derailed by facts or numbers quoted in the above story.

Goldsmith’s guaranteed way to change behaviors

Behavior Change

“People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.”

― Marshall Goldsmith

I am coaching a person who works as a manager in a multi-national organization with a few direct reports. I am a fan of Marshal Goldsmith’s principles and process of executive coaching. I leverage his guaranteed and measurable framework for leadership development. A leader needs humility, courage and discipline to go through Marshall’s process of leadership improvement. To keep the anonymity of my client – I will use the word ‘Leader’ in the ensuing paragraphs to refer to this person.

360 degree feedback (anonymous) is the first step in Marshall’s process to know the perceptions of team members about their leader. In this case we had 10 people participating in 360 degree feedback and providing their viewpoints on the leader’s behaviors. The report was very insightful and the leader was shocked to see the team’s perceptions and observations.

One common behavioral flaw emerged in most participants’ feedback.

  1. The leader doesn’t listen and interrupts others all the time

I really admire the courage of this leader who is willing to admit his flaws and willing to change & grow. Instead of justifying his style he is focused on ‘what behaviors are causing this perception in his team?’, which is the quality great of a leader!

During our coaching session this evening, he asked some tips to become a better listener. His natural style is to interrupt people within a few seconds. So we played this game that Marshall recommends in his coaching framework. We agreed that during our conversation, every time the leader interrupts me he would pay me INR 100/-. He laughed instantly and agreed to play this game – as it was a paltry amount for him 🙂

After this I went on sharing how this idea helped my other clients, he interrupted me in the middle of my first sentence 🙂 I stopped and said ‘100 rupees now’ ! He pulled out a 100-rupee note and handed it over to me. In that hour he interrupted me 5 times within the first 30 minutes and he lost 500 rupees 🙂 He started feeling the pinch!

In the next half hour, suddenly his awareness elevated and whenever he was about to interrupt me – he stopped midway and started smiling at me! This was amazingly powerful! I believe his drive to save money and win over me both increased his conscious awareness to change his behavior.

He was so excited about this change and the efficacy of this simple process. Tomorrow he is announcing to his team about this game. Every time they catch him not listening and interrupting others – he will pay them 100 rupees on the spot!

No wonder Marshall is a genius and the most populate executive coach on this planet with 150+ CEOs as his clients. Simple, effective and pragmatic ideas make his framework rock!

Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?


Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.

~ Epictetus

There was once a farmer who owned a horse and had a son. One day, his horse ran away. The neighbors came to express their concern: “Oh, that’s too bad. How are you going to work the fields now?” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

In a few days, his horse came back and brought another horse with her. Now, the neighbors were glad: “Oh, how lucky! Now you can do twice as much work as before!” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

The next day, the farmer’s son fell off the new horse and broke his leg. The neighbors were concerned again: “Now that he is incapacitated, he can’t help you around, that is too bad.” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

Soon, the news came that a war broke out, and all the young men were required to join the army. The villagers were sad because they knew that many of the young men will not come back. The farmer’s son could not be drafted because of his broken leg. His neighbors were envious: “How lucky! You get to keep your only son.” The farmer replied: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”

That very summer….and the story continues…

The above Sufi story is quoted by many authors to illustrate how our perceptions color our life experiences.

Dr.Sri Kumar Rao in his best-selling book ‘Are you ready to succeed?’ recommends an exercise based on the above story.

Think of a past moment in your life where you perceived the event as bad then, but now when you look back that was indeed a useful fork in your life. All of us can recall several such forks in our lives – choosing a college to study, accepting a ‘not-so-attractive’ job offer, a personal setback or decisions that we took because of lack of choices and so on. Those events opened up new avenues and pathways of opportunities in the ensuing days!

Let’s look at our life today and review the things that are bothering us right now and crying for our attention. These events that seem bad may indeed be great turning points in our life when we connect the dots looking backwards at a future date! Absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence J

This is a fabulous tool for centering ourselves and face daily challenges. When we find ourselves in a web of internal chatter labeling a life event as negative –let’s remember to say to ourselves, Good thing? Bad thing? Who knows?