In conversation with a veteran coach

What was so uplifting about listening to Marshall Goldsmith, veteran American executive coach, in a recent Q & A webinar, was his joyous, wholehearted laughter. It was the sort that was authentic and uninhibited – an expression of his entire frame – that urged me to join in. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to witness more of this these days?

And do we really have to wait till we’re 71, with 35 books and an admirable career behind us, before we let rip and and not give a damn?

Equally refreshing was his blunt honesty about our coaching work, about its being “a beautiful profession but a very hard business”, advising his listeners to work on their Plan B and Plan C in case the coaching aspirations don’t work out. These are wise words in the new age of retrenchment.

Another marvel was Mr Goldsmith’s views on intellectual property. After all the work he’s produced over the decades, nobody – he says – can steal it. Ah, really? How come? Because he gives it away for free to anyone who can use it and adapt it to their needs and context. Such a generous policy raises some interesting questions, not only about the ownership of creative material, but about its wider purpose to society at large.

There were some practical tips stemming from his Buddhist thinking about the importance of mindful focus, as well as accepting what we can’t change, doing what works for us, and not getting fixated on results.

I liked his preference for feedforward rather than feedback, the former encouraging positive change into the future, while the latter delivers judgement on the past. Perhaps we can mix both.

One curious thing struck me, however. We heard about Mr Goldsmith’s material success, his giant house and millions of online followers, but next to nothing about his new book, The Earned Life.

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