Guest AuthorMarshall Goldsmith

Successful People Do This, Do You?

By | Dr Marshall Goldsmith | #1 Leadership Thinker, Exec Coach, NYT Bestselling Author. Dartmouth Tuck Professor Mgmt Practice

My great friend, Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, and I recently talked about the most common trait I’ve noticed in my four decades of coaching successful leaders. Chris laughed a little bit, because in our interview he recognized that it’s not just leaders who have this problem, it’s practically everyone. In fact, the more successful you are, the more you may recognize it in yourself! Check out the short excerpt from our interview below and discover for yourself if you do this too.

Chris: Chris Cuomo here with the one and only Marshall Goldsmith. You have been so successful in so many different avenues of consulting and helping people realize how to make themselves the most efficient. The best within their own space. So, here’s the question. So many different types of clients, and people you help, common problem for all of them, is there a way to knit it?

Marshall: Great question! I was interviewed the Harvard Business Review and asked, “What is the number one problem of all the successful people you’ve coached over the years,” and my answer was, “Winning too much.” What does that mean? It means, if it’s important, we want to win. Meaningful, we want to win. Critical, we want to win. Trivial, we want to win. Not worth it, we want to win anyway. Winners love winning. It’s hard for successful people not to constantly win.

Peter Drucker taught me our mission in life is to make a positive difference, not to prove we’re smart, not to prove we’re right. We get so lost in proving we’re smart and right, that we forget that’s not why we’re on earth for. We’re here to make a positive difference, not to prove how smart we are, not to prove how right we are.

I’m going to give you a case study of winning too much, so that almost all my clients fail. I’m going to make a prediction. Even you, Chris, may fail this case study. Are we ready?

Chris: Yes.

Marshall: Here is the case study. You want to go to dinner at restaurant X. Your wife, husband, friend, or partner wants to go to dinner at restaurant Y. You have a heated argument. You go to restaurant Y, the food tastes awful and the service is terrible. Option A, critique the food. Point out our partner was wrong, that this mistake could have been avoided had you only listened to me, me, me. Option B, shut up. Eat the stupid food. Try to enjoy it and have a nice evening. What would I do? What should I do? Look at that guilty face, Chris. Look at that guilty face!

Chris: And I’ve been married almost 20 years, and I fall into A way more than I fall into B.

Marshall: We are very bad. Now as dumb as that is, I’m going give you an example now that is so dumb it will make that one pale by comparison. You may have actually done this one too. You have a hard day at work. A hard day, you’re under so much pressure. You go home, and your wife says, “Oh I had such a hard day today. Had such a tough day,” and then you reply, “You had a hard day? You had a hard day? Any idea what I had to put up with today? You think you had a hard day?” We’re so competitive that we have to prove we’re more miserable than they people we live with.

Chris: Have you been spying on me?

Marshall: I gave this example in my class at the Dartmouth Tuck School. Young guy in the back raises his hand, he says, “I did that last week,” I asked him, “What happened?” He said, “My wife looked at me, she said, ‘Honey, you just think you’ve had a hard day, it’s not over.’“

Chris: Marshall, thank you for that. It’s good to know that how I feel is common but I can change!

Marshall: We can all change.

Republished with permission and originally published at

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