C-Suite Master Class: No, But, However

Continuing our C-Suite master class video and blog for this week, #1CEO Coach Mark C. Thompson and I discuss the one of my favorite subjects: coaching highly successful, hard-working, smart, dedicated, driven to achieve, stubborn, opinionated, know-it-alls – and a revealing little game I play with them called, “No,” “But,” and “However.” Learn more to advance your opportunities in C Suite. Join Mark Thompson and Marshall Goldsmith for a free webinar: https://www.goldsmiththompsonleadership.com/webinar

Working with Highly Successful, Hard-Working, Smart, Stubborn, Know-It-Alls By Marshall Goldsmith Four-time CEO, best-selling author of Now Build a Great Business, Success Built to Last, and Admired, and #1 CEO Coach, Mark Thompson talk about one of my favorite subjects – coaching highly successful, hard-working, smart, dedicated, driven to achieve, stubborn, opinionated, know-it-alls – and a revealing little game I play with them called, “No,” “But,” and “However.” I hope you enjoy this interview! Mark: You tell a funny story about working with an Army general and some of the behaviors that you learned while you were with him one evening.

Marshall: This is a great story. We were in a room surrounded by two- to four-star generals. And Gen. Shinseki asked me, “Marshall, who’s your favorite customer?” I said, “Sir, my favorite customer is smart, dedicated, hardworking, driven to achieve, creative, entrepreneurial, cares about the company and the customers, has great values, high integrity, gets results, and is a stubborn, opinionated, know-it-all who never wants to be wrong.” I said, “Sir, do you think any of the generals in this very room may fit such a description?” He looked at me and said, “Marshall, we have a target rich opportunity.” As a coach I work with a lot of stubborn people, especially in the C-suite. One thing that I try to do is help stubborn people get better at work. And think about it, if we’re stubborn at work, what are the chances that it gets better when we go home? It doesn’t! Some great advice for stubborn people is – never begin a sentence with “No,” “But,” or “However.”

If I’m talking to you and you begin that sentence with “no,” what is the message? “Shut up.” If I start with “but”? “Disregard everything I said before the ‘but.’” When I’m coaching a client who is stubborn and opinionated and I review his 360 feedback report and he says, “But Marshall!” I said, “That one’s free. If I ever talk to you again and you start with ‘no,’ ‘but,’ or ‘however,’ I’ll find you $20. He said, “But Marshall,” “$20” I said, “No!” “$40” “No!” “$60” “No!” “$80”. In an hour-and-a-half he had lost $420. At the end of our session, he said, “I had no idea I did that 21 times. How many times would I do this when it isn’t thrown in my face? No wonder people think I’m stubborn.” Do you know what the most common phrase is when smart people tell you they agree with you? It’s “No, I agree with you,” or “No, I think it’s a great idea.”

You know what this really means? It means, “Of course I agree with you and understand what you’re saying. I already knew what you are telling me. You must be confusing me with someone who may think you need to hear what you have to say. ” We are so afraid that other people may not recognize our brilliance that we start affirmative sentences with “no.” It’s not a word of agreement. So, what I teach people in this case is to just “Great idea. Thank you. Great idea.”

For our readers and audience, please send us comments answering this question, when is one time in your life when you became more stubborn than you needed to be and how did that influence what happened with those people around you? Thank you! Learn more to advance your opportunities in C Suite. Join Mark Thompson and Marshall Goldsmith for a free webinar: https://www.goldsmiththompsonleadership.com/webinar