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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Leadership Lexicon: Marshall Goldsmith & The Excessive Need to Be You

In 2009, executive coach and author Marshall Goldsmith published one of my favorite leadership articles in the Harvard Business Review. It was titled "Do You Have an Excessive Need to Be Yourself?"

The premise is simple. "Each of us has a pile of behaviors that we identify as "me"," Goldsmith writes. "These are the behaviors, both positive and negative, that we think of as our unalterable essence."

Think of a track coach. Some positive "me" behaviors could include the following:

-I am a good recruiter.

-I always show up early.

-I stay in shape.

Conversely, some potentially negative "me" behaviors might sound like this:

-I'm don't talk about feelings. I'm here to win.

-Organization isn't my thing.

-I'm not a morning person.

Goldsmith believes there is an unhelpful rigidity that comes with buying too deeply into our behavior definition of "me." It allows a cop-out any time a "me" behavior creates an annoying or unhelpful outcome (i.e. "That's just the way I am!").

In the distance realm of coaching, I also see this play out when it comes to training. Too often, we become married to a certain methodology or principle to the point that we associate it with our identity. I'm sure you've heard something like the following (these are all examples I've heard from various coaches in the past):

-I'm a low mileage coach. It's all about quality.

-I'm a Canova disciple.

-I'm a believer in the church of the Sunday long run.

-We only run on soft surface.

-I'm anti-weight room. It causes injury.

-All easy runs should be slow.

The legitimacy of those statements isn't as important as the sense of certainty they espouse. In my experience, inflexibility in training methods has caused more problems than it's solved.

Goldsmith has a helpful equation to employ: Less Me + More Them = More Success as a Leader

We're trying to guide athletes in their development and help our teams succeed. That's the end goal. Sometimes, that requires flexibility in the means, and more specifically, in the notion of "me."

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