digging deeper

What I Learned From Marshall Goldsmith: A Simple and Effective Technique

When Marshall Goldsmith sent me his new book, Triggers, I read it cover to cover on my flight to Vegas. Great read. But what makes a good book a great book is when it leads you to action. This one did.

The Power of Daily Questions

It’s so simple. Goldsmith recommends asking yourself a few “easy” questions each day. Of course, I say easy because they should be straightforward. But we all know gut-check questions are some of the most difficult in the world.

He shares:

For years I’ve followed a nightly follow-up routine that I call Daily Questions, in which I have someone call me wherever I am in the world and listen while I answer a specific set of questions that I have written for myself. Every day. For the longest time there were thirteen questions, many focused on my physical well-being, because if you don’t have your health . . well, you know the rest. The first question was always “How happy was I today?” (because that’s important to me), followed by questions like:

How meaningful was my day?
How much do I weigh?
Did I say or do something nice for Lydia?

And so on. The nightly specter of honestly answering these questions kept me focused on my goal of being a happier and healthier individual. For more than a decade it was the one constant of self-regulated discipline in my otherwise chaotic 180-days-a year-on-the-road life. (I’m not boasting that I do this test; I’m confessing how much discipline I lack.)

For those who are stumped on where to start, he draws on research of behaviors that lead to employee engagement and comes up with six key questions.

  • Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  • Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
  • Did I do my best to find meaning today?
  • Did I do my best to be happy today?
  • Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  • Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

What you’ll notice is the recurring theme is “do my best.” Yes, its subjective. You could cheat. But if no one else is looking…

My Big 5

Picking the questions is easy and hard. I have about 100 things I SHOULD be doing every day, but that’s not the point. The point is to focus on what Covey would call the “big rocks” not the pebbles.

It also occurred to me that these questions will need to change with the seasons. For me this summer is really heavy into content development. I have a book due to a publisher and an online course that we’re neck-deep in curriculum development. I need to be writing and developing content every day. In other seasons, it will be more about delivery and the questions will change.

Here are mine:

  • Did I write something meaningful that will help managers lead more effectively?
  • Did I actively work on growing my speaking and consulting business?
  • Did I add value to husband’s and sons’ day?
  • Did I connect with my father today (This is really important because my mom died recently. He lives close and it’s a blessing to have him so integrated in our lives)?
  • Did I exercise?

As the clock ticks away, it’s surprising how motivating knowing I’ll have to answer to myself will be.

Simple and effective.