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Bestselling Book - Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts - Becoming the Person You Want to Be – Reviewer Professor M.S.Rao

"Triggers provides the self awareness you need to create your own world, rather than being created by the world around you." —Alan Mulally, CEO of the Year (US) and #3 on Fortune magazine's 50 Greatest Leaders in the World (2014)

What are the Details of the Book?

If you intend to improve your behavior and reduce regrets in your life, read this book. If you want to align and integrate your internal and external environment, read this book.  If you want to unlock your potential to grow as a professional and leader, read this book. Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter’s authored book Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts--Becoming the Person You Want to Be is divided into four parts and 22 chapters examining the environmental and psychological triggers that can derail us at work and in life.

What is Inside?

In this book, Marshall Goldsmith shows how we can overcome the trigger points in our lives, and enact meaningful and lasting change. It unveils that change, no matter how urgent and clear the need, is hard. Knowing what to do does not ensure that we will actually do it. We are superior planners but become inferior doers as our environment exerts its influence through the course of our day. We forget our intentions. We become tired, even depleted, and allow our discipline to drain down like water in a leaky bucket. Marshall offers a simple “magic bullet” solution in the form of daily self-monitoring, hinging around what he calls “active” questions. These are questions that measure our effort, not our results. There’s a difference between achieving and trying; we can’t always achieve a desired result, but anyone can try. In the course of Triggers, Goldsmith details the six “engaging questions” that can help us take responsibility for our efforts to improve and help us recognize when we fall short.  It outlines that there are several distinctions that improve our understanding of how triggers influence our behavior.
  1. A behavioral trigger can be direct or indirect.
  2. A trigger can be internal or external.
  3. A trigger can be conscious or unconscious.
  4. A trigger can be anticipated or unexpected.
  5. A trigger can be encouraging or discouraging.
  6. A trigger can be productive or counterproductive.

Marshall Goldsmith shares his experience with Alan Mulally as follows: Of all coaching clients, the executive who improved the most while spending the least amount of time with me was Alan Mulally. And he was a fantastic leader to start with.

I first met Alan in 2001, when he was president of Boeing Commercial Aircraft, before he became the CEO of Ford Motor Company in 2006. When Alan retired from Ford in 2014, Fortune magazine ranked him as the third-greatest leader in the world, behind Pope Francis and Angela Merkel. He and I are now working together to help both nonprofits and major companies develop great leadership teams.

Alan doesn’t merely believe in the value of structure; he lives it and breathes it. When Alan arrived at Ford he instituted weekly Thursday morning meetings, known as the Business Plan Review, or BPR, with his sixteen top executives and the executive’s guests from a around the world.

Alan, who had spent his entire career building jet airplanes, had an aeronautical engineer’s faith in structure and process. To get talented people working together, he paid attention to details, all the way down to the granular level. He began each BPR session in the same way: “My name is Alan Mulally and I’m the CEO of Ford Motor Company.” Then he’d review the company’s plan, status, forecast and areas that needed special attention, using a green-yellow-red scoring system for good-concerned-poor. He asked his top sixteen executives to do the same, using the same introductory language and color scheme. In effect, he was using the same type of structure that Marshall recommends in his coaching process and applying it to the entire corporation. Alan was introducing structure to his new team. And he did not deviate, either in content or wording. He always identified himself, always listed his four priorities, always graded his performance for previous week. He never went off-message, and he expected the executives to follow suit.

Most executives quickly signed on. But a couple rebelled. Alan patiently explained that this was the way he’d chosen to run the meeting. He wasn’t forcing the rebellious ones to follow his lead. “If you don’t want to,” he told them, “that’s your choice. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means you can’t be part of the team.” No yelling, no threats, no histrionics.

Alan’s first days at Ford are a testament to how willfully-and predictably-people resist change.  This was the same Ford leadership team responsible for posting a record $12.7 billion loss the year Alan arrived, the same team asking the new CEO to go hat in hand to bankers in New York and borrow $23 billion to keep Ford operating. If any group was ready for a change, it was Alan’s team. Yet even with their jobs on the line, two of the executives were refusing to change their behavior in the BPR. It wasn’t long before these two resisters decided to become former Ford executives.

Marshall praises Frances Hesselbein’s commitment as follows: I’ve already established my admiration for Frances Hesselbein. But one moment in her career sticks out above everything else as behavior worth modeling:
A few years ago, Frances got an invitation to the White House. The White House date conflicted with her commitment to speak to a small nonprofit group in Denver. To most people this wouldn’t be a conundrum: A meeting with the president of the United States or an unpaid speech in Denver? We call the folks in Denver, explain the situation, offer to reschedule or promise to come back the next year. After all, it’s a pro bono. We’re doing the folks in Denver a favor. They’ll understand.

Frances went the other way. She told the White House she wouldn’t be attending. “I have a commitment,” she said. “They’re expecting me.” (The real kicker for me, the cherry on top of this integrity sundae: Frances never told the Denver group about the White House invitation.)

Leadership Takeaways
  • Change doesn’t happen overnight. Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. If we make the effort, we will get better. If we don’t, we won’t. Commitment. Motivation. Self-discipline. Self-control. Patience. Those are powerful allies when we try to change our ways.
  • Regret is the emotion we experience when we assess our present circumstances and reconsider how we got here. We replay what we actually did against what we should have done-and find ourselves wanting in some way. Regret can hurt.
  • Meaningful behavioral change is very hard to do. And no one can make us change unless we truly want to change.
  • Even when we’re aware of our environment and welcome being in it, we become victims of its ruthless power.
  • If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us. And the result turns us into someone who don’t recognize.
  • A feedback loop comprises four stages: evidence, relevance, consequence, and action.
  • A behavioral trigger is any stimulus that impacts our behavior.
  • Apology is where behavioral change begins.
  • Intrinsic motivation is wanting to do something for its own sake, because we enjoy it; for example, reading a book that isn’t assigned in class, simply because we’re curious about the subject. People who get up early to run six miles for the pure pleasure of physical exertion are high in intrinsic motivation for that particular activity.  Extrinsic motivation is doing something for external rewards such as other people’s approval or to avoid punishment. We are bombarded with extrinsic motivators during our school years-grades, awards, scholarships, parental pressure, resume building acceptance into prestige schools. 
  • The social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister coined the term ego depletion in the 1990s. He contended that we possess a limited conceptual resource called ego strength, which is depleted through the day by our various efforts at self-regulation-resisting temptations, making trade-offs, inhibiting our desires, controlling our thoughts and statements, adhering to other people’s rules. People in this state, said Baumeister, are ego depleted.
  • We also underestimate how the quality of our goals affects our motivation. We fail at New Year’s resolutions because our goals are almost always about marginal stuff, which we pursue with marginal motivation. Instead of aiming at core issues-say, escaping a hateful job-we aim for vague, amorphous targets like “take a class” or “travel more.” A marginal goal begets marginal effort.
  • If your motivation for a task or goal is in any way compromised-because you lack the skill, or don’t take the task seriously, or think what you’ve done so far is good enough-don’t take it on. Find something else to show the world how much you care, not how little.
  • Pro bono is an adjective, not an excuse. If you think doing folks a favor justifies doing less than your best, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Including yourself. People forget your promise, remember your performance. It’s like a restaurant donating food to a homeless shelter, but delivering shelf dated leftovers and scraps that hungry people can barely swallow. The restaurant owner thinks he’s being generous, that any donation is better than nothing. Better than nothing is not even close to good enough – and good enough, after we make a promise, is never good enough.
  • A professional shoots for the highest standards. An amateur settles for good enough. We are professionals at what we do, amateurs at what we want to become. We need to erase this devious distinction-or at least close the gap between professional and amateur-to become the person we want to be. Being good over hero does not excuse being not so good over there.
  • When we engage in noncompliance, we’re not just being sloppy and lazy. It’s more aggressive and rude than that. We’re thumbing our noses at the world, announcing, “The rules don’t apply to us. Don’t rely on us.  We don’t care.” We’re drawing a line at good enough and refusing to budge beyond it.
  • Never wrestle with a pig-because you both get dirty but the pig love it.

Marshall unfurls that we mostly suffer a failure of imagination. Until a few years ago, he had never coached an executive who was also a medical doctor. He had the privilege of coaching three: Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank; Dr. John Noseworthy, the president of the Mayo Clinic; and Dr. Raj Shah, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. Along with being brilliant, they are three of the most dedicated, high-integrity people I have ever met.

What is the Recommendation?

This book equips you with self-awareness and brings out behavioral changes to become a better professional and leader.  It contains powerful one liners, quotes and diagrams. The biggest take away from this book is ‘Invest in your future’.  Marshall shares his professional experiences with great CEOs including Alan Mulally. He appreciates Frances Hesselbein’s commitment.  He collects his fee at the end of the period. No results, no fee.  It is obvious that Marshall is not after money. He is after sharing his knowledge and making a difference to the world.  I congratulate Marshall for writing such an inspiring book to bring behavioral improvement in leaders.

This book covers content better than Marshall’s bestselling books, Mojo and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. If you have not read Marshall Goldsmith’s book, it means you don’t know much about leadership and coaching. It is a must read for every leader on the earth to become a better professional and leader. I am a reviewer of various international journals including Human Resources Management International Digest, Emerald, UK. I read thousands of books in my life but I can proudly say that it is one of the top ten books I have read in my lifetime.

It is a book on behavioral coaching and the title ‘Triggers’ is truly amazing.  It is written in a conversational tone.  The ideas and insights in this book are well punched.  This book is useful for learners, leaders, coaches and CEOs.  You can gift this book to your friends and they will thank you forever for your kind gesture. Strongly recommended reading this book! 

"Triggers inspires us to be better people, better leaders, better fellow travelers.’ Creatingg behavior' is our new battle cry for a bright future." —Frances Hesselbein, President and CEO, The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, 1998 Presidential Medal of Freedom Award Recipient

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts--Becoming the Person You Want to Be by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter (Crown Business, May 19, 2015)

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Professor M.S.Rao, India
Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants India
Listed in Marquis Who's Who in the World in 2013
21 Success Sutras for Leaders: Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year (San Diego University) Amazon URL:

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