Blog Post

Dear Old Daddy Marshall

Title: Dear Old Daddy Marshall
Authors: Amanda Benincasa, Colleen Dawson, Karly Simon

What’s this all about?
So, how do you become more successful once you’ve become a successful leader? "Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better," by instructor and executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith, has some tips and strategies to challenge this particular question. As a group we chose this particular MOOC for LLG4 (Leadership Learning Group). Our group was created in the MODL 600 Adult Learning: Theory & Application course at Saint Joseph’s University. Initially, it was difficult to find a course that all members felt was applicable to their current roles in life, work, and adult learning experiences. Once we agreed to the online course, we dove in head first with many different expectations.

What’s with the “dear old daddy Marshall?”
Have you ever just been around someone and thought to yourself, “Something is off about this character?” Well as three young women in the working world we felt a generational divide between Marshall Goldsmith and ourselves. From “wow, this guy says daddy too much” to “I kind of think this could help me in my every day job”. Our collective opinion was, that Marshall Goldsmith seemed a little like a creepy grandfather for our generation, a little arrogant, his delivery was flat and lacked a sort of desired vibrancy. Goldsmith was seemingly very knowledgeable about the topics at hand particularly how to make successful leaders, even better than they already had been. Goldsmith's course was appealing to all members because of its approach to personal growth and relevancy to where we are as leaders in our current roles. All members agreed that the content was thought-provoking and good fodder for career development.

The Good to Know Stuff
There was some difficulty accessing the MOOC but all members managed to complete each section, discuss thoughts and reactions in real-time, and create a uniformed response. Some benefits of this course are: the ability to take notes directly while watching each section, quizzes and articles associated with each section, the varied forms the material was presented in, and most importantly, the invigorating content. Key topics that resonated with group members are: letting others win, feedforward, success delusion, paying to get results, unqualified recognition, and sincerity of praise. Questions that challenged the end user are: who is the intended audience, what constitutes success, and how do you measure something so subjective.

More Good Stuff before Diving In
Malcom Knowles, a known American educator, proposed a new theory for adult learning called “andragogy”. He came up with six different assumptions according to Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007):
1. As a person matures, his or her self-concept moves from that of a dependent personality toward one of a self-directing human being.
2. An adult accumulates a growing reservoir of experience, which is a rich resource for learning.
3. The readiness of an adult to learn is closely related to the developmental task of his or her social role.
4. There is a change in time perspective as people mature—from the future application of knowledge to immediacy of application. Thus, an adult is more problem centered than subject centered in learning.
5. The most potent motivations are internal rather than external
6. Adults need to know why they need to learn something (p. 84).
These six assumptions are something to strongly consider when looking at the adult learning theory model. We will take a closer look at numbers 5 and 6 in the sections below.
According to Merriam et. al. (2007), three characteristics that shape the learning needs of adults in today's world are: changing demographics, the global economy, and information and technology. These factors are consistently fluctuating and ever-evolving. Adult learners are at the command of these constructs and must learn to adapt to various sociocultural changes. Adult learning does not occur in a vacuum, and as success delusion and feedforward suggests, looking towards the future and accepting new opportunities is required of us. Our MOOC reminded us that along with Knowles' assumptions, these characteristics are what it takes to be a successful leader.

The Breakdown
The course was broken down into three classes with multiple sub-sections and topics. To complete each class, a short quiz was offered to test one's knowledge. If you answered the quiz questions incorrectly you could answer the question again. If you needed to find the rationale behind the answers all you needed to do was review the previous section. The design of the course was easy to navigate, user-friendly and relevant to adult learning theories. The information was presented in a media format, video, and a word document format. This allowed the visual and auditory learners to receive the information in a format that was conducive to their learning styles. Some of the sections were more interesting (and less creepy) than others. One major turn-off for our group was how Goldsmith used the terms “mommy” and “daddy” in very awkward sounding situations. It was as if he was speaking to a child when he used those terms.
The Learnable Content-Change
Goldsmith highlighted two different terms that resonated with the group's belief about adult learning and the importance of adapting to change; the success delusion and feedforward. "Any human, in fact, any animal will tend to repeat behavior that is followed by positive reinforcement. The more successful we become, the more positive reinforcement we get - and the more likely we are to experience the success delusion" (Goldsmith, 2007, para. 1). Goldsmith advocates change to combat this process. It is imperative that potentially successful individuals make changes so to not be inhibited, and moreover, to evolve and learn from mistakes.

The Learnable Content-Coaching
Goldsmith believes the fundamental problem with feedback is that it most always focuses on the past, particularly on what has already happened. As a result, feedback can be limited and static, as opposed to expansive and dynamic (Goldsmith, 2007, para. 1). Feedforward is the answer to this backwards model of nurturing success. Feedforward is the process by which an individual, or a group of individuals, give suggestion(s) to another for the future. The recipient is asked to accept feedforward and to participate in multiple exercises to accept suggestions. One of the main reasons this process is developmentally successful is the idea that we can change the future, we cannot change the past.

Personal Connections to Feedforward
Colleen offers insight about feedforward and how it relates to her coaching position. "As an adult learner, the topic made me realize how often we give feedback at my job, every single day at least 20+ times. I try to make it seem as forward thinking as possible but a lot of times, as a coach, I speak about what they did that was wrong and how to correct this. A lot of times, I am saying okay, when you just dodged around the crease and took that shot, don’t just turn and shoot right at the goalie (example of feedBACK), you have to fake the goalie because they are already set high so you need to shoot low (example of feedFORWARD). This was one of the most important sections to me as a coach, because I think a lot of my job is feedback from little tweaks, to how I can give information to each player, most of the time is feedback."

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Goldsmith gave many different techniques that could help with team building without wasting time. Because who has time, to waste time? We as leaders certainly don’t, and we know our student-athletes and employees don’t either! We as a team must sit down and figure out what are one to two behaviors that if everyone gets better at, could improve the overall teamwork. If the leaders of the group want to be a team player, they will also make a commitment to getting better at something. This is something that stood out to us. A lot of times, we sit down with our team members and individually ask them what they want to get better at, and we want real, genuine answers. What do we do as coaches or managers? We don’t promise to get better at anything, we listen to their answers and move on and then judge them when they haven’t done the necessary steps to get better and what they previously discussed. As a coach or manager, in these meetings, we can set goals that will tell each one of our team members, something that we will work on to make ourselves a better leader. A key part of team building is follow-through. We need to set real time SMART goals to achieve the desired result. Setting a goal as time bound encourages the team member and leader to make sure the team member can reach their goal. A goal is wasted if one party does not help the other party succeed.

What about Today?
The MOOC's approach to instilling success in today's leaders is reminiscent of transformational learning techniques. Goldsmith challenges the end-user to stray away from instinctual responses when it comes to hardship at work and at home, for example, learning when to let others win, being positive about constructive criticism or (feedforward) and thanking others no matter what the cost. He teaches easy in theory but tough in practice techniques throughout the entire course. These seemingly "easy" behaviors are very difficult at times. They challenge the individual to adjust his/her point of view and to avoid responding out of emotion. Asking someone to take the emotion out of something they have worked hard for is a very difficult and big ask. The foundation of transformational learning is change, fundamental change in the way we see ourselves. Reflection, experience and inner meaning are focal aspects of this learning theory (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p. 130). In our MOOC, we see Goldsmith touch on these factors. In fact, he closes the course by saying that it is important to be happy now, to have fun because life is short and that the key to success is relationships. Money, status and getting ahead will not establish long-term success. “Transformative learning occurs when there is a transformation in one of our beliefs or attitudes, or a transformation of our entire perspective” (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p. 133). Our MOOC mirrors this theory in that, in order for us to be successful, we are called to reconstruct our attitudes and beliefs towards others and innately.

Final Thoughts
If you can view this MOOC (which may be a little difficult to get to) you will agree that the content presented is what is needed to be heard. Any learning style will be able to learn from Goldsmith and his lessons are ones that might be tough to hear. No one ever wants to think they are doing a bad job but sometimes we need to step back and see what we are truly working with and what we are working against. Our biggest hurdle can be ourselves.

About the authors:
Amanda is currently completing her Master's degree with plans to pursue a career in educational development. She is passionate about serving others and giving back to the community has long been a source of motivation. She also loves music, cooking and spending time with her boyfriend and their new puppy.
Colleen is an assistant lacrosse coach at Saint Joseph's University, where she is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Organizational Development and Leadership. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland in Kinesiology (Go Terps) in 2011. Her favorite place in the world is Australia and when she was living there, she got to swim with sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef.
Karly is a millennial trying to find her way in this gen x run world. She works full time at a children’s hospital in Arkansas managing 12 employees in the food industry as a full time MODL student at SJU. One day Karly hopes to live by the sea just watching the waves crash upon the shore while coaching and encouraging young and up-and-coming leaders in the working world.


Goldsmith, M. Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from

Merriam, S., Caffarella, R., & Baumgertner, L. (2007). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide.


1 comment

I love the catchy title and the way you drew us into your learning styles and ability to process the learning as an adult learner!  You highlighted two important aspects of adult learning--both the theory and individual learning styles.  And it was great that you chose course topics that also complement what we are learning about learning.