All In: A Coach’s View of the 100 Coaches Project


By Marshall Goldsmith

A few years ago I started the 100 Coaches Pay It Forward project. It’s now become a movement with more than 150 coaches from around the world. This is my legacy project and I am thrilled to watch it grow. Thank you everyone who is supporting and involved in this wonderful project.

One of the 100 Coaches is Chester Elton. Chester is the #1 bestselling author of the books, All In, The Carrot Principle, and The Best Team Wins. He is an expert on the topics of culture and the multigenerational workplace, and he is one of the most influential voices in our field today.

In the interview excerpt below, Chester and I discuss how 100 Coaches was started and how he feels about being one of our coaches.

Chester: I’m here with my dear friend, Marshall Goldsmith. Marshall is a legendary hall of fame executive coach, he has three New York Times best-sellers. The accomplishments go on and on, but what I want to talk to you about today is your 100 Coaches Pay It Forward project. This is a group that’s just brought together to make the world a better place. Tell me how you came up with the idea.

Marshall: Well, as you know, our good friend is Ayse Birsel, one of the world’s top designers, does a great program called Design the Life You Love. I went to this program and as part of the program, she said, “Who are your heroes?”

Now, my heroes were very kind and generous people who are great teachers. Three of them are in our group, Dr. Jim Kim, who you’ve met, Frances Hesselbein, and Alan Mulally, and then others included Peter Drucker and Richard Beckhard, Warren Bennis, Paul Hersey, just kind and generous teachers, and She said, “Why don’t you be more like them?”

I thought, “Great idea. I could do more,” so I decided to adopt 15 people, teach them everything I know for free, and the only price is when you get old, you have to do the same thing. I made a little selfie video and put in on LinkedIn.

Chester: I remember this.

Marshall: It was a primitive 30-second video and it said, “My name is Marshall Goldsmith. I got ranked #1 leadership thinker, #1 executive coach, and I’m going to adopt 15 people, teach them all I know for free, and all you have to do in return is when you get old, you have to do the same thing. Let me know if you’re interested.” More than 16,000 have applied for adoption, and now we’ve adopted over 150 people and we have a 100 Coaches project in Europe and a 100 Coaches project in India. You’ve met many of these people. They’re great people!

New coaches include Pau Gasol, the famous basketball player, Chris Cuomo from CNN, and then we have Brown Johnson from Sesame Street, the mission control director of NASA, and the head of the New York Public Library and the head of the Rockefeller Foundation. I love the project because we have three rules: no money, no guilt, no expectations.

Chester: That’s key. I love the no guilt part.

Marshall: No guilt, no expectation, and the only thing you have to do is when you get old, in your own way, you give back. You’ve met the people. What are some of your reflections?

Chester: Well, it’s so interesting. On a personal note, we were presenting at a conference together at Milan. You had invited me to this group once before and the timing wasn’t right, and I asked you, “Hey, are you still doing that?” And you invited me to join. We went to a 100 Coaches program at the World Bank where I got to meet Dr. Jim Kim. Remarkable experience.

Walking in, I thought, ‘This speaks so well of Marshall and his giving attitude.’ I said, “Marshall, you send us the resumes of everybody at the event, and I’m going through the book and it’s pretty impressive.” He says, “I know what you’re thinking.” I said, “Really? What am I thinking?” He says, “You’re thinking maybe you don’t belong,” and I said, “That’s exactly what I’m thinking.”

It was so great. You said, “Chester, I wouldn’t have invited you if you didn’t belong.” I am so grateful that I have made such good friendships, and the projects that are coming out of it that are going to impact, I think, millions of people’s lives because you were willing to give back and share what you know so that we can share what you know and what we know with others. It’s just a remarkable gift, so thank you, Marshall.

Marshall: Thank you!