How You Can Make a Positive Difference

During a recent interview with my friend, Chris Cuomo, journalist and news anchor on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, he asked me how I help someone who’s secure in what they believe to be open to changing perspective. Following is an edited excerpt from our interview.

Chris: I’m Chris Cuomo here with the one and only Marshall Goldsmith. Marshall, I have a problem. With what I’m doing right now, I’ve got Rachel Maddow on the left, I’ve got Sean Hannity on the right. If I test one side, the other side doesn’t like me. Nobody wants to change their perception. They’re siloed in; they know what they believe and they don’t want to know anything else.

You deal with this with leaders all the time. A certain type of thinking got them to where they are, but not where they want to be.

How do you get someone who’s secure in what they believe to be open to changing perspective?

Marshall: From your perspective, this question’s answer is more about the broad picture. You and I are different in that way. You are dealing with very macro-level, big picture, societal issues. You are trying to answer so many important questions – like you mentioned in earlier in our interview. I’m much more at the micro level and about how you change individual human behavior and perception at the micro level.

I love your approach, and that is not putting other people down. Not insulting people. Not insulting this side, or that side. But saying, “Look, these people have this perspective for the following reasons. These people have a different perspective for the following reasons. Why don’t we just try to find the truth here?”

The term you use very frequently is common ground. I love that, getting people open to that concept of common ground, the idea of openness. You’re bring us back to what Peter Drucker said, “Our mission in life is to make a positive difference. Not to prove we’re smart, and not to prove we’re right.”

Well, so many of us in a polarized society have been focused on proving we’re smart, and right, and proving others are wrong. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to make a positive difference.

What I love about what you’re doing and what I hope you continue to do going forward is keep focused how can we make a positive difference. Not turning it into a smartness contest or a right ness contest. That’s my advice for you.


On June 20th, I was honored to be inducted into the Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame – whose members include the top management thinkers of our time.