Leadership Year: Coast Guard Kickoff Event with Dr. Marshall Goldsmith

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith speaks to Coast Guard Headquarters staff members during a three-day speaking event.

Have you ever wanted to improve your leadership skills both in the workplace and in your personal life? The recent kickoff of the Department of Homeland Security’s Year of Leadership initiative aims to help with just those things.

In an effort to promote leadership growth within the organization, the Coast Guard kicked off the Year of Leadership on October 17, with three events at Coast Guard Headquarters by world-renowned executive coach and leadership speaker Dr. Marshall Goldsmith.

Attended by more than 200 participants, including members from fellow DHS components, Goldsmith’s first event of the day spoke on the topic of “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There,” where he covered the concepts of leadership at work and at home, feedback, and FeedForward. As Goldsmith explained, feedforward helps people envision and focus on a positive future, not a failed past. That is, to give someone else suggestions for the future and help as much as they can. In return, the member says “thank you” to accept the feed forward—that is, to listen to the suggestions for the future and learn as much as he or she can.

Dr. Goldsmith talks about the concepts of leadership at work and at home, feedback, and FeedForward at Coast Guard Headquarters.

“Dr. Marshall Goldsmith provided a very engaging and interactive session, in which he outlined tested theories that can be applied both at work and at home,” said Patricia Henriquez, a civil servant who works at the department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. “The main takeaway for me was that if you want to be a better leader, you have to ask for feedback from those you lead.”

“Be open and appreciative of the feedback and commit to changing one thing,” Henriquez added. “Focus on changing in this one area and consistently ask for periodic feedback to track your progress. Be open to receiving additional feedback, and just keep working at it.”

“He challenged us to be honest with ourselves and the rest of the audience in some of our personal beliefs and habits,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jennifer Bell, an active duty Coast Guard member stationed at Coast Guard Headquarters. “My favorite exercise was the ‘FeedForward’ exercise. There was something very comforting in telling strangers one thing you wanted to improve on and receiving their feedback on how you can improve.”

Jessica Sweet, another civilian participant stationed at Coast Guard Headquarters, echoed Bell’s thoughts on the feed forward exercise, adding “we partnered with someone we didn’t know to provide and accept guidance to something we were struggling with … I noticed the courage it took for many to swallow their pride and brace for a response. Dr. Goldsmith’s ubiquitous passion for sharing simple tools to make us all the best versions of ourselves will stay with me well beyond his hour-and-a-half visit. From this event, Dr. Goldsmith has shifted my entire perspective on what it means to be a successful leader.”

A second session, reserved for Coast Guard senior-level participants was livestreamed and covered the topic, “Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts.” In this session, Goldsmith reminded participants that life will always be crazy; that they need to reach out when they need help, and how they must accept that they are not the smartest in the room. Further, he shared how successful organizations empower their employees, admit their shortcomings, and have leaders who serve those they lead.

“I particularly enjoyed the section where he talked about the standard delusion of leaders,” said Cmdr. Alex Foos, an officer stationed at Coast Guard reserve forces. “Many of us find ourselves waiting for things to slow down, but as we get more senior and into positions of greater responsibility, we need to accept that easy is never going to happen. As one who ‘suffers’ from this delusion, it was good to see I’m not alone!”


Dr. Goldsmith speaks one-on-one with Adm. Michel.

Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Charles Michel also hosted an executive session with flag officers and senior executive service members to hear Goldsmith speak on the topic “Succession: Are You Ready?” Goldsmith offered the executives honest and open advice on the process of preparing themselves and their successors for their inevitable leadership transitions in their careers. Acting Deputy Secretary Claire Grady and DHS Chief Learning and Engagement Officer Clothilda Taylor also attended the session.

“It was an honor to host Marshall Goldsmith at Coast Guard Headquarters to kick-off the Department’s Year of Leadership,” said Michel. “In each of his three sessions, he brought a contagious energy that reinvigorated our dedication to learning and growing – both as an organization and within our own personal leadership journeys.”

Interested in learning more? Visit the Office of Leadership (CG-12C) website (www.dcms.uscg.mil/leadership), click on “Meet Dr. Marshall Goldsmith” to download more reading materials to start learning how to “feedforward” at your office or unit.

Missed the Goldsmith events? Not to worry, check out the videos below:

“What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” Open Event to all at Coast Guard Headquarters.(https://livestream.com/accounts/17502834/events/7837958)

“Triggers: Creating Behaviors That Last” Sector Commanders/DOL Conference/Live Streamed outside of Coast Guard Headquarters (https://livestream.com/accounts/17502834/events/7774051)

Dr. Goldsmith poses with Coast Guard and DHS executive-level speaking event attendees.

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