Inspire Your Leadership

Think deeply while reading these poems and they will get to the bottom of your heart. The Leader’s Path will make you better.

Dr. Oleg Konovalov, the da Vinci of visionary leadership, author of The Fisherman’s Path to Leadership and The Vision Code


Explore themes of purpose, teamwork, community, laughter, resilience, and leadership as you navigate the intricacies of the leader’s journey. This anthology offers timeless lessons on leading with authenticity, empathy, courage, and grace.

Jenny Fernandez, MBA Leadership and Branding Coach, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and NYU


The Leader’s Path and Other ChatBot Poems is an exciting exploration of leadership themes from the poet’s perspective.

We used my proprietary ChatBot to generate poems from my published works — some 16 books and nearly 1000 articles.

This effort brings my work to a wider audience, those who have yet to encounter my lessons in leadership.

The result is a collection of poems about what it takes to lead with heart and courage as well as humor and grace.

Beautifully illustrated with my photographs, The Leader’s Path is easy to read as well as uplifting.

Kindle $3.99

Paperback $9.99


John Baldoni has created an offering of grace and empathy. These poems are a breath of fresh air for those of us pursuing leadership and creative professions.

Emily Falvey, Nashville singer-songwriter


John Baldoni is innovating in a new e-space. Poetry is simple and powerful, offering nurturing benefits for us all.

Grace Ueng, Founder and CEO, Savvy Growth

Amazon reviews welcome! Thank you.

Kenan Thompson: Knowing What You Do Best

If Kenan Thompson ever decided to give up his career in show business, he could be a master trainer teaching teams how to put ego aside for the good of the team.

“I’m tough with self-praise,” Thompson tells Tonya Mosley on Fresh Air, “but I am definitely an ensemble-minded individual. And if… people want to consider me as a glue, great.” Thompson sees his role to “showcase to these brilliant writers and brilliant minds and all of our departments – makeup and hair and directors” and many more.

Thompson has been a cast member of Saturday Night Live for twenty-one seasons, the longest tenure of any performer on that show, which will mark its fiftieth season next year. Thompson has also done film and television and lots of voice-overs. And you can catch him on commercials, too, something that was his first break into the business as a child actor. His new memoir is When I Was Your Ageand as the title says, it has many life lessons. 

Facing hard-knocks

Thompson had early success on Nickelodeon, but sadly, earnings from that show were pilfered by an unscrupulous accountant who cleaned out Thompson’s holdings and left him with a huge bill for unpaid taxes. It was a humbling experience because his stardom had made him famous but now he was broke and paying for fast food with change. “I wasn’t too proud to, like, get by, necessarily, but I would definitely watch the reactions on people’s faces… Some people would make jokes, but then some people didn’t notice either. And some people were just like, have a nice day, and just happy to see you.” 

Fortunately, he had friends. “I slept on my couches, but I had friends’ to sleep on. We had an open-door kind of policy because, you know, it was just about who can help us make a couple of hundred bucks a day.” In retrospect, this loss of wealth taught him to appreciate life more fully.

One person who helped Thompson career-wise was Tracy Morgan, the actor he replaced on SNL. “And [Morgan] just immediately ‘little-brothered’ me. I had been wanting that, you know, from adult performers for so long.” Receiving support from others helps build confidence, something that, when done right, enables you to do the same for others on their way up.

Keeping polishing your craft

Thompson, like many performers, did not watch his performances in his early years. “Because it was just too awkward for me. And I didn’t want to second guess or overly criticize myself.” In time, he eased upon himself and started to watch sketches that had gone over well with the audience. He did not ease up on his work ethic. “You’re digging a lot of the time as a creative. You’re digging for something that’s going to stick when you’re trying to build something.”

Bob Newhart is an inspiration to Thompson. Newhart, who had three long-running television series, “taught [Thompson] what consistency looked like, you know, because as creatives, we have a tendency to always want fresh or always want new or switch it up in pursuit of topping the last person that was on that subject.” 

Such drive has its place but so too does stability. Newhart, who lived close to the studio producing his shows, showed Thompson who has two daughters “there is a way to do it where you can be a steady adult and be in one place… It’s not necessarily what happens for 90% of us, but, you know, it is a possibility.”

The ability to be consistent in what you do is a form of self-knowledge that breeds self-confidence. And that confidence gives performers the sense they can be their best and do their best individually and as part of an ensemble.

First posted on 2.20.2024

Master Your Craft by Reflecting On It

Sometimes, you must slow down to realize what you like doing.

In an interview on Fresh Air with Sam Briger, actor Paul Giamatti was reflecting on what it was like to work with young actor Dominic Sessa in his first film role, The Holdovers. Giamatti praised Dominic for his approach to his craft. “Working with him was really easily one of my favorite things I’ve done in a long time in I think a lot of ways because he was so fresh to it, you know, and his – and he was so thoughtful about it.”

Giamatti drew a contrast between himself a veteran and Sessa newcomer. “I’ve gotten very proficient with things. I can do stuff fast and easy and, you know, move on and do my thing. And it was wonderful to have this guy who was less acquainted and more questioning and more – in all ways, and to sort of slow down and just take it easy with him was really nice.”

Learning experience

This experience with Dominic Sessa echoed Giamatti’s experience when he first starred in another Alexander Payne film, SidewaysGiamatti recalls being very nervous then, but he has become confident in his abilities since having played significant roles in series like John Adams and Billions. “I think I have more command of things. Am I better or anything like that? I don’t know. But I was more relaxed, that’s for sure. And with him, I was even more relaxed because I trust [Payne] a lot.”

Working with Dominic reminded Giamatti of where he had begun and where he is now. Giamatti’s experience is a good reminder for anyone in their role for a long time. With it comes confidence, yes, but it can breed an “easy street mentality.” You may stop trying as hard. You avoid risk, and perhaps, in some ways, you go through the motions. Therefore, it’s always good to reflect on the what, why, where and how of what you do. Here are some good questions to ask.

What do I like about what I do? Itemize what you enjoy doing and why. Is it the joy you get from doing the work? Is it because you are working with people you respect? Do you want the impact you are having on those you serve as customers and colleagues?

What is holding me back from doing my best? As much as we like what we do, some things get in the way. For example, is busy work taking up too much time? Do you have the time you need to think and reflect? Do you have the right people to do what needs to be done?

What is one thing I can do to improve my situation? The answers to the above questions will illuminate the changes you need to make. Often, you can only do some at a time, so begin by doing one thing differently. That is, delegate busy work, stop wasting your reflection time, or act now to upskill your people.

Making connections

Later in the interview, Giamatti discusses why he became an actor. As a child, he liked the world of make-believe. Later in high school, performing school plays helped him fit in, especially as an outsider. (He was a day student at a boarding school.)  “I felt connected to people, to the other actors and to the – and I felt a sense of communal effort that was really exciting to me.” 

Again, considering what we do, think how we fit it. Are we sticking around because we like work, like the people? Or are we, as noted above, just going through the motions? 

Fitting in is pleasant, but if what we are doing is not challenging, we need to seek a different stage where we can become, if not the stars, supporting players in a venture that brings greater satisfaction. Making time to reflect and then taking steps to implement your feelings will enable you to find the satisfaction you seek.

First posted on 1.24.2024

The Servant Leader (ai)

With open eyes I see the need, 

And open heart I plant the seed, 

Of service rooted deep within, 

That grows through care my soul has sown.

I walk among with ready hand, 

To lift the fallen where they stand, 

And voice of calm that stills the storms, 

That rage within through anger born.

A servant first I’m called to be, 

To lead through love and empathy, 

Putting others before my pride, 

That side by side we walk, not I.

The path ahead I do not know, 

But follow where good spirits flow, 

Past fear and doubt my role above,

Is servant first when leading with love.

This poem was generated by the Baldoni ChatBot that draws upon the library of my published works.

The Leader’s Path (ai)

The road is long, the way unsure, 

Yet still I forge ahead each day. 

With purpose strong and vision pure, 

I guide my team along the way.

No obstacle can block our route.

No setback can our spirits shake. 

Each challenge makes our will take root, 

And models courage we can make.

I walk beside in storm and strife, 

To lift them when their strength grows faint. 

I show the light to better life, 

Where justice and compassion reign.

This path unfurls before our feet. 

We tread as one, our bond grows tight. 

Our shared commitment is complete – 

Together we will climb the height.

The summit gleams bright up above 

This landscape steep and filled with care. 

But with our hearts aligned in love, 

The peak shines promise rich and rare.

Onward still our expedition goes, 

Past doubt and pain without a halt. 

The leader’s road itself bestows 

The grace to persist without fault.

Stay true, stay fast, stay by my side, 

The way now opens up anew! 

Take heart my friends, and stride with pride – 

The leader’s path belongs to you.

This poem was generated by the Baldoni ChatBot that draws upon the library of my published works.

How Thought Leaders Are Using AI

For many people, the concept of AI sends shivers up the spine.

For others, it may breed resentment or even fear.

For those in the thought leadership field – business advisors, coaches and consultants – AI is here. And for that reason, “fear and loathing” (to borrow from Hunter S. Thompson’s adage) must go. So, I took the plunge into AI with the launch of the Baldoni Chat Bot, a fusion of AI technology with leadership knowledge and practice. 

What I did

My Chat Bot brings together my body of work – more than a dozen books, hundreds of articles and many interviews – in a way that makes them accessible and engaging. This approach enables the Chat Bot to respond with targeted answers to user questions.

My Chat Bot is trained to answer what it relevant to my insights into coaching and leadership development. Now in its third-generation, the Chat Bot can provide answer questions more readily and more quickly than I could when chatting.

Therefore, it cannot tell you what time it is, who the president is or what color the sky is. It can, however, give you answers to questions such as:

  • What is the difference between leading and managing?
  • How do I lead with purpose?
  • How can I influence my peers?
  • How do leaders show grace under stress?
  • How do I balance compassion and accountability?
  • How can I give difficult feedback to employees?
  • How do I lead my boss?

“The Baldoni Chat Bot began as a way to engage John’s fans and followers in a meaningful way” says Mahesh M. Thakur, the founder and CEO of Influencer Kit.AI, which conceptualized, developed and personalized the Baldoni Chat Bot. “It has quickly morphed into a tool synthesizing John’s ideas, expressing them using his tone and personality.”

“Those working in the field of human development can use AI as a tool to help them organize their content and deliver it virtually in real-time. This engages their fans meaningfully, generate leads, get speaking enquiries and sell books.” says Thakur, a technology executive and entrepreneur who has worked in the field of AI for the past two decades, including as product management leader for Microsoft Bing Search.

InfluencerKit is a platform that is built for coaches and for SaaS businesses. 

“The power of AI when applied the right way can be transformational for small and medium size businesses.” says Thakur. 

The Marshall Bot

The idea for creating my Chat Bot came from Marshall Goldsmith, often referred to as the world’s pre-eminent executive coach and the author of multiple New York Times best-sellers, including What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Triggers, Mojo and The Earned Life

The Marshall Bot draws upon Marshall’s many books, speeches, and videos. The Marshall Bot uses text and soon with audio to enhance the user experience. The Bot also incorporates Marshall’s hands-on efforts. He has spent hundreds of hours training the bot to think and speak like him. 

“After three months,” Marshall told technology author Jyoti Guptara at the Global Peter Drucker Forum, “Generation 3 of Marshall Bot can answer questions given to me, I would say in a more articulate way than I can, about 50% of the time. This is a primitive version … I have no doubt [future Marshall Bots] will be able to answer 95% of the questions I get better than I can – as judged by me.” 

It is also important to imbue a bot with a personality. “I’m practicing trying to give it some humor,” says Marshall. “For example, suppose you ask it how many languages I speak. In that case, the answer is now: ‘I can barely speak American English.’ Or, if you ask about my grandchildren, it replies with: ‘Marshall has the greatest grandchildren in the world.’”

The Marshall Bot will be freely accessible to users, keeping with Marshall’s commitment to sharing all that he knows with the world. 

Exploring the impact of AI

One person who is wired into the exploration of AI – as well as VR and AR (virtual and augmented reality, respectively) — is Martin Lindstrom, the founder of a $22 million project called Engineering our Dreams – the world’s largest extended reality project that will explore the effect of these new technologies on business and people. 

Lindstrom told me, “The two words – ‘human’ and ‘evolution’ often go hand in hand. Progress is hardwired into our DNA, making humans the dominant species on planet Earth. Technology has become the main tool of the 21st century, further evolving humans towards ‘technological augmentation.’ This concept refers to the integration of technology into various aspects of human life, enhancing our physical and cognitive abilities and extending our dependence on technological advancements for everyday functioning.” 

“To understand this evolution and where it will lead us,” says Lindstrom, “it is essential for people working in the field of human development to utilize AI. The potential and outcome of this can only be fully comprehended by those who are actively engaged in or familiar with this technology.”

It takes a team

Developing the Baldoni Chat Bot has been a team effort. The chief technologist behind is Pavan Tallapragada. “The Chat Bot is also always learning,” says Kumar. “More data from the author and more user engagements make the Bot smarter and the user wiser.”

“Like any new tool to get to truly understand it,” says Lindstrom. “Play with it. Explore it. Test it. And then finally begin developing theories and hypothesis helping the authors frame this new tool ensuring that it is used to its full potential … in a safe and trustworthy way.”

The Baldoni Chat Bot is my first step with AI. It resides on my website and is available free. I plan to use it with my senior leader clients as a reference tool to help them coach and teach their own people. The Chat Bot also can extend the lessons of my keynote presentations. Looking ahead I believe HR departments will license Chat Bots from thought leaders as part of their library of tools for personal and professional development.

“Marshall’s exploring AI inspires many of us in the leadership space to emulate his example to share what we know more widely and in new and different ways,” said Mahesh M. Thakur. “The power of AI is available to more people on more platforms. We believe AI can bring out the best in us that we can share with others. We focus on what’s good to help you become better.”

Note: Click here to try the Baldoni Chat Bot.

First posted on 1.10.2024

Jackie Gleason: The Great One Dishes on Talent

Is talent a gift or a burden?

In his only interview with Johnny Carson, Jackie Gleason said, “Talent is a very annoying thing because you can’t take any credit for it. It’s a gift from God, and you’re stuck with that. Somebody says you’re good… God did it,” Gleason deadpanned.

The gods may have been with Gleason, nicknamed “The Great One,” but he earned it with his work ethic. One of the comedic giants of his era, Gleason began his career in vaudeville and burlesque, then pioneered the early days of television with a variety show and later created the pathbreaking sitcom The HoneymoonersGleason then moved to film, won an Oscar nomination for his performance as Minnesota Fats in The Hustler, and performed on Broadway. His last major gig was a reboot of The Jackie Gleason Show, a variety show featuring sketches from The Honeymooners and other comedic sketches.

It almost makes you winded just listing all of his accomplishments. Of course, Gleason had talent – timing and gesture for his comedy and subtlety for his drama. And he had energy – not only as an entertainer but also as a bon vivant. Gleason was the toast of New York nightlife but never missed a gig.

Putting talent to work

Talent is a gift, but for all successes like Gleason, you need to put in the work. The Malcolm Gladwell rule of 10,000 certainly applies. The Beatles played six-hour gigs up to seven days a week in Hamburg. Night after night, gig to gig, Bruce Springsteen wedged himself into a U-Haul-style truck packed with his band’s gear. Larry David did stand up to earn his comedy chops as he made the journey to writer-actor-producer.

Stephen King, the mega-selling author, put it best: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

Talent opens the door to possibilities. For example, one may have a head for numbers, a gift for presenting aloud, an ability to conceptualize, or an attention to detail. Those are talents, but they stagnate unless married to skills that enable the individual to apply the talent or talents toward what you loves doing.

Talent offers choices

Of course, if you are talented in a particular discipline – sport or the arts – it does not mean you must pursue it professionally. It may become a hobby that leads to personal enjoyment, or it could lead to coaching or teaching, helping the next generation of talents to hone their skills.

There is another aspect to talent. “You gotta have luck,” said Gleason to Johnny Carson. “Anybody who thinks, it’s just their talent, they’re crazy. You gotta have luck.” Fortune, however, smiles most on those who put in the effort to be at the right place at the right time

“True happiness, wrote John W. Gardner, a life-long public servant, “involves the full use of one’s power and talents.” From the application of talent can come fulfillment. And as Jackie Gleason would say — “How sweet it is!”

First posted on on 11.00.2023

Michigan Wolverines: Competence, Confidence, Community

When teams perform well, credit goes to their leaders, often at the team’s expense. Good leaders know that little gets done if team members do not coalesce around the mission.

A case in point might be the Michigan Wolverines, which captured its first national championship title in over a quarter century. This year was their first trip to the national game after two tries at the playoff series, which ended in losses. The team was committed to staying together and going for it all.

Overcoming adversity

Standing in the way were not merely their opponents, including the always formidable Ohio State and Alabama and undefeated Washington this year. A couple of cheating scandals marked this season; both focused on head coach Jim Harbaugh, who was suspended the first three games of the season as well as the last three games. This situation left the Michigan players relying more on themselves than the head coach. 

[It must be noted that two coordinator coaches, Jesse Minter on defense and Sherrone Moore on offense, led the team ably in Harbaugh’s absence. Moore served as head coach for the last three games, and arguably the toughest part of the regular season schedule.]

The late Pat Summitt, who won 8 NCAA basketball titles as head coach of the Lady Volunteers at Tennessee, told her biographer Sally Jenkins that when a team is cohering and playing well together, “you can hear it.” The players have each other’s backs and can be audible in how they interact. 

If such coherence were audible at Michigan, it would be a roar. Game after game. Time after time. Situation after situation, when adversity struck, they did not bend nor break. They became more robust, and as my colleague and author Eileen McDargh likes to say, they would be transformed – stronger, better, and wiser.

Leveraging resilience

One word to apply would be resilience, and from this team, we can learn that what matters most truly in sports is who is on the field, not who’s off it. Players count on one another to do their jobs. The lessons for those who do not play the game come down to three factors.

Competence. People know their jobs and do them. Competency can also be contagious, especially when new team members come on board. The veterans take them under their wing and school them.

Confidence. From doing a job well comes confidence, the feeling that comes from doing the job well. While immediate tasks are accomplished, the mission still needs to be completed. Fulfillment of the mission requires the continuation of functions and the commitment to keep working toward a common goal.

Community. When teams cooperate, they lay the foundation for collaboration, where individuals create something that emerges from the collective effort of people pulling together as one. Call it community, where individuals feel they belong because their voices are heard and their contributions are recognized.

One team. One goal.

When competence breeds confidence and creates community, the team operates as one. It can focus on the job without being distracted by the outside noise. Things may not always turn out right, but in the moment, the team is clicking, and in the parlance of Pat Summitt, you can hear it.

“It doesn’t happen unless all 11 are clicking,” said quarterback J. J. McCarthy summed up what it means to play as a team.  “The players, they really can’t make the plays unless everyone’s on the same page. So all credit goes to everybody out there on the field and the coaches.”

Blake Corum, who scored two touchdowns, said, “We’ve proven a point. We’re a good team… We went through a lot of adversity this year, but to everyone who said we shouldn’t be in the natty, or they shouldn’t have been allowed to be in the College Football Playoff. What are you going to say now? You’re just wasting your breath at this point.”

What the Michigan football team accomplished is laudable. Its sense of teamwork holds lessons for those who play the game as well as for those who work in teams.

First posted on 1.09.2024

Detroit Lions: Renewal and Rebirth

Turnaround efforts are always tricky. They can be challenging when preceded by periods of malaise, disengagement and low productivity. Such was the case with the Detroit Lions, who last won a championship in 1957. Since that time, the team has won one playoff game.

Until now!

The Lions beat the Los Angeles Rams in their first playoff victory since 1993. In remarks to the team, head coach Dan Campbell recognized the efforts of two people, giving each a game ball. One was general manager Brad Holmes. Noting how they both came to the organization together, Campbell said, “You [and I] are in lockstep.”

Campbell turned to his quarterback: “I will just say it like this … You’re good enough for Detroit, Jared Goff.”  This comment refers to Goff being unceremoniously traded to the Lions after Rams coach Sean McVay lost faith in him despite leading the team to the Super Bowl in February 2019.

66 years of disappointment

“Them Lions” — one of many sobriquets bestowed by fans — have been the poster kids for mediocrity for so long that those alive during their heyday in the Fifties are either dead or eligible for Social Security. Lions haplessness has become their trademark.

For example, in 2010, the Lions started quarterback Shaun Hill, who was recuperating from surgery on a broken left arm. Lions commentator noted, however, that it was not King’s throwing arm. What team in the 21st century starts a quarterback with a broken arm? Why? Because even in his hobbled condition, King was their best alternative. Welcome to Lions’ misery.

No team has snatched defeat from the jaws of victories more than the Lions have. When you add up fumbles, interceptions, coaching mistakes, and 60-yard field goals made by Lions opponents, you could have had a couple of winning seasons.

A fresh start

And so when Campbell and Holmes were hired in 2021, expectations were “expectant.” It’s better to wait to jump on the bandwagon. And the team did not disappoint. It went 3-13-1 in the first season with Jared Goff at the helm. Expectations did rise for year two, and the Lions when 1-6, but then things began to click. The Lions went 8-2 down the stretch, just missing the playoffs. This year, the team excelled out of the gate, posting a 12-5 regular season record, the most ever for a Lions team.

Pulling back the layers, the story of the Lions comeback is both rebirth and reconstruction. And here’s how they did it.

Get the culture right. Holmes and Campbell had a plan, and together with Sheila Ford Hamp, who had taken over the running of the team from her mother, Martha, they focused on breaking bad habits and building a team with players who understood they must have a passion for doing what it takes to work hard, play their best, and win when it matters.

Speaking to reporters later, Campbell was more specific about the role that Brad Holmes played. “We’re very similar in the way that we view players, view a team, how we want to build it… “I have a certain vision and Brad has helped me by the type of players we acquire and what we look for. Campbell added, the “GM and head coach have to have a healthy relationship and it starts with ownership, but then that’s the next most important by far. And if you don’t have that, you just can’t sustain success.” 

Find the right pieces. In 2021, the team traded star quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Rams in return for Goff and two first-round draft picks. Those draft picks and other lower-ranked picks sourced by Holmes and his scouts have given the Lions a nucleus of young players upon which the culture can thrive and the wins can come.

Support the struggle. Jared Goff had a rough start with the Lions whose roster did not compare with the Rams team he had once led. Goff’s coaches did not lose faith in him or other players. They nurtured their talents and built game plans suited to each player’s strengths.

Be patient. Sheila Hamp deserves credit for holding fast and keeping Holmes and Campbell in the fold. She was booed at Ford Field but did not become discouraged. She knew fans’ frustrations because the team had been in her family since her girlhood. Sheila set expectations and supported her leadership team.

Common goals

A culture of winning comes when you have the right people in the right places at the right time. Easy to say but so difficult to implement. What the Lions have accomplished is a tribute to leadership and team working together to achieve common goals.

Will the Lions find a way to win it all? Perhaps, but for now, the team has achieved what fans – among the most loyal in all sports – thought was only a dream. In doing so, they have given fans something to cheer for and a lesson in leadership that will stand the test of time.

Note: After the game, Sean McVay praised his former quarterback “Jared was really efficient. You can see the command he has. I think there’s a lot made of it, but I’m really happy for him… and I certainly am appreciative of the four years we had together.”

First posted on 1.16.2024

Management Lesson Marx Bros. Style

Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself!

Groucho Marx, the legendary comic actor, told a charming story to TV talk show host Dick Cavett about how his brothers did just that. The Marx Brothers received an invitation to come to Hollywood to meet with Irving Thalberg, the head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The brothers arrived promptly at 10 a.m. for their scheduled meeting. However, Thalberg was in meetings, and they were asked to wait. Finally, at 5 p.m., they were told that Mr.Thalberg could see them. Nothing doing, said Groucho, and the brothers walked out.

After all, the Marx Brothers were already big stars in vaudeville and Broadway. So who was this motion picture executive to keep them waiting? Another meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. But, again, Thalberg was busy and couldn’t meet them. He then left his office. Harpo went to the MGM commissary and came back with raw potatoes. So the boys, the Marx Brothers, entered Thalberg’s spacious office, barricaded themselves inside by putting file cabinets in front of the doors, and proceeded to cook the potatoes in the fireplace. 

When Thalberg returned to his office two hours later, he was let back in only to find the brothers munching on their potatoes, stark naked. As Groucho said, Thalberg “never kept them waiting again. Everyone else was afraid of him… because he had such prestige and power at MGM.” Thalberg found the office incident amusing. “And he liked [the brothers] because they didn’t take anything from him,” said Groucho.

Groucho had enormous respect for Thalberg, the boy genius of MGM. He was always meeting with writers on one of a number of pictures he was producing, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary to keep people waiting. But not the Marx Brothers.

Two lessons to learn

Lesson one: keep to your schedule, and if you cannot do it, let those waiting for you know that you are delayed. The higher an executive rises, the more demanding the schedule. They cannot be expected to be on time for every meeting, but they can make an effort to notify those attending the next meeting that they are running late. Or better yet, have their admin do the notification.

Being on time is a sign of respect for the time of others. Chronic lateness lets people know they are less critical. But when you advise that you will be late, you demonstrate that others matter.

Lesson two: stand up for yourself and your work. Bosses ask their employees to do their best, but when they pay the work little heed, it communicates a lack of empathy. It says that what the employee does really does not matter. At the same time, telling the boss all the good things you have done may seem defensive. 

Here’s a better way. Schedule time with the boss. Prepare in advance by reviewing your own work. Review briefly your accomplishments. Make it known you welcome new challenges. In short, affirm your value and your future. 

One method adopted by many organizations is to require employees to contribute to their performance reviews. Itemizing your accomplishments for the year provides your perspective on what you have done. 

What happens next

When you stand up for yourself, something unexpected. As the poet Maya Angelou, wrote, “I not only have the right to stand up for myself, but I have the responsibility. I can’t ask somebody else to stand up for me if I won’t stand up for myself. And once you stand up for yourself, you’d be surprised that people say, ‘Can I be of help?’”

These lessons are affirmations of respect: respect for others and respect for self. Both are essential to getting along and doing well in the workplace. 

Note: For more on Groucho, watch the PBS documentary Cavett and Groucho. It is part of the American Masters series.

First posted on 7.12.2023