Do you know or work with someone who performs exceptionally, acts joyfully at their work, who fearlessly leans in, and consistently hits one homerun after another?
These radiant people could be leaders, employees, entrepreneurs, athletes, moms, dads or others we know who exude self-awareness and achievement – leaving some of us wondering, “What on earth are they on, and where can I get some of that?!”
That quality we know colloquially as “Mojo” – being on top of one’s game – takes on a business dimension in “MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It,” a book by Marshall Goldsmith, the prominent executive coach and prolific Harvard Business Review contributor and author.
Goldsmith delivers a practical perspective that describes the elements of Mojo and how to build yours with practices over time. Although he coaches many C-level executives at highly valued corporations, he writes with a unique spiritual perspective using Buddhist practices to remind the reader to reflect on what’s happening now and to accept what’s beyond one’s control. As a recovering Type A myself, I find this unique insight just as important as advice on “how to get it done.”
What is Mojo?
Goldsmith describes Mojo as “that positive spirit to what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside.” He deconstructs this with what he calls a “simple two-questions” practice wherein you ask yourself during each of your activities to evaluate the long-term benefit and short-term pleasure you gain from the activity.
Self-Reflection: Scorecard and Building Blocks of Mojo
For the metrics-driven types, Goldsmith provides a Scorecard to keep track of activities and identify which ones strengthen or weaken Mojo. And of course once we’re able to evaluate our regimens on how they affect our spirit, we can embark – or at least intend – on swapping low-scoring activities for more of what feeds us energy.
Goldsmith offers no sugar coating with these questions:
- Who do you think you are?
- What have you done lately?
- Who do others think you are?
- What can you let go of?
Talk about putting up a mirror from which one cannot hide! With his usual candor, Goldsmith presses the reader to be truthful with answers to these questions which coincide (respectively) with the Building Blocks of Mojo:
This is more than a strengths and weaknesses evaluation; instead, any potential disconnects in these areas come to light. For example, are you relying too much on your past achievements that may no longer be relevant? Is there a gap between how good you think you are and how good other people think you are? The wider the gaps in one or more of these areas, the more fragile our Mojo.
How-To: The Mojo Toolkit
Masterfully addressing his high-achieving readers, Goldsmith writes to quickly get to the “how-to” section – the “radiate to the outside” half of his Mojo definition. The Mojo Tool Kit offers 14 areas to address the Building Blocks, and some will resonate more than others depending on your situation and your appetite for change.
For someone whose achievements might have lapsed, Goldsmith emphasizes “rebuilding one brick at a time” – with fast action, consistency and support. For reputation, he advises having a “pre-exit strategy” even when your star is bright, and for when it’s dimmed or falling.
I picked up the book “MOJO” when I felt my career momentum start to stall after many go-go years. Goldsmith’s conceptual framework of Mojo, insistence on truthful self-assessment and guidance on rebuilding helped refocus my direction and revive my enthusiasm. I viewed the questions as targeted assessments to quickly get to the critical issues that might be weighing my energy down. Holding up a mirror can be difficult, yet Goldsmith also emphasizes Acceptance – as in, forgiving myself and others for perceived shortcomings, and moving on from the past and from situations I can’t change. There is hope yet for this recovering Type A.
I expect I’ll be referring to “MOJO” for more years to come. Regaining one’s Mojo and then maintaining and radiating that positive spirit requires periodic check-ups, after all. For anyone who’s experiencing a career stumble, or coming back from a break, or striving to get to the next level of effectiveness, I recommend “MOJO” as a personal guide that delivers frank advice with tools to get your spirit and energy going – from the inside out. Now, is it time to hold up that mirror?