By: Marshall Goldsmith, Adjunct Professor of Business Administration & Executive Coach Posted: May 1st, 2015

Imagine that you have to go to a one hour meeting. You envision an incredibly boring meeting. You have no choice but to attend.

You are dreading it!

Your poor mind is about to be bombarded with a seemingly endless flow of tedious PowerPoint slides – pages and pages of numbers that not even the ‘Rain Man’ (in that Dustin Hoffman movie) could be expected to remember, much less use.

You drink an extra cup of coffee to improve the odds that you won’t fall asleep and start snoring in the middle of the presentation.

To make it worse, you are angry because the time that you waste in this stupid meeting is time that you could have spent getting your real work (that you are already behind schedule on) completed.

Have you ever been to a meeting like this?

We all have!

Now imagine at the end of the meeting you are going to be tested. The company is not going to be tested. The presenter is not going to be tested. YOU are going to be tested on four simple questions:

  1. Did you do your best to be happy?
  2. Did you do your best to find meaning?
  3. Did you do your best to build positive relationships?
  4. Did you do your best to be fully engaged?


If you knew that you were going to be tested, what could you do differently to raise your score on at least one of these four items?

Stop reading for a minute and reflect on this question. What would you do differently?

I have asked tens of thousands of leaders from around the world to answer this question. Some typical responses include:

  • “I would go into the meeting with a positive attitude.”
  • “Instead of waiting for someone to make it interesting, I would make it interesting myself.”
  • “Rather than critiquing the presenter, I would figure out some way to help the presenter.”
  • “I would come prepared with good questions.”
  • “I would challenge myself to learn something meaningful in the meeting.”
  • “I would try to build a positive relationship with someone in the room.”
  • “I would pay attention and put away my smart phone.”
  • “Almost everyone comes up with good answers. What were yours?”

I now have a very radical suggestion for you. Pretend that you are going to be tested – at every meeting!

Your positive attitude, search for meaning, focus on relationships and full engagement will be good for the company. The company does not benefit when you have a cynical attitude that you probably spread to others. The company does not benefit when you completely waste your time.

Even more important, this test will be good for you! The hour that you spend in the meeting is one hour of your life. You are not going to get this hour back. If you are miserable, it is your misery. It is not the company’s misery. It is not the presenter’s misery - it is your misery. If you are disengaged and cynical, it is your life that you are wasting.

By taking personal responsibility for your own engagement, you can create a better outcome for your company – and create a better life for yourself!

Marshall’s new book, Triggers: Creating Behavior that Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be, will be out on May 19th!  Order your advance copy now at More about Marshall at LinkedIn and

Marshall Goldsmith teaches in several executive education programs, including:

Tuck Executive Program
Leadership and Strategic Impact
Custom Engagements

Follow Our Blog

Stay connected with thought leaders in the Tuck Exec Ed community. Follow

Last Breath with Marshall Goldsmith

Watch the video »

Marshall Goldsmith

View profile »


Tuck Executive Program Brochure


TEP is an elite three week program for senior managers. Learn more.

Download »


Thought Leadership Download


Leadership is a Contact Sport

Download »