Adding Too Much Value

Dear Coach,

I read about Marshall Goldsmith’s observation that too many leaders “add too much value.” Is this an issue you’ve dealt with and if so, how? 



Dear Minnie,

Yes, I have. I agree with Marshall Goldsmith’s smart view on leadership, which is about the idea of ‘adding too much value.’ He points out a common mistake made by leaders: they often share their ideas too much because they have authority. Even though they mean well, this habit can unintentionally hurt and disconnect their team members.

Marshall calls it the “+5% -50%.” The leader adds his 5% “improvement,” thereby draining 50% out of the relationship in terms of ownership, accountability, engagement, initiative, and so forth.

I’ll confess that I had been coaching for years, oblivious to this concept. But when I learned it from Marshall, I started implementing it in my work with leaders. The results have been astounding!

I recall a time when I coached a CEO who was a brilliant engineer with a bad habit of adding too much value. We put the +5-50 into his coaching plan. When I checked in with the C-suite, the people who reported to him, they said the change was transformative. For years they’d been frustrated with the CEO’s tendency to weigh in on everything they did. Instead of “Great, let’s go for it!”, it was always, “Great, but…” Both the CEO and his reports said their relationship was much better and more effective since he’d begun disciplining himself with the +5-50. 

Note: I’m not suggesting that the leader never weigh in. Instead, consider the ‘+5-50’ principle as a strategic evaluation tool. This model prompts leaders to question their instinct to contribute, asking themselves: “Is my input truly necessary? Or would it be more beneficial to simply endorse the current direction?”

Variation on the +5-50

After applying Marshall’s formula, I got the idea that it possibly might work in reverse. I started calling this the “+5+50.” Here’s how it works. The leader has come up with something. It’s the leader’s work, idea, initiative, etc. The leader then goes to her subordinates and says, “Please give me feedforward to help improve what I’ve done so far.” Even if the leader only gets a 5% improvement, she’s added 50% engagement with the people she depends on. 

I recommend that every coach who is working with a leader employ both the +5-50 and the +5+50. Game changers! Thank you, Marshall!!

Best regards,

Jathan Janove is a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Master Coach and Practice Leader. You can learn more about him here. If you have a question you’d like him to address, please email us at



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