A Confidante to Entrepreneurs: Mark Goulston

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversations with CEOs, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and have the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace.

Today’s guest is Dr. Mark Goulston, Founder and CEO of the Goulston Group. Mark talks about the importance of listening, while revealing the secret behind Steve Jobs’ success! To hear the entire show, click here.

Mark Goulston entrepreneurs

Dr. Mark Goulston is the Founder and CEO of the Goulston Group and best selling author of six books. From treating suicidal patients to training hostage negotiators as a clinical psychiatrist specialized in interventional psychiatry, Dr. Goulston is now a thought leader in the corporate world. He makes presentations across the globe, training CEOs, executives, HR heads and entrepreneurs to not just generate sales but to create enthusiasm around their services and products.

He coined the phrase “Gotta Have It” because he discovered that when you create that kind of an attitude in your customers, you never have to persuade anyone to buy your service or product; they will do so willingly and eagerly. He cites the enthusiasm around Apple products, for which people line up for hours, as an example to explain the “Gotta Have It” attitude at work. Similarly, he created the “Gotta Work Here” concept which applies to HR professionals wanting to attract the best talent to work for them.


As a clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Goulston used to deal with people who were suicidal or prone to violence. His job was to bring dangerous situations to a safe conclusion. His biggest learning was to understand where the other person is coming from. “When you go to where someone is coming from and you get it, they won’t see you as someone intending to harm them,” he explains. People respond better when they feel that you are talking to them with the “agenda to serve them.”

According to Dr. Goulston, CEO’s hire him as a confidante because they feel like he is there only to help them. His transition to the business world happened while making house calls to dying patients and their families. He shares, “On some occasions the founder would be dying in one room and in the other room the family would be in conflict. Sometimes within minutes I would resolve conflicts.” After the founder’s death, the second generation business owners would ask Dr. Goulston to advise them on dealing with people in their business. He would joke with them saying he dealt with back stabbing and jealousy and asked them if their business had that. And the next generation of owners would say, “We’re a family business. That’s all we have!” That’s when Dr. Goulston realized that most companies are like a dysfunctional family and how his transition to the corporate world took place. In his words, he “transitioned from seeing the world through the eyes of someone who is suicidal to identifying and dealing with the elephant in the room to now seeing the world through the eyes of visionaries.”

Just Listen

Dr. Goulston’s much talked about books, Just Listen,” captured readers’ attention because it made them rethink communication. When we think about communication, we tend to focus on talking. “Just as there are skills to be learned in what you say, there are skills to be learned on how you listen. And when you listen, you become much more effective,” explains Dr. Goulston. He puts this in the context of HR and hiring managers. In hiring great talent, he believes that most of it is about taking the conversation to a deeper level rather than just checking boxes.


Dr. Goulston works very closely with entrepreneurs and shares insights on his experiences training them on listening well. He feels that entrepreneurs have their vision and strategy, and often end up not listening to others about anything that distracts them from vision and strategy. He mentors them on how to go about investor meetings. He advises them that the key to listening is being a good observer and noticer of people as opposed to just talking. Entrepreneurs often get carried away because they’re very passionate about their business and they don’t stop talking. So Dr. Goulston’s very important lesson for the entrepreneurs is to not answer instantaneously when asked a question. His explanation is that investors will judge the person as someone who isn’t thoughtful and deliberate.

This triggers “flashbacks.” Dr. Goulston explains the concept, saying we are always triggering flashbacks in people’s minds that we’re not aware of. The key is to trigger positive flashbacks. “So, as an entrepreneur if you don’t pause, even if you have a great answer, you are triggering a flashback in the investor of someone who is just talking fast and perhaps reminiscent of someone who is slick.” He then goes on to offer tactics on how to become aware of these things. He teaches entrepreneurs that whenever asked a question, even if you know the answer, take a pause, say “hmmm” and then answer. “This will communicate to the investors that you have heard them, what they said is relevant, you are considering what they said and that you’re giving it some thought and validating that what they’re saying is relevant and worth listening to,” explains Dr. Goulston. CEOs can use these skills to be more impactful and HR people can use them to get a bigger say in the hiring process. “When you notice things, you’re more present and that can change the way you interact and how others see you,” he adds.

Topper or Plusser?

Another thing Dr. Goulston asks everyone to notice is whether you are a “topper” or a “plusser.” In a conversation, when someone else is talking, a plusser is someone who builds on what the other person is saying and subtly transitions to a different topic. On the other hand, a topper is someone who changes the conversation abruptly to what he or she wants to talk about. Sometimes they even talk other people down. Dr. Goulston describes toppers as people who are more often showing their insecurities than appearing confident.

How to think like Steve Jobs?

A few years back, Dr. Goulston created presentations on “How To Think Like Steve Jobs.” This idea came about when he was exhausted from trying to persuade people and didn’t want to do it anymore. He thought if he figured out what causes people to “gotta have something,” that would be something people would want to know. Then you don’t have to persuade such people at all. They eagerly sign up. He is now doing a series on it nationally and it’s called “Hacking Genius – How to Think Like Steve Jobs.”  He says, “Somehow I’ve been able to look at the world through Steve Jobs’ eyes.”

In fact, Dr. Goulston talks about a video he saw of Steve Jobs talking about his first visit to Xerox Parc when he first laid his eyes on the computer mouse. In that video, Jobs says that when he went there they showed him three things but he didn’t even notice two of them. What he noticed was the graphical user interface – the movement of icons on the screen and the mouse. He said that was the best thing he had ever seen in his life. This story is the foundation of the four steps that Dr. Goulston feels are the secret to Apple and Dr. Goulston believes it’s when Jobs went from hustler to visionary . The four steps are:

  1. Whoa – Steve Jobs didn’t even notice two things. He just noticed the interface.
  2. Wow – This was the best thing I’ve seen in my life.
  3. Hmmm – They don’t have it figured out but they have the essentials.
  4. Yes! – I knew in ten minutes that this would be the future of computers.

“If you see, that experience he had is exactly the experience that Apple customers have when Apple is introducing new products. They go whoa! Look at that Apple watch/iPhone. Wow, look at the number of things I can do with it. It’s Amazing. Hmmm, gee, I want to try it because I want to do those things. And Yes! I finally have it.”

Dr. Goulston asks CEOs and executives to ask their colleagues and HR to rate them every time they have a conversation with them, on a scale of one to ten, on how successful they were in creating whoa, wow, hmmm and yes. If it’s less than ten, they need to think of how they can improve. For people who don’t believe in these steps, Dr. Goulston simply asks what if people were left with the opposite emotions – Huh, Yuck, Never mind, Pass, and “Please don’t call again!”

He emphasizes that the same four steps even apply while recruiting talent for a company. He tells HR people that if your HR presentation doesn’t trigger  “whoa, wow, hmm, yes,” talented people will go somewhere else. He also suggests conducting interviews and co-presenting with someone who works in the hiring department and who is excited about the work. Sometimes, even the CEO can walk in and have a little chat with the candidate. A CEO stopping by to do that is a “Whoa” “Wow” by itself. Goulston says there needs to be executive sponsorship and that triggers a very positive flashback.

What Are You Reading?

Dr. Goulston is currently reading Becoming Steve Jobs by Rick Tetzeli and Brent Schlender. His all-time favorite books are “Power Questions by Andrew Sobel, “New Sales by Mike Weinberg and Workarounds That Work by Russell Bishop.

How Can People Connect With You?

Visit www.goulstongroup.com or connect via https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-goulston-group

Take the Gotta Have It Assessment to see how effectively you create “Whoa” “Wow” “Hmmm” “Yes” and then send it back to the Goulston Group to interpret your score.

Remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.

Date: March 31, 2015