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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #109: Are You Influencing or Just Being Bossy?

October 22, 2020
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #109: Are You Influencing or Just Being Bossy?

A 360-Degree Leader must be able to lead up, down and across. When thinking about how you lead down, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just being the boss, and even being bossy. But you can take your leadership to a new level when you focus on building influence with those you lead. Today, Chris and Perry share two strategies for influencing down in the organization.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence other, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, vice president with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining us today. Just as a quick reminder, go download the guide that Perry’s created. You can follow along with us in today’s session, or if you have a question or a comment, you want to learn more about some of the work that we do, visit, and we’d love to get back to you, or maybe even address one of the questions or concerns that you have about leading in one of our upcoming podcasts.

Well, today’s topic, and Perry and I… He’s laughing at me right now if you can see him looking at me. I think this one is directed right at me. I don’t know. We’ll see as we get through this. Are you influencing or just being bossy? Now, when I say that word, bossy, what do you think about when you’re listening to us? No, nevermind. Don’t go down there. We’re going to talk about influence in some leadership. Perry, give us a little bit of context here. Are you influencing or just being bossy?

Perry Holley:    Well, in previous episodes, we talked about leading up and that’s a very… Influencing up, and we’ve talked about leading or influencing across to my peer group. But today to really complete the 360° view, I thought we could talk about influencing down. And it’s really easy to fall into the trap, I think, of being the boss, of having the title, having the position, and even being bossy because of that. I have the right… We talk about the five level. They have the right to tell you what to do, and if you just stay there, that’s a very dangerous place to be. But you can take your leadership, I think, to a new level when you focus on building influence and today, talking about building influence down.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, and I like that we’re looking at this from the 360° view of leadership because as we’ve mentioned on some of our previous sessions, all of us are in the middle somewhere in our world, right? We’re either influencing up, and maybe it’s outside of your actual organization, maybe it’s in the community, maybe it’s at home. I know that’s how it rolls in my house, right? Or you’re influencing with your peers or maybe even those that you have the privilege of leading.

And the best way to do this and to gain buy-in from your people and your team is to achieve the outcomes that you guys are trying to achieve is by understanding the power of influence. And I think the by-product of this is true understanding of this concept or this principle that will allow you to influence individuals and move your way up through the 5 Levels model. Again, Perry and I were talking to in between session. We were talking about how the 360° content is so relevant to you increasing your influence up through the 5 Levels model.

Perry Holley:    Well, I thought it might be helpful for our listeners if we presented a couple of strategies that we do teach in the 360° Leader workshop to help you really lead down and increase your influence. These are going to sound… I’m a little nervous about writing this one up because it sounds a little soft, but I’ve been doing it and it works. The first strategy for influencing down is, we call it walking slowly through the halls. Now you see, back in the olden days, which you’re too young to remember-

Chris Goede:     Yeah, right.

Perry Holley:    … we call this MBWA. Do you know what that means? Did you know that?

Chris Goede:     I do.

Perry Holley:    What do you think that means?

Chris Goede:     That is management by walking around.

Perry Holley:    Very good. We called it management by walking around, which sounds funny in today’s quarantining, work at home, remote, workplace world, and we should definitely talk about that, about how do you walk slowly through the halls, even if it’s virtual? But even if it’s not virtual, I’d like to hear what your thoughts are.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, and I think as we think about this, it’s just a big reminder, and the overarching theme is, be careful not to be so focused on your agenda, heads down, stay focused on your calendar, all the things that we have to deal with, I understand on a daily basis, but just make sure that you are taking time to get out amongst the people, and do it informally. Don’t be so rigid, right?

Perry Holley:    That’s good. Yeah.

Chris Goede:     Go stop by the cubicle. Hey, Perry, it’s 10:15. I was just… Tuesday, I was checking in to make sure-

Perry Holley:    You’d have to schedule 15 minutes to catch anyone.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, that’s right. Don’t be too, too rigid. And when we talk about some of the things you can do informally is, man, show up for meetings a couple minutes early. Connect with those that are in the room early before the meeting actually starts. Maybe if you’re facilitating the meeting, maybe give a couple of minutes on the front end. My team calls it level two time, right? We spend the first five minutes of our meeting talking about a personal highlight from the previous week and a professional highlight. And oftentimes, we have to rein that in because the team would just continue to connect and talk about it.

Maybe you can go and swing by, pick up a coffee, some water, and just hang out in the break room if that’s a heavy trafficked area. But I think also today, we want to bring up some ideas for you that are dealing with the remote or the virtual workspace. And again, we go back to this. Don’t be so formal and with an agenda. Make sure you’re just reaching out to connect with people. I love one of the leaders that we work with where he tells his team, “Hey, on Thursday from 8:00 to 10:00, I’m going to have my Zoom platform just open and if you just want to pop in and say, “Hi,” you got a question or whatever. But that’s my open office and just jump in. There’s no agenda. Love to connect with you.”

The other thing is I want to make sure is that all of us enjoy and/or respond to communication differently, different avenues of communication. What I mean by that is maybe you’re sending a text message. Maybe people like to communicate via text. Maybe it’s an actual voice message. Maybe it’s a video message. I don’t know. Try to understand how best to connect with your team and how they like to be communicated to, and then take advantage of being able to do that. And I know to your point, you said, “This seems a little soft.” Sometimes leaders even think this is wasting my time, but I promise you, it is not at all when it comes to increasing your influence on people. Not being bossy. I want to use that word bossy because usually it’s being used on me but-

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Perry Holley:    People notice when you… Actually, one of the things that I was thinking about what we normally don’t think about when we do this, talk about it, it helps slow things down a little bit. And John teaches that to connect with people you travel at their speed, not yours.

Chris Goede:     Oh, that’s good.

Perry Holley:    Normally I’ve noticed, I think you would agree, the higher you go in the organization, the greater the speed becomes and that you’re always in a hurry and heads down and in your agenda and you’re forgetting to connect. It also allows you to express that you care and people really long for that personal touch, especially in this world we’re in today where there’s so much virtual, that I can feel on an island. You may not even know what island I’m on. You don’t know what I’m doing. If you spent that two minutes, three minutes, at the front of a call, a virtual call, or even just making a call, sending a text can be as equally as impressive.

It helps also, you mentioned, it’s a great example about balancing personal and professional interests to have that check in about one great thing that happened personally or professionally. Personal interest obviously goes deeper. It shows that you care and you’re trying to know people. I think you got to be appropriate there. Don’t be nosy.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, that’s right.

Perry Holley:    I’ve had people say, “Well, what did you do? Where exactly did you…” I didn’t want to tell you that, I would have.

You don’t need them going down to the HR department as soon as they leave your one-on-one with them.

But what I love about this whole idea of walking around, either virtually or personally, is it makes you approachable. And when you’re approachable and you become authentic to people, it helps with that drive, that level of connection and it drives up your influence with them.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Another strategy for leading your team members, those you have influence with is, and this is something John talks about quite a bit, seeing everyone with a 10 on their head is what he likes to say. If a scale is one to 10 on their ability, you’re putting everybody as a 10. And I think what we have to do as leaders, and I know the pushback that you’re going to think about right now, and we get it when we’re doing some work and coaching and consulting, but you have to see people for what they become, not necessarily what they are today, right?

Perry Holley:    Right, that’s important.

Chris Goede:     And I’ll give you a personal story on this. I’ll never forget, and my wife talks about it often, and I’m grateful that she was obedient to her father’s wisdom. When we were engaged and going through some things early on before we got married, he’s like, “Hey, listen, Sarah, I want you to see the potential that he can become.”

Perry Holley:    I know he’s a two.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, not like he is today. She was comparing me to her dad, right? And so, he’s like, “Yeah. No, I’m 30 years older than he is in with a lot more life wisdom.” And so, I’m grateful for that advice. Thank you. Thank you for making sure that she didn’t leave me. But I think if you do that, you get more out of people. And so, one of the things you have to do is, we have to communicate value and respect to our people and this is a great way to do that if you want people to be able to follow you.

And John talks about the power of belief. And I just want you to go back and think about some things that you’ve accomplished in your professional career that you would have never accomplished if somebody didn’t put a 10 on your head when you walked in the door because I know there are some things that I’ve been involved with , you’ve been involved with, that would have never happened if somebody didn’t put a 10 in my head because I would not have put a 10. I would have put it two. But the other thing is, I think they live up to that potential if you speak that into them. And so, just be thinking about that and it’ll come across as you having the ability to influence people, not being bossy. There’s that word again, bossy.

Perry Holley:    again. Well, I know that when I bring this up on a coaching call when they’re talking about their team and I said, “Have you considered putting a 10 on everybody’s head,” the leader, probably some people that are listening to this going, “They’re not a 10.”

Chris Goede:     You don’t know what my team looks like, yeah.

Perry Holley:    But I tried this. I joined an organization once and within a couple of weeks, somebody that had been there said I should fire this one person. I said, “I like to make my own decisions and let me get to know them.” And so, I decided to treat this person as a 10, even though they might’ve been a two in other people’s thoughts, and the response was astounding. This person became more positive, more engaged. It changed the way I spoke to them. I used more upbeat words and encouraging words. I challenged them, but I was able to do it in a positive, “I’m here to help you,” way. They were more open to my efforts to coach and guide.

Before, they told me that this person won’t listen to anyone. They’re just doing their own thing. Well, now they were listening to me and it gave us a new way of working together. And they actually became one of my more high contributing employees that I was told to fire. Like you said, the way you see people, depend on how you treat people. And even though they may not be performing at a 10, they could-

Chris Goede:     They could.

Perry Holley:    … if they had the right motivation.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, and why it’s so power to have this mindset is because your body language and the way that you act around them will follow your mindset. And so, I just want to make sure that you understand that your interactions with those people, your body language and what they’re going to feel and what they’re going to see, is going to be more positive. I don’t know the ratio where I’ve may have been… We often communicate not necessarily with our words, right? But it’s with the facial expressions and our body language.

And our team, our people that we’re influencing, they need to know that we believe in them because then they’re going to believe in themselves more. And our team members bring a lot of stuff to the table. And so, a lot of that comes from maybe even people having disbelief in them. And so, we need to carry that for them. And obviously to your point, we have leaders that are like, “Well, you don’t know,” and I get it. There’s going to come a time where you have to have different conversations, but not in the beginning and not when you’re trying to gain influence with them.Perry Holley:    Yeah, I think the ratio is in the very first management book a thousand years ago. It said, “7% is your words. The other 93 is tone of voice and body language.”

Chris Goede:     Absolutely.

Perry Holley:    Whether that’s right or not, it’s a big number.

Chris Goede:     It’s a big number, yeah.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, so I’ll do that. And I find that when someone believes in me, if I know they genuinely believe in me, I am motivated to prove them right.

Chris Goede:     That’s right. That’s right,

Perry Holley:    I do not want to let them down.

Chris Goede:     Let them down, yeah.

Perry Holley:    I can borrow my belief of me from them until I get my own belief. But one thing that jumped at me when I was preparing this was, Brian Tracy used to teach this lesson years ago and it really captured my attention. I think about it all the time. But he said that, “A person’s performance is tied to their self concept.” And he described the self-concept as three things. The self ideal, that they have a goal, a vision for themselves and where they see themselves being successful. I have this ideal of myself, my self image, and how do I see myself and how do I think others see me? And my self-esteem, which is how much do I like myself as a person, as an employee of this company? How does that feel to me and my self-esteem?

And when I would teach this, I could see on people’s faces, and I may be hearing it in our listeners right now, is it really my job as a leader to worry about… With all I have to do, you want me to worry about your self-concept? And my answer would be, of course not. However, if I told you that you could increase your influence and the performance of your team and increase the level of engagement of their performance by thinking about these things and by doing a couple of things like putting a 10 on their head, wouldn’t you do it?

Chris Goede:     Absolutely.

Perry Holley:    For me, I thought, “I’m not responsible for yourself concept, but I can affect it by the way I treat you.”

Chris Goede:     No doubt about it. That’s right. You have a part in that. There’s a great quote by Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, where he says, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their people. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they will accomplish.” And that just underscores completely what you just said and that thought process and walking us through that lesson with Brian Tracy.

Listen, be observing from a different perspective with putting a 10 on people’s head, try to find, I know as hard as it might be, your people that are doing something right, when they’re doing it. Give them the benefit of the doubt, initially. Take the high road and treat people well. And I think if you begin to do this with your team, you’re going to increase your influence.

Perry Holley:    Oh, I think it’s one of the great secrets of high engagement leadership is that the way you see people will determine how you treat people. And might I just say, a side comment, is that in today’s environment, in the United States and around the world about how we interact and engage with others, this is a life lesson, not just a work lesson, that how I treat people will often determine how we relate, how we engage, how we connect and how they perform. If I feel good about myself when I’m around you, guess what? I will want to be around you and I will want to contribute and make you proud of me. It’s just a great lesson.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, and I love that. You just talked about… Used the word engagement, right? And as a leader, as we’re leading teams, we have responsibility, one of the things we should really be focusing on first, and this is a big problem, is the engagement level of our team. And one of the greatest ways to do that, is some of the simple principles that Perry and I’ve shared with you today. Now as I wrap up, you’re like, “Wow, that was… Yeah, okay. I got it. That’s really soft.” But I want to just make sure you understand the importance of it. But I also want to make sure you understand that this doesn’t mean you can’t have difficult conversations with people.

Perry Holley:    Absolutely.

Chris Goede:     You have to have difficult conversations. But if you go about putting this 10 on their head and influencing the right way and not just being bossy, the way that these difficult conversations are going to happen and the way that they’re going to come across and the way that they’re perceived by your people will be completely different and you’ll get much more, I guess, probably progress as a influence, as a leader and as a team, if you do it the right way. We’re not saying, “Be completely soft.” You’re going to have tough conversations, but if you go about leading them the right way from the get-go-

Perry Holley:    That’s a great point, yeah.

Chris Goede:     … then I think you’ll end up being able to have those. And I often talk about having change in your pocket to have those conversations. Perry and I are both naturally been on a level two. We talk about in the five levels are you either relational or are you production minded? You’re one of the other, and we fall in the relational side. And where sometimes as leaders on the relational side, you don’t want to have those candid, tough conversations.

And so, people that will coach us, or coach those that are level two were like, “My goodness. You have so much change in your pocket with your people that those conversations go much better than those leaders that naturally are level three because they may have not done level two really well and they just come in and have that conversation.” Anyways, just keep that in mind as you think about this, influencing your team and not just being bossy. No one wants to get up and come be engaged in work every day to somebody that’s just bossy.

Perry Holley:    Right. Well, people will be a lot more bought into you, the law of buy-in, and then they’ll get bought in to what you’re doing if they know that you believe in them.

Chris Goede:     That’s right.

Perry Holley:    It makes those crucial conversations easier because I’m listening because I know you care. I know you believe in me. If I messed up, if we got a tough talk we have to have, let’s have it. I mean, there’s not condescension there.

Chris Goede:     No. And real quick… It’s a great point. They’re going to buy-in to their leader before they buy-in to what they’re doing. It starts with you so figure that out.

Perry Holley:    Completely. All right. Great stuff, Chris. Thank you so much. As always, if you’d like that learner guide, leave a question, have a comment. You can do all that at We always love hearing from you and we are always grateful that you would spend these minutes with us each week. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership podcast.

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