Skip to content

Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #113: Turning Watchers into Rowers

November 19, 2020
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #113: Turning Watchers into Rowers

Engagement surveys tell us that roughly 70% of the people on your team are not fully engaged in their work. As a leader, you can influence the engagement level of people on your team when you invest in developing them each as individuals. Today, Chris and Perry talk about the difference between equipping and developing and why developing someone has a long-term positive effect on your business.

Want to enhance your leadership as we come out of COVID-19? Consider working with The John Maxwell Company for  Executive Coaching.

Download our Learning Guide for this podcast!

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 others, 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 of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining us. Just as a reminder, before we get started, if you want to learn more about The 5 Levels of Leadership, if you want to download a learner’s guide that Perry’s created for today’s episode, maybe you have a question or a comment about something that we have said, a leadership question, or maybe even an idea on a future content piece, do not hesitate to visit And you can find that resource and/or leave a question there.

Well, today’s topic is titled Turning Your Watchers into Rowers. Now, if you haven’t heard Perry and I before, maybe haven’t heard Perry’s example that he’s brought to us, or heard us do a keynote from some organizations before and haven’t heard this, you’re like, “What are they talking about?” Well, over the months we have, in many times, talked about this picture that Perry brought to me about this employee engagement, which I just think is a visual that every team I take them through, go, “Oh man. We’ve got to do something about that engagement level.”

They’re in a boat. I usually use 10 people. I think you do as well so that the percentages work out into the data really what’s going on. We talk about those that are rowing with you that are in the first part of that boat. We talk about the ones that are just watching the scenery go by. They’re on their phone, they’re on Facebook most of the day, whatever, oar on their lap. The back couple, they’re trying to sink your boat. Is that what we’re going today? We’re going to unpack this a little bit on the podcast?

Perry Holley:    That’s it. I first saw that picture, it’s been several years ago, and it came from Bob Kelleher on a YouTube video. It just really affected how I looked at my team, and now at every team that we have the privilege of coaching, that you can look at your boat, your team, and determine who in your boat is rowing with you and who has the oar across their lap, watching the scenery go by. Even worse, are there any people in your boat who like to see you fail or actively trying to sink your boat? The bottom line on the research is that on any given team, about 70% are not rowing. I find that to be completely a leadership issue. What I want to talk today is really we’re kind of talking about leading down a bit to your team, but are there things leaders can do to get people rowing?

Chris Goede:     Yeah, absolutely. This engagement level, man, this is something that it breaks my heart when I see it. I saw an updated statistic last week that I think the engagement level’s up to 34%. I just would like to see it so much higher. And to your point, it’s a leader issue. Hopefully, on your team, that’s not the case. But more than not, it probably is and you just don’t know about it. So what we want to do is just give you some thoughts around what we’re talking about, which is how to increase this engagement level. We’ve been talking about John’s 360° Leader content really focusing on, in the past episodes, how you lead up and then how you lead across. Today, we’re going to talk about how do you lead or influence down? By doing that, that’s going to help increase that engagement level, which should hopefully decrease the 70% that you were talking about in your team.

Perry Holley:    That’s the hope. The focus on this impact you have on the team and really motivating everyone to row with you. The concept really is how do you develop every team member as a person? One thing that’s been pegged to me lately, I’ve used it on a dozen coaching calls no less… I just want you to help the listeners understand. I really wasn’t clear on this when I was a leading as a younger leader. There’s a difference between developing someone and equipping someone. I believe many leaders think that they’re developing their team members when what they’re really doing is equipping them. I just hope they haven’t turned us off by now because they think, “Yeah, I already do this,” because you don’t do this, so stay with us.

Chris Goede:     Wait a minute. Listen, no one ever turns our… They listen in for your title.

Perry Holley:    As far as I know.

To be a Successful Leader, You Need Feedback on Your Leadership.

We’re excited to announce our new and improved Organizational Effectiveness Survey (OES). The OES gathers feedback from employees to give leaders and management the knowledge and action plans needed to develop a more effective and productive work environment. Our new version measures 4 areas of your business: Leadership, People, Strategy, and Performance. 

Chris Goede:     As far as we know. And then maybe the wrap-up comments, and that’s it. But yeah, I think this is a great clarification conversation to have around this equipping/developing. I think the first thing that people think about when we talk about this, like, “I don’t have time in my day as a leader to develop people. I just can’t add that to my list.” That’s probably the first thing they think about. So let’s back up just a minute, and let’s talk about how we define, and what we think about equipping and developing, and then we’ll give you some ideas on maybe how you can work this into your schedule as you begin to develop the people around you.

So when we talk about equipping, this is when you teach someone how to do a job. Equipping or training, and there’s a big difference between equipping and training and then developing, so when you teach someone how to do a job. When you’re developing them, we see this as kind of when you’re helping someone improve as an individual, as a person. You think about their emotional intelligence and you help them not only become aware of that but develop that, enhance that, and you help them from the personal qualities and characteristics. This is key. Not only will it help them in the job, in their profession, and in their career as they begin to develop, but also in their personal life. So when you think about, again, just give you some examples, “Hey, teach me how to sell that.” “How I run that machine?” “What do I do around this ad?” All that’s equipping. We’re training them on a skillset to be able to do that.

But now if we’re talking about, “Teach me how to develop discipline, how to improve my people skills, that emotional intelligence.” That’s more of the development side of things. So when you teach leadership, it’s the soft skill side of thing, it’s the EQ side. Remember, some of the greatest leaders that Harvard Business Review interviewed and studied spent 85% of their time on the emotional intelligence on the people skills when leading people. So it’s so important not only for us to lead from that perspective in that seat, but then to be developing that in those that are on our team.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. It was easy for me as a leader to send my people off to training to get equipped to do their job. How do you make a sale? How do you develop an ad campaign? How do you run a spreadsheet? All that’s great. You need to know that stuff. That’s the IQ side of it. But I don’t think I really had an intentional development plan for myself or for my people. So once I decided for myself, I began to start teaching it to my people that everybody needs to own their own development but I’m also going to speak into that. I just wondered, when you’re making an investment in developing the person, it really is going to help their whole life. It’s going to make them a better person and a better employee. But what do you think pays the most dividends, equipping or developing?

Chris Goede:     Well, I think no doubt about it, it is completely about developing. Let’s go back to it. We’re talking about level four here today, and we’re talking about you developing your people. We’re talking about, obviously, you’ve got to train them. A lot of organizations invest resources and maybe you as a leader, invest in your team on training and/or equipping them, but they should also be investing in them from a development standpoint as well. I want to encourage you, we often say that we develop and invest in people both personally and professionally. People are like, “Why are you doing that? Why, why would you do that?”

Well, I often say, “We spend more time with people that we work with than we do at home. So if I can add value to them at home, and they become a better person at work, and if I invest them at work professionally, and they become a better person at home, then we are definitely having the whole person be developed.” So without a shadow of a doubt, I would say that it is to develop. Equipping someone is expected. It’s part of the job. It’s what they, they expect from you. But developing is something that requires you to have a personal connection and be intentional about that action as a leader. So, how can a leader develop this development mindset in leading their team?

Perry Holley:    Yeah. It’s realizing, first of all, the development is a long-term process. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a day. It happens day by day. Equipping can be quick and straightforward. Learning the mechanics of a job can be a class, a workshop. It can be that. Development takes time because it really requires you to change. Change really can’t be rushed. It’s not one and done. It really is an investment in somebody. The process of investing in someone over time, it’s going to be difficult.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Listen, you need to remember not only does every person need to be led like they want to be led and differently, you’re going to have to develop them differently. Everybody brings different tools to the table. As a leader, you need to be aware of that. You’re not going to have the same starting place with each person. You may not even have the same ending place on that development plan that you have for them. It’s going to need some personalized attention.

So when you equip, you base what you’re doing and what you’re teaching off of your needs as an organization. What do you need them to know how to do? What is the skill set? When you’re developing them, though, you’re basing them off of their needs. What do they need to be better? What needs to be improved on that you see as their leader in order for them to grow in their influence and their development? So there’s a distinct difference between the two, but you also need to be aware that you’re going to have to do it differently.

Now, again, let me go back and say this. I’m not suggesting now you’ve got to add something else to your to-do list. It’d be great if you were intentional about that time. What I want to encourage you to do is you begin thinking about the side of the soft skills, this emotional intelligence in the leaders on your team that you want to see develop, begin thinking about what you’re already doing that would expose them to that. Then, invite them to come along. Invite them to be on that call. Invite them to take a trip with you. Invite them to a lunch. Then, as you’re debriefing what you’re already going to do is on your calendar anyways, it’s going to naturally, organically turn into a development conversation about that in that individual.

Perry Holley:    That’s often overlooked. There’s some easy things to do, just as John says, invite them to the table, take people along. Really, I had a leader do that with me. “Just come and watch this meeting. Don’t talk. Don’t interrupt. Just sit and listen. Take notes. We’ll talk about it after.” It really set me up to a development process for the next role I was going to have.

Chris Goede:     The key part of that is the invite is important. The conversation after is even more important.Perry Holley:    Right. Yeah. That’s great. It also helps, I find, to know what their dreams and desires are for the future. A level two action is, “How well do I know this person? What are they aspiring to be and do? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where can they add the most value? I’ve got them on the bus, put them in the right seat. Are they where they should be, and do I know where they want to go?” If I understand what their hopes are, where they hope to be and I can align my development with that, I’m noticing just from my experience of doing this the energy level goes up just tons and that increases their passion for the work and everybody starts to grow. Guess what? When their energy’s involved, they start to row and that’s what I’m after in the first place.

Chris Goede:     That’s what we’re after. We want to increase the middle part of that boat to rowing with us. We don’t want them just sitting there watching as the houses go by or as the boat begins to sink. So, Perry, what’s your experience with offering to develop someone, but they don’t think they have any different development needs? I was just sitting here thinking about some people I’ve worked with, not here, other places, that have, “No, I don’t need to be developed in that area.” What’s been your experience with that? How do you handle it?

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Unfortunately, it happens more than you think that people aren’t just aware. I think that’s one of the great gifts you give others as a leader is straight talk. We talk about balancing care with candor. You want to do it straight. “I care for you. I’m trying to help you. You can trust me. I’m going to make you aware some blind spots and things you don’t see.” We offer a 360 assessment. I’ve been doing some reviews lately with people, and it’s very sobering for people to hear, getting that feedback from above, beside, and below, about how people view you, and how they see your leadership, and how they see your influence.

When you have that wake-up call, people will get serious about developing when they are made aware of a gap. That’s really what you do as a coaching leader is help people identify gaps. “I think you do this great. “One area you could improve on would be that. I’m willing to help you do that. I care about you. You can trust me. Let’s get busy.” Then, they pick up the oar and start to row.


Chris Goede:     Yeah. What I love about that assessment is that it is the results of it are a great guide for you as a leader to have a conversation with that individual. The data’s right there. So, listen, as we just wrap up this, we could talk about a development plan of your people and the leadership for an entire year. So this is like maybe even higher than 30,000-foot view, but we just wanted to make sure that you understand there is a difference between equipping and training and developing your people. There are individuals on your team that if we want to build a sustainable bench of people and a culture, we need to be developing the people that are on our team right now inside. We need to be developing them, not just equipping them.

So remember, it starts with you. You cannot give what you do not have. We’ve talked about this before. So, what are you doing to develop yourself? You’ve got to be modeling that. Leaders got to go first. I was on a conversation this morning with a leader that said, “I have four individuals that need to be coached.” I said, “Okay. What about you?” “What about me?” “No, no, no. You have to go for first. I’m not saying you got to be a part of any group conversations, but we’ve got to be coaching you first.” So, leaders, you got to go first.

Then, you got to remember, it’s just a process. Start small. What can you include them on? What can you expose them to? What type of conversations can you have going to and from those appointments so that you can begin this process? Because it does take time. Then, the other thing is just be consistent in doing it. We get excited, maybe you hear this podcast, you’re like, “Yes, I’m going to do that with Perry. We’re going to start this week.” And then three weeks, Perry’s like, “Hey, what happened to…” So be consistent because consistency compounds. The more you do it, you’re going to wake up 12 months from now, you go, “Holy cow, look at Perry.” And it all started because you were intentional about making that decision about developing them.

Got to train them. Got to equip them. We already do that. Most of the world and organizational development does that, but they miss the point on developing the people. So make it an intentional thought and a process of how you can develop your team.

Perry Holley:    It’s a very high level of influence when people follow you because you’re investing in them and they will row. It’s just, “You believe in me, I’m going to improve my performance for you.” So thank you, Chris, great insights. As a reminder, if you’d like to learn more about The 5 Levels of Leadership or the 360° Leader, you may find that information at We are offering those workshops in a virtual format now. So if you’re interested, please let us know with a comment there. You can also leave us a question. We’d love to hear from you. Very grateful that you would spend this time with us each week. That’s all today from The John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

Be the first to comment on "Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #113: Turning Watchers into Rowers"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *