Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #12: The Fastest Way Leaders Work Themselves Out of a Job
In Episode 12 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, The John Maxwell Company’s Perry Holley and Chris Goede discuss Level 4 in the Five Levels of Leadership which focuses on reproduction. It’s our job as leaders to be intentional about developing and investing in leaders — or high potential employees — on our teams and preparing them to take our positions when we move up the ladder.
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Read the transcript below:
Welcome to the John Maxwell Company Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your level of influence, increase your reputation as a leader, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell Company facilitator and coach and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining.
Well, I’m completely intrigued by your title today – “The number one way leaders work themselves out of a job.” I can’t wait to hear. Please go.
This is really all about people development. It’s all about Level 4 when it comes to the Five Levels of Leadership. I think there may be two ways. One, may be the way that we want to happen. We’ll talk a lot about that today. Secondly, may be very similar to a text that I just received from an executive friend of mine who was bringing the John Maxwell Company out next week to speak into their organization and their culture. And I just got a text that says, Hey, change of plans. You’re still coming out, you have a new contact person. But, next week I won’t be here. Today’s my last day. So, unexpectedly, things went a little bit differently and he’s now out of a job. Not for long though because he’s an incredible leader, but really we’re coming back to the way that I think all of us could kind of work ourselves out of a job.
What’s interesting and really kind of the context behind this title is I’ve worked for John on and off now for about 20 years and this has been a stable comment of his ever since I’ve started working with him, which is, Hey Chris, work yourself out of a job that I have you in and I’ll find you another job inside the organization. If you don’t work yourself out of that job, you might not still have a job. Right? And so from early on, I knew what he meant by that. It’s our job as leaders to make sure that we are developing and investing in those that are on our team in order to build a leadership bench to hopefully take my job someday.
Well, I recall my son was working up through an organization and had a leadership job. He was working for the next level and talked to his executive who said, yes, I agree you’re ready for the next level. And then said, so, who’s your backfill? Who have you trained? Who have you developed into a leader to take your leadership position? And my son looked at him and said, well, that’s your job. You’re the boss. He goes, oh, no, no, no, no. Why would I take on that role and important role of you to develop a succession plan for yourself by developing the leaders as John puts are the leaders around you and the leader within you. We’ve been doing within part, but we have been doing the around part. And so my son had about another six months of intentionally developing some people so that he could move on to the next role.
You know, what a development tool for him to begin to understand the power of that is he begins to move up that organization of building a culture that’s about developing other leaders. It’s funny, I was speaking to an organization this morning and we were talking a little bit about the power of culture and how much it needs to be developed, how much it needs to be changed. And there’s this survey out that Bain and Company did that said 76% of organizations that we surveyed felt like their leadership development culture was changeable. Then they came back 10 years later, interviewed the same organizations and of those that responded to the survey, only 10% actually succeeded at changing, enhancing and developing their culture. And so people looked around the room, they’re like, man, why is that? Like, if it was going to be a competitive advantage of it was going to be a differentiator. If they said it’s changeable and it’s needed, why didn’t they do it? And it comes down to what we’re going to talk about today, which is intentionality behind doing it. And as leaders, the last thing we want is another thing on our to do list. We don’t need another thing. We don’t want to add another thing. And so our challenge today, our discussion today, is going to be around how do we intentionally intersect what we are already doing with those that are on our team in order to develop them.
I know John talks in the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He calls it the Law of Explosive Growth, which said if you want to add growth, lead followers, but if you want to multiply, you’ve got to lead leaders. And I think if we’re talking about working yourself out of a job and multiplying the abilities of others to lead, why is this difficult for so many leaders to do it? I’m guessing it’s not the easiest thing in the world.
No, because it takes time. Right? And that’s why I kind of set it up saying, the last thing I want to do is challenge us with another thing to do as leaders. But, I do want to challenge you because I think you have to make the decision to intentionally do this. The first thing I want you to think about is if a team member of yours can do something 80% as good as you can, then I want to challenge you to give it away. John teaches us that if you do that and you begin to develop and intentionally oversee and coach through that process, that eventually they’ll be 85% as good as you, 95%, and then as a leader, you may have to eat a little humble pie because they’ll probably do a better than you.
And so as you look through your team and you see what their skill sets are, what their niches are, you see what’s ahead of the team was head of the organization. Find individuals that can do the things that you’re doing 80% as good as you, and give it away. Now, when I talked to you about the fact that I want to intentionally as leaders intersect what you’re already doing with developing people, here’s what I want you to think about. The first thing is I want you to think about the top 20% on your team that what I would call up and coming, emerging leaders, some people call them high potential leaders and I want you to identify the top 20%. We can’t as leaders, give our time and developing people to the entire team so we we have to. It’s the old pareto principle. It’s fall back to the top 20% and here’s what I want you to do. I want you to begin to think about things that you do as a leader every single day, and then I want you to intentionally intersect them with those experiences. They could be lunches, they could be meetings, they could be phone calls, they could be projects, it could be trips. Don’t add another thing to your plate, but you do have to spend some time thinking about how can you intersect what you’re already doing with developing people.
Now I always give a caution here to the organizations that we coach or consult with and I’m like, here’s the deal. If you’re going to do that, you need to have a conversation with the top 20% first and here’s what that conversation looks like. That conversation goes a little bit like this. Hey, we see a lot in you. We see it as an emerging leader, your up and coming and we’re really excited about your future at this organization. I want to invest some time in you and we’re going to figure out some ways to do this to where you’re going to get some exposure, not to training, but to developing. There’s a difference. We can talk about that in another podcast the difference between training and developing. And, you ask them a question, are you up for this? Something you’re interested in? And of course you’re hoping that you’ll get a resounding yes. Otherwise, you might want to check why you picked them in your top 20%. Then, what I want you to do is I want you to ask them a question and it doesn’t go any further unless you get agreeance in this question, which is will you be willing to then in turn do the same thing with your top 20%?
So what you’re beginning to do is you’re beginning to multiply leaders inside of the organization that are all working themselves out of a job, but they prepared like you mentioned with your son, people below them to take their job and when you talk about building a leadership bench and developing people in your organization, that’s the focus you have to have. Now, it’s a simple little model. It’s hard to apply. I think you’d probably agree with this and across the world and all the training development that we do. The biggest gap I see is that people understand, hey, I have influenced because I have a title, Level 1. I have influence and a lead because people want to follow me. I have influence and to lead and have people follow me because I produce and the biggest gap happens right there. Because they stop, they stop at that production level and they don’t think about what does it look like to reproduce or to develop other leaders. And so that’s my thought process is that I want you to begin to identify your top 20% and begin to look like what that, what that would mean inside your organization and developing your leaders.
Yeah. I love that. I’m flashing back to John teaches ‘never go alone’. And I didn’t really know what that meant. I saw it play out for me was a senior executive that I reported to. He didn’t have that direct talk like you had it, but he was by leaving breadcrumbs. I could see that he was trying to groom me, but he would be going up the hill. He was going up to the big, thinner for the big executives up to a meeting and he would take me along and say, I want you to sit there. Don’t get up to the table, sit back against the wall, take notes, don’t speak. And I thought what in the world is going on, but what he was doing was letting me see, come inside the curtain, pay attention, listen. And then you know, a week later on our one on one we have a debrief about what do you notice, would you see, what would you have done differently? Starting to question me. He didn’t have to do a lot. We already had a one on one scheduled and he was already going to the meeting. All he had to do was drag me along to, to include me into the mix. So, uh, I love that idea that you say and just include people that 20% into what you’re doing. Iintentionally intersect.
And, you know, I was just thinking as you were saying that Ken Blanchard and the Blanchard organization is good friends of John our organization. He once said, the test of your leadership is not what happens when you are there, but it’s what happens when you’re not there. Right? And so as a leader, begin thinking about that, what would happen if I was not here? Right? What would happen the day after the funeral for Chris and my team? What does that look like? Are they ready? Are they prepared? A good friend of ours and a client that’s been a partner for a long time, used to say to us, what are we doing to prepare before the moment for the moment? And that’s a, that’s a mantra that you could go around with as a leader, you know, what are you doing with the top 20% in order to do that?
What we find is that developing leaders in your organization like that will build you a bench if you’re a leader that does that, it’s going to separate yourself from other leaders, is going to send you to the next level. And then I think the other thing is, is that it’s going to raise the employee engagement inside your organization. I mean, think about the top 20% that’s carrying the weight and your team. When you have a conversation like that with them, the next morning when they come back to work or the next trip, you take them on to the next meeting, they go on the next phone call. Think about the engagement level that you’re going to have for them.
Oh yeah. It raises the energy. It raises the feeling of value it. It draws me closer in. I’m feeling I like I own piece of this. I’m not just observing. That’s a shared perspective, right? It will begin to share it with the team. He used to ask me, what’s your point of view? I think what you think. No, you’re not necessarily to do that. Okay. What’s your point? It really could have training me to think like the leader that he wanted me to be. Now this seems a little obvious, but I know it’s a struggle for some people, but what do we do with all this given? As we start to wrap this up, thinking about, maybe you’re heading into work tomorrow, being that I love you used the word intentional, but what are some intentional things we already talked about taking me along and you know, never go alone, bringing people along as you’re developing them, but maybe you’re thinking about some of the best practices of leadership development, people development. Where would you send people today?
Yeah. It’s a couple of questions for you, right? Who on your team can do something you’re doing right now 80% as good as you? That’s the first question. The second one is, is it worth your thinking time? Because I’m going to challenge you to find things that you’re already doing and intersect them intentionally with developing people. So is it worth your thinking time to spend time on who are the top 20%, as well as how can I intentionally intersect them with experiences, around the organization that will develop them? And as you think through who that is, then you have to think through what those opportunities are and how you get the ball rolling. So there’s just some questions I think you need to think about. Think on the business, right? Not In the business. Spend some white space calendar time around this because here’s the deal. This is a multiplication project that will pay off in dividends as you’re building your leadership bench.
I was always struck by the fact that I kept thinking I had to. It was job training. It’s really much bigger than that. It’s really life skills, business skills, professional skills, things that you can bring to people’s lives. I remember coaching a young man. We went to a business dinner and the things he didn’t know surprise me until I realized I didn’t know those either, about how to act at a dinner, how to, you know, even etiquette types of things that you can train people to raise their level inside your organization, not just at the job but as human beings andand now you’re adding value to my life. My engagement level just went up even more.
When you decide to invest in something. And by the way, those that we work with, we probably spend more time with than we do our family members. And so if we’re going to acknowledge that and say it’s true, why would we not invest in them personally, professionally and financially.
Also, don’t overlook easy things are simple things that you could be doing. I’ve given a book away here or ask somebody what they like to read a chapter a month or something. Something slow, something easy. But we could talk about if I’m trying to invest. I remember years ago, if you. I don’t, do you recall CDs? Remember, those? The maximum impact club really was affecting my life. I was buying the CDs from John and they were coming every few weeks I would get my new CD and it had a little notebook that you took notes in. It was just fantastic. I thought I’m getting some. And then I got promoted and I had a team and I thought, how could I invest in the lives of these folks on my team? And so I picked my 20%. It was probably just a couple of people. I bought two or three subscriptions and put their name on the address label, had it go to them and I don’t know whether they used it as much as I would like that they have used it, but I know that every month, once a month when they went to their mailbox, they thought about me because there was that leadership resource waiting for them and I go to the ones that looked at it got as much value as I did out of it, but it didn’t cost me a lot of money, it
was easy to do. Somebody else did all the mailing. I just took the credit.
That’s right. You were intentionally already a part of that learning and you just pass it along/ Now you can just send them a link to the online online. That’s called digital. That’s right. All right, Let’s wrap this up. A great conversation. I think it’s something that most leaders have the best intentions, but putting an execution sometimes is a little tough. Any parting words on helping us to execute better as we wrap this up? Just make sure what we’re talking about here today is Level 4 influence. Work yourself out of a job because you’re developing and pouring into other people. Fantastic.
Thanks for the insights. Just a reminder, if you’re interested in learning more about the Five Levels of Leadership, perhaps bringing the Five Levels Workshop into your organization, please go to JohnMaxwellCompany.com/podcast. We’d love to hear from you there.
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