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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #146: Do You Like Seeing it Work Without You, or Because of You?

July 22, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #146: Do You Like Seeing it Work Without You, or Because of You?

Do things fall apart when you are not present? Or does your business work well when you are away? Today, Chris and Perry talk about three things you can do as a leader to empower your people to work at their highest levels, even without you in the room.

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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 others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley at 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. Just as a quick reminder before we get started, if you have a question for Perry or I, if you would like to download the learner’s guide-

Perry Holley:    I thought it was just for me there for a minute.

Chris Goede:     That’s right. All Perry, all questions to Perry, please visit We were just talking too before we came on the air… Was we have a leader that just reached out to you and was like, “Man, listen, I not only listen to it, but then I share with my entire team the podcast.”

I’d encourage you, man, if you hear something… Hopefully you hear something that adds value to you as a leader, man, we’d love for you guys to share that with your team, share it with other peers or leaders that you may have.

Well, let’s jump in, and as we get started you guys know I love the titles, and Perry is responsible for our content and the titles, and so we have a good time. Sometimes I think he’s talking directly to me. This may be one of those, but here’s today’s title, do you like seeing it work without you or because of you? That’s a question that I think all leaders have to ask themself.

So we’re going to talk about this and we’re going to really talk about it and how this will drive the culture of your organization, leadership culture. So, Perry, be honest with our audience and listeners-

Perry Holley:    This is not an intervention.

Chris Goede:     Although I will learn something from today, I promise you. I’ve seen the content.

Perry Holley:    Well, I had a… I started a coaching call by asking the executive that I was coaching how his vacation had been. He had been away. He said that he had a great time, but he said, “The place fell apart while I was gone.” But he said it with like an uptick with pride and pleasure in his voice.

I said, “You sound like that was a good thing,” and maybe I must have sounded amazed. He goes, “Well, they need me.” I said… Well, I knew exactly what we were going to be coaching on for the next several calls, this whole idea about it fell apart while you were gone and that’s a good thing? No. He wanted to see to work with him. He’s not comfortable saying it works without me.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, and isn’t that true… Even if you think about some of our behaviors as leaders, how many of us go on vacation nowadays and just can completely check out from the team via text, via email, whatever it might be, social media? You feel like you need to stay engaged, and so I think this is very relevant to everyone listening.

Remember, we define leader as someone with influence. It doesn’t mean you have to have direct reports, so I think this relevant for every leader that’s out there, and this is a question I think you have to answer, and we’re going to talk a little bit about it.

It’s interesting… The example that you’re using, we’ve talked about this example before off the air several times, and I think that there’s no doubt he likes to see work happen because of him, and many leaders are like that. Not only does this put limitations on his leadership, the team’s leadership and the organization.

The other thing too is that has a drastic effect on the type of culture that is being created inside that organization, and that’s what you and I talk about all the time, is how do we help organizations, how do we help leaders develop a more engaging leadership culture, and I think by answering this question we’ll be able to really kind of open their eyes on this.

Perry Holley:    I first heard the phrase seeing it work without me from a friend of our business. Author and speaker Andy Stanley had said it. He said he would actually come to… He’s a pastor of a very large church, but he would have weeks off during the summer and he would come to the church and sit back and not be in his role, but he would sit back and watch how things… Just observe how the whole function… You know, getting cars in the parking lot, and kids in the nursery, and people in the seats, and people greeted and coffee served, just watching it work without him.

I thought what a secure thing for a leader to say. Actually I reflected on myself, going I don’t know if I could say that. Do I enjoy seeing it work without me, or do I expressly like seeing it work because of me? I think it requires some intentional actions, really a specific mindset to develop a team and a culture, as you were saying, where it happens without you and not because of you.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And here’s a news flash, it’s going to happen and work without you regardless, right? So why not set it up to be able to allow it to succeed with excellence? As a leader, you can do that. You have the ability to lead and empower those to do that.

So in our lesson today I’m a little disappointed by the number, right?

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

Chris Goede:     Perry has a three-step approach to seeing how it can work without us. I would have approached a five-step approach. We like the number five here, but let’s jump in.

Number one, this one is going to be scary for a lot of people, because we hold everything so close to our chest, right? I want you to unpack this a little bit for us, Perry, but number one is you just say let go, like let go.

Perry Holley:    Letting go is really about a mindset. There are obviously a few components to letting go that need to be addressed, but I’d like you to comment on each of these and see maybe what you’ve experienced in doing this, but this is really about empowering, a big word in leadership, sometimes overused, but you really are empowering your people to lead without you.

What I found, that empowerment means that they’ve been equipped and developed… I mean you’ve done some work on their skills and their abilities, and then they’re trusted to not only do their job, but to assist the team where needed. I wonder how you see that when I think about letting go and empowering the people on the team?

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Chris Goede:     Yeah. And I think one other empowerment need there is that we have to set clear expectations. We’re going to talk about that down the road a little bit, but I think not only those two, but as we empower people as leaders we got to make sure that we’re communicating and setting clear expectations.

So empowerment, here’s what that really means. Your people, they have the ability to accomplish something and they know it, giving them the confidence then that’s needed to go out and succeed.

Now when we say they have the ability some people will be like, “Well, you don’t know my people. They do not have the ability.” But that’s a skillset. That’s your job as a leader. So when you’re letting go, but while you’re watching, here are some things that we want to share with you.

The key to empowering others is to set them up for success. That is what I just mentioned ago about having the ability. You as a leader should have done some work ahead of time. We’ll talk about pre-work in just a little bit in order to set them up for success.

Are they fully equipped with the skills and tools to do their job at a high level? Are they being developed as people? It’s much different than training. You and I have talked about that before. We’re talking about both of them right here, but the point you make here is are they being developed, and I think that’s something we need to be asking ourselves.

Are they being allowed to lead from wherever they are in your organization? We call that influence, not leadership. We believe in 360° Leader. You can lead from anywhere in your organization.

Then the final thing is are they being allowed to fail, and to fail forward, fail quickly under your leadership?

Perry Holley:    I think I’d kind of flip it around and say the leader that wants to see work because of them, they’re really going to have trouble letting it go. It could be as bad as being a micromanager, but I don’t think it really has to be. You may not micromanage, but you stay very close to the people, to what they’re doing.

It may actually seem to them that you don’t trust them to lead on their own. What do you think about that? Do you see micromanaging and lack of trust showing up when somebody has trouble letting go?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I absolutely think that when you have a lack of trust, which we talk a lot about trust is given to an extent and then is earned over time, but I absolutely think that you want to hold on and micromanage.

Now I mentioned the word pre-work just a minute ago. I think the more pre-work you do as a leader, the more you’ll be able to kind of let go. The more developing you’ve done ahead of time as pre-work, you’ll be able to let go.

I would say leaders… Oftentimes some of the pre-work that needs to be done is even just asking questions and letting them respond to you in certain situations, whether it’s hypothetical for you as a leader and you want to begin to learn how they think, which is part of then making you trust them more and be able to let go, or maybe it’s even real situations that you’re going through as a leader and you’re asking questions about how they would handle that situation, would then allow you to keep from micromanaging once you begin to do that.

I think also that as you begin to ask these questions you’ll be able to help them close the gap between the choices they might have made and what they will have actually made during the time of them being able to lead, and hopefully close that gap of being able to… Close the gap of failure, right, and be able to get it done a little bit quicker.

It’s easier for us as leaders to take less time, to hover nearby to make sure they can rescue from any struggles versus to completely just kind of step away and let what happens happen, and then maybe sometimes have to go clean up the mess on the back end.

Perry Holley:    You may have come up with something new here, a helicopter boss.

Chris Goede:     A helicopter boss. That’s right, sort of helicopter parenting, helicopter leading.

Perry Holley:    Number two, so after you let go you have to let them lead. I think this is something you were just hitting on about the expectations you place on each person to lead from where they are in the organization, and I think a great reminder that leadership is influence no matter where you are. You don’t have to have a title or be a boss to be a leader, but we want to give people the mindset of leading.

I think you have to set the direction, you set the desired outcomes or the vision of where we’re going, and then you set the expectation for each person, and now you let them lead and get out of the way.

Chris Goede:     That’s exactly right. I was like and then you get out of the way and allow it to happen. When we talk about leading from anywhere in the organization, Perry and I talk a lot about The 5 Levels of Leadership and how it is about influence.

No matter where your connection is inside the organization encourage them to increase their influence by leading across, by leading up, by leading down, whatever it might be, and they will have the ability then to connect with and influence people throughout the organization to accomplish what is needed to be accomplished, whether they’re direct reports or not, so allow them to do that. Allow them to grow through that. Allow them to gain influence inside the organization.

I was having a conversation with a leader just the other day and she actually said to me… She was like, “Well, I don’t really have the position to be able to do that,” and I was like, “Since when does a position keep you from connecting and influencing people?” She was like, “What do you mean?”

It was an eyeopening conversation for her about being able to accomplish things on behalf of her leader by thinking about what it looks like to increase her influence and how to increase her levels of influence up to the five levels.

Perry Holley:    I think if you flip it around again, for the leader who wants to see it work because of them, all that influence falls on the leader, not within the members of the team. These are those lonely at the top leaders that tend to lead alone and don’t invite others to the leadership table.

I don’t know if you have seen that in your experience, but I had a guy tell me, “It’s just lonely at the top.” I said… I remember what John taught me, “Then you’re doing it wrong.”

Chris Goede:     That’s right. I think absolutely you’re doing it wrong. This should not be a journey by yourself. Will you as a leader probably think further than others? Absolutely. Will you move at a different pace than others? Absolutely. But you got to be bringing people with you.

It goes back to the success versus significance part of being a leader. I think we could be successful if we’re out there and have impact if we’re going at it and it’s because of us and we’ve got to be there, but I think we can really have significant impact on people and culture, leadership culture in organizations, kind of a 10X of impact, if we take a group of people with us, which brings us to number three.

Number one, again just to kind of remind you, was to let go. That may be the hardest one. Then number two Perry had for us was let them lead. Number three, as we kind of wrap up and move towards the end of our session today, is coaching up and coaching up and coaching through.

We’ve talked about in past episodes together about being a coaching leader and finding those coaching moments, which by the way timing is so critical. Timing is everything in those coaching moments. If you didn’t get a chance to listen to that one I would encourage you to do so. It’s just so important as you kind of build this leadership culture, in order to sustain it we got to make sure that we’re coaching up and coaching through.Perry Holley:    Yeah. I just find that as the speed of business today is that you really can’t just train them up and set them free and hope that it all sticks. If you really hope for them to grow and develop then you need to come alongside them.

I think the leader that wants to see it work without them is a coaching leader, has a mindset of constant growth and learning. It’s just a part of that. After you’ve set them free and after you’ve let them lead, you just stick with the coaching, coach them up and then coach through the problems and the growth. They will continue to grow and outperform your expectations I’m sure.

Chris Goede:     Well, as we wrap up today back to the title, and this is really just a self-reflecting question. I’d encourage you to sit down and really think about this, is do you like seeing it work without you or because of you? What’s your answer?

I think if you were to take away some nuggets, I think the biggest thing for me coming out of this lesson today is am I doing the pre-work as a leader to be able to allow this happen without me, whatever that might look like? By the way, it’s going to happen without you one way or another, so what are you doing pre-work to be able to do that?

Then my final takeaway for us is as we go through that process understand as leaders in order for this to work and to work without you communication is so key on the front end, communication, a clarity of expectations, of skillset, of development. All those things start with communication, so ask yourself the question of today’s title, what are you doing for pre-work, and then how are you going about communicating that?

Perry Holley:    Fantastic. Well, thank you Chris, and thank you all. If you want that learner guide for today’s lesson you can find that, as well as some information about The 5 Levels of Leadership or 360° Leader… You can find all of that at You can also leave a comment or a question for us there. We really enjoy hearing from you and we’re really grateful that you would spend this time with us today. That’s all for the John Maxwell Executive Leadership podcast.

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