Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #19: Stepping up or Stepping Back
Boosting employee engagement is one of the most real challenges that leaders have today. In fact, only about 30% of employees are engaged, leaving a lot of room for growth for most organizations. In Episode 19 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we’ll talk about engagement and why leaders must learn to stop stepping up and step back in order to increase engagement and multiply the capabilities of their teams.
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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.
Chris, this topic and probably the next podcasts, will be on increasing engagement, it’s one of the real challenges most leaders have in the organization is full engagement of their teams. There’s lots of statistics on how much that costs the company. but today’s topic we’ve titled Stepping up or Stepping Back and I know as a leader, we’re trained to kind of, you’re always supposed to be stepping up, step up as a leader. Is that what you’re thinking?
Well, we briefly talked about it to your point on a previous podcast and I’m definitely thought that it needed more attention in our travel around the world and organizations of all sizes, engagement comes up a ton. How do I get more employee engagement? What does that look like? So the first thing I thought we would do is how do we define engagement and what does that look like? And so I went to Gallup and was doing some reading on employee engagement a couple of weeks ago and so they, they have this definition where it says those involved in enthusiastic about and committed to their work and wor place. I thought it was very interesting and they have found that these give them the ability to predict important organizational performance outcomes. And so that’s how they kind of tie engagement to the performance outcomes. I thought that was interesting because, well the first thing I want to do is define what is engagement so that you can then begin to look for are my employees engaged. I know we talked a lot about surveys and statistics. About 30 percent of your people are engaged. I think maybe it’s even up to 32 percent, which means move in the right direction, but we still have a 68 percent problem out there with our team.
And so I know before you referenced the work of multipliers and John and I’ve had the opportunity to be with Liz and some of her different meetings and sessions and you were talking about how leaders can either multiply the capabilities of their people on the team or the opposite of that. They could diminish the capabilities. Talk to us a little bit more about that.
Yeah, that’s had a great opportunity to meet Liz Wiseman at a John Maxwell Company event. And, I was really introduced to her research, which really caught my attention. She used the term are you a genius or a genius maker? And that caused me to think is that I’ve been trained my whole life as the boss. People kind of look at you as the genius. You’re the brains of the operation. Then I heard one of the leaders that I really look up to say that if our results are completely tied to my brain, we’re in trouble. I thought, wow, I don’t think I’ve ever thought that. So, what Liz Wiseman did in her research was looking at what are the things we can do, are there things we can do as leaders to multiply the capabilities of our team and are there things we inadvertently, she actually calls them accidentally do to diminish the capabilities of our team so you can become an accidental diminisher, which I wasn’t. I took some comfort in because it wasn’t that I wasn’t intentionally doing those things, but at a number of them popped out to me that I was doing that. And I thought this is really what John talks about when he says, if I’m always stepping up, then what does the team have to do? They step back by step back. But if I step back, can I become the genius maker and ask them to step up to do that. Yup.
And part of leading by example as a leader and stepping back is challenging yourself to be in rooms, to be in meetings, to be in situations where you are not the smartest person in the room. You know, I tell my kids all the time, and I’ve again learned this from John, you know, when you look at those five people closest to you, whether it’s financially, socially, whether it’s business wise, academically, whatever it is, think about that. You can take the average of those five people that you’re included in that group and that’s where you’re going to kind of end up.
And so always challenge yourself. I tell them, my kid, always challenge yourself to make sure that you’re pushing yourself into other environments, other circles, other rooms, and John does that to us all the time and he continually does this. He lives this out. On a monthly basis, he has what he calls learning lunches, and he scheduled lunches with people that are far smarter than he is, lead far better than he has a bigger visions and he challenges himself to put himself in every month. And he comes with a list of questions. And so my thing for you is why is it important for us to make sure that we have that mindset? What are we missing if we don’t have that mindset or what are we in danger of as leaders if we don’t get to that point to where we feel comfortable being in situations that were not comfortable in.
Yeah, it’s a great question and it’s a little bit of a how secure are you as a leader? It’s a security issue to me because I find that the insecure leaders often do a lot of talking and less listening in a secure leader doesn’t mind as it came up in a identified levels last week. And, I always ask people about Level 3 and Level 2 going to Level 3, what resonates with them on some of the teaching points. And one of them people struggle with John writes about it is your ability to say, I don’t know, is it okay to say I don’t know? I have to tell you in my leadership development, and that means watching my father lead our family and watching my bosses lead me, I don’t think I ever saw a lot of people say, I don’t know. It seemed like weakness to me.
That’s right. And so the mindset to say, I don’t know, opens a door for people to tell you what they know and to invite that conversation. I saw this with a senior executive I work for once he asked he team around the table, he told the team what we going to do with the vision was. And then he looked over at Perry, what do you think? And I said, trying to be a little cute. I said, well, I think what you think boss, what do you think? He said, can I give you a tip? And I said, sure. He said, if both of us think the same thing, one of us is unnecessary and it’s not going to be me. I thought, well that’s a pretty good tip. So let me tell you what I think.
So all of a sudden I started requiring all my teams, every team I can teach and every team I lead, you need to come with a point of view because I’m going to step down and I’m going to ask you what do you think? And I said, what do you, I don’t know, what do you think? I want to know what’s in your mind?
Well, and that’s a perfect example and illustration of as a leader in that situation where you learned a great lesson, he stepped back and kind of lived it out for you and allowed you to step up. Now you didn’t at that time, but he was able to kind of teach and coach you through that moment. And that’s a perfect example. You know, as you think about yourself as a leader, you’re going to have some natural wiring in how you are designed and how you’re made up. And here’s the deal. You need to develop, learn behaviors in order to allow your team to step up and you step back to. I’m just telling you, just remember that statement because you’re going to have to analyze how you conduct meetings, how you lead conversations. And if you’re not careful, you’re going to run over your people, right? And you’re going to have a pile of dead bodies behind me because you’re continually stepping up and running over your people. And all of us are going to do it in different ways. Some are going to have of us are going to do it silently, some of us are going to do it verbally and so you need to figure out what does that look like and how do I need to best be stepping back in order to let my team step up.
So we talked a little bit earlier about, about Liz and some of the content or a multipliers. Let’s unpack that a little bit and why don’t you want you to take us down a little bit more about that so that we can give our listeners a little more efficiently. Can I ask you, you mentioned on a conversation we were having about discretionary effort and that definition of being engaged, fully engaged. I was wondering how do you see in real life, what is discretionary effort look like? How do you capture that? And around this topic that we’re talking about? So it’s funny you asked that because recently I was with an organization and we were talking about this and I think I may have mentioned on a previous podcast and we got to the point where they couldn’t figure out what they were missing. The metrics were there, they were trying to get additional metrics in this. Now we began a conversation around connecting with your team to get to discretionary effort from them because as a Level 1 leader, if you’re only leading and have influenced because of the title, you’re not getting any of that by the way, right?
They are looking at their clock and they’re only there because they need that paycheck. When you begin to connect and relate and, and John calls it the permission level, they want to follow you. The ability to connect a lot of things, connect you and your people and we’re all going to connect in different ways. And so knowing that once you begin to get them to a point to where they want to follow you, then all of a sudden you’re getting a little bit extra from them. And, and so it was funny we were talking about, I said, okay, give me some examples. What would that look like in your plant and this manufacturing plant where? Right? And he goes, man, that’s a good question. He sat there, he goes, you know, for me it would be when I go up to one of my team members and go, why did you do that?
Like how long have you been thinking about that? How long did you work on something like that? And all of a sudden something a little bit above and beyond what their kind of job responsibilities of the job description, where they’re coming. They’re presenting me new ideas, new opportunities, and they’re beginning to think outside of the box other than just their job from 8:30 to five. Now listen, I know none of us work 8:30 to five, so I get all that, but there we are still doing the very minimum that we need to do in order to get our paycheck in order to keep our job if we are not in a place that we’re given discretionary effort. So there’s a lot of ways to do that. And we can maybe even have a podcast about that, but it’s a, it’s a fun conversation app when you can find out the key to connecting to them at a level to unpack how you get their discretionary effort, the lid on your leadership, your connection, the team’s profitability,
the organizations profitability will go through the roof. And we referenced the earlier podcast about the who sinking your boat, a YouTube about some of your people are rowing with you, that 30 percent and some of the or across her lap, the 50 percent and then 20 percent trying to sink the boat. And so with what you’re talking about here and fully engaging the team and me stepping back, asking them to step up is really asking to put that or in your hand and roll with me.
Be thinking like a business owner. Not like I’m a hired hand. I need you rowing with me. And so Liz Wiseman did call out these accidental one and what you thought about some of the ones I’ll say what resonated with me, she had one that called the rapid responder is that. So again, these are things that you can accidentally do unintentionally for the most part, that diminished the capabilities of your team.
And I thought, wow, rapid responder, that’s me. An email comes in copy and send it to the team, copying me, asking for something. I wanted to be a quick read, a quick response to people. I answer the email quickly and the team deletes it. Now I’ve just stolen from them. But I said, what if I can put it in a 90 minute wait, because it’s, I’m copied on that. Let the team answer. Then I can delete the email, would help me with that. I want to call called the rescuer where you see somebody struggling and in their work and you jump in and do the work for them which diminishes. And as you’re doing this with our children as well, the protector, I don’t let you get into any situations where you might be in trouble, which is worried by the way you’re going to learn and grow and develop as a no, I rescue that. I protect you from that. Now I’ve diminished you in doing that.
I had somebody say to me one time in, in talking about the protector, they said, hey, what are some of the greatest lessons that you’ve learned in life? And we started unpacking a little bit and he goes, aren’t those all tied to failures that you’ve had? I was like, man, they are. I failed a lot. He goes, so why are you specifically around our kids? Why are you trying to protect them from failing? And I was like, or your team, right? And so you think about that. So yes, as a protector, sometimes we even like to call it the helicopter. It must have been such a big deal. John wrote a whole book on failing forward. Okay. That’s exactly right. I know a couple of others that she mentions in there that we just want to bring to your attention.
One of them is the idea guy, the creative innovator thinking, always thinking, always stimulating ideas for the team and others. The two more here, the optimists, we all know we all can relate to this and then someone on our team that has maybe accidentally led us astray from this where they’re just so positive that can do everything, can get done and strives to inspire people. And then the last one I’ll mention is the always on the dynamic, the charismatic leader who thinks that their energy is infectious and a key word there that we wrote down was who thinks that is not always the case, right? You’re like, oh, here, here, here she comes again. Everybody close my door or get on, act like you’re on your phone. So I actually had somebody tell me, I said, why are you not acting on he idea to put forward the other day?
And they said, because we know you’ll have another idea today, we realize if we just become numb to it, yeah, we just stand down. You’ll just, you’ll move onto something else. I went, oh my stars. She’s right. I’m accidentally diminishing that ability to think that’s where I bring the idea to that. So, it’s just really changed how I think about my leadership style. I hope it has made an effect here with our listeners, but maybe if we wrap this up, just providing any call to action or our ideas that if you want to look at how you step up and step back, how you can fully engage your team, how would you encourage our listeners today? Yes. I will tell you it starts with you and you’ll hear this as a common theme at the John Maxwell Company. It starts with you. And so what I mean by that in particular around engagement is that you have to lead your team in an engaging way.
If you’re not engaging with them and you’re not leading in an engaging way, why would you want them or expect them to be engaged with their work or the workplace? Is Gallup kind of referenced in there their definition earlier because there’s two parts of that would be very aware of their work and the workplace and it’s extremely important that they are engaged in both of those and so you need to be leading that way. You need to be modeling that for them. It’s interesting because the same report that I read, I want to share some statistics that I think are a little staggering to me in it and these fall on the leader. They fall on us and so I want to share them with you because we need to be aware of them and then. And then we got to figure out how do we fix them.
And in this article it talked about several different reasons on why they tie, lack of employee engagement to the leader. And so they said, hey, team members have a little belief in company leadership overall. And they said, let’s let us break this down for you. And so they did this research and they said 22 percent of leadership does not have clear direction for the organization. They don’t have it. They don’t know it. Okay, okay. Fifteen percent of leadership would make them enthusiastic about the future of the state. Let me back up. Let me start over because I missed this word. It’s important only. That’s why I missed it.
Let me start by telling each leader that’s listening to this podcast. It starts with you. We have to lead in an engaging way in order for our team to be engaged in both their work and the workplace. And so we have to lead by example. And I mentioned earlier in that Gallup a definition about the work in the workplace to things that are very important when you think about employee engagement. So in that article, I want to share some things that I think we’re pretty eye opening for me that I think we need to be aware of as we think about increasing the engagement of our people inside the organization. So Gallup said that team members, they really have little belief in company’s leadership and I think that even from your coaching experience and you’re facilitating my talking to different organizations, that’s probably pretty true. There are a lot of people that are working in organizations that have a little belief in the leadership of the organization.
And so what they came, they broke it down and they said, okay, well what does this look like? And they broke it down into three different categories and they said in an organization only 22 percent believe that the leadership has clear direction in the organization. So only 22 percent said, man, they clearly know where we’re going. They clearly know the direction that they’re taking the organization. Only 15 percent said leadership makes them enthusiastic about the future state of the organization or their role. I was like, wow. And I even thought about our organization, there are conversations that I’ve had with team members are like, I just don’t see the future. Where is it? What’s in it for me? And I thought, man, that’s, that’s a lack of engagement that I’ve got to fix it right there. And then finally, the last one I’m bring to your attention.
Only 13 percent said that leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organization. So if you’re in a certain vertical or a department, your leadership’s not doing a great job of communicating to the rest of the organization. What your team, what your vertical, what your department is all about 22 percent, 15 percent and 13 percent. Those are extremely low numbers. Then you go back and you think, well, we only have 30 percent of people engaged and you go, here’s why. And it all comes back to us as leaders. And so when I, when I think about a call to action or close, I’ll tell you this, when we decide to take on leadership, it’s no longer about us, it’s about the team, it’s about our responsibility. And you have to remember that real influence doesn’t happen in the. What we’re doing goes back to kind of Simon’s cynics. It’s why are we doing it? How do you begin to build that into your message? How do you begin to get clarity? How do you begin to communicate that effectively so that at the end of the day, the soda this is you get that discretionary effort because if your employees are engaged and they’re giving you that discretionary effort, it allows them to step up and you just step back. Right?
Yeah. That’s fantastic. I took a role as a senior executive once and I was making the rounds kind of doing one on one. Just talking with folks and one young ladies. I said, well, why are, why are you doing with the job you’re doing? And she says, I don’t know. I just do what management tells me. I said, management, what management tells me you didn’t even say what my boss tells me or what she does. Management at that. Do you think I have an engagement problem? I thought I immediately have to. You know, what is going on here is that I just do what management tells me to do them some great stuff. Great conversation. I hope it’s been helpful.
Just as a reminder to our listeners, if you’d like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or perhaps bring a 5 Levels workshop to your organization, please go to a JohnMaxwellCompany.com/podcasts. You can leave a comment for us there. You can ask a question there and also just reminding you that if you want to know more, if you’re not clear on all the 5 Levels, Episode 1 of this podcast series is a a a full explanation. Chris takes us through the 5 Levels. So, thank you for joining. This has been the John Maxwell Company Executive Leadership Podcast.
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