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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #34: The 10 Half Truths of Employee Engagement, Part 2

April 29, 2019
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #34: The 10 Half Truths of Employee Engagement, Part 2

In this episode, Chris Goede and Perry Holley share the remaining “half truths” of employee engagement, including actionable tips for leaders to drive intentional engagement with their teams.

If you’d like to increase employee engagement for your entire organization, sign up for one of our upcoming 5 Levels of Leadership public workshops.

Listen to all podcasts in this series and subscribe to new episodes on iTunes or Google Play.

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 facilitator and coach and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining.

Today’s topic is part two of our discussion The 10 Half Truths of Employee Engagement. Now, if this is the first time you’re listening to us, you have to really go back to the first one because I told Perry, I was like, I’m grateful that you broke them up into two because I have a hard time staying focused past five. And then secondly, I needed to know what a half truth was. So we’re not going to describe that here. If you didn’t listen to the first one, you’re going to have to go listen to it and you’ll find it out there. But here are the first five we talked about from Part 1, just kind of the half through. So he said #1, my people understand that I have a very demanding job. The second half truth was my people know that I need them. The half truth #3, my people know that I care about them. Four was that they know that I appreciate their need to be autonomous. And then the final one we covered was my people are clear on my expectations of them. So let’s get started, Perry. Let’s move to 6 through 10. I’m going to let you run with this. This is something you’re passionate about. I know that you’ve written on it in the past. For sure.

Half truth #6: my people understand that I give feedback when I can.

Now, this may be true, but it’s really only half the story. Not giving feedback for whatever reason you may have is a sure way to lose the engagement of the team. I find that when I ask people about what can I do to help you, I have no idea how I’m doing. Feedback, what you’re doing well and what you need to improve on, is really what I have found to be a key factor in showing people that I value you and when I value them, when I think of their mind, that equation has to value me equals high engagement from me. You buy into me, I’m bought into what’s going on.

Yeah, I saw these two words a couple of weeks ago and it said feedback unclutters. I thought, wow, that is so true. Right? And then I started thinking about my engagement level with the organization at different times. And when do I check out and become less engaged? And I was like, oh, for me, the way I’m wired, it’s when things begin to get cluttered and it doesn’t logically make sense to me. And so I thought, man if I could make sure that my leader Mark Cole, our CEO, makes sure that there’s continuous feedback, it will unclutter what I’m thinking and allow me then to be more engaged. And so I do think that feedback is something that would help you with your team to make sure it’s continuous. We’ve talked about that on our last podcast to make sure of that because if we’re not giving it to them, I think it’s an easy way for our team to disengage.

So a couple of things, when I was reading that article where I saw feedback unclutters, I just want to kind of share, the other thing it said was behind candor is transparency and authenticity. And I think the more transparent we are with our team, I think the more authentic we are with our team, the more trust that’s built and the more engagement that we have with them. Jack Welch said this, he said, lack of candid feedback in business blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all they got. And that last part of that: good people contributing all they got. We have good people. That’s full engagement. That’s right. When they’re not engaged, you’re not getting all of that discretionary effort.

Yeah. Well, another word that you’ve taught me a lot about is clarity. I thought feedback just adds clarity to am I doing the right things? Am I focused on the right things? Is there something I could do to improve? I love that crystal clear. I’m on the right track and I had a blind spot but you helped me see it. Now I can move forward. So I love that. That’s why I think it’s so important to do engagement.

Half truth #7: my people understand that I give coaching whenever I can.

Now, this may be true, but it’s really only half the story if you don’t have time to coach me and help me improve than what am I doing here? And I think that people are really motivated and engaged when they’re moving toward mastery when they’re moving toward really growing and improving. And your willingness to coach is one of those value statements. Almost like listening is, you value me enough to help me be better.

Yeah. Most leaders want to coach. I think all of us do. We really get down to the side, want to coach, but due to lack of time, maybe other distractions, it keeps us from doing that with our people. And so one of the things we do is we try to keep it less formal. How do we do it in the moment? How do we do it in real time so that we can make sure that they’re getting coaching? And the analogy that I like to think about under this topic right here is I’m a big sports fan. And so when you watch what happens nowadays on the sidelines of an NFL game, of a college football game, even to my son’s high school team, now they have tents set up and have software that’s given digitally. What happened in the last series? Yeah, they all have iPads. It’s crazy for with that. That’s right. I was like, no wonder why my dues went out there. But, you see the coaches over there, right? And you see him? No, no, no, no, no, no, not right here. John. Don’t be doing this. Like, when that guy comes here, this is what I need you to do. And so I was like, man, if we really took that approach with those that we work with every day and are giving him that real-time feedback in that real-time coaching, how much more engaged would they be? How more effective? And at the end of the day, how much more would we see our bottom line increase? And I’ll just add to that, I agree with you 100%. Most leaders want to coach, they just find trouble finding the time to coach. They’ve made it this mental thing and there might don’t have time to coach.

Well, what if we made it a little simpler? Why do you think you don’t have time? Well, I have to have my laptop out and a whiteboard and I have a spreadsheet and I have to have their person in and, you know, I’ve got a coffee and the light’s going. Stop it, coach in the moment. Your examples triggered that in my mind, just coaching in the moment and people will begin to see that you’re really leaning into their development and helping them.

Half truth #8: my people understand that I make the decisions.

Well, this may be true. It’s really only half the story. And when you don’t expect me to have a point of view, I disengage. And we talked about this stepping up, stepping back if you’re always stepping up, always making the decisions, then I, by default I’m always stepping back. When you expect me to think like it’s my business and I’m an owner in this business with you, it engages me and helps me to lean in. I want to lead to a higher level. But when you’re always doing stepping up and I’m doing the back, stepping back, I disengage. How many times have we gone to a meeting and we go, here we go again? Yeah. About to go into about an hour and an hour and a half. And I’m just going to work on my emails and make some notes, right? Whatever it might be. And you completely disengage, and so one of the things I would encourage you to remember is to specifically in meetings, we can talk about this maybe some of the time, is to make sure that you only have people in the meeting that you want to hear from maybe or need to hear from or need their perspective on it. But all of us are smarter than one of us. And one of the things that we need to remember is that the perspective that someone else is going to bring to your idea, your thought, the decision you have to make is going to grow you. You don’t know. We don’t know what you don’t know. And my wife and I talk about that all the time. Sometimes we mentor younger couples, you know, in certain situations. They’re starting businesses and this and that and the energy and the passion’s there and I’ll walk out and say they just don’t know what they don’t know that. Right? And you say you try to impart that on them. One of the things John does with us inside The John Maxwell Company is he always says, hey, it’s not my idea when I come to a meeting that wins. It’s the best idea. And I expect everybody at this table, you’re here for a reason, and I expect everybody at this table to add value to this meeting. And when you don’t add value to this meeting, you might not be invited back to this meeting and he’s not kidding. And so it’s the way that keeps us all engaged and he wants to hear the different perspectives of us inside his organization.

I told this story before, I’m sure about the leader that said, Perry, what do you think? And I said, well, I think what you think. And he said, well, can I give you a tip if we both think the same and one of us won’t be necessary, it’s not going to be him. It’s going to be me. Okay. I better start thinking and I thought am I as a leader engaging my team with a point of view?

Half truth #9: my people know they can trust me.

Wow, this may be true, but it’s really only half the story and I guess to sum this up, it really doesn’t matter what you think that they think, but what actions are you taking to increase trust? How do I know I can trust you? What are the things you intentionally do to increase trust for every person that you lead? It only takes one thing to erode trust and it takes a bit of time to build trust. So trust is a big one. Yeah, and those questions that you just kind of worked through that pretty quick. Some of those are for yourself as the leader. Others that he mentioned are actually the questions your team is asking about you. And so you need to make sure that you think through those, maybe even have a dialogue and a conversation with your team about those questions. Because trust is the currency to all influence, to all leadership. And you’ve heard us say this before, Greg Kagel mentioned it to me, it’s just embedded in my mind, which is, you know, trust. Authenticity is that trust accelerator. And in the 5 Levels of Leadership, we talk a lot about as you build influence with people, it takes a while to go from one to two and two to three and sometimes it takes years. But boy, when you break trust, and we could talk about a lot of examples here. You come down in a hurry and then you have to begin that process of moving back up again. So just remember, listen, do what you say you’re going to do and make sure you follow up and make sure that you do things and you speak with transparency and authenticity in order to build trust with your people. Yeah, for sure. Trust is the linchpin of leadership and you can tweet that.

Half truth #10: my people know that I’m here to help them.

While this may be true, I find it really to be only half the story. Are you actively looking for ways to help me? Do you help me grow my skills? Can you help grow my capabilities? Are you helping me get promoted? Are you helping me really define my greatness? And helping me again as another value statement that says, you value me and you see a potential in me that you, you want to help me get better and you want to help me look better in front of clients, whatever it is. And that just drives up my engagement level. I like how you said actively, right?

As leaders, we need to be actively looking for ways to help our teams. We need to be proactive about how we’re leading and connecting with our team to make sure that we have this full engagement, that it’s not a half truth that really becomes not a truth at all. And so a lot of times this is very simple and we’ve mentioned this here before. It’s a lot of times at the pace of which go, sometimes I’ll say, hey, you know, one of my team members, hey, what do we need to start? What do we need to stop? What do we need to keep doing? Just something simple like that allows me to get to a point to where I can listen to them, I can hear them, they feel like they’re being heard, they know that I want to help them. And a lot of times out of that conversation, we will actually find ways to help our team members. We were with a company a couple of weeks ago out in Colorado, an incredible company. It’s in the service business and they do a lot of home repair and work and a great culture, great people, but they felt like they didn’t have complete engagement from the men and women that are out in the field doing the work every day. And so we went through the 5 Levels of Leadership and we’re doing some coaching with some of their executives in there. But at the end of the day, we had their leadership team in the room and there was about 12 to 14 of us in the room and we went through that very simple little exercise in different departments. And what came out of that, an executive level room, what came out of that simple exercise was so powerful that they’re now going to implement it to where it’s going to be happening with every leader and their direct report all the way down to the field a couple times a week so that they’re having that engagement level, they know how to help their people in know how to interact with them and problem solve for them.

Fantastic. Well, we’ll start to wrap this up. Let me just fly through the last five here. And again, it was my people understand that I give feedback when I can, but you need to be given feedback continuously. My people understand that I give coaching when I can. Coach in the moment. Coach more than when you can. Make sure you’re showing value to them. My people understand that I make the decisions. Try stepping back in helping them to step up. As you said, all of us are smarter than one of us, get their point of view. My people know that they can trust me. Well, trust is in the eye of the beholder and are you doing the things or to build or destroy trust. My people know that I’m here to help them. Are you really leaning into what ways you can help them? Are you asking them what can I start doing that would help them more? What should I stop that’s not helping? What should we continue doing? Simple questions.

Well listen, engagement remember, it’s not about satisfaction. We talked about that just briefly. It’s about how do we increase the employee engagement and the way to do it is as leaders to be intentional, you have to be intentional about what you’re doing. We talk a lot about how we don’t even have time to think, right? And a lot of times we were so much in it and we’re not thinking about it and thinking about our people and even just thinking about some of these things that you’ve challenged us with the top 10. It’s a big list so I would challenge you to say, hey, how do I break this down? And maybe just look for one or two that I can begin to think through on a weekly basis and then move to another two, don’t try to tackle all 10 at one time. And remember, I think the way to fully engage your team through all of this is communication and authenticity. Those are two words out of the last two podcasts that kind of just stick out to me. It’s really about communication and authenticity and the question I have for ourselves, it goes back to what we talked about just briefly in the last podcast, which was this, how would you feel if you weren’t engaged, first of all, inside your organization, what does that feel like coming to work every day? Do you want your people to feel like that? Do you feel like you’re getting everything out of it if they feel like that? But then more importantly, how would you feel if you found out your boss was not being candid or willing to give you feedback about your performance or your ideas around the organization? And the answer to that question is one that drives disengagement. And so we just have to make sure that we’re on the other side of that.

Fantastic. Well, I do agree. Intentional is the word and paying attention to these 10 will help a lot. Thank you, Chris, for the insights. Just as a reminder, we’re offering a free download on this topic, the 10 Half Truths of Employee Engagement. We’d be glad to share that with you from the John website. Also, if you’d like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or even bring a 5 Levels Workshop to your organization, you can do that at, as well. Leave us a comment, ask us a question. We’re very grateful for you joining us. That’s all for today. Thanks for joining the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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