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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #35: Five Questions For Bridging the IP Gap

May 7, 2019
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #35: Five Questions For Bridging the IP Gap

One of the biggest causes of disconnect in the workplace is the IP Gap. This IP or ‘Intention vs. Perception’ Gap is the break between what we intend to say, come across or do and how it’s actually perceived by those we influence. In Episode #35 of our podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley explain the importance of perception and offer five questions that leaders can ask themselves to help bridge the IP Gaps within 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 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 titled “Five Questions For Bridging the IP Gap.” Yup. Intention versus perception gap, which is really the gap between what we intend to either say or come across or do and how it’s perceived. And this is a great topic. This is a topic that Greg Kagel kind of introduced us to with one of the trainings that we do, discovering your authentic leadership style with executive teams and board teams and all types of different teams when there’s kind of a disconnect there. Oftentimes at the root of all disengagement or disconnect is this intention versus perception gap. So, man, I’m fired up to talk through this today.

And, Greg made this a thing to focus on. I said, yeah, not me. People get me, I got this maybe someone else. And I’m thinking, uh. Then I offered someone on my team to give them some feedback, one of my colleagues. I said I just want to give you some feedback about what we just did together, the sales call. And my intention was completely noble. I wanted to help them grow them, help them improve to give them a leg up to their potential. I mean, I had all these reasons, but their perception and their reaction was completely almost anger, a disbelief that I would say something and I thought, what happened here? Then Greg flashed in my mind, which is terrifying that I just experienced the gap between what I intended and that how they perceived it.

Well, listen, what we’ll do, okay, if Greg is listening, which I hope he is, but we’ll just wait until we hear from him and then we’ll really know if he’s actually visiting these podcasts. Somebody’s going to tell him. This podcast as longer than two minutes, he’s not listening. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Yeah. So it happens to all of us. It happens in one on one relationships. It happens in body language and perception of other people. Even not even if you don’t have a relationship, right. Somebody like their perception of you across the office is x and when that is not what your intention behind whatever your body language is. And then, you know, both you and I do a lot of speaking. And it happens often when sometimes we’re trying to communicate a message and maybe it came across the wrong way. Maybe it got perceived the wrong way. They didn’t know your intent, my intent behind it. It just hadn’t happened recently. I was with an organization and we were talking a lot about Level 2, about questions about the power of perspective, about understanding that everybody’s wired differently has learned and what they value. And so I was kind of closing my time together with a video of just really kind of telling a story that everybody that you come in contact with every day brings a different story with them. And the video was perceived differently than what my intention was behind showing it. And they kind of just gave me a little bit of a wakeup call afterward because they talked to me about it. And so we had a very robust conversation. I was listening to them and understand their perspective. I shared my intent behind showing it. Hopefully, they could understand my perspective. And so I think that this is real, this is a deep conversation that we can have many podcasts on.

And, I want to be clear that it’s easy because you’re the one with the intention to think that they’re wrong, that they’ve somehow, it’s somebody else’s fault. And it really, I think the whole point of this message is I own it. I own that intention perception gap. It’s my job as a communicator, as the leader to close the gap. And then how can I do that? Would you agree with that? Absolutely. Totally agree. It is our responsibility to be aware and to figure out how to close it. And here’s the other thing. You’re going to have to close that gap, different ways for different people. And you just need to know that. So when I think about this, there are some things that maybe we think we are communicating or we intend to communicate in a way and how it’s perceived. And so we wrote down a few here that I want to just kind of share with, you know, the audience.

The first one, you think you’re being confident and they may perceive that you’re arrogant. You hear a lot about different sports figures, right? Saying, oh no, I’ve got to be this confident. And other people are like, man, he is, or she is extremely arrogant. The other one is humorous, which is hitting me pretty hard because I tend to use humor for a lot of things. At times people may perceive that as inappropriate. You think you’re being passionate and others may receive that or perceive that as being impulsive or intense. You know, we talk a lot about that around the organization. Detail-oriented. You think you’re being detailed oriented. Others think you’re maybe nitpicking you. You think you’re being quiet. This often comes with you and I as well, at times, people think we’re being passive or indecisive. I’m just being thoughtful. That’s right. We’re just, that’s so surprising that you must be indecisive. That’s right. And then the last one here that we wrote down was, man, you think you’re just being sensitive. They may perceive you as that needy guy or girl. And so we need to be aware. It’s funny because as I talk through these right there, I have a dash between each one of them. Well that dash in between humerus dash inappropriate, that dash represents a big gap. And as you mentioned, it is our responsibility to close that gap. And we’ve got to figure out how to drive that, how to close that in order to help our communication with the team.

Yeah. And help people see things and how we, I mean it’s us. We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are. That’s right. What’s my come from? And we had talked about multicultural and cross-cultural leadership today is really skyrocketing because the makeup of our teams is not as it always was. And people have different come froms. And I guess what I’ve learned is that as a leader there are some intentional things – and by a leader, I mean anybody that’s trying to positively influence somebody. So whether you have a title or don’t have a title if you’re communicating to people, there are some intentional things you can do to help close that gap and help really, I don’t think ever going to get it to go away. But you can narrow it significantly by being intentional on how you communicate and you mentioned about being self-aware.

Yeah, we do. To your point, we all have a bias. As a matter of fact, we all have a conscious bias and we also have an unconscious bias at all times. And if you’re sitting here listening to us and actively taking notes and you think that you don’t have a bias, well that probably is your bias. Right? Right. If you think about it and so that’s really prevalent in our team. And as a matter of fact, I’ll kind of throw a little teaser out there right now. John and Carly Fiorina are working through some things with our team and their team about diversity and inclusion training. What does that look like? And biases are a big part of that. Sure. Both verbal and nonverbal. And so that’s a little sneak peek in the future if you’re interested in that, you’ll see some more about that a little bit later. But okay. So let’s talk about this, right? So you mentioned that there are five questions to help bridge that gap. Let’s run through this real quick.

Fantastic, we kind of hit it on the first one already about question number one. Am I absolutely self-aware of how my communication style is perceived by others? And my big lesson to me is I cannot assume that you get me and that you know my motives. They don’t. It’s really all on me to make sure my communication is received as it was sent. And I just think that self-awareness, and you mentioned bias, we all have that unconscious bias. A story I’m telling myself about something before I even know the facts, the real awareness there is just knowing that you have them. You may not know what they all are, but I have them. So I’m a little more tentative in how I approach situations until I have more information.

Yeah. Well, you know what everyone says when you assume something, right? No, Perry, that’s not what I was thinking. I don’t know where your mind is, but what I wrote down here is when you assume, you are almost guaranteed to have gaps, right? So don’t worry about what I’m saying. I don’t know where your mind was going. Right. But when you make that assumption, then, man, I think that’s the first thing to say. There’s a gap there and don’t make the assumption.

Question number two – am I manipulating or motivating in my communication? Yeah, I’d love that. I learned this from John years ago. And those two words, I would tell you that almost 100% of the leaders we talked to would never purposely want to manipulate someone. That’s right. But because of the speed of life, the business of the day, the number of things coming out, a lot of people that we tend to move a little quicker and we can be perceived as being manipulative, trying to get something for me versus motivating would be really something bigger for the team, for both of us. That’s right. So I find that to be kind of easy to slide into benefit without intention, I can easily slide into appearing, be perceived. Again, it’s not my intention to be manipulating, but it could be perceived as manipulative. That’s right.

Question number three that I like to ask is, am I competing or completing? Another John teaching that I’ve learned over the years. But, in my communication competing or completing? What do think about that? Well, you know, he talks a lot about that in the 360 Degree Leader. And, I think for us, all the work that we do from Fortune 500 companies down to, you know, entrepreneur, smaller, privately held companies, this right here is one of the biggest topics that we deal with in cultures that drive the negativity in culture is because a lot of leaders and these questions, by the way, are for you to be asking of yourself to understand where the gap might be them to be able to attack. And I think there are some questions you can ask others as well to make sure that that gap closes. But I think a lot of us need to understand and have the heart of an abundance mindset. You know, we as good leaders hold so much tight. So many things, so many projects, so many ideas, so many thoughts for the organization, tight to our chest because we have this scarcity mindset and I used to have it as well.

But being around John for so long, you know, he always says, work yourself out of a job and I’ll find another one for you. If you don’t, you might not have that job. And, and so it gives you this completing thing. And we’re going through it right now because you know, in John’s world, we have seven different organizations in his enterprise and we’re really trying to move to this one company thing. And so it’s like, hey, what can I do today to add value and complete one of our other organizations, the other verticals, right? And can I pass this company off to them? Can I give them this idea? And when you begin to do that, you are closing the perception gap of what the leaders of the other organizations may think about what you’re doing and how you’re leading your organization.

Number four – am I balancing care with candor? Another of my favorite teachings from the 5 Levels. You and I both talked about this, where we’re kind of relationship people our tendency is to default to care a little more and away from candor, which I will consider to be straight talk or maybe a crucial conversation type stuff. Yup. Versus someone who is more task-oriented may default to being more candor and less care. So John teaches that I need to balance that. And if I’m balancing that, you know, I really have a better chance of closing that gap. What’s your perception of the care and candor and how that works?

Well, we’ve talked about this a little bit in the past and we have to have both. Yeah. And the perception of most of the time when you have conversations like this that are very candid, other people don’t think you care. Right. And so there are some systems that you can develop as a leader from a communication standpoint that will allow you to kind of make sure that they know what your intent is behind the conversation. Some trigger words and keywords and thoughts that you can use because you have to have a very healthy balance between the two.

So question number five here. Am I communicating my why? Yeah, I love this one because I think back about the conversation with my colleague about providing the feedback. My intention was very positive in my head, but it came out into their ears as a why do you hate me? I don’t, I don’t hate you. But what if I had to set that up a little bit with, I’d like to give you some candor, but I could show a little care on the front end why I am doing it. Why I’m giving feedback. We talked about this all the time. Feedback is a way of showing care. I believe in you and your potential so much. I want to make an investment in you. Yeah. So I’m thinking, well why did they take it, perceive it to be another way. There are some trust problems there probably, but could I have set it up better? Yeah. And listen as we talked about earlier, you could have set it up better. But the power of the why here is really about, in my mind, understanding that people will bring their own feelings, their own ideas, their own biases, as we talked about earlier to the conversation.

And so if you communicate the why, even if you feel like you are repetitively communicating to it, it allows you to reset the foundation of where that conversation is coming from. And the foundation is key in anything in life, whether you’re building a house, whether it’s your growth. And so think about the fact that every time you’re communicating, making sure the proper foundation to your point is being said so that we close this intent versus perception gap. Right.

Well, I’ll just give you my last thoughts and then maybe you could wrap it up for us. But I saw this and reading Brene Brown, I love this cause she talks about trying to make sure the team and she uses the word rumble, that we want to have a lot of candor, express a lot of care. But talk directly and openly. And she says that can be perceived sometimes as negative. You don’t take it right. So her words were that they empower each other to say, this is the story I’m telling myself right now about what you just said is x. And so I put that in this a feedback situation. I give this colleague feedback if they had been able to trust me enough to turn to me and say, Perry, the story I’m telling myself in my head right now about that is that you hate me. You thought you thought it was terrible. You thought, whatever. I said, no, no, no, no, no. Then they would give me a chance to put it back. I don’t want to be perceived that way, but because we don’t say that it’s all inside their heads and now there’s no connection, I’ve lost all connection and the feedback is worthless because they’re not receiving it the way I meant it. I love the story I’m telling myself right now and just really getting that on the table.

We say the word feedback and I think most people think feedback, they immediately go to negative, constructive criticism. And so I think as leaders, we need to make sure we’re giving them feedback on both sides of that fence, both positively and negatively. And so when we’re giving that feedback and people are trusting us, they should never be surprised by the conversation you’re having with them. Mark Cole used to say to me all the time when we’d be going in annual reviews with teams and maybe they were going to be tough conversations, he’d look at me, go, now this is not the first time they’re going to hear this. Right? Like they’re not going to be surprised by what we have to have a conversation around. And what he was saying to me was, as a leader, were you giving them continuous feedback over time? And they understand the why behind that so that the perception is you’re not coming in with a hammer. And so I think there are many ways to unpack that.

A question for you, I was just thinking about, we’ve been talking about listening recently and some of our podcasts. And I wondered when you are having a conversation and you’re thinking about perception and intention perception, are there things you look for? Are you watching for something? Are you listening for something? How do you discern in the moment? I may have a problem. Yeah. So I watch body language. That’s probably my first indicator. And then quickly the words that come back at me, let me know right away whether or not I’m on track. Okay. So for example, I’ll give you a personal example between my wife and I. I joke around, I say that we have two kids. She has three. Yeah. So I’m often the one that is getting into trouble. So, you know, one of the things that we struggle with at times is facial expressions or tone and those kind of physical features that come out. And then sometimes it’s the words that come out, as well. And so when you see that, when you feel that, when you hear those, you go, oh no, no, no, no, no. Hold on. And then this is what I want to leave you with today because this comes as we wrap up. This is the power of this topic that you brought to us and Greg Kagel has taught for a while is that when you hear that, when you feel that, when you see that this is exactly how you respond, you say, hey, my intent behind this conversation or my comment was this. Okay, you may have perceived it or did you perceive it differently? Can we talk about where I missed it?

And so as a leader, you take ownership of it, you acknowledge that your intent behind it was pure was, you know, was true to who you are and the relationship you have with them. But you’re putting it out there as a common language. We talk about the 5 Levels of Leadership and we talk about people having a common language around leadership. A lot of times we talk to companies about, you know, what is the common language around how you have candid conversations and if you who are listening, if you’ll begin using this as a common language around having candid conversations when you feel like there is a gap there with those that you lead, or even more importantly with those that you report to, I promise you, if you’ll start the conversation off like this, let’s say Perry, that I worked directly and you did something, you know, which happens often, that really made me mad. I would want to sit down and say, hey, I know your intent was probably not to upset me, however, my perception was this can, can we talk about that? Now that is a much different conversation. We’re acknowledging that there’s a gap there, but it’s a much different conversation than me coming in and you know we’re going to talk about this. And so the IP gap as we call it, it is a big deal. Communication, all the work that we do, we always ask the company what are your pain points, what is the root cause? It always comes down to communication. It’s always in their top two or three. And I think building this common language around this IP gap is so powerful for people to do this.

So these five questions are great questions. They are questions that as leaders we should be asking ourselves. I think they’re also questions you can be asking those that you have influence with to make they’re helping you close the gap even further. So if you have to take these five questions, write them down on a sticky note and put them up on your screen, do something because they are powerful to begin thinking about how to close this gap.

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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