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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #43: 3 Sets Of 3 – An Employee Engagement Mini-Course

June 27, 2019
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #43: 3 Sets Of 3 – An Employee Engagement Mini-Course

Engaged employees improve organizational performance and increase individual productivity. However, as a leader, it can be challenging to find new ways to motivate your employees to do their best work. In Episode #43 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we explore 3 sets of 3 tools that leaders can use to drive employee engagement, and, by extension, performance and productivity.

To learn more about driving employee engagement, consider bringing a 5 Levels of Leadership Workshop to your organization this year.

Read the transcript below:

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, 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 “3 Sets of 3 and Employee Engagement”. Perry’s looking at me right now and he’s laughing because he loves to have these titles and for some reason, he used to introduce the title and now all of a sudden, I am, but I have a feeling that I know why. I love this idea and I love this lesson, the “3 Sets of 3– An Employee Engagement Mini-Course”.

Well, of course there’s much more than 3 sets of 3, but I was preparing for a keynote I was giving, and I was looking through some notes. I’m just kind of building my thoughts and I just noticed a little pattern of these key learnings that I use all the time, especially when I’m thinking about driving employee engagement and connecting with my team and climbing those 5 Levels. And they were 3 different sets of 3 things. I thought I would just bring them to you and say, you know, our listeners I think would value the truth. I noticed all these are covered in the 5 Levels of Leadership and they contribute to what I know you teach a lot, which is that common language of leadership that’s so necessary in our organizations to really grow.

I am absolutely game for it. Let’s do it. The first thing I want to do is just remind those that are listening on our podcast, what we consider to be an engaged employee to look like, what we’re for as leaders. There’s often a misinterpretation out there of employee engagement, which is, how do we entertain our employees? That is not employee engagement. You know, they’ve got bean bags and ping pong and I mean, you can have those things if you want. But I just want to make sure that people know when you talk about employee engagement, the first thing that a lot of us think about is how do we entertain our employees? How do we make this fun? And while you can do that, that’s not what employee engagement is.

I just feel like when I speak on this topic, I like to talk about that a lot because I get people that respond the same way you did. So, I don’t have to have like, you know, a ping pong table in the back of the room. Here’s a couple of things that engaged employees are, and I want to make sure you kind of aligned with some of these. Employees will find fulfillment and enthusiasm and passion in their work. They’ll show more attention to the details of what they do on a day to day basis. They’ll develop a sense of ownership and pride in their work. They’ll pitch in in areas outside of their own responsibility.

They stay in the organization; you’ll reduce turnover numbers if your employees are engaged. And then the final one that I kind of wrote down here, that we feel like employees that are engaged, they’ll actually help attract other quality employees.

The first set of 3 that I noticed that I use all the time, really helps me, came from Patrick Lencioni in his book. So this was a number of years ago, but I really clung onto this, called the three signs of a miserable job, and Pat said in his book that the three signs are, first, anonymity: I’m not known by you, you don’t really know me and I don’t feel known. Second, organization irrelevance: that what I do doesn’t matter and you wouldn’t even notice if I wasn’t doing it. And, third, immeasurement which he reminds us, there’s not a word he made it up, but it means that I’m spinning my tires. I’m not making progress. These three things are in play. I know we gave the example a few podcasts back about the canoe and that you’ve got some people rowing, some people watching, some people are sinking. Anonymity says that I’m probably going to have oar across my lap, watching the scenery. Because I’m really not engaged.

And all employees want to know, they want to be able to gauge their progress and their level of contribution. I think about some roles I’ve had in the past, different organizations. And when you don’t understand that, when you can’t connect it, you just kind of check out. And I think these three examples, that Patrick Lencioni, they really speak to Levels 2 and 3 in the 5 Levels of Leadership. Level 2, we talk about how people want to follow your influence. Your influence is really about the ability to build relationships or connect with them. And then Level 3, it’s really about producing results and it’s the production level.

And if someone feels anonymous or irrelevant, then Level 2 has not even been accomplished. You have to make sure that they understand, they matter to the organization, they matter to the team. And if someone’s not clear on how they’re measured, whether they are making progress or not, we’re going to have a production problem. Because if they don’t understand at the end of the day what results they’re driving for, how they’re measured, that is part of their compensation or it’s part of their review or it’s part of their whatever it might be, they to understand that. And so that way, you guys are on the same page when it comes to Level 3, production. The second set of 3 comes from our friend John Maxwell. And I thought this was so simple that I just waved it off in my early leading.

And then as I grew in my leadership found out that this is really profound. John says there are three things every follower is asking about you, the leader. And those three things are: Can you help me? Do you care about me? And, can I trust you? Ultimately these lead to Level 3 of the 5 Levels. There’s some Level 2 in here as well. But if the answer to these three questions is not yes, then you have some work to do on employee engagement because they’re not producing at the Level that they need to be producing. When we talk about these three questions, the first one you mentioned there is, can you help me, that’s a competence question right there. They’re looking at you as a leader and they’re saying, do you have credibility?

Do you have the competence to be able to help me? The second one you mentioned is, do you care about me? They’re asking this about you. That’s the compassion question. That’s the ability to connect and be compassionate. The third one there is, can I trust you? That’s a character question. They are watching you and we talk about that all the time. Leadership is a visual sport. They are watching you to see if they can trust you in conversations and in your body language. And I like to tie those three C-words to each one of those questions that John talked about. Because it is a Level 2 and Level 3 conversation in regard to your influence level. And I tell you, I used to blow right by this and now I teach it everywhere I go. I’ll ask a leader, answer these three questions for me.

Do your people know you can help them? And they’ll say, oh sure. I’ll say, tell me how. And then I get this look. Well, tell me how you help them. And that’s generally the easier of the three questions because there are things you could do to help. Care is a very interesting thing to me. People receive it in different ways and how you show care is generally the way you receive care. And it’s not necessarily the way they receive care. And so, care is a big one to me. And then trust is obviously a combination of so many things, how you go to interface with every individual that you work with. The third set of 3 that I found speaks to motivation. And I’ve discovered this when I kept getting asked as a keynote speaker, hey, can you come in here and motivate my team? And I would say, why don’t you just hire motivated people? And they didn’t think that was funny. And then I thought, what is this thing about motivation?

One is external and you’re a sales leader. You can give bonuses and awards and cash and incentives, that sort of thing. And then there’s internal. What I’ve discovered here was from a great book by Dan Pink titled “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”. And Dan Pink talks about three things that really lead to intrinsic internal motivation, which is what I was most interested in as a leader. Number one, autonomy. Everybody has a desire to really self-direct their work effort and that increases engagement over compliance. He says, number two, after autonomy, was mastery. This was the urge to get better at what I do. And so, I’m working with my team to develop their mastery and their skills. And number three, after autonomy and mastery, was purpose. We all have internally a desire to do something that’s bigger than us, that has meaning and importance. And if your business is or if you are only focused on money and profits without valuing purpose, then you’ll end up with some disengaged employees.

And as we build this common language, I’ll just kind of tie these three things that you just mentioned to the 5 Levels of Leadership. You know, autonomy really speaks to this in the Level 3 bucket. You want people to be put in positions where they can do quality work without you micromanaging them. Chris Fuller often uses the illustration of, you know, we don’t wake up every morning and just hope that we get to work in our boss manages us today. Like that just makes our skin curl. Like none of us want to be able to do that. The mastery part, this really goes into that Level 4, we don’t talk a whole about a whole lot about Level 4 around people development, but this is where leaders are developing other leaders.

And at the core of what you’re talking about here is the question, are you really helping your teammates? Are you really helping the people that are under your leadership, under your influence, develop the skills that they need to succeed? And what does that look like? How are you intentionally thinking about intersecting what you’re already doing as a leader or someone with influence inside the organization that might benefit somebody else inside our organization under Level 4. I think about this is that when it comes to developing a new skill or becoming a master of the skill, we have an up-and-coming emerging leader in our organization. And you guys have heard from him recently, Eric Corona, in one of our podcasts and he has a desire to speak more from a millennial standpoint, what is the impact, where is the value added? What does it look like?

And so, part of our plan is, Perry and I already do these podcasts. We sit down, we talk and have conversations and we thought, hey, how can we intersect what we’re already doing with one of Eric’s desires through growth to become a master at that? And we thought, hey, let’s invite him to be a part of this. And so, I just give you that example, not to pat us on the back, but to say, think about an intentional way of doing the things that you’re already doing that you can help from a people development standpoint, at Level 4, with those that are on your team. And then finally you talked about purpose, and a lot of people talk about purpose these days and the ability to connect with the people that are on your team, whether it’s through values, or through purpose. Aligning that with the business so that they understand the big picture and the purpose behind kind of what they do is a big thing.

This one really affected me because I think most leaders think their teams, based on the requests I get, they think their teams lack motivation. And that is some external force. They lean on money as a motivator. It does work, it works really well. Unfortunately you don’t have unlimited funds. And then when it runs out, people lay the oar across your lap and don’t row. And until the next bucket of money comes out and then I row, that’s not the organization I want to lead. So, when I think about autonomy, we had a whole lesson here on the podcast about delegating and giving people the ability to go and do the work. Is there trust there? Do I know you can handle it? And then there’s a great opportunity to step in and help you until you are self-sufficient.

And mastery, to me, speaks to that helping. How do I help you get the skills you need? One leader I had invited me to the table, told me to keep my mouth shut, but told me to come to the table and observe a senior meeting so I could be exposed to what’s going on in the organization and how I fit into that. And then purpose. I think about the work we can do in 5 Levels on values and just understanding my values, what people see in my behavior, but also their values and how can I help you apply your value and your structure to the work we’re doing so that you feel the purpose in it. That we’re not just selling stuff, we’re selling things that make a difference in people’s lives. Whatever it is you do, it has to affect the buyer in some way or you wouldn’t be selling it.

You have to figure out what that bigger purpose is in there. In closing, I was just thinking about the three points that Perry just walked us through it. A simple way to look at this is 10-80-10, and I’ve learned this from John because he does this with us. 10% of a new project, a new idea, whatever, we’re going to work on it together, you’re going to hear from me, this is where I’m at. 80%, I want you to run with it, be autonomous, do what you have to do. I trust you to be self-directed and then come back to me for that final 10% and in that 10-80-10 you can literally find areas for Levels 2, 3 and 4, the autonomy, the mastery and the purpose of that.

So if you’re a numbers person and it sticks in your head a little bit differently, there’s a way for you to look at this. I wrote down an HBR achievers study and more than 70% of business owners believe that employee engagement has directly driven greater business success. And so I just need to understand that this is important. I love the fact that Perry gave us 3 sets of 3 of different ways around an engagement. My encouragement to you and to the listeners as we summarize this is to be intentional about driving better engagement numbers with your team. You have to be intentional about it. It’s not just going to happen. And so the price of having influence and leading people it comes with, you’re going to have to think about that to drive to better engagement.

If you do, your team is going to be more productive, your customers will be more satisfied, your company is going to have less turnover. And then one of these studies I was reading actually talked about this and I haven’t thought about it and I should have. It talked about how, if your employees are more engaged, they experience fewer safety violations. And I thought, how much revenue is lost? How many dollars do they spend on safety mistakes and this and that, whether it’s internally or externally? And if you had higher engagement that that would drop down. I thought that was powerful.

I hope this was a meaningful lesson. It says some of the key stuff for me as I’ve made my journey. So just as a reminder, if you’d like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or perhaps even bring a 5 Levels workshop to your location, please go to You can leave a comment for us there. We also love hearing from you if you have a question or comment about another topic. That’s all for today. Thanks for joining. This is the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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