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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #93: Leadership Culture – Train Them Up In the Way They Should Go

June 24, 2020
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #93: Leadership Culture – Train Them Up In the Way They Should Go

In this episode of The John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, we pick back up with our discussion on developing leaders. Last week, we talked about identifying leaders. This week, we explore the questions leaders must ask themselves in order to develop other leaders well.

We discuss the “equipping mindset,” being in the right proximity to those you’re developing, tailoring a growth plan to the individual, and common insecurities leaders face when developing others.

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Read Transcript Below:

Perry Holley: Hello, and 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 drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, I’m John Maxwell’s Facilitator and Coach, and I’m still in the Zoom Room with my friend and colleague, John Maxwell’s Vice President, Chris Goede. Chris, are we ever going to get out of the Zoom Room?

Chris Goede: I don’t know, but I’m so grateful you didn’t talk about how good we were with technology because our last recording, I just had to tell our listeners what a mess, right? And so, I’m sure our team did a really good job of making us sound better, but I told Perry, I was like, “Man, listen, we spoke too soon.” We are almost out of the Zoom Room, we talked about our technology and oh, man, we . But hey, that’s part of it, it’s part of the new now as we talk about and how we’re doing things, and so I’m excited to be with you guys again today. We’re on this little series here where Perry brought to us the idea last podcast about really identifying leaders that we need to be developing, and why that’s the first part of it. We got to help you with the how, and what are some things behind that? And how can we help you develop those candidates that you’ve kind of identified because you want to invest in the future of your business and of the bench. So, we’re going to talk a little bit about that today. We’ll get into the topic in just a minute. But just know if you want a learner’s guide to go along with the content we’re talking about today to, kind of, take some notes and put some of your own thoughts down, go to, there you can leave us a comment, ask us a question. Maybe if you’re interested in some training for your team or coaching, we’d love to hear more about that when you make that comment on that page. Well, today’s topic, again, love where we’re going with topics! We’re back into a group now, Perry creates topics and I think he gets more excited about the topic than the content, but today we really are going to talk about your leadership culture, and so, the title is “Leadership Culture Train Them Up In the Way They Should Go”, and I absolutely love that! A lot of you, you know, probably know where that reference comes from. Perry, give me a little bit idea, and our listeners a little bit idea where you’re coming from with this one.

Perry: Yes, we talked last time about identifying leaders, your leaders who you should be developing but then, like you said, the how, and almost every leader I coach acknowledges that they should be doing this, and then they give me two reasons when I say, “But are you doing this?” And they say, “No, I don’t have the time and I don’t really know what to do.” But some for some reason, leadership development in a lot of people’s minds is a very complex, time consuming, intentional effort to put people in a class and you got to teach them. And while there’s some great potential in those types of things, I believe that we can look at a model of how you can do this inside your everyday efforts. And as John says, just inviting others to the table and letting them see how you do that. So, I’d really like to talk today about how we equip this next generation of leaders, develop a culture of leadership in our organization, and really set ourselves up for long term sustainable growth and success because we have the leadership we need to get there.

Chris: Yeah, and before we jump into the seven, kind of, areas that you kind of created for us, let me just say this, I think you hit on this, the organizational culture and training is the foundation to most all of your success. And when I say training, I also mean development, we talked a lot about that on the last podcast, and so, leaders, again, I want to reemphasize this, it starts with you, it starts with you and your leadership team, it starts with you and your leadership, it starts with you and your actual team and what does that look like. And so, when we think about setting the foundation, just know that you got to have the willingness to be developed, right? You got to be open to being developed, you got to encourage others to be developed, and all of that is part of your culture that is essential as a leader to make sure that you are casting that upon your other people, they need to see it in you, and then they also need to see the benefits of it, so that they are willing to do it, but I just wanted to make that statement because there’s so many—here’s where I came from, and you know, this is so true, we have so many leaders that are just like, “Hey, listen, man, what you guys are talking about is great, man. I know that really helped our company. Will you go tell our team? Will you go implement this to our team?” It’s like, “No, no, it starts here. And it starts with those that have influenced leadership and their organizations.”

Perry: Sure, well, first thing, I think that we need to ask ourselves if you’re looking to develop a culture of leadership is, do you have an equipping mindset? Are you thinking like an equipping leader? Do you actually own that? That I’m the equipper, and I need to be thinking about the not only who I’m equipping, we talked last time, but do I have an equipping mindset? I think a lot of leaders might think that that’s someone else’s job in the organization. And yet, it’s not.

Chris: It’s not, and what I think the mindset that you have, when you say, “Do I have this mindset? Am I thinking like an equipping leader?” For me, it just comes simply back to this, who should you be taking with you to meetings, to lunches, jumping on phone calls, and just observing, right? Maybe taking on trips if you travel, which I know you and I are both excited about starting to travel again very soon. So are our families, and you know, even just asking some questions and you know, one of the great stories that I remember, even just from Alan Mulally, right? And the book he wrote and how he turned Ford around was he, you know, he was open too, and I think maybe even required that his leaders at the table, brought somebody with them in the meeting. Now, they didn’t participate in the meeting. They sat, you know, on the outside, but they observed and they were aware, and what it did was it naturally began getting those leaders to think about, “Who do I want to have in the room with us? Who needs to be in this meeting? Who needs to be observing?” And, and I think you got to have that mindset of asking yourself that question.

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Perry: I’ve told the story, probably in a hundred podcasts we’ve done, but I had a leader that was pushing me and pushing me and pushing me, and I just wanted to quit, because I didn’t think I was doing enough, and as my wife and I talked about it and said that it’s like he’s trying to make you better, like he’s trying to grow you. And one day he invited me to, you know, go up the hill to a big senior executive meeting and told me to, you know, sit in the back, be quiet, don’t say anything, just observe. We’ll talk about it later. And then I realized I almost quit on the guy, I’ve never had a leader that wanted to make me better before and wanted to invest in me. And so, I, all of a sudden, turned my mindset around to say, I have an equipping leader. I didn’t know what it felt like to be there, because almost every leader I’d worked for was just focused on the business only, not about the people so much and about developing the next generation of leaders. So, it really changed the way I saw that, that I want to be that guy. I want to be the person that invites people to the table. The second thing really came up was are you an example that others want to follow? You know, it’s one thing to say, “I’m going to develop you, Chris, as a leader.” And you’re thinking, “If it’s like you, I don’t want to do that.” So, what does it take, you know, what is an example we’re setting that people want to be a leader because what they see in us?

Chris: Yeah, two things that come to mind right away when you pose this question is the model of which we build everything off of, which is the five levels of leadership. And you think about that in your own leadership, and your own journey of influence. Remember, everyone who’s a leader has the ability to lead even if you don’t have direct reports, because we all have influence inside our organizations. And when you think about that model that we’ve talked about before, and you look at that, if you’re able to work your way through that model successfully, I think you become one of those leaders that people want to follow because they’ve seen, you know, you get to a point to where somebody is investing and developing you and to your point, you’re not looking at them going, “Yeah, no. I don’t know who you have, you know, mail on or pictures on or whatever.” Right? “But I don’t—no, that’s not me.” And so, they don’t follow that model of influence that we’ve, kind of, laid out for you guys, and I think if you begin to follow that, that you will be one that people want to follow. The other thing I think about is the “Law of the Lid”, and we have talked about this, and it’s like John’s great principles about, you cannot give what you do not have. And as leaders, I just want to encourage you that as you’re learning, both from things that have gone well, more importantly, things that you don’t do well, or your learning didn’t work or whatever, make sure that you are communicating that to your team. Or, those that you want to develop, right? Like pull somebody aside, “Man, listen, I just want to give you a heads up, this was a situation I was faced with last week, this was the decision I made, it probably wasn’t the right decision, this is how it turned out, but I just want you to be aware of it.” You start sharing information like that with people and they’re going to want, you know, to be to be developed and under your leadership and it’s just a great little way of “how” what we’re talking about today, developing other people.

Perry: I’ve seen this, John’s a great example of this because when I came out of the environments I came out of, I was invited, I was a leadership development professional speaker, they had me on the stage, the executive would come up and say, “Now, this is a really important session, and Perry is really going to take us here, and this is going to really make a difference in our organization. Please welcome Perry!” And then, you see them hit the door, they got to go. And I thought, “If it’s that important, why are you leaving?” And then I started working with John Maxwell, and you see, John invites somebody up to the stage he says, “Please welcome this, you know, impressive person, you know, Simon Sinek, or somebody up to the stage and please welcome…” and John goes down and sits in the front row, gets out a pen and paper and takes notes and then comes back and tells you what he learned. Now, which one do you think I think’s important? Which one do you think I want to be like? He’s an example I want to be. You mentioned it a little bit about proximity in the other podcasts, but about the next question I really want to ask is, are you gathering your leaders around you? And again, going back to people think that this big complex training thing I’ve got to be doing, there is some of that, however, are you keeping your leaders near you, proximity? I was wondering what you’ve seen about that?

Chris: I think this is absolutely huge. We’ve talked about, you know, leadership the individuals for, we’ve talked about that it’s, kind of, it’s more caught than then taught, especially when it comes to the culture and the leadership presence you want your team to have. But if your leadership team, if your team in general, of people that you have influence with, if they don’t feel like you are for and with them, that proximity, with them, the next time you turn around, you might be without them. Right? And so, thinking about that proximity, think about bringing that inner circle in essence, you talked about your leaders being your inner circle. And I’m talking, where my mind is going is maybe in a larger organization where you have a leadership team that are leading peoples, but this is just as relevant if you’re running a small organization and have a team of six to eight. Right? Because there are certain roles that each one of those plays that are important. And so, they need to know that you’re not only for them, we’ve talked about that before, but that you’re with them, and that is being present. I love that statement of, you know, “An invisible leader is an oxymoron.” And think about that for a little bit, because you have to be present with your people so that they can just kind of catch what’s going on.

Perry: I think the leaders who most inspire me are the ones that say, “Follow me.” And they’re out there in front with you, part of what you’re doing. It kind of leads to the next point that really struck me is, are you asking the right questions? And really, are you asking any questions? Or, are you just telling people what to do? Telling is not equipping, telling is bossing. So, what kind of questions should I be asking that are going to help me develop leaders? What’s your thought there?

Chris: Well, I have a hard time with this, not from an asking questions standpoint, but I don’t do a great job all the time of, in a certain situation, someone brings an opportunity to me and we’re talking through it, I don’t go, “So what would you do right here? How would you handle this situation if you were me?” Right? And begin to have those conversations, or, “Hey, what is it that you learned from this that you’re going to apply next time?” And so, we talk about questions, the frame I want you to have around that is, the questions are more of a development of the people, like you’re challenging the way that they think, but you’re also exposing the way that they think and commits an act to you. And that I think right there is key because then you can take what you’re hearing and go back and say, “Hey, this is what I heard, moving forward, you probably ought to think about it like this.” And so, you’ve been able to stand on, you know, leader’s shoulders previously, and so, you got to be that person for those individuals and how you do that is getting an open dialogue and conversations through the questions that you ask.

Perry: That’s the biggest revealer to me was, how are they thinking? I had somebody tell me on a coaching call this week that they don’t like delegating, because I don’t think they can handle it. And I’m thinking, “Well, why would you think that?” “Well, I don’t know that they can.” And I thought, “Well, why would you not know that they can? Are you not challenging them and getting a feel for how they think? Where is their mindset? What are their capabilities in doing that?” And you know, that kind of leads to the next one that says, are you allowing them to learn by doing? Are you doing and asking them to watch? Or, are you actually allowing them to do? And I know that you’re big on this about letting people actually get their hands dirty a little bit.

Chris: That’s it! Yeah, get their hands dirty. Now, listen to me, it’s a process, leaders, okay? Don’t take some of your toughest tasks, take some of your most important tasks and say, “Hey, Perry, I want you to knock this out for me this week, I need this report back by Friday. I’m going to turn into leadership team.” You know, whatever it might be, little things lead to big things. And so, give them opportunities to learn by doing in the little things that you can kind of walk alongside, observe, you know, coach, redirect, and help them become successful in the little things. Number one, you’re going to help them create momentum around their leadership. Right? And then number two, you’re going to be able to, in real time, be able to kind of coach and/or direct them, or evaluate them, right? Like, I think the more that we can evaluate people in real time or what’s going on, or what they’re doing, the more effective it is. And so, make sure you’re having that communication.

Perry: Well, I find that it’s tempting because everybody’s looking at me to have all the answers that I answer all—I don’t ask the answer, I just give you the answer, and we talked about Liz Wiseman’s great research work and Multipliers, but the phrase, “Am I trying to be the genius? Or, am I actually interested in being a genius maker?” I love that. So, when I’m talking with my team, when we’re in a middle of a problem solving, they’re all looking for me to talk and give the answer, that’s looking to me to be the genius, I love just being able to step back, ask them to step up, and use that as a training moment to really see how they think and how they act, and can they take it to the next level? Which, you know, you think about individuals, the next item was, you know, are you, you know, tailoring the growth plan to the individual, and don’t be lumping everybody into one training, there are some basic general things we need to be working on, but as you get into specific individuals, I think you should be tailoring the work. Would you agree?

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. This is, you know, one of our core leadership principles, which is lead people the way they need to be led, not the way you want to be led or need to be led. And I think it’s the same thing with developing, and it’s twofold. It’s for what the organization needs from them most in the future that you see as their leader. That’s the first filter. And then secondly is, then how do they learn? How do they receive communication? How best can we communicate to them and develop them? And that looks different. People learn differently, people are developed differently, people need different experiences. And so, you, as a leader need to have those conversations, you need to know that about your people, and with those two filters, then I think you can build a specific growth plan for that. To your point, though, I think there’s a foundation, there’s a common language that everything builds off of so that we’re all speaking the same language. We all may just have different paths where we’re going.

Perry: Sure, sure, but Kelly said the last one saying that, are there barriers? I think one of the great things you can do as an equipper of the next generation of leaders is remove barriers that keep them from growing, and John might call this being a lid lifter, getting the lid off so they can grow and go. I wonder how you see that about the barriers piece? How much is that a part of it?

Chris: I think this is a leader’s job, period. Whether you’re developing people or you’re training people, adding value to people, I think it’s all about helping them remove barriers out of what they’re trying to accomplish, and having those conversations. And I would encourage you as leaders that as you have your one on ones, as you meet with your team, to have time devoted to what rocks are in the way that you’re dealing with right now? What do you struggle with? Right? It goes back to some questions you posed in the past, right? Well as a leader, right? What do I need to stop doing that may be causing you to have a roadblock in your development or your success? And so, it is that lid lifter, it’s raising the lid. But it’s not just on you, , it’s raising the lid off of what is stopping them.Perry: Let me ask you a question, the thing about barriers and one of the—this was about removing the barrier from the person you’re bringing up in training, but if one of the barriers that came up this week in a call was on the developer themselves, on the equipper, on the executive that should be equipping about overcoming—John will say this, overcome your own insecurities, can be a barrier for you taking the equipping actions you need to, and so what do they mean when—what are the insecurities that a leader may have about developing the next generation of leaders?

Chris: Yeah, two things come to mind. Number one is they’ve maybe don’t even necessarily know how to do it, right? In a certain area that they’re taking them to; they’ve never been there before. My encouragement to you, if that’s the case, go with them. Develop and learn together if you don’t have that skill set, that competence, that’s the first thing. The second thing is just is the pride, is the ego. Like, “Oh, man, if I develop Perry to do X, Y, and Z, and then Perry does it better than me, then where does that leave Chris?” Right? Those are the questions, that let’s just be honest with each other, those are the questions that we’re having. And so, those are the two hurdles I think they come to mind right away when you ask that question off the cuff and so be aware of that, and get ready to have those conversations with yourself because the first one you need to be, you know, you need to be vulnerable and authentic enough to say, “I don’t know, and let’s go figure this out together.” It’s going to be a great experience for both of you. The second one is, you know, you need to be like, “Hey, it’s okay, I’m going to go ahead and put the Chris hat aside because I want to go ahead and put a couple other hats up at the table.”

Perry: Well, part of this about developing the next generation of leaders, and I’m going to let you wrap it up, but I’ve heard John say this to you, I’ve heard you talk about it, it’s not always been that positive, but part of your equipping the next generation of leaders is to work yourself out of a job, and John was very clear with you about, you better be working yourself out of a job. Tell me about that and wrap it up for us.

Chris: Yeah, I’d love to kind of wrap up, but I think it’s a great conversation that we’re having. I want to encourage you, though, you know, when you begin to think about the “how” behind developing people, when you do this, it builds loyalty, it builds unity, it becomes your leadership legacy. Now listen, it does take time, it takes some energy. We’re not saying that it’s going to be easy, just start doing it. Perry and I have done it before, so we understand, and I just want you to know that. I think organizations are not made up of empty processes, and systems and structures. People are your structure, and organizations don’t exist apart from their people. And so, I just want you guys to be encouraged by that, and I know you know it, but sometimes it’s just good to hear it and see your point in the story. I’ve shared before, you know, I was really young coming into to John’s organization. I’ve been working with him for over 20 years, and so I started when I was three. And so, you know, , but I remember hearing him when I was a young leader, newly married, and you know, working through all of that, you know, what comes with that as marriage, and trying to figure out your career, and I remember him teaching a lesson that said, “Hey, work yourself out of a job, and I’ll find another job for you.” I was like, “Yeah, no! Like, I mean, just got married. I got this job. No, why would I do that! Like I’m not going home and having a conversation with Sarah and say, ‘Yep, worked myself out of a job, where we going next?’” And I didn’t really understand. Now, twenty plus years later, and part of this Executive Leadership team, I completely understand, and not only do I understand because from a philosophical standpoint, I understand practically, because over the years, I have completely worked myself out of jobs in certain areas, and then he says, “Great! Let’s go!

Here’s the next journey. Here’s the next mountain, we’re going to climb. This is what I need from you next.” And really what he was trying to teach me back then that I didn’t understand that I do understand now, is that there is no mindset you should ever be okay with when it says, “I am going to do this job myself for the rest of my career.” You ought to be looking around at the team and the people that have influence and say, “Who can I help develop and train up to be able to do what I’m doing? Because there’s something greater for me to move onto.” And I think we always have to have that mindset. That’s why John believes so much in a growth mindset versus a goal mindset. If you had the goal of saying, “I’m going to become Vice President of sales for IBM.” Well, when you get there, what’s your next goal? So, if you will set growth goals, growing your sales ability, your leadership ability, you’re probably going to end up there. But you’ll be in a mindset that will never stop you from growing and achieving and working yourself out of your job. So yeah, that’s the story, we always laugh about it, but it’s a true story! I completely understand!

Perry: What’s the saying? If you work yourself out of a job—or, what was the second half?

Chris: Yeah, I’ll find another job for you.

Perry: But if you don’t work yourself—you step out of a job or I’ll take it from you.

Chris: Yes, yeah, yeah. Thank you for reminding me. It’s been so long, I’ve tried to put that out of my mindset because—no, good point! Yeah, I appreciate you.

Yeah, he said, “Hey, I need you to work yourself out of a job, and if you don’t, you might not have your job anymore.” Yeah, that’s good. I appreciate you letting me wrap that up. It’s kind of like I was hanging on the punch line. I just forgot to share it with our listeners! I know you’ve probably heard me talk about this before, so I just want to change it up.

Perry: Yeah, man. It really made me tense up, I thought, “Oh!” All right, good stuff! Thank you for joining us. This has been great! As Chris said, if you’d like the learners guide for this or leave us a question or comment, you can always do that at We love hearing from you there, and grateful, so grateful that you would join us here and put up with our silliness. But we hope it was meaningful. So, that’s all for today for the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast

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