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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #97: Leaders Leading Leaders of Change

July 28, 2020
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #97: Leaders Leading Leaders of Change

If you are a leader, and you are doing all the thinking, planning, and communicating about the changes required to grow your business, this lesson is for you. Today, Chris and Perry discuss five questions to help you equip and empower your team to think and act like change agents.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley: 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. I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede: And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining! Please take a minute if you’re interested in downloading the learning guide that Perry put together for us, or if you want to leave us a comment or question and visit, we’d love to get some feedback from you there. Well, you know, I haven’t really picked on Perry the last couple of weeks, but he always gives us these titles and then he sits back and watches me try to work through them. Well the last episode I had to take a couple of takes.

Perry: Yeah, we had to do the outtakes on that one.

Chris: He looked at me and he was like, “Here’s what it is, Chris.” But, man, this is a great title, and why I love what we’re going to talk about today, this is at the core of who we are, which is developing people. That’s what we’re going to get to, but it’s really around change, and here’s today’s topic, “Leaders Leading Leaders of Change”. Now, I can’t say that again, I practiced, and I practiced, and there it is.

Perry: Say it three times

Chris: Yes. That’s right, one time take! And so before I dive in here, Perry, I know that a lot of times when we think about change, everybody is just talking about how they lead through change or how change affects them and their particular team or maybe an executive is like, “Why do I feel like I’m the only one that’s leading this change?” And so, we’re going to kind of unpack that a little bit. Give us some of your thoughts, what drove you to this? So, we can unpack a little bit today.

Perry: This comes up more than you think, I often ask the executives we coach if they’re doing all the thinking and planning of the business or if their team leaders, or even their team, if you’re a first line manager, it’d be your team members, if you’re a second or third line or executive and you have other leaders reporting to you, as this is where this came up, but are they looking for ways to change and grow the business or is it just you? And the answer often comes back from the senior leaders, that they’re doing all the thinking and that they’re making all the plans and they’re leading all the change. So, I recalled one senior leader that I had worked for, who would always press us as his leadership team to share our point of view, and you know, what would we do to grow the business, if we were him? What would we do? What would we say? And then he would kind of sum it up that the reason he did that, he said, “If our success is completely dependent on my brain alone, I think we’re in trouble.” And now, he was playing it like he’s not the smartest person in the room and he was by far the smartest person in the room, but he wouldn’t play that card, and he wouldn’t let us off the hook because it’s so tempting to come in and sit down at the at the feet of the leader and let them espouse from the top of the mountain when that may feel good to my ego, but it’s not good for my business, and it’s not good for the growth of our team; it’s not good for anything. And so, that’s really where I am today is, are you a leader leading leaders of change?

Chris: Love it! And if you’re in every room and every conversation and discussion around change, I’m just here to tell you, that’s not sustainable. This is, when we talk about the five levels model, and we talk about getting to a point to where leaders are developing leaders at level four influence, this is what we’re talking about right here. And what a great opportunity to take that next step of development with those that are on your leadership team, or those that you see have potential inside your organization for growth and to allow them to be part of that change. What would you do here? What are you thinking? Can you implement this? And so, man, I absolutely love this concept! You know, John taught in one of his latest books, The Leader’s Greatest Return, people think that’s about some type of, you know, financial return. It’s really, The Leader’s Greatest Return is all about investing and developing people, and at times, you’re going to have to do this with leaders as they go through change. And so, I’m going to let you get us started and talk a little bit about, you got your favorite number again, which I’m excited about!

Perry: Yeah, I was going to ask you, how many questions do you think I have?

Chris: I feel like if my daughter says, “Hey, what number should I wear this year on my jersey? I’m just going to have to respond and say, “Five, it’s going to be an honor to Perry.”

Perry: So, if you really want to equip and empower change agents in your organization, not just have to be you. I think first, you’ve got to require your leaders, so the question is: do you require your leaders or your team members, if your first line to have a point of view? What are your thoughts on that?

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Chris: Well, if you don’t, you should. And if you don’t allow that, there may be a little bit of insecurity there in your leadership, and leaders, I would challenge you to really work on being secure as a leader, being consistent as leader, those two things that we don’t talk enough about, but allow that team to have a point of view. All of us, right? Are smarter than just me in the room. You guys have heard me tell this story before, John’s like, “Hey, if we come into a meeting, and I bring the idea, and by the way, if we leave, and it’s the same idea, you guys might not be invited back to that meeting.” Because it wasn’t very successful to him. So, as you think about this, and you think about change, are you allowing your team to think like business owners? What I love about Mark Cole, our CEO, is he’ll throw out an idea, whatever, and he’ll look at me and is like, “But that’s your decision. It’s your business. You make that decision. It’s on you, do you need to make that change?” And so, he’s empowering his leaders to kind of run it like it’s their own business. We’re not necessarily just treated like, “Hey, because I said so…” That level one leadership. The other thing I would say is one of the greatest things as you lead leaders through change is to really maybe think about forming a change team. So, a change comes up, and you want to begin to expose leaders to that and allow them to lead through that and you lead them through that is to bring them into, we just talked about that, a group of people are smarter than just the individual. And so, man, think about the fact that if you formed a change management team around a certain topic, the exposure that you could be giving to some of your leaders, and to help them grow in that area and develop.

Perry: I would tell people, here’s the topic of the meeting, or the call, or the Zoom that we’re having, please come prepared with a point of view. If you don’t have a point of view on this topic, you’re not invited to the meeting, and if you miss more than two meetings, I probably don’t need you on the team. So that’s the seriousness of this is that I don’t know what I don’t know, and I need you thinking too. Number two, if you want to lead the change agents in your organization, is a question I’ve done, really, this is new for me too is: what is the share a voice ratio on your team? Let me say that again, what is the share of voice ratio in the meeting that you’re in? So, I got this from author and ex-nuclear submarine commander, David Marquet. He’s got his book on Leadership is Language, and this was fascinating to me when I started, it was actually terrifying to me, as I thought back of all the meetings I’ve had, I’ve started sharing it with some of our coaching clients and going, “What is the share of voice in the room? How much of it is you? If I took a recording of the room in the meeting, and we just logged the minutes of that 60 minute meeting, how many minutes would go to you, to that person, to that person, to that person?” And if I, to be honest, thought back, it was probably, you know, 75% me, 25% others, and as a leader, you don’t need to say a lot because you already know what you think, is what Marquet said, and that when you start talking, you’re anchoring the group, everybody else. So, if you talk, they’re going to anchor to what you said. So, I love that thinking, what is the share voice in the room? And no wonder I can’t get a point of view out of anybody else, it’s all coming out of me.

Chris: Yeah, so that’s interesting. I have not heard you talk about that before. But two things come to mind, the first one is, you do this extremely well, as well as the rest of our team, when we have the opportunity to be in organizations and we’re facilitating conversations, so as a facilitator, you probably know where I’m going with this, you have dominant voices in the room. And your job is to soften those voices and pull the content out of those that are not speaking, and if you think about that, it’s an art to be able to do that, leaders, because your leadership team is probably doing the same thing. Now, Perry’s talking about, even a little bit further, is that dominant voice, maybe you, right? And so, it may not even be a couple of your team members, I guarantee you the share voice, this is a fascinating concept, because I think that it probably happens in a greater percentage in boardrooms, team meetings around the world, but when you think about it, leader, you may not have the dominant voice, but you may have a couple others that are drowning out the rest of them, and they’re all on your team for a reason. And so, man, you’ve got to be able to think about that and facilitate that, and to be able to pull the best out of that team as you’re going through change. And then the second point was, really, just how do you develop learned behaviors not to allow that to happen? And so, what are some of the little things that you put in place to keep you from going into a room and saying, “Here’s what we’re doing! Here’s where we’re going! Anybody got any thoughts?” Right? Because you’re not going to get anything out of that. And so, you’ve got to develop and be aware enough to develop some learned behaviors to keep yourself from doing that and shutting down the room.

Perry: This is frightening when I think back, when I walk in the room, first of all, you know, we’re both big, we have deep voices, I’m in charge, I walk in, people kind of let me be in charge, and if I had to be honest with you, I liked it. I like being in charge. And so, my ego kicks in, and then my insecurities are quick behind my ego and saying, “If I ask you what you think, will I have to do what you say? And will you be smarter than me? Will you make me look—?” All these questions going on saying, what I really want now as you mature as a leader to say, I not only want to know what you think, I want to see how you think it. Who are these people on this team? Because we’re going to get in, you know, how do you develop the next generation of leaders, what we just talked about in previous weeks was who am identifying? I’m identifying those that are thinking like business owners, acting like business owners, pushing the envelope, doing the change, driving the initiatives. But I can’t find all that if I’m the one talking all the time, which leads me to number three, which was kind of close and behind that says: do you always speak first and then ask others to comment? That comment that David Marquet made about anchoring, when you say something, you know, “How many marbles do you think are in the jar? Fifty-seven?” Then ask anybody else, they’ll say, fifty-six, fifty-eight, you’ve anchored the conversation.” What if I asked you what you think before I share?

Chris: This reminds me of the story that you share often, and I love it, about an early on leadership experience that you had when the guy kind of caught you off guard, maybe you weren’t paying attention, maybe you were on your phone, I don’t know if they had phone’s way back then, and he said, “What do you think, Perry?” You were like, “I think what you think!” He was like, “Well, I’ll tell you what, if you think what I think then one of us is not going to be at the table any longer, and it’s not going to be me.” And that’s so true in this point right here that you’re talking about, to allow the best to come out of the other team members and one of the things that I will tell you is that every person on your team is there for a reason. Okay? And over the time you get the team you deserve, and so you have trained and developed them, you have to hear their voice. And so, at times, you may just need to, “Hey, Jake, I haven’t heard where your point of view is on this meeting right here, but I need you to go ahead and speak up.” And then you take that collective thoughts and then you tell the team maybe what you were thinking. At the end of the day, you may already know where you’re going. Okay? But you haven’t allowed your process to be challenged. I was listened to a great military book, and one of the things I love about this Admiral was he was like, every time he presented a couple options he was thinking about, he said, “Hey, everybody blow these ideas up. Like, just completely tear apart, what’s wrong? What would you do different?” And so, when you think about that, and allowing others even if you do speak first, do it in a way that is open for discussion, not, “This is what we’re doing, and this is where we’re kind of going.” And make sure that you are asking other people. At times, especially virtually, let me tell you real quick about virtually, more than ever, you will have some people that will try to go through meetings and just not saying anything.

Perry: Turn their camera off and sit quietly.

Chris: Yeah and leave! They ran to the store. And so, I want to encourage you to say, “Hey, from the get-go, here’s what we’re going to do. I need everybody speaking. Listen, I’m just going to call on you, and I need to hear.” And so, you got to go through that, you know, “You know what? I haven’t heard from Jason, I need to go ahead and make sure that I get his input on the situation because he brings a level of expertise that I need to hear in this meeting.” So, you just kind of think through that process and not shut everybody out.Perry: That was an old facilitator technique, you know, what do you all think? And you’re like pitching a grenade so it hits everybody, or you can use a rifle and say, “Chris, what do you think? And, Chris, what do you think about what Jake said? Jake, what do you think about what Chris said?” So, you’re dragging everybody into it and then it kind of puts everybody into the meeting, but it also says you’re relevant. You’re needed. I care what you think. I love the way it opens it up. Number four, was to your point about: do you feel safe? Do your people feel safe challenging your ideas? You talked about the general saying, “Blow this idea up!” Yeah, that’s a great thing to say, but he must have done something else in the culture to say, “It’s okay to blow this up.”

Chris: No doubt about it! Yeah, yeah, no doubt about it on the front end. And I just want to comment on something you said a little bit ago, it made me kind of chuckle, which is, you’re like: “Yeah, I mean, I liked it, I was in charge. I came in, told them what we were going to do.” And oftentimes, in that situation, what we really need to do is we need to just check our ego at the door, and we got to feel comfortable with that. Right? And so a lot of people would say, “Oh, well, the best way to do this is to check your ego and increase your humility.” I want to give you a different perspective that you’ve kind of spoken into me about which is, hey, if you truly value others, and you value their opinion and them being in the room, then they’re going to feel relevant, they’re going to feel like they’re part of the team, they’re going to feel needed in that meeting, and they’re going to give you what we call, we haven’t used this term in a long time, the discretionary effort, the discretionary thought process as you kind of work through that change. If they don’t feel valued, then no amount of humility or leaving your ego is going to help anything. And so, it all really starts at that core process of valuing the people in order for them to feel relevant and needed in any type of change that you’re asking them to help you lead through.

Perry: Right, right. Finally, number five, this really jumped out at me as I was thinking through this is: do I have a proving or improving team environment? And this comes, you may recognize this from Dr. Carol Dweck work on Mindset, but the way her research came down that if folks on the team have a growth mindset, then they’re focused on improving and looking at effort while learning and then growing and trying new things, they’ll continue to grow. But a fixed mindset person can be a little bit fatalistic about things that our talents are fixed or they’re inborn, we’re not likely to change. And the way this shows up on your team is if people are constantly, actually in your home, too, if your teenagers are constantly trying to prove to you their worth or their value or their success in all the things they do, then they’re not really growing, but if they challenge new things, try new things, fail and share their failures, and learn from their failure, they’re probably improving and I think this is a big deal when it comes to, are you leading leaders leading change? These folks that are on your team need to know that this is all about improving and growing, there’s no disproving it, we have to improve it.

Chris: Yeah, and if the people are thinking, I just got to prove this, I got to prove that, then they probably aren’t a group of change agents, to your point. And so, one of the things I want to encourage everybody is, what is the culture of your team? What do you allow in regards to in failure when it comes to change or processes or systems? And how do you become an environment, a culture of allowing the team to continually strive to improve at what they’re doing, continually learn and just make it better? I use this example that to where, you know, we bring an idea to the table here, and the goal is when you leave the meeting, that we’ve improved that idea, and everybody kind of speaks into that and you get that discretionary thought again, when we leave and come back. Like Mark Cole and I had a conversation, we were here last night recording some things and we were talking about some ideas and I was on my way home, and I just was continually thinking about it, and given that discretionary effort and I got home, I said, “Hey, here you go, here’s another way to improve this idea.” Or, “This is what this really looks like, or we could include…” And so, I think if you can create that type of culture and that type of environment, as you are, you know, leading leaders through change, man, you’re going to see them just catch fire and help you with that change. You can’t do it by yourself, can’t do it by yourself.

Perry: But it will make all of your change efforts easier when you have this group of influencers who are also thinking like change agents themselves. And so, they’re not going to be surprised by anything. They’re going to know how we work as a team. It’s like a culture of change, that we all are stepping up with our best thoughts and challenging the other thoughts and monitoring our share voice so that we make sure we hear others.

Chris: Yeah, well as we wrap up, I just got one thought for you, thinking through this, this is a great topic, leaders. Leaders, you don’t want to go about change alone. Take those that are your leaders, and those that maybe are some of your potential future leaders and allow them to be part of that journey. But it’s going to take intentionality from you as leader to make that happen. We talk about it at level four, people like, “I don’t have time to develop people.” Right? Like, “I got enough going on.” Well, that’s probably true, but it’s probably also because you haven’t taken time to think about creative ways to help develop those people. What are you already doing that they can be a part of to take that ride? You as a leader are going to be responsible for change. And so, be intentional about who you’re including. I love your principle about the voice, right? What does that look like in each room? And go through this and think about, “What do I need to be doing to expose my leaders, my up and coming leaders to this change so that they can lead with me, alongside me through this process?” So, my takeaway is you got to be intentional, and that’s going to look different for every different change that you go through. But make sure that you spend some time thinking about how you can help other leaders lead through change.

Perry: Fantastic. Well, you got me thinking now, I should ask Jake to share a voice on this podcast. So…

Chris: I love it! Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

Perry: All right, Chris, great stuff. Again, thank you all for joining us. As a reminder, if you want that learner guide, leave us a question or a comment, you can do all that and also learn about the Five Levels of Leadership at: We’re very grateful that you joined us. That’s all for today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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