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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #84: How Are Insider/Outsider Dynamics Killing Engagement on Your Team?

April 23, 2020
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #84: How Are Insider/Outsider Dynamics Killing Engagement on Your Team?

Diversity is a given in most organizations and on most teams today. Inclusion, however, is a choice that we need to make every day. In Episode #84 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we share how leaders can promote inclusive behaviors that invite everyone on the team to be seen, heard and welcome. 

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Read 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 drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach, and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President with The John Maxwell Company. 

Welcome and thank you for joining. Just as a quick reminder, before we get started, if you’d love to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership, or even some of the work that we’re able to do with organizations around the world, please visit and there leave a comment or a question for Perry and I as well and we’d love to respond or even we can make it one of Perry’s future titles and actually talk a little bit about it. In addition, there you’ll be able to find a learning guide that Perry creates for us around this content and you’ll be able to download that and be able to use that as kind of a one pager and highlight some of the lessons that you’re learning from our podcast today. 

Well, today’s title and I love this, I think of many illustrations about this and even our team here in the room had us laughing beforehand about some of the things that we could have done that we’re not going to do. But we could have, and the title Perry came up with us is ” How Our Insider/Outsider Dynamics is Killing Engagement on your Team,” and I can only imagine what you were thinking about. So tell us a little bit more about what you were thinking about these dynamics.

Yeah, so when I was young, my dad was in the space program and we happened to move a lot. He was an engineer working on space thing before we went to the Cape, for the man launches. And because we moved a lot, I was always kind of the new kid and the new guy in town, and I reflect back on that about how tough kids make it for the new kid and you’re on your way. Kind of the outsider, until you figure out how to become an insider. And most of what we think about it in the workplace today, it’s mostly unintentional, I think it can still be disastrous for your team If someone on your team does not feel like they belong, does not feel for some reason that they’re not in the inner circle with your team, or that they’re more outside, others are inside. It really sets up a dynamic where it’s really about inclusion and how you as a leader do things or don’t do things that exclude people and do things that do include people is a dynamic that I’m finding that a lot of us do, unintentionally but it happens, It does. Matter of fact, it actually makes me think a little bit about a meeting that John had with Carly Fiorina, and we were talking about diversity and inclusion and our team beginning to work together and develop some content to be able to roll that out to organizations because it’s a big topic and it’s a hot button and I think diversity right now is given in most organizations, right? It is what all of us see in our teams, we think it’s a fantastic thing, where there’s a gap and where there’s a little bit of challenges, this whole inclusion it’s a choice and how do we go about doing that? Because I think every person that you interact with on your team has a unique value not only to them as an individual, but what they can bring to the team and, and whether you know it or not, I think at times you may be promoting inclusive behaviors, which can decrease the engagement and everyone on the team has to be seen, they have to be heard, they have to be welcome. And we got to make sure that we’re having these types of conversations. 

We noticed this as we’ve done a podcast here about unconscious bias before and one of the key things I learned from that was there’s a bias called ‘like me bias,” and that we all kind of have a tendency to notice and and move towards things that are like us. It’s unconscious and we need to be more conscious of that to say, am I on my team? granted, there’s just some people who are easier to connect with. There’s some people that are more like me, and I click with them. But are there others that are just as important to the team that I want to include? but by my action doing that. So I have eight things that I  think I will walk through kind of quickly to just be mindful of what it is, a high level, right? Yeah. 

So number one was self awareness, that’s probably the most important step you take, is to recognize this tendency to connect with people that are like you and I find that once I’m aware of this, I start to notice the differences and differences good. And that if just because it’s different culturally, doesn’t mean it’s bad. If it’s ethnicity, race, gender or generational, there’s lots of things that make up a person that I need to be comfortable with difference and when I’m self aware of that, I gravitate and I think that’s why you have to be self aware that is you mentioned how like minded like acting, we kind of just naturally gravitate towards those types of people. I think that there’s alignment right away. I think over time, there’s some tension. We’ve talked about this in a previous podcast, but where there is a difference or where you’re, you have different whatever it might be values, beliefs, however it is. If you’re not aware of that, you will create an immediate disconnect with that team member. And that doesn’t serve you or your leadership, doesn’t serve the team member or the team in general. And so I think you definitely got to be aware of that. 

Number two, we’re going to talk about his shared unwritten rules. And, and when I saw this, I just started laughing. I was like, my goodness, do you know how many unwritten rules that we have in organizations. The written ones, everybody knows You get it you get, you know, you get an employee handbook, you understand, you know, what the pay days off are, which ones aren’t and all the rules and all kinds of stuff. But there are so many unwritten rules. And it even goes down to not even just as an organization but as teams. And each team has unwritten rules. If you ask them, they’ll tell you what they are. They all know, they will absolutely tell you, somebody told me when I said what’s an unwritten rule in your organization, they said, “Oh, never leave before the boss leaves.” I went, really? Yeah, we’re sitting around waiting for those to see the bosses tail lights in the parking lot and then they get out of there not doing anything just looking out my window, right. That’s one of those unwritten rules,  and so much killing your engagement. That’s right. So make sure remember, we’re talking about inclusion here with team members, some simple things that you can be doing, man, take that first step and share some of those unwritten rules with a team. And they’re going to get the written ones. I mean, you can have that conversation as well, but HR is probably going to take care of all of that.

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Number three that you mentioned here, over communicating, okay, you know, open communication with every member on the team will help them from keeping to feel like an outsider. And when I say over communicate, oftentimes people say, Man, people have to hear a message three different ways, seven times each, right and they come up with this big formula. And really what they’re just trying to tell you is you can’t communicate enough about what’s going on in the team. And by doing that, you’ll make them feel inclusive, you’ll make them feel part of the team.I found this to be true, when I was leading a large team, the more I spoke to people as a group, or individually, the more I was seen and heard, the more they felt like they were in that circle of knowledge, they know what’s going on, they hear it from me, and any communication is generally good, but connecting in communication is required. And just remember in regards to communication, people receive different types of communication in different ways.  Again this goes back to being not only self aware of how you deliver it but even more importantly, as a leader, you need to know your team, and how certain individuals need to be communicated to.

Number four, to just recognize the difference. We’ve talked about your “like me” bias. You gravitate toward people like you if you can recognize differences. One thing I learned in this area was it may sound noble to say I don’t see difference, everybody’s just the same. And what I’ve learned in the cross cultural diverse environments that we are in today is that if you say I don’t see a difference, you’re basically saying you don’t see me. You don’t see a person and that you’re just like me, you’re not like me, and I need to to be able to see that and recognize differences and then be comfortable with differences so that I connect equally with people on my team.

And number five, we talk about it a lot here. It’s just being more intentional. Be intentional about how you look at how you engage with your team. How People be intentional about noticing that people are left out, not included. Are there informal meetings going on at somebody’s, you know, these informal meetings in the hallway? Or if we step into a conference room and somebody say” Why wasn’t I invited into that?” You can always, you know, be more intentional about scheduling the meetings, having people in place. I had one that said, you always hold the staff meeting late in the day, and I have to go pick up my kids from school. And I always either have to leave early, or I missed the meeting completely. I didn’t think I wasn’t intentional about that. I said, some people had to drop kids off in the morning, I always had an eight thirty meeting. And I thought, well, work starts at eight. You know, it’s a different world today. And people have different responsibilities. And if you know what those commitments are that people have, and you schedule accordingly, you’re saying, you’re important. You’re saying I want you to be on the team, I want you to be included.

This is a foundational discussion in John’s 5 levels model l around level two and just getting to be able to connect with people, right? We talked about, you don’t have to build a relationship with everybody. But you got to connect with them. There’s lots of ways to connect with them. And even around this intentionality, one of things I was thinking about was, be intentional about understanding their perspective about everything, whether it is something, whether it’s the time of the meetings that you’re talking about, whether it’s a core value of theirs, or a belief of theirs, or whatever it is. And I think if you’re intentional about that, that will that will draw that inclusiveness that’ll draw that really it’s about perspective is another tendency and unconscious bias is that I tend to think that my perspective is the perspective and if you have that openness, like you said, to say, I just am over communicate, I invite you to have a voice into what I’m what my perspective is. People then lean in because that engagement goes up because I’m relevant. I’m important, you need me. I’m into that, love that. 

Well number six, I know you put this in here for me, I’m not gonna you know, take it personally but number six is Listen Deeply. We’ve talked a lot about this, you know, John talks about this being kind of that core level too. If you listen, learn, then lead your team, it will be a lot more effective than hearing your team, you don’t learn anything and then you leave them the way that you were going to lead them anyway. But if you really understand and get to become a really good listener without distractions, the biggest compliment somebody could say is, man with everything else that you got going on as a leader, when I’m talking to you, I feel like I’m the only thing that matters. Like I feel like I’m the only one in the room. I think if you could get to that point, that will let you have honed in on how to listen deeply. When you do that, they’re going to feel included, they’re going to feel valued, feel seen, they’re gonna feel seen and you’re going to get what we call the discretionary effort. They’re going to want to be there. They’re going to be passionate about what they’re doing for the organization. The big learning there, I know Stephen Covey taught us to listen with the intent to understand not just respond, but I noticed in this world I’m in that I need to listen with the intent to learn and to serve If I go into a conversation and thinking about how can I What can I learn? And how can I serve this person? Wow, that connection starts to appear people feel it, they feel seen they lean in. Number seven is another thing we teach in the 5 levels  quite a bit is called step back so that others step up. And what I’ve learned as a leader is that people look to me to be if you picture a box in the middle of the room that I’m that I step up on the box, and by default, everybody else in the room steps back while I step up, and they’re listening for me, they’re expecting me there. Perry’s gonna make the decision. Perry’s going to tell us what to do. And what I’ve noticed is if I can step back, it causes others to step up and I start to make them feel included, I start to make them feel relevant and needed. I asked them, What do they think? What’s your point of view? What would you do if you were me? How would you lead this business? And I’ve had leaders tell me well, if I asked them, I’ve got to do what they say. No you don’t, most people don’t even notice if you did what they said they noticed that you asked what they thought. That’s right!

Well, the last one here Number eight, this encourages two way feedback. And leaders, I love this because this is just encouraging us to go first. Right? Like, you know, John is a tremendous supporter of admitting the fact that, hey, you’re not going to do everything right, you’re not going to lead perfectly, you’re gonna make mistakes. In order for you to grow, you gotta be you to have evaluated experience and that evaluation sometimes comes not only from an internal thought process, but also external feedback from your team. And when you do this, you’re telling someone that you care about getting better about your personal growth, and you just break the ice. You go first, and you ask the team member that and you’re including them, allow them to speak into that. Again, you may have different reasons for why you’re doing certain things and you understand that as a leader, but the fact that they are allowing to be heard, and to speak into that, not only is it going to allow them to feel included, but then it’s going to also encourage them to want to ask for feedback as well. And you create that two way feedback, which I absolutely love.

Well, the key is that you lead everyone individually as where they are, and you don’t leave everybody the same. And we teach that quite a bit. And people are individuals. You’ve had more than one child, you know, you don’t do the same with one as you do with the other just often, it doesn’t work that way. But it’s important to make sure everybody feels welcome, and included in what we’re doing if we want to take engagement to the highest level.

Well, as we wrap today, I just want to encourage you if this is happening inside your team, inside your organization. May not be intentional. I’m thinking about even my team thinking about our organization. And it may not be because of the leaders intention, your intention, but this is happening. And so my challenge to you is to take these eight and really kind of just go through and self evaluate where you’re at as a leader, what your team is going through and just say, where is it that I potentially am missing the mark? Even if it’s as simple as the unwritten rules, like you said, Everybody has them. What are they? And then we communicated that to the team, all the way up to number eight, where you talk about, hey, began asking other people for feedback in certain situations, and allow them to speak into that, I think these eight you could write them down, pick a couple of them this week, maybe even today, and begin to dig a little bit further to see if this is truly going on inside your team. So I appreciate the aid that you brought to us and even just the topic. Fantastic, well, you can get those eight there on a learner guide for you that you can download. If you didn’t have a chance to write those down. You can find that at the You’re also welcome to leave us a question or a comment or even learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership. As always, we’re grateful for you joining us. This is the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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