Maxwell Leadership Podcast: Moving from Dependence to Independence
As John Maxwell says in today’s lesson, “The more we grow, the more we know we need to grow.” As we develop ourselves, our awareness of the areas in which we need to improve expands. So, in today’s episode, John teaches something that author Ken Blanchard calls “the four development levels that move people from dependence to independence.”
In other words, these are the stages through which we become less dependent on what got us here and more focused on what will take us there. After John’s lesson, Mark Cole and Chris Goede discuss their own journeys from dependence to independence and how they are applying these principles at Maxwell Leadership.
Our BONUS resource for this episode is the “Dependence to Independence Worksheet,” which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.
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Read The Transcript
Welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Podcast. This is the podcast that adds value to leaders who multiply value to others. My name is Mark Cole, and today John Maxwell is going to join us in a lesson where he says, “The more we grow, the more we know we need to grow”. I agree with John, that’s been true in my life, my leadership, I’m sure it’s true in yours. And I think that’s because as we develop ourselves, our awareness of the areas in which we need to improve expands.
So in today’s episode, John teaches something that author Ken Blanchard calls the four development levels that move people from dependence to independence. In other words, there are stages through which we become less dependent on what guide us here and more focused on what it will take to get us there.
After John’s lesson, and I will be joined by my friend, your friend, my co-host today is Chris Goede, and he and I are going to discuss our own journeys from dependency to independency and how we are applying these principles today to our life, to our leadership, and to our organization. But first, if you would like to watch this episode, you can go to YouTube and you will find us there at maxwellpodcast.com/YouTube. Be sure to give us a comment, give us a suggestion, maybe a question. We would love to recognize you in future episodes. Also, if you would like to download the bonus resource for this episode, please visit maxwellpodcast.com/independent, and click the bonus resource button.
Okay, that’s all for now. Here is John Maxwell.
The more we grow, the more we know we need to grow. In other words, when you start growing and developing yourself, the first thing you’re going to find is that instead of feeling like you know more and you’ve kind of arrived, the more you learn and the more you know, the less you feel you’ve arrived. In fact, you know what I have found? The only people who think they’re arrived are people that don’t know much. Alvin Toffler in Future Shock once observed, “The illiterate of the future are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday”.
This is not in your notes, but Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes, he said, “When I got to college, I looked back on what I had done with such pride in high school and wondered how I could have been so young. When I went to work for a newspaper and started cleaning out boxes of things I’d written for the college newspaper, I burned them hastily so no one would ever know how bad I had been as a writer. Over the years, whenever I’ve looked back on things that I wrote in the past, they seem, how should I say, not so good. That’s okay for high school, college, and early newspaper pieces I wrote, but now I notice as I look back on things I wrote last week and decide that this week I’m finally growing up and writing better, what am I going to think of this next week”? What was he saying? It’s very simple. The more I grow, the more I know I don’t know.
Here’s the way this works. The more we grow, the more we know, and the more that we grow, the more we know that we need to grow some more. That’s exactly the way it works. When I think about this statement, I’m reminded the little girl who thought that she had exhausted mathematics when she had learned the 12 times table. Remember when you had to learn the 12 times table? She got through the whole 12 times table, with a little twinkle in his eye her grandfather said, “Well, now that you know all the numbers up through 12, he says, what does 13 times 13”? And she said, “Oh, don’t be silly, Grandpa. There’s no such thing”.
There are four different development levels that people go through as they move from dependence to independence, and each of these stages demonstrate a different combination of competence and commitment. For example, number one, enthusiastic beginner. This is where they start. This is the first level of development. This person is excited about doing something, but has little knowledge about how to proceed. You see that all the time, don’t you? Oh, they’re so excited. They don’t have a clue, but they’re excited. Never allow enthusiasm to replace discipline or a plan. One of the weaknesses I see in people is they put way too much of a high priority on enthusiasm and way too little priority on a disciplined plan. In other words, when you get done being excited and your feet touch the ground, I have one question for you. After your hip hip hooray and hype, what you going to do to get to the next level?
Number two, usually in the phases, you go from enthusiastic beginner to number two, which is disillusioned learner. In other words, soon after beginning a new task, an individual commonly experiences reality shock, the difference between what they expected and the reality of the situation. While a disillusioned learner knows more than when he started a job, a goal or task, the excitement enthusiasm has decreased. We’ve all seen that, where they get excited and they start learning and they think, “Oh my goodness, I’m never going to get there”.
Level three or stage three is capable but cautious performer. Capable but cautious performer. Most individuals enter a stage of self-doubt and become a capable but cautious performer. They know how to do the task but are nervous about doing it on their own. Let me just say something about this level, just a statement. Stay with them until they have knowledge and confidence. They need more than knowledge, they need confidence. Stay with them long enough that they not only know what to do, but they feel confident in doing it.
Number four, the fourth stage is self-reliant achiever. This is a person now that becomes a peak performer. With proper support and individual can eventually reach this stage and be able to perform the task independently. Diagnosing your level of development will help you to develop a plan to reach peak performance on any job skill or goal. That’s some good stuff from Ken Blanchard. John Wooden said it this way, and I love this statement. He said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts”.
I looked at that statement, it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. And I asked myself, well, what are the characteristics of people who learn after they know it all? Because don’t we all know people that they know it all and they never learn another thing the rest of their life? Well, what are the characteristics of a person who learns after they know it all? These are quick and simple. One is humility, that’s a fact. You have to be humble. Number two is security, you have to be secure. You have to be willing to even, no matter what your position is, to say, “I don’t know it all yet”. Number three, you have to be willing to change. There has to be a willingness to change in your life or my life. Number four is good listening skills. And number five, continually being growth conscious. Because see, if you’re growth conscious instead of goal conscious, you will keep learning after you know it all.
Leaders you know better than anyone that growth is essential if you want to make tomorrow better than today. But fitting growth into your calendar takes intentionality and self-discipline, so let Maxwell Leadership help make your growth achievable. You are invited to join thousands of worldwide leaders in using the Maxwell Leadership Growth Plan. The Maxwell Leadership Growth Plan provides you with convenient and easy to implement leadership resources, including video lessons from John Maxwell all at your fingertips. Available in our Maxwell Leadership app or online, you’ll be coached by many well-known leadership experts that will help you achieve your growth goals. You can even listen to this podcast right there in the app. Check it out for free today at growth.maxwellleadership.com. That’s growth.maxwellleadership.com.
Hey, welcome back. I’m so excited because as I listened to John today, I thought about this standout statement. “What got you here won’t get you there”. And it is true, Chris, that man, I took a journey back to my first day in Maxwell leadership when I was listening to this go from dependence to independence, and there’s been components of that journey that, boy, I was so dependent. There’s other parts of that journey that I felt a real sense of empowerment and independence, and I’m sure that’s true with you today. You’re sitting listening to a couple of guys that, man, we have been around, there’s 40 years of impact in John’s world between the two of us.
Yeah, and isn’t it a true statement that I think we’ll always have both of these in our life, so there’ll be times and things we feel comfortable with through our growth cycle where we become independent. There are going to be times, because what John has always taught us is if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. And so we need to continue to push ourselves and continue to grow.
And what I love about today’s lesson, and John and Ken have known each other for a long time and have shared a lot of leadership thoughts, is that we’re going to really talk about growth, and that’s so important to us. Matter of fact, just earlier as we were recording this episode, we were having the Team Tuesday and Heather, who runs our Team Tuesdays and runs our HR department, said, “Hey, what’s the number one value, Chris? Where do you resonate most”? And I went back to a lesson you and I did several podcasts to ago around growth, and I thought about the fact that, man, to your point, there’s so many things that we have learned and that we have grown. And as we grow, we learn that, well, what we really don’t know, what we need to know, to your point, to that standout statement.
And so I want to dive into these four development levels that Ken talks about, that John taught, and I want you to react to them as a leader, as someone went through personal growth, continues to grow. The first one, when he talks about the enthusiastic beginner, here’s what I thought about. We do events. We do incredible events. We do the International Maxwell Conference, we do Personal Growth Day, we do Exchange, we do Live to Lead. And John always says, “Don’t allow this catalytic event to be all that it is”. I think his exact words, which, “What you going to do”? I think that’s what he said. The little southern came out on him.
But that’s where that enthusiastic beginner comes, and we all get there, where we get excited, we want to learn something. But then what happens is we go to that second level, and this is what I want you to unpack a little bit. I believe right now there is a bigger belief deficit in our world and in our people than there’s ever been before. What we’ve come through as organizations, as leaders, as people, that has been there. And they talk about the second level, this delusioned learner. And I think when we get to this level, we got to recognize it not only in ourself, but in our people so that we can speak belief into them.
Talk about this in regards to your journey. When did leaders, John, other leaders influence in your life speak belief into you that allowed you to go from, man, I am truly disillusioned, but yet they keep speaking belief in me that gave me confidence. Talk a little bit about that.
Well, as you were talking there, I thought about the book that John’s written called Leader Shift, and he talks about, and often in leadership we think, “Oh, been there, done that. I’ve learned that. Won’t have to learn that again”. So untrue. It’s just like the five levels of leadership that you spend 90% of your work week getting that message out there to companies. You can go back and forth between those levels, and when you get a new position, guess what? You start back to level one. We teach that.
Well, I think this dependence and independence is the same way. I think that we need to see this as interchangeable. And there are times to where a new assignment, a new season, a new responsibility puts us back in dependence mode to where like you were just asking me, we have to go borrow someone’s belief. Most recently, I’m working through some challenges I’ve never worked through before. I got on the road with John. “John, you got to help me”, and I borrowed belief from him.
I love this. So as we unpack this, I want to give you this visual, and this came from Angie in studio with us, that’s your executive partner.
She’s in studio with us today. And she said, “Guys, as I’m listening to this, I’m thinking about training wheels on a bike”. Now, what I didn’t say to Angie and I didn’t say to you is right now I have two grandkids with two bikes. One has training wheels, one doesn’t. The nine-year old doesn’t need training wheels. The five-year-old, well six now, don’t tell Robert I said five. The six-year-old needs training wheels. They had this conversation the other day that I just overheard, and Angie, you’re going to love this because it’s so applicable. And both of them to get to the neighbor’s house had a bike, and both of them got to the house.
Ryder the oldest, got there faster, but Robert got there with the help of training wheels. Well, they come back and they’re coming back and Robert says, “I wish I didn’t have to have the training wheels”. And my oldest grandson, said, “Robert, one day you won’t have to get them and you can go faster. You can get there faster”. Well, here’s the illustration here is there are times that we weave in and out of these levels that Ken Blanchard and John Maxwell teaches us today to where we need training wheels. And we may not get there faster, but as you work toward these phases or these stages and you get to this sense of independence, you’re going to still get to the same place, but you’re going to get there faster and you’re going to get there with greater confidence.
And just like my grandson, both of them got to the same place, but one had an appreciation for what training wheels did because now he can get there faster, and the other just wanted to get the training wheels off. Well, what does that mean? That’s this disillusioned learner. Robert’s disillusional right now. He wanted me to take the training wheels off that day.
So he could get there fast.
He was headed straight to the scene of the crash.
That’s exactly right.
That’s where he was headed. Not to the neighbor’s house, he was headed to the crash. And that’s what happens. We get our training wheels and we start borrowing this belief and we feel pretty good. And imagine my little grandson feeling pretty good and saying, “Take them off”. Well, he’s become delusional. He thinks just because he got there last time with the training wheels, now you can get there without them.
And we go through this phase as a leader to where in John Maxwell’s case, and he’s done this to both you and I, Chris, he gives us so much borrowed belief that sometimes we do become delusional like we can do it without his help. And I would just challenge you, while I never want to teach you independence that you don’t need people around you, that would defy everything that we’ve done. You do need a sense of self-reliance that gives you confidence because you can get where you need to go faster with self-reliance. But don’t despise the four steps along the way because delusional will stop you from getting and maintaining the progress that you have.
That is a great illustration and really brings out this lesson for today. The third level, now let’s build off this a little bit, that third level where they are capable but yet cautious. John said in the lesson, “Man, stay with them until they’re confident”. Continue to give them a little bit of belief, continue to stay with them. And you said, which I think this is great, “Develop quick wins”. So maybe we’re just going to go not down to the neighbor’s house, maybe we’re going to go to the next driveway, and then we might have to regroup a little bit at the crash scene and get them back up. But I think we have to go about doing that. And then the fourth level, which you just mentioned…
Can I say something on that third level?
Again, staying with the analogy that if this really works well, it’s because Angie came up with a great analogy. If isn’t working, it’s my fault because I’ve butchered it, okay. But I will tell you what I did with Ryder, our oldest grandson, back to the training wheels thing. When I took the training wheels off, you know where I took him to ride his bike?
In the grass.
On the lawn, in the grass. You know why? Because the crash wasn’t quite as severe. And what a good leader does in this third phase of capable but cautious, as you’re weaning them off of dependence on you, you create a scenario to where the win will be extravagant, but the loss will be not so painful. And as a leader, we’ve got to make sure we take responsibility because a severe crash on the pavement of life could stop somebody from wanting to keep leading…
If we let the crash be too severe.
But as leaders that are helping leaders ship, become more self-reliant, must create not only quick wins. That’s an easy analogy. We all talk about that. You got to get a quick win, but you got to create a quick win on a surface that a crash won’t be quite so devastating.
That’s good. That’s good. So it doesn’t take away their confidence in wanting to do it again. This last level, we’re going to spend a little bit of time here about this development level where they do become self-reliant. Now, we talked about this word a little bit. It doesn’t mean, because John says, “Hey, you don’t want to go out by yourself and do it by yourself. You want to bring a team with you and you want to be able to do that”. But there are some things that we need to, as we move from dependence to independence, we become self-reliant. And John built this model of this development model where it is, “Hey, I do it”, so I know how to ride a bike to your example, “I do it, you’re with me. And then you do it, I’m with you. Then I want you to do it”. That’s where that self-reliance comes in. But by the way, that’s not enough because we want to see this perpetual development cycle going in inside organizations.
That final phase is that you do it and someone is with you. I talk to organizations about this where I feel like there’s a lid inside organizations where they understand, leaders understand, yes, I got a title and I got to lead people. Yes, I got to connect with them. Yes, we got to produce. But when it comes to that next level of people development, there’s a lid right above level three. And people don’t understand that’s where sustainable change and growth is happening. And I tell them all the time, “It’s a simple model, not easy to do”, so that they become self-reliant. What does that look like? As leaders, you’re already going to meetings, take them with you. You’re already on phone calls. Let them sit in, listen, you’re going to all that kind of good stuff, to where then they become something that they go, “Oh man, I can do this myself”. I can self-reliant.
And then there’s one catch. I go, “Hey, that’s great. We will do this and we will model it. But you also have to do this to somebody on your team”. And I think that’s where John’s getting with this, how do we create independence in all of the people on our team and our bench so that we have a sustainable bench ready to step up and protect the culture.
So anyways, talk a little bit, just again, your experience, you’re going with this analogy. So far, it’s pretty good, so we’ll give Angie credit on that, but talk about that in regards to the model that John created around this development of people.
I think there’s a big difference, Chris, in self-reliance and self defiance. And when I am reliant on myself, there is a quiet confidence that comes into play when a leader says, “Give me the ball”, and I want to run the play. And there’s this defiance that says, “Hey, give me the ball or the team will fail”.
And I’ve watched people overplay self-sufficiency to the point that they become defiant in their abilities and defiant that the need for teamwork is not there. And I think that’s the fine line that you and I and Jake were talking about before we started recording today, that we don’t want to overplay self-reliance. But let me tell you something, there’s nothing better as a leader than somebody that sits across the table from you and says, “Hey, give the ball. I’ll take it. I got this”.
There’s something really cool about my friend Rob McClellan, and I quote him all the time. There’s something really cool about somebody that says, “Give me the task. And we’ll either get it done, or when you find my body, it’ll be pointed in that direction”. There’s something I’ll never forget the moment he made that comment to me. I’ve quoted it hundreds of times around the world, because there’s something self-reliant about that statement that says, “I do not need it. I will not come back with excuses. You won’t see me coming back saying, I couldn’t do it, it was too hard. I’m going to leave it all out on the field”. And I think that’s what Ken Blanchard and then John Maxwell, friends for life, big time friends, I think that’s what they’re trying to communicate to us is not a self defiance, I will defy odds and I will do this. I think that becomes way too, I, way too, all about me.
But when you can say, I want the opportunity to take this and you’ve given me enough, it is the leader that walks out of the room and you know they’re not going to come back with anything other than results or responsibility. Let me explain the two. Results, we accomplished it. Responsibility, we didn’t accomplish it, and this is what I should have done, could have done, would’ve done better. That’s responsibility. As opposed to the ones that walk out of the room and you go, there’s a 50 50 chance they’re going to come back with results or excuses. They’re going to come back and say, “Here it is. We won”. Or they’re going to come back and say, “I couldn’t because of…”. And it’s those leaders that have never become self-reliant. Because when the going gets tough and the opportunity to succeed is somehow hindered by something, the real leaders come back with what they could have, should’ve and would’ve and will do better the next time rather than, I couldn’t because…
Let me say one more thing. You mentioned this whole concept of I do it, you watch. You do it, I watch you do it, and then this final phase of you do it and somebody else’s watches, right? That’s the full circle. I don’t believe that self-reliant is evidenced until you’re taken your confidence and leadership successes and pouring it into somebody else.
So self-reliance feels very isolated, right? I disagree. I think self-reliance is when I, as a leader, empowered by John Maxwell, don’t need John Maxwell to pour myself into somebody else.
Yeah, that’s good.
And that’s the true loop that you were talking about while ago, that true self-reliance is when I’m able to reproduce without dependent on somebody that reproduced me. And if we as leaders, viewers, listeners, if we as leaders can challenge ourself to recognize that true self-reliance is the confidence to get it done, or not, without excuses and the opportunity to take somebody with us that’s going to get it done the next time, probably better than we did it.
Than us, yeah. And what you’re saying, I love what you’re talking about it, and as John wraps up this lesson, he says, Hey, here are the characteristics of those that will continue to learn, will continue to develop people, where he says, “Hey, there’s humility in there, there is security. They’re willing to change, they’re willing to do things a little bit different. They’re good listeners. And then they continually bring there growth ideas and they’re growth conscious about what’s going on”. And I think as you work through this, those characteristics right there, I think define somebody that may be self-reliant in the words that you talked about, that you took away from it as they move from dependence to independence.
One of the things that’s very interesting for all of us, I mean your podcast listeners, your podcast viewers, so I’m kind of speaking to the choir here, but where are you in your attitude of learning and growing? Because as we walk through these four development levels from Blanchard that John taught today of the enthusiastic beginner, there’s nothing more refreshing than being a teacher to an enthusiastic beginner. I mean, I think about, again, I referenced my grandkids and their bikes. There’s nothing more excited to me than my youngest grandson coming and saying, “Hey, hey, come watch me do this”. Even with training wheels. And I’m going, “Yeah, it’s no big deal with training wheels”, but going from point A to point B is everything, he could care less about. Ryder never calls me, says, “Hey, watch me ride my bike”. He has been there, done that.
There’s an attitude in Robert of accomplishment, learning and discovery, which goes to that enthusiastic beginner. What’s interesting is then, and two, a disillusioned learner still needs to have a learner mindset, and then of course, three and four capable and cautious, and then self-reliant, I don’t think we ever as leaders remain useful when we stop learning. It’s this concept of, we talk about it often here, what are you learning? What are you discovering? How are you growing?
John wrote a book, and I wanted to give you the ability to learn and grow because of what we’re talking about here. I want you to go from dependence to independence, to reproduction, reproducing others. I think the best way that I have learned to grow and develop myself is by asking questions. And so John wrote this book, I think it goes extremely well with our podcast today. The book’s called Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, and we’re going to put a link in the show notes. We’re going to give you an ability to use a code called PODCAST to get 15% off, and that’s kind of our gift for you and our challenge to you to continue growing and developing yourself with asking good questions.
One of the things, Chris, I’ll say this. I love doing these podcasts with you. You’re going to have to buy my dinner after this segment right here.
I love doing this podcast with you because you really do ask good questions, and you’ve got a podcast. By the way, if you’re a corporate leader, if you are leading a team of people in a corporation, we have an executive podcast that you need to be listening to as well. How do they get that?
Yeah. Maxwellleadership.com/podcast. If you go to our website, you’ll see not only this one, but also that one as well that I do with Perry Holly, one of our [inaudible 00:28:43].
You need to subscribe, you need to download it, you need to get on our list to listen to this because the podcast will help you. But you deliver great content in there, great content. But what I love about hosting this podcast with you is you come in with these brilliant questions that has been thought through you, you don’t just think of them on the fly. You kind of think through, because there’s a hunger to learn, there’s a hunger to share with our podcast listeners, which is ultimately our goal here.
There’s a hunger to learn on how and what we can do to be more effective as leaders. That must be all of our posture, that must be your posture, that must be my posture. And by the way, I was just pointing, those of you that are listening, us pointing to you through the screen on YouTube, we all need to be asking questions to better ourselves so that we can work from dependence to independence, back to dependence, back to independence, and keep growing in our leadership.
One of the things I love about our podcast community is the comments, those of you that gives us a five star rating, thank you. Those that give a four star rating, tell us what Chris Goede’s doing wrong so we can fix that. And I’m just teasing there, but thank you. It’s feedback, it’s questions, it’s comments that are fuel for us to come back into studio and deliver week after week, something that we hope and is intended to add value to you.
Today, I wanted to highlight a comment from Cass. Cass listened to the podcast, How to Gain Influence. We’ll put that in the show notes. You can take advantage of that if you’ve not heard that podcast episode yet. Cass said, “This was great. I love the part where John said, you don’t work for me, you work with me”. I’ve heard him say that a bunch of times, haven’t you, Chris?
“I think many leaders should take this to heart. No one wants a bulldozer boss”. I love that, Cass. A bulldozer boss. No comment, Chris, on whether I’m a bulldozer boss, “No one wants a bulldozer boss. Lead with love. Great takeaways from this one”. Cass, that’s why we do what we do. Podcast listener, viewer, you are why we do what we do. We want you to go bring powerful, positive change to the world because everyone deserves to be led well.
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