Podcast

Executive Leadership Podcast #7: Tasks vs. Relationships: A Five Levels Danger Zone

Do you have a task-oriented personality or a relationship-oriented personality? When you walk into the office, do you go straight to your desk and start cranking out Excel spreadsheets — or do you grab a cup of coffee, walk around the cubicles and chat with everyone? We all have a natural bent towards Level 2 or Level 3 in the 5 Levels of Leadership. A Level 2 leader has a natural skill set of connecting with people and a Level 3 leader has the ability to focus on production. They key is having self-awareness of your personality and then developing learned behaviors so you don’t get stuck in a danger zone. In Episode 7 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Perry Holley and Chris Goede will share steps that both types of leaders can implement today to enhance their leadership skills.

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Read the transcript below:

Welcome to The John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your level of influence, increase your reputation as a leader and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. I’m Perry Holley, a certified John Maxwell, facilitator and coach, and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining.

Chris, today’s episode is titled “Task vs. Relationships: A Five Levels Danger Zone.” Now there’s a five levels danger zone? I’m intrigued. Where is the danger zone when it comes to the Five Levels of Leadership? I have to be honest, I love the title, Perry. I’ve never heard anybody use that before, but I absolutely love it and I’m looking forward to digging into that with you today. We’ll talk about that — the danger zone — but before I do that, let me just remind those that are listening. If you want to review of the Five Levels and an overview of that leadership model and the methodology, you can just refer back to our first episode in this podcast series and you’ll be able to catch up to speed on that model and the methodology of the Five Levels of Leadership.

Now, when I think about your title and I think about danger zones, I think there are two that come to mind. The first one is moving from Level 2 — the permission level to Level 3 — the production level. I think that’s the first one that we got to talk about and be aware of. And then the second one is really maintaining that Level 3, that production movement, with the people on your team. So, let’s back up. Today. I just really want to focus on the first one because I think we can talk about this for a long time. We see it in corporate America ton and so let’s talk about that first one, which is the possible danger zone of moving from Level 2 to Level 3.

Right, so I take it that you’re referring to the challenge we have at the task-oriented person or having a task-oriented, production-oriented personality versus having more of a relationship-oriented, a communication style or personality. Is that right?

Yeah, exactly. So, we all have a natural bent. I think when we talk about individuals and leading individuals and self-awareness, there are three buckets that we always talk about. Number one is kind of their natural bent behaviors, how they’re wired. Second is learned behaviors and then third is what they value and their values. And so we’re going to back up here and we’re going to really talk about the fact that how we are naturally wired and I think that everybody is either naturally wired towards a Level 2 leader, natural skillset of leading people, connecting with people, relating with people, or you have a natural bent towards Level 3, which is the ability to just focus on tasks and strategies and spreadsheets and all those things. You can hear a little sarcasm in my voice because that’s not me, but I do appreciate those that do that.

We use an example sometimes we’ll be like, okay, and I want you to think about this as you’re listening right now. In the morning when you get into the office and this how I define two different people, you either grab your cup of coffee and you start walking around the office and the cubicles and saying hi and shaking hands, or you put your head down and you walk right by everybody. You go shut your door and you just start pounding out emails and Excel spreadsheets. You decide which of the two to you are and that’ll show you what your natural bent is between the two of them. That’s funny. When we were doing this in the Five Levels of Leadership workshop, people say, which one are you? I can do a little description like you did you come in with a cup of coffee or you already had your coffee and you go straight to your spreadsheet or you come in and make your coffee and walk around and see people.

And they’ll laugh a little bit. And I said, which one are you? And not all the hands go up. And I said, well, you have to be both. I mean, to be successful you have to be, but you have a bent, you have a leaning where you are. And the way we do it in the workshop is I have everybody stand up and I put the task people on one side of the room and the relationship people on the other side of the room. And then I walk over to the task people and I say, what do you just hate about these relationships? And then they kind of laugh. They’re tentative. And then they said, well, they don’t work. They’re always walking around there. Everything’s funny. They have a story for everything. I don’t know when the next party is.

So I said, okay, wait a minute. And I’ll walk over to the relationship people and say, what do you hate about these tasks people? All they do is work, work, work, no sense of humor, no fun. It’s always the next thing. So, we have a smile and then come back to the middle and say, why do we need to know this? So why do we need to know this? And so it’s a great question because I don’t want us to lose the point about what we’re trying to accomplish here today. It is true. We do all have a natural bent, but it’s not your task or the relationships that matters. It’s kind of how you handle the orientation that really matters and both can be a danger zone and we can talk a little bit about that. But, the real lesson here is to be aware, to have self-awareness not only of yourself, but of those that you lead because we do have a natural bent one way or another. And so we need to be aware of it. And then developed learned behaviors. Remember I told you that second bucket, we have we’re wired (natural) and then we have learned. And so we need to develop learned behaviors to be able to offset that and be aware of that not only in ourselves but those that are on our team because everybody has a natural bent for that.

The danger zone for a task person is the tendency to skip Level 2. We talk about this a lot because everybody gets a title Level 1, they’re excited and they just want to go and start producing right away for the organization. Relationships? We need results. Well, that’s right. That’s right. That’s why I’m paid. That’s why I need a paycheck at the end of the week. And so that’s a problem and we’ll talk a little bit more about the problems that come from that a little bit later in this podcast and then the danger zone on the other side of that though, for relationships we’re talking about this is the person, this is where — I have a tendency to do this too — this is where we’d want to hang out. This is where you’re going to walk around too much with a cup of coffee. You want to plan the parties and some of those things that you talked about earlier. But here’s the deal, right? The problem with just hanging out is we have to produce as leaders and as people, if we want to have that company that we all enjoy working at, we better figure out how to produce. Otherwise, we can’t just sit around and continue to sing Koombaya. So, we all have a natural bent. We just have to be intentional about understanding that and develop learning behaviors against the ones that we’re not naturally at as a leader.

Well, I’m a card-carrying relationship guy. I confess it. I’m on the strong to that side and I always joke with people in the room that, you know, one day you’ll come into work and say, what happened to Perry? He was such a great guy. I said, yeah, he got fired. Even though he had great relationships, he wasn’t producing any results that I have that tendency to stay at Level 2, build really strong relationships and not bridge over to Level 3. So, the danger of hanging out at Level 2 isn’t having strong relationships with real benefit to being a strong Level 5 leader. I mean, aren’t I more likely to be a strong leader if I have these great relationships? Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s essential, right? You have to have both and I think it’s essential to leading great teams, but we’re not hired necessarily to build great teams, although that’s what you should do and what will come as a result of beginning to be aware of the Five Levels of Leadership.

But, we’re really hired to produce great results for the organization and we have to keep that in mind when you have that natural bent that we do, you have to stay focused on it. And our relationship-leaning person who doesn’t become intentional about moving to Level 3, to your point, somebody might walk in and say what happened to Perry? And so you really have to be intentional about producing results. So if results are really the end game, is there a danger zone? You mentioned earlier, there’s a bit of a danger zone for being that task or production leaning person. What is that about? Yeah, if you’re a task-leaning person, that’s what I said earlier. We’ll talk a little bit about the dangers here. You have that title and you immediately want to come in and produce. And I ask people all the time, does that work? You know, can you go immediately from a Level 1 influence leadership with individuals? And let me stop real quick. Remember, we don’t assign what level of leaders we are with the individuals. They determine where we’re at. And so we come in, we’re leading by title and we immediately start producing and that works in the short term. And that’s the problem is that you often look at organizations and I know we get a lot of calls and a lot of conversations about employee engagement and turnover problems and how can you help us solve all this? Oftentimes talent, that’s it. That’s it. And now, more than ever, they have choices, right? And so what’s happening is those guys and gals that are leading from a Level 1 straight to Level 3 from a task standpoint and they’re skipping that Level 2 the relationship side of things, they’re losing their team. It’s becoming a turnover problem, so you have to be careful that as a task-leaning person, you don’t just skip over the Level 2 the relationship side of thing or you’re going to have a turnover and you won’t have long-term sustainable success in producing.

So, that reminds me of some things that John teaches about you’re not going to be successful unless a lot of people want you to be. I used to think, you know, I’m here, I’m going to make this thing sucks. I can’t do it by myself. So I needed the team, meaning that I need to engage the team at a level, at strong Level 2 get them to do that by hand. I think you mentioned that, that they buy into me before they buy into the vision I have. So, when you think about the task versus relationship, are there any tips you can provide the helping relationship and task-oriented leaders that would help us go forward?

Yeah, absolutely. I think some of the things that you can do, again, you’re going to have to be intentional about it. And you could start very simply by doing a couple of things. You know, every time you have a meeting or you’re on a phone call, try to spend the first couple of minutes just connecting it, maybe even outside of the profession. Maybe it’s even just a personal connection. Maybe the next time you start a team meeting you say, hey, before we start, let’s go around the room real quick and I want to hear in less than 30 seconds from each of you, what was your favorite part about last weekend? Or what’s exciting going on in your life right now? Or what’s something that you’re looking forward to in the balance of this year? And you begin to kind of almost develop a learned behavior.

That’s what we’re talking about is, is as you are task centered, how do we develop, learn behaviors to become more of that relational connection person. The other thing that we talk about is getting your MBWA: Management by Walking Around — as much as it may paint you as a Level 3 natural bent leader to grab a cup of coffee or a soda and walk around and connect to people. Man, just spend five, 10 minutes trying to do that. Maybe once a week, then it would go to a couple of times a week just to connect with people. One of our master facilitators and executive coaches taught me this lesson. He has a natural Level 3 bent to him. And so anytime he goes into a meeting, especially when it’s high stakes, because what happens is when we’re backed into a corner or up against a deadline or pressure or a situation happens at work, you’re going to fall back into your natural tendency, which is, it is go mode for us that are task-oriented, right?

And so what he does is he has a learned behavior to where when he walks in at the top of his paper, he always writes several different letters, right? So he writes AQ and then he writes SL and what they stand for is ask questions first, speak last, right? All these things that happen and so that allows him to have a learned behavior in order to connect with the room, get their buy in, get their feedback before he comes in and says this is what we’re doing and anybody have any questions, right? Because once as a leader, because he knows where he wants to go and you want a guy like that on your team, you just have to figure out how as a task-oriented leader, natural bent to your questions were some things you can put in place in order to help slow down a little bit and connect with the people at Level 2 from relationship side.

I used to write that on the sales calls. W A I T, why am I talking? To remind myself, let the other person talks about the relationship person. If I’m leaning in that direction, which I am, anything intentional you’d call me to there.

Well, from a relationship standpoint, what’s you’ve got to remember is that sometimes we don’t, we don’t want to hold people accountable. We don’t want to push people, we don’t want to challenge people, but if we just understand, and I have a natural bent towards this, right, so you can hear me favor it a little bit. We have change in our pocket, we have connected, we have built the relationship with them and they’re waiting for us to challenge them. It’s like, you know, we talk, I have two teenagers, dear Lord, hat are now 18 and 16 and you often see these kids and I’ve been very involved in middle school and high school sports and athletes on stuff and they just hunger direction. They hunger accountability and some of us that are naturally bent like I am just to build relationships and connect and how things go on. We sometimes are a little bit slow to the game to challenging people to be great and to holding them accountable to be great and they desire it. And here’s the thing. We have change in our pocket. Back to my point, right? So understand that even if it’s awkward or it feels uncomfortable to hold people accountable or have a tough conversation or challenging to do something, you have change in your pocket to make those statements are asked those questions or to challenge that individual that you’re leading.

Yeah, I always think for me, when I made that observation that I’m spending way too much time on relationships, which I don’t think you spend too much time on relationships, but I’m not really focused on driving results. I had to set a standard and for me it was I’m the standard setter for the team and I have to hold people accountable for that standard and encourage them to get to that standard and then keep raising their level of that. For me, that helped. John mentioned balancing care with candor. I’m major on care. I’m a little light on candor and I just had more direct talk, holding people to a higher standard and then holding them accountable for getting there and then go on to the next level. That’s kind of my job was take us to the next level. I want to have that great relationship, but we got to go the next level, so I really appreciate you know, your direction there. So as we close, how about a call to action about increasing our ability to not hang out at Level 2 and, but not skip Level 2. What would you encourage our listeners with?

Yeah, a couple of things here. Remember it’s a process, right? John talks about law process and where it happens daily, not in a day and small things lead to big things. So, we talked a little bit about and take the first three minutes of a meeting, get your, you know, management by walking around and do it one day a week, man, for some it may be hard to do it one time a month. Let’s start there because small things are going to lead to big things. And, over time you’ll begin to develop both sides of it. And so it goes, same thing for relationships, right? Begin with a small conversation of accountability or challenge and it’ll lead to bigger and they hunger it, they want it. The other thing is, and this is, I can’t remember where I heard this, I heard this the other day, I was listening to something or reading something where it said there are no bad teams, just bad leaders.

I was like, ow, right, so, no matter what naturally bent you are, your team is going to follow that and that’s falls on you. And the responsibility is yours as a leader. In the beginning, you know, at times when we take leadership, we inherit a team, but over time you get the team you deserve. And so you’ve got to be aware and you gotta know where you’re at, know where your team is because it is on you as a leader. And so just make sure that you really are honest with yourself. Call it like it is like we’ve talked about today, you know, Perry and I are naturally, we leaned towards the Level 2 side and it’s a fact, right? We do a Maxwell Leadership Assessment where it’s a 360 and the results come back as the leader and there’s no doubt about it. I have a natural bent towards Level 2. Level 3, I rate a little bit lower. And so I need to be aware of that. And so if I can’t admit that myself and have that type of awareness than what we got to do is we’ve got to ask those around you that you trust to be honest with you. So ask those questions, have conversations. Remember, it’s a process and small things lead to that.

Thanks man. I appreciate that we partner with the RightPath organization. These RightPath four and six surveys we do really uncover your real you. And it’s at that awareness that you mentioned that makes it so much easier to grow up. If I know where I am, I know what the gap is, I get to where it needed to be. By the way, John says, it’s the hardest thing to do, right? The hardest thing to do is lead yourself. In order to lead yourself, you have to know yourself.

Exactly. Well, that’s fantastic, Chris. Thanks for all that and until next time, keep developing your influence so you can be a true Five Level leader.