There are three questions that every follower is asking about their leader. Though these may seem simple at first glance, they’re actually quite profound. Listen to the next episode of our Executive Leadership Podcast to dive a bit deeper into these three fundamental questions.
- Can you help me?
- Do you care about me?
- Can I trust you?
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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. Hi, 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.
Thanks, Chris. Well, today’s episode is titled “The Three Questions Every Follower is Asking About Their Leader” and I’m interested to learn more about these questions, but I just want to encourage our listeners – If you’re not familiar with the Five Levels of Leadership, please tune into one of the previous episodes and hear Chris take you through this important language of leadership that applies to every organization and every leader. I think you’ll benefit a lot from that. So Chris, let me turn it over to you and take me through. Talk about these three questions. This sounds interesting.
Yeah. The three questions that every follower is asking about their leader is a great way for a leader to assess their movement from Level 1 where people follow you because they have to, Level 2 where people follow you because they want to, and these three questions speak to what makes them want to.
So the three questions if I just lay them out there and get your feedback on them. Question 1 says “Can you help me?” Question 2 says “Do you care about me?” And Question 3 says “Can I trust you?”
Yeah, these sound simple and John teaches on them from time to time and everybody’s like, man, that’s it? Like those are the three, kind of like his rule of five, right? Like that’s it? But they’re actually quite profound when it comes to how people see you and how they decide if they’re going to engage with you in the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John talks about the law of buy-in, which says people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. Level 2 leaders absolutely need to get this buy-in if they hope to move onto Level 3, which is about results.
I remember early in my public speaking career, I would teach a leadership lesson. I actually had a room, probably 200 managers, first line sales managers in a room, but what was interesting across the back of the room where all their senior executives lined up and it made me a little nervous because I knew in this lesson some people think this three questions thing is soft, this is very soft part of leadership. So, I was nervous with all this power in the room. I knew this chart was coming up, so as it got closer I decided that I would do a high-level fly by and I basically said, by the way, here are three questions every follower is asking that help garner trust. Be sure you got that, and I hit the button to go on and it wasn’t a second go by before the senior most person in the back of the room didn’t stand up. He shot off of his chair and he said, excuse me, can you put that back?
I thought, oh my, he’s going to take me apart right here in front of his audience. So I moved it back and he said, uh, can we spend a minute here? I thought, oh, please don’t do this. And he said, Perry, I find this to be profound, to which I said, thank you very much. It’s one of my favorite charts. I know I was. He said, can I come up? And he came to the front of the room and we did an exercise, which, by the way, I do every single event I do now, every 5 Levels class, everything I do. When these three come up, they’re so important that I want you to tell me at your table groups, how do you help? Because it’s so easy to blame. It’s like so simple. We blow by it and we don’t say, how do I help them? How do I care for them? How do I build trust? And I always have a secret table in the back. They say, how do we break trust? So it’s a very interesting, uh, these questions, they seem simple, but they’re profound.
That’s a great story. And it just shows you how rich this concept really is, you know, in our everyday lives and in what we’re doing and we’re striving for an efficient and kind of the effective business. We often all go straight from Level 1 influence where we talk about having a title. The organization thought enough of you to give you that responsibility straight to Level 3 where we’ve got to produce and we see that happen over and over and over again, which there’s a lot of issues with that high turnover, both in the leader and the team. And we could dig apart that. Maybe we’ll do that on another episode, but oftentimes to your story, right? It becomes profound to people that they want you to slow down and really think about three simple questions like this that all are around your people and getting them to understand that they now want to follow you because you’re asking these three simple questions.
Well, if you don’t mind, why don’t you walk us through the three questions and individually and explain what’s the importance to the follower of these three? Why are these so profound?
Yeah, I would love to do that. The first one. Can you help me? Listen, let’s just be honest, right? Whether it’s change, whether it’s opportunity or it’s a leader, the first question we all ask is how’s that going to affect me? And so when you are being asked, can you help me? Or the other size of followers. I’m looking at that leader and I want to work with, I want to partner with, I want to have influence from somebody that can progress me as a leader and my career.
The second one you mentioned was, do you care about me? Now, who wants to work for somebody that just doesn’t care about you? Now, we probably all have worked for those individuals and each of us are probably thinking about their face right now because oftentimes we have nightmares about working for them, but we all want to work for people that have a true interest and care for you and value you as a person, as an individual.
And then finally your question was, can I trust you? You know, trust is, is such a big word, and we could, we could spend a whole episode on that, you know, I think any time a leader give someone their commitment and then they follow through, they gain that trust and trust is the currency to all influence, which is how we define leadership. And so I have to have a leader. I have to ask that question, can I trust you in order for me truly to give you my full commitment and then for at the end for you to gain that influence with me as your follower.
Now I’ve found a lot of my work in coaching and in leading these sessions is that people help is a little obvious. Trust is incredibly important, but I think people struggle with showing care for their people and it’s not because they don’t want to show care, but because they do. I’ve asked every country I’ve spoken in, is it OK to care for your people here? And they all laughed. Yes, of course, it is. Of course, it is. And I’m here to report worldwide. It’s OK to care for your team.
People don’t receive care the same way. I wonder if you’ve seen leaders show care in a way that follower wants to be cared for. What are your thoughts around showing care for someone?
Well, to your point there at the last minute, you know, we talk about, well, we all know what the golden rule is. Treat others the way you want to be treated. The platinum rule for us is that you need to lead people the way they need to be led. In one of our development trainings that we do — it’s called developing your authentic leadership style — and we’d take 16 different personality assessments, kind of your DNA and how you’re wired and of those 16, the ironic thing is that if you are the most popular personality trait, you’re still only 17%t of the population. And so what’s crazy about that, if you think about your team right now, and if you are the highest personality trait in that team, that means that if you’re leading them or connecting with them the way that you want to be led, you’re only reaching 17 percent of that team. The other 83 percent, they’re not picking up what you’re putting down, right?
So, that’s really where kind of knowing your people pays off and if you take the time to get to know someone, you can usually pick up on how they feel cared for by observing them. Back again, we said in the past, leadership is visual and you need to understand that. And, so whether it’s how they talk about their family, whether it’s how they interact with different coworkers, whatever it is, they’re going to provide you as a leader, indicators of how you need to lead them.
I just wanted to circle back as we start to wrap up about trust for a moment because it’s obviously very important when you’re talking about people following because they want to, that level to give you permission to be their leader. And then I know one of the 21 laws, again, John talks about the Law of Solid Ground, which says that trust is the foundation of leadership.
Yeah. Just just like I talked about a minute ago, right? Trust is the foundation. It’s the currency for all relationships, especially the leader-follower relationship. Trust begins to develop here at Level 2, but it will continue to grow as you climb through the 5 Levels of Leadership. Dr. Henry Cloud says that trust is like a brick wall that must be constructed brick by brick over a long period of time, but if it is breached, the wall comes crashing down and must be rebuilt brick by brick again over time.
And that’s a great word picture. And oftentimes, I challenge leaders to not only think about how to build trust, which could be obvious, you know, doing what you say you’re going to do, following through listening and that sort of thing. But to avoid things that often destroy trust. Those are often very unintentional. I don’t find anybody wanting to tear that wall down by the simple things like I didn’t do what I committed to do. I didn’t listen. I didn’t offer to help you. I didn’t offer access to someone else. So I just encourage people to be thinking about this trust thing and t’s there and I love that brick by brick is every day doing that and oftentimes what we do to break it is unintentional.
Yeah. And I think there’s two things that I think about when you just made that statement. As a leader, we need to be authentic. And I think Harvard Business Review did a study of the top 250 CEOs around the world and they were looking for common attributes of those leaders. And I think that came down to where they kind of had a core of 18. And the number one attribute of all of those leaders that I had in common was authenticity. And I think being authentic is one of the fastest ways for you to grow trust. The other thing is I think around communication. You know, I’ve often found that sometimes over communicating with the members of your team or those that you have influence and being very intentional with all of the commitments and following through on them is what helps me build and not break the trust of my followers.
Well, that’s a great word and it’s a great one to end on knowing that we’ve got to be mindful of trust because it is the linchpin of leadership. So thank you very much for joining the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.