One of the biggest obstacles as Level 3 leaders is having a team member in the wrong seat on your bus. Maybe you have them in the wrong position, and at the end of the day, they’re exuding more energy than they need to and not accomplishing what you need them to. It’s up to us as leaders to take the time to understand each and every person on their team and create energy, rather than frustration. In the next episode of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris Goede and Perry Holley will explore challenges that you might face at Level 3 and offer tips for creating a productive team that will move the ball forward for your organization.

Listen to all podcasts in this series and subscribe to new episodes on iTunes– or Google Play.

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.

Well, thanks for being here Chris, and today’s episode is titled “On the Bus and in the Right Seat.”I think I recognized some Jim Collins’ good to great phrasing there. Tell me how does this apply to our discussion about the Five Levels of Leadership?

Yeah, absolutely loved that book that Jim wrote and we’re going to talk a little bit more about that concept. Before I do that and I talk about that and answer that question for you. Let me remind you, if you want to review of the Five Levels of Leadership and kind of the overall methodology and the foundation of which we build everything off of at the John Maxwell Company, please refer back to the first episode of our podcast series and you’ll hear kind of an overview of that to be able to catch up with where we’re at today.

Now, back to your question and yes, as I mentioned, love that book with good to great. The reason we refer to it here in that title is one of the greatest challenges that leaders have is how do we drive more results and be a strong Level 3 leader? And, just a quick reminder to the audience – Level 3  is called production. It’s all about results is the defining word there and that really the statement is that people follow me now, not at Level 1 because they have to, not at Level 2 because they want to, but now Level 3 production is really about following me because of what I’ve done for the organization.

Yeah, it couldn’t be said better than that. And you have to understand that as you work through these Five Levels, you’re going to have challenges at each level. And when we talk about Level 3 and we talk about removing obstacles as a leader — and by the way, that’s probably your number one job description as a leader. You know you should sit down with your team and say what is prohibiting you from success or for succeeding in reaching your objectives and priorities? And you’ve got to keep that at the front of your mind in order to get maximum results in and through your team. Overlooked obstacles sometimes either on your team or maybe on the team of those that you lead and partner with, they just don’t have the right people on the team. And, I know that all of us are probably just thinking about an individual right now maybe that just is not in the right seat. As Jim talks about in his book, and you don’t have them doing the right job there. At the end of the day, they’re exuding more energy than they need to and not accomplishing what you need them to. And it’s all because as a leader, you’re overlooking that obstacle of not having them in the right seat on the bus.

It’s so true, and I recall my very first official leadership position was a first line sales manager and think I was treating everyone exactly the same. I treated no matter what, I didn’t know what your skills are. You’re a salesperson, so I treated you exactly the same activities that they had, the same strength, the same weaknesses. I guess what I’ve learned over time is nothing could be further from the truth.

What made you aware of that? What made you aware of that to begin to dig into the fact that individuals have strength and weaknesses? Well, it’s funny with the sales team, I began making sales calls with them and you’re out in the territory and you’re going on calls and I was working one on one and it began to be obvious, and maybe you’ve heard this about salespeople. There are hunters and there are farmers. Yeah. And the hunters like prospecting and finding new things to kill and bring in. And the farmers like account managing and they like owning one customer or two customers and making customers happy and going out to the account every day. That’s right. And I realized that I saw it with the hunters, the ones that really like to prospect and be out on the leading edge, finding new customers. They were very frustrated when I put them in charge of managing an account, maybe put them into a farming role and that they were the most vocal. The farmers who were in hunting roles will also vocal because they don’t want a prospect, they don’t want to call anybody. They don’t want to cold call, they don’t want to go find new business. So a level of frustration came up and when I realized that it was really an obstacle to the production level for my team, we were not producing the results that we could because people were fighting against their own natural skill set. I had them in the wrong thing. They were good to be on my bus, but they were definitely in the wrong seat.

I heard you say a couple times of the word frustration or frustrated, right? And as leaders, it is our job to remove those obstacles. It’s our job to create energy for them, not frustration. And we’ve talked in the past about the discretionary effort that we get from our team where they’re doing more than just enough to keep their job or get a paycheck. Part of that process as leaders is that you need to be removing those obstacles, making sure they’re in the right seats so that they have the energy to give you that discretionary effort. It makes me think about, we do a training around discovering your authentic leadership style, not only for yourself or self-awareness, but also we do it with teams to make sure that everybody understands how each of them is wired.

We talk a lot about understanding people that you lead in several different buckets and one of those is you know, your natural strengths and weaknesses and we partnered with RightPath when it comes to that. And just to give you an example there that breaks it down into 16 different personalities. And if you are wired and have the most popular personality, which I think is an analyzer, the name that they have for it, you’re only 17% of the population. And so if you are as a leader, the most common personality and you’re leading everybody else on your team like you want to be led, not like they need to be lead, you’re missing 83% of your team. Right? And so that’s the importance of knowing how they’re wired, their strengths and weaknesses in order to make sure that they’re on the right seat.

Well, I know that in the class I loved doing that. You put up the survey results and you’ll always hear someone say that explains it. Yeah, that’s really how you’re that way. That’s why you have that. Aha moments for sure. So, I should also point out that doing the realignment, getting people, if you’re really looking at your team and what the skills are, getting them in the right place could actually move them a little out of their comfort zone. And that’s not a bad thing. I actually think that’s where growth really begins to happen. But, you need to be aware of the way they feel. I think it could cause people to hold back and so if they’re in their strength zone, it could all work for them personally and for the team. So having people in the right seat is a great way to increase production.

What are some other challenges you’ve seen that keep leaders from being successful at Level 3? Well, there’s a lot of them. The word busy comes to mind right away. We talk a lot in the leadership space about being in different quadrants. I think a lot of leaders tend to get into the urgent and important quadrant part of things. We could unpack that a little bit more, the busyness of everything that’s going on and the distractions that we have to keep us from being productive. Right? Like even if you don’t get as specific for me, sometimes I have to calendar my day around specific tasks that I know that if I don’t do that, I’ll be busy doing something else and I’ll just choose not to do that. And so as a leader, we need to make sure that we are focused on what we need to be doing. The keyword there is focused, which we have a hard time with that sometimes, especially when you work for John. John, he’s opportunistic to add value to people and he has all these great ideas and so we lose focus at times just like everybody else. But you’ve got to make sure you’re asking yourself the question, what am I busy doing? Right? What is it that is taking my time? Because there’s a difference between being busy and being productive and we need to make sure that we’re being productive and don’t fall into that trap of just being busy.

And I totally agree. I began to think at one time that being busy with some sort of merit badge and everybody was like so I couldn’t get to that because I was busy and then I noticed myself saying that I had to put a sign on my desk so that Perry busy doing what am I doing the right thing?

So when you think about this, you know, facing urgent versus important, how do you coach leaders when it comes to really figuring out what’s important? Yeah, I think you have to have clear priorities. I challenge you to ask your leader this simple question, what is it? What are the top two or three things that I need to be doing that only I can do for the organization and make sure that that is part of your priorities? You need to make sure that you’re doing that for your team and you need to create that clear picture so that they know what’s important. A lot of times we have incredible team members that do incredible work. They’re just doing the wrong work because as leaders we haven’t created that priority for them. And so that’s why I said, hey, start with yourself and as you begin thinking about this productive, how do you go to your leader and say, man, when you look at all the things that I’m doing, what is it that you would prioritize over the other? And what are the only two or three the things that only I can be doing for the organization that I need to be investing my time on?

John tells a story a long time ago to where he had one of his leaders come and sit down and say, John, here is the list of things that I’m currently working on. And John was like, oh my, like at times we get busy, we don’t necessarily know what’s going on in everybody’s priorities. And so the leader said, I can’t do this anymore. And so what I want you to do is I want you to take that list and I want you to prioritize what’s important to you that I accomplish. And then we’ll be in agreement with those top three or four or five, six, maybe things and then understand that if I don’t get to these others, it’s okay. And I don’t wear that burden. So start with yourself. Ask your leader that question and then begin looking at your team and have that same conversation with your team.

totally agree. And I know when I teach this lesson around going from like going from Level 1 to Level 2 where people are going to follow you because they want to. I said they’re watching you all the time and it’s all people said, yeah, people are watching me all the time. I said, what are they watching for? And that really gets you thinking, what are they watching this going to make a decision that I’m going to stop following you because I have to and now follow you because I want to. And the number one thing that came out was how you manage your time and how you manage your priorities. And if you are majoring on minor things, people are not inspired by that. But if I can major on major things, know clearly what the priorities are and then communicate that to the team that inspires me. You’re somebody I’d like to be around. Yeah.

I know for me personally, I’m in the speaking teaching, coaching, writing business and I love being wanted and invited and I’m always saying yes to things and it really gets in my way quite a bit, was the inability to say no. In fact, I got a little gift in the mail that I was, it kind of made me mad at first, but an unmarked box, a little afraid to open it at first. But, somebody mailed me a No button. Do you believe that? A No button? A No button! Is that what you brought with you today? It sits on my desk and I opened this package and it’s a button. It says red on the top it says NO with an exclamation point. I love that. And every time you press it, it gives you a different version of No, no, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

That’s my favorite one, but it’s a reminder. But the note that came with the box, it was unmarked. The Fedex receipt must have gone back to someone because I got a phone call about an hour later said, did you get a package? And I said I did and I was a little steamed about it because I don’t think it’s that funny and he said you need this more than anybody I know, keep it close to use it often. And then I realized he’s right, that we say yes too much and that if I could learn what are my priorities, kind of like your person would tell me what you want me to work on and I’ll work on it.

That’s right. We have to remember there are a lot of good things that we can be doing for our organization. A ton of them. Matter of fact, everything you probably doing needs to be done by somebody. We’ve got to focus on what are the great things that we need to be doing that will move the ball forward for our organization.

Yeah. I love that. And as we start to wrap this up and I just want to encourage our audience. So this is something that almost every leader deals with. There’s so much coming at us, especially if you’re really at that production Level 3 and doing great results. But as you think about closing this and a call to action for our listeners, what would you encourage us with today?

Yeah, a couple of things that I think I would, and they’re based around questions that you need to be asking yourself and it ties right back to your calendar, right? A lot of times in my household growing up in church, we heard a lot of, hey, go to your checkbook and your checkbook will determine what you care most about what your priorities are. So it’s the same thing with your calendar, right? Does your, does your calendar align with your top priorities that needs to be accomplished inside the organization? And is it related to the productivity yourself as a leader or the team productivity? And so just really talk about or look at it and think of these good activities, great activities. Kind of what you were talking about earlier, what do I need to say no to?

I have a feeling we could probably have a lot of people will be looking online and ordering a no button and uh, I might need one of those for me from my desk as well. But the other thing is I would say I mentioned to you ask her leader, right? I’m going to challenge you to set that meeting up and have that conversation, you know, take a list of things that you’re working on and sit down with them and say, Hey, let’s talk about this list and what is important to you because it may not be what I think is important. So we need to have the conversation and then determine what the top two or three things are that only you can be doing for the organization. Here’s the other thing. John has taught me this. He says, if someone on your team in a skillset can do something that you’re doing 80% as good as you are, give it away.

Delegate. Give it away. And I’m like, no, no, no, no. But what about that 20%? And he’s like, hey, over time, that 80% will go to 85%, 90%, and pretty soon the individual, if you give it to the right person in the right seat back to Jim’s book, presumed they’ll probably do an a better than you and they’re going to come tell you about it, right? So if someone on your team can do something 80% as good as you are, then give it away. And the other thing is Chris Fuller, one of our other facilitators, works a lot with the Fortune 500 companies for us. He says all the time lead where you’re strong, team where you’re weak. And so there are probably a lot of things on those lists of your priorities that you’re doing that you’re not the strongest person to be doing on your team. Back to the thing about it, somebody can do it 80% better than you can give it away.

So I just challenge you to look at your calendar and think about some of those thoughts that I just shared with you and have a conversation with your leader to make sure that you guys are on the same page. I know you’re trying to wrap it up as you just gave me another thought was Dr. Henry Cloud teaches so much about boundaries and I think that’s the one thing that really got my attention and I look at my backyard, there’s a fence around the yard and I noticed that I take care of the things inside the fence, the grass, the flowers, the pet, but outside the fence I don’t really pay that much attention to. But in my work it seems to be a fenceless wide open prairies of open fields that I’m doing things I shouldn’t be doing. And Dr. Cloud really points out about boundary, what do you have pay attention to? And then more importantly, what I don’t pay attention to. Have you seen that play in the Five Levels work? So I would tell you that, it may be just thinking about the fact with our children, we say all the time, stay in your yard, get out of his yard, we’ll be having a conversation with one of my oldest and then my youngest jumps in and starts adding value. Stay in your yard, stay out of his yard without a shadow of a doubt.

You get people on your team and even you as an individual leader that you have empathy for certain situations in the organizations or you know you can add value and we all want to add value to every meeting, to every opportunity, to every product, whatever it might be, every sale. But at the end of the day, you need to remember the fact that, that you have a team for a reason and that you’re part of a team for a reason and that the greater part of each individual makes up a great team and you need to trust and empower others to do that. Well. I think I found a business opportunity for us to get out of their yard button. This has been great, Chris. Thank you very much. And until next time, this has been the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.