John C. Maxwell shares powerful wisdom on how to develop and transform budding leaders.
- Three simple questions that encourage growth
- Why training programs don’t work–and what does
- What the most beloved leaders do differently
John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 31 million books in fifty languages. He has been identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc. magazine. He is the founder of The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, organizations that have trained millions of leaders from every country of the world. A recipient of the Horatio Alger Award, as well as the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network, Dr. Maxwell speaks each year to Fortune 500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders. He lives in South Florida.
- John’s book: Developing the Leader Within You
- John’s book: Developing the Leaders Around You
- John’s book: The Leader’s Greatest Return: Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders
- John’s book: Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership
- John’s book: There’s No Such Thing as ‘Business’ Ethics: There’s Only One Rule for Making Decisions
- Nonprofit: EQUIP
Resources mentioned in the show:
- Event: Enron Scandal
- Book: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
- Previous episode: 397: Making the Shifts Necessary to Grow Your Influence with John C. Maxwell
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John C. Maxwell Interview Transcript
John, thanks so much for coming back to the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.
John C. Maxwell
Hey, it’s great to be with you, Pete.
Well, I’m excited to be chatting again. And, first, I’m curious, did you end up getting some corkscrews made associated with the wedding gift?
John C. Maxwell
I knew you were going to ask me that question. And, Pete, I flunked.
John C. Maxwell
I loved the idea. I tell you what, I loved the idea. In fact, I told a couple of my team members, “I’m going to do this,” put it aside, and then just kind of forgot about it. Then you sent me, I don’t know, maybe a couple of months ago, an email and it jogged my mind, I thought, “Oh, I didn’t do that.” I sound like a procrastinator. I’m really not. But then I kind of forgot what we had on it. I knew it was from the wedding feast at Cana, and I forgot, “Well, now, what did he put on that?” I’m probably going to really ask you, could you get me one of those and I’ll pay you for it?
Oh, sure. You don’t have to pay me for it. Thank you. I will and I’m happy to. And you did not flunk. I imagine that you had a lot of high-priority stuff beyond getting knickknacks engraved.
And so, you have written a bundle of leadership books, and you’re not done yet. You got another one here The Leader’s Greatest Return. Tells us, sort of what’s the big idea here and what made you think, “There’s something that I have not yet said that needs to be recorded”?
John C. Maxwell
Well, this is, I think, a kind of an amusing story, Pete. As you know, 25 years ago, I wrote the book Developing the Leader Within You. And that book is what really put me on the leadership track as far as people looking at me and saying, “This guy can teach me something about leadership.” It was the first leadership book that basically could’ve came out that says you can develop yourself.
Well, I followed that book up the next year with the book called Developing the Leaders Around You. Well, at the 25th anniversary at my publisher, Harper Collins, said, “John, could you do a kind of a revised edition of that?” And I said, “Well, yeah, I’d be glad to.” So, I went back and looked at Developing the Leaders Around You and I had written it 25 years earlier and, boy, Pete, I was so discouraged, to be honest with you. It wasn’t any good side.
Well, that’s a good sign if you look at your prior work and they’re kind of disgusting.
John C. Maxwell
The space of 25 years, you know what I’m saying, is kind of like, “Oh, there’s so little I knew back then, and I’ve learned so much more.” So, I started revising the book, and on chapter one, I didn’t take anything out of the first book to revise, so I wrote a new chapter. Then I went to chapter two and I think I took one story and a quote, and that’s it. The third chapter, nothing at all.
By the fourth chapter, I realized, “I’m not revising a book. I’m writing a new book,” because I’ve just learned so much more about, “How do you develop leaders and people around you to get on your leadership teams? And how do you really multiply yourself by this process?”
So, I called Harper Collins and I said, “Hey, let’s just do a new book,” and so we did. And I love the title The Leader’s Greatest Return. The reason I love that title is because I do believe that any leader’s greatest return is to develop other leaders. Because if you just have followers on your team, that’s good, and that adds, but if you really want to multiply, if you really want to compound, Pete, you’ve really got to develop leaders who can go out and then develop other people also. Leaders build the organization and grow it. And so, it is the leader’s greatest return.
And so, that’s how the book got written. It was supposed to be a revised edition, but my first edition didn’t make the cut for revision so I just wrote a new one.
Well, this is fun, and the story of how the book came to be itself has some leadership lessons there in terms of the humility and the growing. And then I think, in many ways, that kind of puts you in a great maybe feedback-receptive mindset as a whole in terms of it just as it’s possible to look at something you’ve done yourself in the past and say, “Hmm, this could be a lot better.” So, too, is it possible to receive feedback from an outside source in the present and say, “Yes, indeed, it could be a lot better,” and you may well agree… your future self, I guess, looking back.
John C. Maxwell
Right. You know, Pete, you’re exactly right. It is a leadership lesson itself in the fact that, as I look back on my past, I tell people, “If you can look back even five years and be really thoroughly satisfied with what you accomplished or what you did, you just probably are not growing like you could or should be,” because, for me, the pages on a book never change.
And with that learning and growing, I’d love it if maybe you could highlight perhaps a lesson or two that you’ve done close to a 180 on in terms of, “You know, I said this, and I think maybe almost the opposite is closer to true.”
John C. Maxwell
Oh, sure. Well, it happens all the time. I was being interviewed recently, and somebody asked me what the greatest change in my leadership was, and I’ve gone through a lot of changes. Again, because if you’re growing, you’re just always changing. And so, as I said, as I thought about it for a moment, I thought, “Well, you know, I think the greatest change I’ve had in my life is that as a young leader, I was very directional, kind of top-down, and I always knew where I wanted to go, and I always had clarity and vision. So, I’d say, ‘Okay, here’s where we’re going to go. Let’s get on the team,’ and I’d rally the troops. And over the years, I realized that I was kind of leading by assumption. I was kind of assuming that everybody else kind of wanted to go where I was going and be on the team, which was not true at all.”
And so, I began to slowly be less directional and start to ask more questions. And, until today, it’s a total change. Whereas, I used to just kind of sit down and say, “Okay, here’s what we’re doing and here’s where we’re going, and let’s shake hands and let’s get going on it.” And, now, I just ask questions continually. I lead by asking questions. In fact, I wrote a book, I don’t know, that maybe six or seven years ago, called Good Leaders Ask Great Questions. And, really, that was the catalyst for helping me and helping others know that, really, I lead now by sitting down with my team and finding out where they are.
In fact, the statement I say, “You have to find them before you can lead them.” For years I just led them or I wanted them to find me and then get on the team. And so, yeah, it’s a total change. But that’s what happens when you grow. Every day I learn something new that I didn’t know, but almost every day I’ve got to unlearn something that I embraced that just doesn’t work anymore. Maybe they didn’t even work when I raised it but I didn’t know any better. And then I re-learn.
And then one other quick thought of that, Pete, every person needs to have a sense of teachability and learn not only from life but to learn from others and let them speak into your heart, and not only have an open-door policy but have an open-ear policy. And through teachability and humility comes an awareness. And awareness is huge in a person’s life. I need to constantly be aware of what I do well, what I don’t do well, what I need to change.
A couple of weeks ago, I was playing golf with Ed Bastian, who’s the CEO of Delta, and so we’re having nice long leadership lunch afterward. And, Ed, here’s this incredible CEO of a major company, and very successful, had a long-term relationship with him, but Ed said, “You know, I’m always asking my people three things, ‘What do I need to stop doing? What do I need to keep doing? And what do I need to start doing?’” And he said, “Those three simple questions just allow me as a leader to be aware and hear from others who really do know more and sometimes just help me with my blind spots.” And I thought, “That’s just simple. Anybody can do that. What do I need to stop doing, start doing, and keep doing?” And I thought, “I just love that.”
But I think leaders, the great leaders, are continually growing and they’re continually growing because they want people to speak in their life and they have an acute awareness of what they don’t yet know and have a great hunker to learn and to get better, that’s for sure.
All right. Well, so I’m right with you there. I think that totally adds up and those are some handy simple questions. So, let’s talk about multiplying leaders and how that is done. Maybe could you kick us off by sharing a cool story of an organization that has done this supremely well, like you’ve gotten to witness a transformation there?
John C. Maxwell
Well, I think that there are some companies that really have done this very well, Pete, and I think Chick-fil-A comes to mind right at the top. And the reason I think they’ve done it well is because they have a leadership culture. And I think developing leaders begins with an attitude and an environment that is conducive for leaders to grow, to learn, to practice leadership.
Now, the way that people are developed as leaders is they have to practice leadership, so there has to be a time in your organization or your life where you not only teach people how to lead but you give them an opportunity to lead, and you empower them, and you let them kind of run with the ball. So, I think Chick-fil-A just has such a leadership culture. They’re constantly pushing their people to grow, to learn, to take on more responsibility, to have leadership experiences in their life.
You know, it’s very interesting, one of my nonprofit organizations EQUIP, we really work hard on helping countries to be transformed through values. And we come in by the invitation of the president of the countries. We do it in little roundtables of about six to eight people.
So, we’re also doing it in schools, and we have about a million and a half kids in junior high there that are going through these values lessons in their curriculum. It’s not before school or after school, it’s right in their regular curriculum. So, one of the great things that’s happened out of this, teaching leaders how to lead and creating a leadership environment culture, is that we have the kids do the facilitating of the roundtables not the teachers.
John C. Maxwell
So, it’s very peer-led. It’s very peer-led. So, I’m sitting with five of my schoolmates and this lesson is mine. So, I facilitate it and help them go through the material that’s written there and ask the questions. And then next week, Susan does that. And every week, we go around the table and every student gets a chance to lead.
Well, what are we doing? We’re letting them practice leadership. And one of the side benefits I know that’s going to happen to all these countries that we’re doing these leadership teaching in a curriculum schools is that they’re going to find leaders. The leaders are going to find themselves. Kids in junior high are going to, all of a sudden, have a conscious awareness that, “I like facilitating. I like helping people and leading them through a lesson.”
And so, any time an environment lets people practice leadership, they are then creating leaders. And I think that’s a very important lesson because I think a lot of times, we give assignments out but we keep the leadership reins. And I think that’s not wise. I think this book The Leader’s Greatest Return is all about, “How do you empower people? How do you release them? How do you embrace them even in their mistakes as they learn to lead until they really do understand what it is to lead?” It’s not a theory in their life, it’s a practice.
All right. Well, so I totally buy that. That makes sense to me. And so then, I’d love to get your view then in terms of is it sort of just everybody all the time that we want to be engaging in leadership activities or are there some particular means by which you try to identify a sub-segment of folks that you want to invest more greatly into?
John C. Maxwell
Yeah, I have a chapter in the book called the basics that says Invite People to the Leadership Table which is the culture where leadership is discussed and you hear other leaders talk about leadership things and issues. And what I think on this, Pete, is that it’s very essential to let everybody have a shot. And it begins by giving them more empowerment than what they would normally have.
So, you take a receptionist, for example. I would sit with him or with her, and I would just sit and say, “Look, greeting people, coordinating appointments, etc., all this stuff is the key to this job. But I also want you to know that you probably have within yourself some leadership potential. And what that means is that you’re going to be able sometimes to go beyond what a request is and be aware of perhaps a need beyond what’s out there in that lobby. And it might come to the fact that you have to make some decisions.”
And what you do, as I found, that you teach a person how to do their job well, and then you start opening and broadening the parameters, such as, “Okay, now that you’ve been out there as a receptionist for a couple of months, let’s talk about the things that aren’t working and the frustrations.” And what I find is when they talk about that, almost always it’s their inability to maybe make a decision that they have to go wait on somebody else to make, or rely on someone else to make, or just some common sense thing that they could’ve or should’ve done.
And so, it’s out of what’s not working that you begin to get the playing ground for developing leaders. And so, when they say, “You know, this person that came for an appointment, they sat there for 30 minutes. And, obviously, there was a lateness to it.” “Okay, let’s talk about that. When somebody has to wait that long and we’re having a little bit of miss on our side, what can you do that would kind of make it better for that person during that time?” “Well, maybe I’ll go get them a cup of coffee,” solve this stuff. “And so, you do that. And I empower you. You go do that and it’s on the house.”
It’s that kind of leadership development of people that lets them practice leadership that lets them develop the leaders. Now, Pete, obviously there are some people that are just more gifted in this area than others. And so, what happens is this, if you let everybody practice leadership, you very quickly learn the ones who perhaps have the highest aptitude for it. And that crème rises to the top. And now you’re looking at somebody and you’re saying, “Okay, you’re a leader.”
Let me give you an example. One of the countries we’re working is in Guatemala, and so we did leadership training for the second largest bank in the country. They have about 10,000 employees and so we did these values roundtables for all the employees. The bank said, “All of our people will go through values roundtables.” So, I was recently down there, and the CEO asked me to speak to about 2,000 of their clients.
So, they bring in their business clients, and the CEO said, “Let me just share with you what’s happened since we’ve done these values roundtables.” He said, “Three things have happened. Number one, we developed a leadership culture.” And he said, “What’s happening is our employees facilitate the roundtable.” And he said, “One time we had to go looking for leaders. Now, they’re popping up all the time.” He said, “We don’t look for any leaders now. In fact, we have an excess of leaders because we’re seeing people that we didn’t even know have leadership ability, and they’re facilitating these roundtables really good, and it’s working.”
And they said, “Because in the values we talk about integrity, honesty, and hard work has become part of the values system of our bank, and so our bottom line is better.” And he said, “The third thing is they’re taking these values home to their families that they’re learning at work. And it’s changing their families.” And I thought how beautiful. But, again, leaders were beginning to arise on their own because they were given an opportunity to practice leadership. And that’s really essential in developing leaders. You just don’t develop a leadership culture without giving people that kind of empowerment.
Well, boy, there’s so much in there that I really dig. It’s funny, when you talk about that story with the receptionist being empowered to get coffee and it’s on the house, like it can seem like a small thing. But I remember my first normal paycheck job in high school was working at Kmart in the pantry, they called me Pantry Pete, and I was so excited in the training videos when they talked about how, as Kmart employees, we’ve got the power to please. And so, if we were out of the 24 pack of Pepsi, I could give them two 12-packs at the sort of sale price. And I just thought that was so cool is that I had some leeway to do something to make someone’s life better, and they would be surprised and smile. It felt awesome. It was like my favorite thing to do when I was working at Kmart.
John C. Maxwell
That’s a great example right there. And it’s from there that you began. Leaders, they’ll surface themselves, really, but they don’t surface themselves if they don’t have an arena to practice that leadership.
And when you talk about these roundtables, I mean, we don’t need to go into every detail associated with how these are conducted. But I’d love it if you could give us just a bit of a rundown in terms of so we’ve got some values, we got some discussion questions, and different people are facilitating. What are some of the other kind of key things that are happening here that leaders might try to integrate in an organization?
John C. Maxwell
Well, it’s very exciting. It’s very exciting, Pete, because in my EQUIP organization, for a 19-year period, we just trained leaders around the world. And after 19 years, we had trained 6 million people, And when that was complete, sat there and said, “Well, let’s have a party and celebrate,” which we did. That’s a pretty big accomplishment.
And then I looked at them and I said, “We’re really not done yet. We taught these leaders how to lead but these trained leaders, there’s another level of helping them become transformational.” And transformational leaders bring positive change into people’s lives. It’s more than how to lead. There’s a positive transformation that happens in people’s lives and that comes through learning and living out good values. And so I said, “Let’s develop a transformational culture by teaching values, and let’s do it in small groups because, again, that’s where it happens where you can have interaction, where you can hear other people’s story. It’s highly experiential which is very contagious.”
And so, we developed a transformation, we call them transformation tables, a curriculum for adults. And we go into a country and we go to the top leaders, we go to what we call the eight streams of influence, which is government, education, media, arts, sports, health, religion, and business, and we get permission from the top of those areas in a country to do these roundtables, and we call it the waterfall effect. If the top buys into it, it just flows all the way down through the company or the country.
And so, that’s what we do, and our goal, as Malcolm Gladwell talks about The Tipping Point, so our goal is to get 10% of the people in a country in these transformation tables. And it’s just phenomenal what’s happened. We have, I think, what is it, 1.3 million now in roundtables, and it keeps just multiplying and growing. But when people learn good values and then they begin to live them, what happens is they become more valuable to themselves, they become more valuable to their family and to their community, and there begins to be what we call a values lift in that community and in that culture.
And so, that’s what we’re going for. And, again, it’s all about developing leaders and helping them to do more than how to lead, but to be people whose lives have been changed, which begins to create a contagiousness that other people want to have that also. So, that’s kind of what we do, Pete.
Well, a values lift sounds like a great thing that I’d love to see all around me. So, could you maybe give us an example then of, “All right, so here’s what it might look, sound, feel like. Here’s a value and here’s some discussion questions, and here’s how that can really come to life for folks”?
John C. Maxwell
Well, for example, in Guatemala, that was the country we started first, and went to Paraguay, Costa Rica, and then we have two more countries we’ll launched into this year. But in these transformation tables, because the government is involved in also, so there was a table that the attorney general was involved in, so we’re talking about values and honesty and integrity are part of it.
And she, during the roundtable, felt that there was a lot of corruption and dishonesty in the government, so she went to one table, then she facilitated the second table. And while she was doing that, she said, “Why am I facilitating this table when I’m, as an attorney general, not doing something about the government?” So, make a long story short, she began to prosecute people in government that were corrupt and tried them in front of the Supreme Court. And, 18 months later, over 300 of them were in prison.
John C. Maxwell
Including the president. It’s the only time a Latin American country has overthrown a leader because of corruption. And she has began to make a major change in the country. That’s a big example. A little example, a mother of a son who was in prison went to the training of the values table. And so, she went to the warden and asked if she could do that with her son and a few of the inmates. He said yes, so she started that transformation table with them.
There are 16 values that they go through over a period of time and it just changed the seven or eight inmates. And they were sharing with their other inmates about what they were doing. And to make a long story short, in two years, all the inmates in the prison plus the guards were in these transformation tables. It had come from a very kind of rowdy prison to kind of the model prison in the country because of what had happened.
And so, again, it’s a values lift. And, again, it’s creating a leadership culture which The Leader’s Greatest Return is that what’s it all about, “How do you and I create a leadership culture to raise up other leaders so that we can have a compounding return on the things that we’re trying to accomplish?”
And I’d love to get your take on so within these transformation tables and these values discussions, it seems noteworthy just how fruitful this is, and that things are really taking root. And I guess I’m thinking about Michael Scott and the TV Show The Office and how they had an ethics seminar. And I guess that’s just comedy but I think it’s quite common that these kinds of messages can go in one ear, out the other. What do you think makes it stick in terms of folks are really adopting it and doing some things differently in their lives?
John C. Maxwell
Well, what makes it stick is when it’s more than a training program.
It’s that sharing around a table that is experiential that brings life change.
And nothing happens in a company, Pete, unless the leaders are involved in the roundtable too, that’s why we say, “You have to be in. The presidents of these countries are in these transformation tables.” They’re all there, Pete, because nothing is worst than being in a company, and so my level where we’re having some training on leadership or whatever it is, and all the executives aren’t there. It’s kind of like, “Okay, it’s not that important or else they’d be in the meeting also.”
And so, you have to have what I call a connecting identifying factor to make it stick, and that’s why the tables do such a better job than a lecture. That’s why I devoted a whole chapter in The Leader’s Greatest Return on the leadership table. What’s it like to have people sit around the table and be able to get into leadership discussion and hear leaders ask questions, and hear leadership thought? This all is what allows people to be and to develop themselves as a leader.
Yeah. And so, that sounds perfect. It’s the connecting identifying factor. And so, when folks are sharing experiences over time, how big are these tables?
John C. Maxwell
Oh, six to eight.
Right, six to eight people. So, I guess a way I’m thinking about it there is like, “Okay, well, in your first session, maybe only one person is bought in and does something, and then they share it. And then, by the next session, folks go, ‘Huh, that’s kind of cool. Something happened there. All right. Maybe this is worth paying a little more attention to.’” And then you get this really get the juices flowing over time.
John C. Maxwell
Yeah, the buy-in is in the process. So, they sit around the table, their arms are folded the first time, say, “What are we doing here?” And then when people begin to share and ask questions, it begins to get them involved. I mean, there are six or eight. You can’t hide. If you’re in a lecture hall, you can hide. You can’t hide and so pretty soon it comes to you, and you kind of got to do something about it. And then when you begin to see people having improvement in their life, it begins to be contagious.
Well, you mentioned a concept, I think, is important, I want to make sure we give a few minutes to. So, you distinguished between influence and control. Can you tell us what is that distinction and why is it important?
John C. Maxwell
Well, I think, first of all, I teach that leadership is influence and nothing more, really, nothing less.
You know, I quoted you in an interview once. Someone made me define leadership. I was in college and I was doing it for the campus record department had some sort of leadership team-building roles, like, “I want that.” They said, “How would you define leadership?” I was like, “You know what, I’ll take John C. Maxwell’s.” And they’re like, “All right.” I got the job.
John C. Maxwell
Well, it’s such a simple little definition, but it’s so right on. Leadership is influence. And the difference is influence is, if I have influence with you, it can either be controlling or it can be voluntary. If it’s controlling, it’s kind of like I’m the boss, I have a leadership position, and to be honest with you, Pete, you don’t have any choice. You have to follow me. You follow me whether I can lead well or not. I mean, everybody listening to this podcast knows what it’s like to have a bad boss. I mean, we all go back and say, “Oh, that was a nightmare.” Well, why was it a nightmare? Because you had somebody in a leadership position that you had to follow that couldn’t lead but they had control.
And so, you never know if you can lead if people have to follow. I mean, it’s like prison where the warden gets up and says, “You know, there are a thousand people here that came to see me.” Well, they didn’t have any choice. In fact, they’d like to break out if they could. So, control is where I have no choice. The influence I’m talking about here is where I don’t follow you because I have to, but I follow you because I want to. And why do I want to? Because you’re a good leader, because you care for me, because you’re trustworthy, because you’re competent, and so, yeah, I want to be on your team because if I’m on your team, life is going to get a little bit better.
So, when I think of influence, in fact, sometimes I’m with companies and they’re saying, “I’ve got three or four really key executives, and I’m thinking about another leadership position and advancing one of the three.” And they’ll ask me, they’ll say, “What do you suggest as far as which of the three I pick?” And I say, “Why don’t you give all three of them a volunteer project? Have all three of them go do something in their community that’s pure volunteer and let them be in charge and just see how good they are with volunteers. Because if they can lead people who don’t have to follow them, you have a good leader.” And that’s influence. That’s not control at all. That’s not relying on titles or positions to get what I want.
I mean, how many times have we heard the boss say, “Yeah, you do it because I said so.” “Okay. Well, here we go. That’s a great reason to do something.” And so, the influence that we talk about in leadership and the influence we talk about in The Leader’s Greatest Return is influence based upon your ability to connect with people and make things better for them not because you have a title or a position which is control.
Okay. Well, so that is a nice distinction. And then, generally speaking, how do you recommend we go about being more influential in our colleagues’ lives?
John C. Maxwell
Well, because I teach that leadership is influence, people, many times will say, “Well, how do I…?” because, in fact, it is true and it is. The question is, “How do I increase my influence? Because the more influence I increase, the better I am at that, the more people I can lead.” And what I always say is very simple, there’s a very simple path to increasing influence, and that is, intentionally, every day, adding value to people. And I encourage people to have this kind of a lifestyle that every morning, for example, in my life, every morning, and I ask myself one simple question, “Okay, how can I add value to people today? And who am I going to see?”
I sat down early this morning and I went through the fact that I was going to be on a podcast with you, Pete, and outside of the question of the wine cork, outside of that, the question I wanted to ask myself is, “How can I add value to Pete?” because you’ve got a great podcast, you help an amazing amount of people, and you have a wonderful, wonderful work going on. Well, I just want to add value to you. So, that’s very intentional. What do I say? How do I add value to you?
Every morning, I just look at the people I’m going to meet and the schedule I’m going to have and what can I do to help people. In the evening, I ask myself the same question, “Who did I add value to today? How did I do that? And how can I do more of it?” And it’s being intentional in adding value to people that increases your influence. You show me any person in any person’s life that adds positive value in a continual basis for someone, and I promise you 100% that that person has great influence with that individual. Why? Because that person intentionally makes life better for them, and they become very endeared to you, and you want to be around them. So, that’s how you increase influence.
And I’d love to get your view in terms of how can you add value. Now, in many ways, there are thousands of different answers and ways that one can do that during the course of a day with the people that you’re interacting with. Are there a few things that you noticed that people can do just about all the time and they often don’t? So, how about a start?
John C. Maxwell
Well, I think it starts, Pete, it starts with valuing people. That’s the baseline. So, when I start talking about increasing influence by adding value to people, I don’t talk to them about, first of all, how to add value to people. I just ask them a very simple question, “Do you value people?” Because if you value people, now you’ll begin to have a leaning bet to adding value to them. If you don’t value people, you won’t add value to them. I mean, if you kind of value yourself and devalue other people, no one’s ever added value to somebody that they don’t value. It makes no sense at all.
So, we start with, “Do you value people?” And if the answer is yes there, then we help them become very intentional, and we teach them every day, first of all, think of ways to add value to people. Look at your calendar. First of all, think of, “Who do I have the chance to add value to?” I know I’d get a chance to add value to today, they’re on my schedule. So, think about ways to add value to people. Then when you’re with them, look for ways to add value to people. And then every day, those two things, every day, add value to people, make sure you do some tangible actions to where you can look and say, “You know, I made that day better for someone else. And then what I do is I encourage others to add value to people.” And it’s just to continue adding value cycle but foundational.
It’s foundational in leadership. It’s very foundational. I tell leaders all the time, “When you stop loving people, you stop leading them. Good Lord, you’re a disaster. You’re going to hurt a lot of people because everything rises and falls on leadership. And leaders that don’t value people can cause a lot of harm.” And so, it’s just very essential for that to be the core. If you truly value people, then you’re going to learn how to increase your influence by doing these things I just gave you.
Yeah, and it’s interesting to think about that mindset. I think some might say, “Oh, my gosh, that sounds exhausting and I’m already overwhelmed with my own stuff.” But then, I think in practice, when I’ve been on a good hot streak of living that, it’s actually much less stressful and more uplifting energy-giving joy-fueling to live that way.
John C. Maxwell
Oh, of course. And it’s a simple relationship, of course, but it just works like this. I mean, I can teach relationships in one minute. It’s not complicated and it’s very simple. I’m either a plus in people’s lives or I’m a minus. It’s just that fact. I’m, every day, either adding value to people which puts me on the plus side, or every day I’m wanting people to add value to me, and I’m sucking energy and air from them. And if I’m constantly consumed about myself and making sure, “Hey, Pete, well, we’re going to be together, I hope you do something really good for me today. And, my gosh, you know,” and it’s all about me, almost always I’m subtracting value from people. And it’s a fact that I think most people who even are a minus and subtract value from people, I think most of them are even unaware or they’re just not aware of it, that they are more concerned about what they reap than what they sow.
Was it Robert Louis Stevenson who said, “I consider my day a success by the seeds that I’ve sown not by the harvest I reap.” That’s an added value statement. And, basically, he was saying, “Every day I just intentionally sow seeds.” Because, you see, what he knew was very true, and that is the harvest is automatic. But sowing seeds is not so you got to be intentional on the frontend to get the fruit on the backend. And many people, they get up every day, and they ask a simple question, “I wonder if something good is going to happen to me today. I wonder if somebody will be nice to me.” And it’s all about people adding value to them.
If I am wanting people to add value to me more than I’m wanting to add value to people, I become a minus in relationships. And if I want to add value to people more than have people add value to me, I become a plus. It’s that simple and you just have to be that intentional.
John, this is great stuff. I think we’re in our last couple of minutes. Tell me, anything else you want to mention before we hear about maybe one or two of your new favorite things?
John C. Maxwell
Well, in the book The Leader’s Greatest Return the reason I’m very excited about the book is there are a lot of leadership books out there but there are very, very, very few books on how to develop other leaders, and there’s a reason for that. Most people don’t do it, 95% of all leaders don’t develop other leaders. They just have followers. And the reason that they have followers instead of leaders is it’s not easy to develop leaders.
Leaders have a mind of their own, they’re already in the game, and they don’t just fall in line. And I wrote the book because the greatest return any person is going to have as a leader is not having a lot of followers, because every time I develop another leader, it just begins to multiply and compound. And so, I wrote a book, simple, practical, applicable, that a person can pick up, and they say, “Okay, leading leaders, developing leaders, isn’t the easiest thing I’m going to do but it’s the most worthwhile thing I can do.”
My good friend Art Williams who started Primerica, has a great statement. He told people when they would join his company, he said, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy but I am telling you it’s going to be worthwhile.” And this is what I wrote in The Leader’s Greatest Return. It’s not easy but it’s going to be worthwhile and it’s going to give you a huge return. I know that because for 50 years I’ve developed leaders, and the compounding I’m having in my life now is ridiculously off the chart, but it’s because I’ve consciously developed other people to lead and influence others.
All right. John, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck in all of your leadership development adventures, you know, nation to nation and group to group.
John C. Maxwell
Thank you, friend. I so value you and what you do for so many people. Pete, you’re a plus in people’s lives. Your podcast adds value to so many, millions of people, and so it’s always a pleasure to be with you and to, hopefully, add value to you and to your listeners. And thank you again for your help with my wine cork situation. But just thank you and blessings. And, hopefully, in the future, we’ll be able to do it some more.
Oh, thank you. Yes, you too.