In this episode:
Dr. Kim Ruyle is my guest for episode 9. He shares terrific insights about how to get experts to listen to you, and how to get great answers from them, too.
Plus, don’t miss out on the John Maxwell thought leader segment where we talk about the Law of Respect.
HBR Article: “If Your Boss Could Do Your Job, You’re More Likely to Be Happy at Work”
“Google Project Oxygen Reveals 8 Keys to Being a Great Boss”
Dr. Ruyle: So, let’s get rid of that idea that everybody’s equal. We’re not equal. Nobody’s equal. I mean, we’re equal in opportunities, but we’re not equal in intellect. We’re not equal in skill. We’re not equal in motivation. We all bring different things to the table. And so, what we want to do with our employee population, is we want to optimize the contribution of every single person.
Announcer: Becoming a Geek Leader, Season 3, Episode 9.
Sponsored by Brighthill Groups Team Leadership Services
Tom: Dysfunctional teams are painful and cost you time and money. They also suck the life out of you and take the fun out of work. How about your team? Is it time for a tune-up? How prepared is your team for the challenges ahead? I can help create a simple development process for your team members, something easy for you to use, not another project for you to manage.
Growth doesn’t happen by accident. Whether it’s through a leadership assessment or helping you plan a leadership retreat, give me a call to talk about how to set up an affordable program to improve your team’s teamwork and help your team members perform like a well-oiled machine. Check out brighthillgroup.com/geektraining, that’s brighthillgroup.com/geektraining, for quick videos on my team-building and leadership retreats. Then, give me a call at 240-668-4799. That’s 240-668-4799.
Tom: Welcome to the Becoming a Geek Leader podcast. My name is Tom Cooper. As a geek, I’m on a mission to figure out better ways to lead others at work and at home. Through the Becoming a Geek Leader podcast, I’m sharing what I’m learning so I can help make you more effective at leading people, too. Ready?
Tom: Hi, I’m glad you’re here. I know I’m often excited to share these episodes with you, but this week I am particularly excited. Let me ask. Are you an expert? I mean, like a Dr. Gregory House kind of expert? Today, I’ve got a terrific guest talking about the difference between a strong technical contributor and a deep expert. Dr. Kim Rule shared with me what he has learned about leading and motivating experts and other technical people, too.
In our interview, we talked about how you can spot those experts, and he shared how to engage with experts so you can get the most from them. And I’m also sharing John Maxwell’s Law of Respect. Man, we have a lot to talk about. Let’s get started.
Thought leader segment.
Man: In the thought leader segment, Tom brings in ideas from today’s best thought leaders.
Tom: In our thought leader segment today, I am so excited to have Dr. Kim Ruyle with us. During his career, Kim has been involved in performance management, organizational development, and learning and development leadership roles. And today, he’s an associate in Korn Fairy’s global network. He also has many academic credentials, and he’s done study in neuroscience as well. It was a blast to get a chance to connect with him and to learn from him. The things he’s teaching here are ideas you can begin to use at Level 1 of the 4 Levels of Thinking as a Geek Leader.
Announcer: Level 1: Individual.
Man: At Level 1, you may even be a superstar technical resource. Level 1 focuses you on improving your technical skills.
Tom: Let’s join the conversation as I ask him about what it means to really be an expert.
Your practice, a lot of times, is working with highly technical experts, and I’m curious, from your perspective, what does it mean to be an expert as compared with, maybe, a regular technical worker?
Dr. Ruyle: Oh, that’s a great question. You know, expertise is a continuum. And you can say, starting at the low end, we have people who are unskilled, and then you gradually develop a level of competence, and we kind of equate competence with skill. So, when somebody is fully competent or fully skilled, that’s great. But you can go beyond that, so that you develop the ability to model best practices, to advance practices, to teach other people.
And then, you can go even beyond that to the realm of what becomes almost magical in the way it plays out for true experts. So, expertise, by definition, is rare. And just about everybody likes to think they’re an expert in one thing or another, but there are very few true experts, people who stand head and shoulders above their peer and have insights into their discipline or their field that other people don’t have. And the thing about, that makes them different, is that a lot of that kind of magical component that they have, that gives them this insight is transparent to them.
It’s developed through a particular type of focused practice and experience, and it manifests itself in intuition. And so, I think one of the striking differences between people who are just good and competent, and even people who are good teachers of something…so, they’re beyond competent. Maybe you could say they’re exemplary. Those people, they’ve got the book learning down cold. They know the foundations of the field. They know the theory of the field.
They know the stuff you can learn from books. But they don’t necessarily have the insight that comes from really deep, focused practice, disciplined practice in things where you, actually, are creating neural networks in the brain. And what happens when an expert sees a problem or an issue, there’s cues in that context that causes things to jump to their mind, and they can’t really explain how that happens.
But what happens then, is that they see similarities in patterns, they see differences in patterns, they see anomalies, and that’s really what expertise is. It’s the ability to recognize these anomalies and similarities in patterns that other people miss because they don’t have those embedded neural networks that come through the focused practice.
Tom: Okay, so I can jump in here, I think I heard you say that expertise is sort of the highest level of competence around the technical area, but it’s more than just technical execution. It’s that amalgamation, or the collection, or the connection between different pieces. So, an expert…a talented technical person would be able to execute a specific task, but an expert would be able to look at it and say, “Wait, we can optimize this,” right? See ways that there are synergies with other areas. Is that right?
Dr. Ruyle: Yeah. I think, you know, what we think about, the typical misconception is that experts are better problem solvers because they’re more analytical, they have better problem solving techniques and so forth. But the truth of the matter is that experts don’t really use kind of a rigid or formulaic problem solving method. They just have intuition. And intuition is this recognition of things in the environment that springs from their subconscious, that’s formed during practice, a lot of practice.
And so, these kind of solutions to issues, the insight that they have, springs to mind almost magically. And it doesn’t come through any kind of, you know, specific problem solving technique. And so, it’s very hard for an expert to explain this because expertise is transparent to the expert. They don’t know how they know things. They just know things.
And hence, that leads to all kinds of issues in terms about how do we replicate expertise, how do we disseminate it in the organization, and, you know, kind of replicate it? There’s issues around that. But I think that’s the thing that really sets a true expert apart.
Tom: So, are…
Dr. Ruyle: [inaudible 00:08:26] above the others.
Tom: So, I’m wondering then, you know, taken to the extreme or, perhaps, absurd, I think about the TV show “House” with Dr. House.
Dr. Ruyle: Oh, great, great example.
Tom: And so, he certainly, I mean, other problems that he ran into, right, he wasn’t…he had plenty of behavioral and psychological challenges that impacted his work.
Dr. Ruyle: Right.
Tom: But, in spite of that, I think, you know, his methodology appeared to be relatively…well, it was random and selective. It was random in terms of give me a bunch of ideas, and then it was selective to eliminate things until he could find the pattern that would work. And is that something, you know, not justifying the behavioral problems, but is that something that we would look at in an expert, where they would follow a pattern which doesn’t seem to be a pattern at all?
Dr. Ruyle: Yeah. Actually, the show “House”, I wish it was still running. Of course, it’s completed its run, but that was a great show to study how experts work. Some things about House, you know, and you recognized he’s got the kind of psychological, narcissistic disorders and things like that, which isn’t necessarily a condition of all experts, but experts do have certain psychological traits that are more common than others we can maybe talk about.
But I think what you can get from that show of “House”, every show followed the same kind of script. So, a patient presented with a problem that the normal doctors couldn’t solve. So, what did House do? He had a team. Now, that’s an important thing. He had a team. The team would generate ideas. None of them work. And we go all the way through, 50 minutes into the show.
Dr. Ruyle: And what would happen is, in the last 5 to 10 minutes of the show, somebody would say something to House or he would see something and bang, he gets insight. He sees a solution. He goes in and he does this almost magical kind of thing at the end, and he amazes everybody, “How did you know that?” Well, can he explain how he knew that? No, he can’t explain it.
It came to him because there were cues in the environment that raised something to his consciousness that another person, somebody who’s less than an expert, wouldn’t have that capability even with those same cues, would not have that capability to come up with those insights. So, House is a…that’s a great, great example.
Tom: I also would like to touch on the question of interaction with experts. You know, going back to our Greg House example, everybody who doesn’t understand at his level is a moron. So, you know, and as I’ve interacted with some people that I felt were experts, I definitely got the sense that because I didn’t…I mean, I had a team member one time who said, “Look, Tom, our clients are idiots.” And he was totally sincere. He genuinely believed that our clients were morons.
Dr. Ruyle: I’ve heard the same thing, yep.
Tom: So, what can we do, who are non-experts, to interact with an expert in such a way that isn’t quite so caustic, or perhaps that causes the expert to feel more comfortable in expressing their ideas and information in a way that’s actually helpful to us, as opposed to just condescending and insulting?
Dr. Ruyle: That’s another great question. So, I have a strong opinion about this, formed over many years of working with experts and studying expertise. So, let’s talk a little bit more and kind of lay the groundwork for what goes into an expert’s personality and what they’re typically like, and what motivates them. So, we said that they know things they don’t know they know. They are passionate about their discipline and that passion follows expertise.
Now, you generally have some level of passion to get started down the path towards expertise. You need some level of motivation. But let’s face it. There are people who become experts that are forced to, in the beginning, practice their discipline. I mean, you could think about the three-year old kid forced by his parents to play violin lessons, and eventually puts on his first concert and he likes the recognition, and he starts to…
And it’s the same thing. I’ve got grandkids who are playing chess now. And what happens is, at first they might not want to play because they’re losing. But as soon as they start winning a few games, they start getting passionate about it. The people that are attracted to those kinds of disciplines that normally are associated, or more easily associated, with expertise tend to have personalities that, okay, I’m gonna stereotype here, which is always a little dangerous.
So, recognizing that there’s a normal distribution of any personality characteristic you want to look at in the general population, and likewise, within the population of expertise, but I can say that the mean score on a personality index, on some things, are going to be different than the general population. For instance, introversion, extroversion. I don’t have research to back this up, so this is opinion. I’ll be frank about that. But I believe that true experts are more likely to be introverted than extroverted.
And part of the reason for that is that introversion serves you well when you’re practicing your craft and you’re spending the time that you need to put into to develop that expertise, and to reflect on things, and to learn those lessons. So, they tend to be, I believe, more introverted. I believe they often start off with a deficit in emotional intelligence.
Tom: Okay, so if we know that they tend to skew toward being more introverted and having less facility with people, they’re less comfortable in that space, if I need to work with an expert, if I need to get an expert’s help, how can I appeal to the expert or how can I get the expert to be comfortable with me to not feel like, “Oh, I’m wasting my time to talk to you?”
Dr. Ruyle: Good, good. So, now we’ve got a little bit about the personality. Another thing is that what motivates an expert is being the expert. So, you know, of course experts are motivated by financial considerations and other kinds of status, social status, affiliation, all kinds of things that motivate everybody, but for most experts, the epitome of motivation is in being recognized as the expert. That’s what motivates them.
Being the expert is actually the reward in itself. And so, they’re protective of that. And when you’re asking them to give up their expertise, what you’re really doing is asking them to give up the thing that actually defines their value to their organization, because an expert’s value to the organization is largely defined by their expertise. So, when you ask them to part with that or share that, there may be an implied threat there. Some experts are more sensitive to that than others.
You’re also asking them to part with something that they don’t fully understand and can’t explain because it’s tacit. It’s transparent. They can’t explain it. And so, there’s a whole lot of issues there. And the other thing is, because an expert wants to be the expert, they have little patience for people who don’t speak their language. So, here’s one piece of advice I’d give someone who’s gonna actually work with an expert.
As an example, let’s take an instructional designer, somebody who’s got to create a course on some topic they’re not an expert in, they don’t know much about it, but they’re an instructional designer. They’re expected to create a course of instruction so they go interview the expert. If you go interview that expert and you don’t have the book knowledge, just the basic book knowledge of that discipline so that you can actually speak their language and understand their terms, you are going to be dismissed by the expert. You are not going to be respected by the expert.
And that expert is likely gonna take one of two approaches with you. One is they’re gonna do a brain dump and try to impress you with everything they know. And as a person who doesn’t even have the basics of the field, and even the basic vocabulary, you can’t sort out the wheat from the chaff. You can’t tell what they’re saying is really important. Or, they’re gonna take another approach, which is to be totally reticent and it’s like pulling teeth to try to get anything out of them.
And because you can’t even phrase your questions appropriately, using their language, they’re just not gonna respond to that. So, that’s the one thing I would say is, don’t even attempt it until you get a basic knowledge of the book knowledge and you can hold your own in a conversation. Obviously, you’re not an expert. You don’t have their insight, but you can at least understand their language and understand the basics of the discipline.
Tom: You mentioned that the experts are motivated by being the expert, by having that passion that follows their expertise and drives them. If I want to communicate to an expert, then, that I value them, that I want them to stick around, that I appreciate their contributions to the team, what are some things that I could do that would allow me to be able to do that in a way that an expert’s gonna hear it?
Dr. Ruyle: Yeah, well, first of all, recognize the importance of their expertise, acknowledge it, verbally and in other ways. You know, personal influence is an engagement driver for all employees. Every employee wants to feel like their opinions are heard and their opinions matter, but to an expert that’s really an essential thing. It’s really essential that their opinions are sought out and valued. And so that’s not so hard to do, right?
I mean, we can easily do that, recognize people for that. I think the challenges come down to, okay, so we’ve got a homegrown expert in our company, and they’ve been around for 10 years or more, and perhaps they’re at risk. I mean, if they’re highly valued by us, they’re gonna be highly valued by our competitor. Or perhaps they’re at the end of their career horizon and they’re gonna be leaving. So then, how do we keep from losing that expertise? And that’s a really difficult thing.
So, there are some things. If we have time to talk, I can maybe give a few suggestions about how to do that, but I guess, at the core, is try to instill a love of teaching or desire to teach and coach others in your experts. Now, many of them are going to, because they tend to be introverted, they tend to not be good in EQ skills, many of them are not natural teachers, but some are. And those people that do have an aptitude for teaching, and also don’t feel such a strong threat to sharing their expertise, those people are diamonds. I mean, you want to hang on to them, and you want to promote that ability.
So, a couple things you can do. If you have a high potential…if your organization has the ability to do a good job of identifying early career high potentials, what we might call emerging talent, these are people that aren’t necessarily going to be your experts. They may be future general managers, maybe C-suite people, but they’re early career. One of the things you can do is pair them with an expert as a coach or mentor. And what happens in that relationship is very interesting, because there’s development that happens for both parties.
The emerging talent is going to ask them hard questions, and not just questions about their discipline. They’re gonna ask them questions about, “Well, how does this relate to some other technology our competitor is doing? How does this relate to the marketplace?” Those are things that experts don’t think enough about.
Dr. Ruyle: Experts are too laser-focused on their discipline and they tend to lack perspective. So, one of the things we want to do is we want to try to promote a broader perspective among our experts so that they begin to understand the business issues and how their technology and their expertise really fits into the grand scheme of things. I mean, there’s a reason they’re valued and it’s not just because we value their particular discipline. It’s for what that discipline does for our business.
Now, another thing is, because expertise is transparent, experts don’t know what they know. They just know things. So, things that you can do. If you have the baseline, like I talked about, if you’re coming to it with the book knowledge and you can kind of craft some solutions on your own, and use an expert to find fault with those, experts love to do that. They love to prove you wrong and prove themselves right. So, one of the best techniques I’ve ever found is to say, “Okay, I can’t go to an expert and say, ‘What’s the right way to do something or how did you figure out how to solve this problem?'”
Tom: Because they don’t know.
Dr. Ruyle: Because they can’t really tell me, right? What I can do is I can go to them with a problem and say, “Here’s how I’m solving this problem, and here’s my thoughts, and here’s what I’m doing.” An expert will then point out all the things that are wrong with it. And by doing that, they kind of explicate their transparent expertise to you, and it brings things out that wouldn’t otherwise come out. And so, you can be very creative in doing that.
A one-on-one, like I just described, but you can also, if you do things in a non-threatening way, you can have one or two experts get together for a lunch-and-learn or some kind of a, you know, group development activity where you bring in early career people that are in their discipline. And you can prep those people. You can provide coaching to both populations.
So, with your experts, you can say, “Okay, you two guys or two gals are gonna be our experts, and you’re gonna be up here. This is gonna be fun, but we’re gonna do kind of stump the experts. So, they’re gonna bring in some problems and they’re gonna ask you about some of the most difficult problems you’ve had, and just talk through there. And they’re gonna ask you questions to see if they can stump you.” Now, the typical expert is gonna say, “OMG. I might be exposed.”
Tom: Right. I’m a fraud.
Dr. Ruyle: My expertise, I need to protect my status as an expert. So, you need to work on messaging it so that it comes across in a non-threatening way, to the extent you can do that. To the people who are going to be participating as more the learners, you’d say, “Ask questions of the expert about…ask them about the context: time, space, distance, other things that enter into the solution to a problem that the expert picked up on but doesn’t really know to explain.”
And what’ll happen in that situation, is you’ll actually see experts as they’re describing something, and getting these questions, and responding to those questions, the lights will go on to the expert and they’ll suddenly get insight into, “Oh, that’s how I knew that. I didn’t really know how I knew that before, but this question that asked me about the weather conditions outside, now I recognize that played into my decision and I hadn’t even considered that before. I just knew it.”
Tom: But, then for many of these technically competent workers, they’re not going to become the expert. Is there a risk of kind of a caste system or a competition between these technically competent people and the experts? Or do you [inaudible 00:23:15]…
Dr. Ruyle: Yeah, that’s there. That’s there whether you recognize it or not. I mean, that’s there in every work environment, right? I mean, people jockey for position, they jockey for status, they jockey for salaries, they jockey for perks, they jockey for all kinds of things. And that’s just part of human nature. I don’t think that needs to be destructive. I think we can actually do that in the right way.
So, if we apply what I call differential treatment, and we kind of recognize what’s motivating people, what we really want to do is… First of all, what we don’t want to do is we don’t want to treat everybody the same, because equal treatment isn’t fair. So, let’s get rid of that idea that everybody is equal. We’re not equal. Nobody’s equal. I mean, we’re equal in opportunities, but we’re not equal in intellect. We’re not equal in skill. We’re not equal in motivation.
We all bring different things to the table. And so, what we want to do with our employee population, is we want to optimize the contribution of every single person. It’s not about treating everybody the same, because then you get a nice minimum level of contribution by everybody. No. What you want to do is you want to optimize everybody’s contribution. And so, I think it’s kind of a mindset. And it’s some of the management of talent management, frankly, and management in terms of how you develop people and grow people that manage your workforce.
So, the workforce should be a meritocracy. There should be equal opportunity for everybody. Our experts should be rewarded for their expertise. That’s one of the problems that organizations have in terms of the career paths, because what happens is, the technical expert, they’re highly motivated. They’re bringing great value to the organization. They’re very smart. They’ve got all this potential, right, to contribute. And they are contributing.
But they look across at another career path and they say, “Well, the sales people are getting bigger bonuses and making more than me. And general managers are doing better than me.” So, there’s this temptation, because they are highly motivated, to jump over. So, sometimes you have to be creative in terms of creating, maybe even, new positions or bonus structures, variable comp structures, or things like that. Recognize people in meaningful ways so that you’re actually not causing people to, not only damage their own career, frankly, but harm the organization when you lose good people from that technical path.
And the technical career path, there are people who are gonna go to the top. And if you think about all the enabling functions in an organization: finance, IT, HR, supply chain logistics, whatever, I mean, you’ve got C-suite people that are leading those. And those people have developed a high degree of expertise, but they may not be the most expert in their organization. But, they do have a high degree. They spent their whole life, probably, in a fairly narrow swim lane in their career.
They’ve developed deep expertise. They have a lot of experience in that area. And, if everything goes right and you’re developing people in the right way, they’ve developed the emotional intelligence, the learning agility, and the perspective to serve as senior levels in the organization. So, you don’t want people to jump out of that career path. Otherwise, you’re gonna have a vacuum leading those functional areas. And so that’s an interesting thing.
And, looking about how do you develop the leadership skills in a technical discipline, and how does that contrast with people who are going to just be, maybe, a senior individual contributor or manage a small time, but be true, deep, recognized expert in the company. And you need all those people. You don’t want everybody to be one type of person, because your organization is gonna tip over from lack of balance.
Tom: That’s a really good point, and I think it’s…I mean, gosh, there’s so many things that we could dive into, and I love talking with people who are passionate about the things I’m passionate about, because there’s so many areas that, I think, are just unexplored or explored too little. You know, organizations don’t think a lot about these kinds of things. And I’m sure we could spend the next couple of days talking in depth about some of these things.
Dr. Ruyle: We really could. We really could. Yeah.
Tom: But, appreciate very much you being willing to be with us on the podcast. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.
Wow, that was a ton of great information. I’m telling you, we could create an entire course on how to motivate and lead experts, just from the last 20 minutes or so, by unpacking the ideas that were there. I hope you grabbed some good takeaways. That was powerful. And that’s today’s thought leader segment.
Thought leader segment.
Man: In the thought leader segment, Tom brings in ideas from today’s best thought leaders.
John: Hello, I’m John Maxwell. As one of my founding partners, Tom has been trained by me and my team.
Tom: Today’s John Maxwell thought leader segment is about the Law of Respect, which says that people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves. Now, this is something you can begin to appreciate when you’re at Level 1, but you’ll really start to apply it when you’ve reached Level 2 of the 4 Levels of Thinking as a Geek Leader.
Announcer: Level 2: Team Member.
Man: Level 2 is where you work well with others, and together you all succeed.
Tom: In John Maxwell’s book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” John introduces us to this idea that people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves. And I want to share a story from the book to illustrate that idea, because not everyone who has a leadership position acts as a leader, and not everybody who is a leader in real life holds a leadership position.
Here’s what John says. “She wasn’t a very impressive woman. Just a little over five feet tall, in her late 30s, with dark brown, weathered skin. She could not read or write. The clothes she wore were coarse and worn. Her employment was erratic. Most of the time, she took domestic jobs in small hotels scrubbing floors, making up rooms, and cooking. But, just about every spring and fall, she would disappear from her place of employment.
She’d come back broke and she’d work again to scrape up what little money she could. When she was present on the job, she worked hard and seemed physically tough, but she was also known to fall asleep, sometimes in the middle of a conversation. She attributed her affliction to a blow in the head she had taken during a teenage fight. Who would respect a woman like that? The answer is that more than 300 slaves who followed her to freedom out of the South.
They recognized and respected her leadership, and so did just about every abolitionist in New England. The year was 1857 and the woman’s name was Harriet Tubman.” Now, I don’t have it in my command the time to share her whole story, or even more than just a tiny snippet of her work, but her journey began when she was a teen. A white overseer in Maryland demanded her assistance so he could beat an escaping slave. She refused and he threw a two-pound weight that hit her in the head and nearly killed her.
It took her months to recover, and that incident affected her physically for the rest of her life. Though she escaped captivity personally in 1849, she returned to the South to free her family in 1850. Overall, she made 19 trips to rescue those enslaved in the South. She was fearless and her leadership was unshakable. She rescued more than 300 people and she was very proud of the fact that she never once lost anyone under her care. She was so effective that, at the time, Southern whites put a price on her head of $12,000.
And by the start of the Civil War, she had brought more people out of slavery than any other American in history, black or white, male or female. People respected her for her achievement, her commitment to doing what was right, and her unflinching courage. She was sought out by leaders such as Senator William Seward and Frederick Douglass. Tubman’s advice and leadership were requested by famous abolitionist John Brown.
Brown referred to her as General Tubman, and he was quoted as saying she, “Was a better officer than most he had seen and could command an army as successfully as she had led small parties of fugitives.” That is the essence of the Law of Respect.
Now, let’s talk about you for a minute. You know this. If you believe your boss is capable of doing the work that you do, you’re gonna have more respect for him or her, and you’ll more willingly follow their lead. In the show notes, I’ll link an interesting Harvard Business Review article that’s based on some research that shows this aspect of the Law of Respect. There are many other components that Google’s Project Oxygen dug into, and on the episode page, I’ll put a link to an infographic on what they discovered in their research.
I sat down recently with the president of a manufacturing company. He told me his mid-level managers needed help. They’d been promoted to management but they didn’t have the right skills that they needed. If we were gonna rank them on a scale of 1 to 10, they’d have to be a 4 or a 5 when it came to leadership. And he asked, “Can you help them grow?” Sure. But as we talked about the needs his company was facing, I asked about the leadership skills of the senior leaders on the team.
And he said, “Well, they’re all smart folks, but they got promoted because they were producers. On a scale of 1 to 10, they’re probably 4s and 5s, too. And not only do they not have the leadership skills they need, but they’re not really interested in investing to grow those skills either.” As we talked, I explained the Law of Respect to him and I shared that if we were wildly successful with his middle managers, but his senior leaders didn’t grow, that he would be helping his managers grow from 5 to 6s and maybe even beyond, some of them on the path, eventually, to becoming level 8 or level 9 leaders.
But the problem is this. Once your middle managers begin to understand what great leadership looks like, they’re gonna start to want to see that from their leaders. And they’re gonna become stronger leaders than those who are already in leadership positions. And what do you think’s gonna happen then? Because people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves.
Eventually, we made some good progress with his managers and some of them got really frustrated by the weak leadership skills of the people above them and they moved on. The fact is that people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves. And when your leadership skills are stronger than your boss’s leadership skills, you’re likely gonna be looking for a better leader to follow. And the same thing is true for your team members, too.
If they are stretching and growing, if they are becoming better leaders, they’re gonna look for a leader who is stronger than themselves. If you’re not on a growth journey, you’re gonna be setting yourself up for some difficulty. The Law of Respect: people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves. And that’s today’s John Maxwell thought leader segment.
Man: In the episode hack segment, Tom shares one action-oriented takeaway from this episode, something you can apply right away.
Tom: In today’s episode, we talked about the Law of Respect and how it’s important for those people in leadership positions to keep growing their skills. And even if you’re not currently in a leadership position, it’s important to grow your influence skills because the only way you’re gonna have long-term success, from a career perspective, is if you grow those skills. We also talked with Dr. Kim Ruyle, and we learned a ton about what it means to really be an expert.
For today’s episode hack, I want you to think about an expert you know. Think about how you might approach your expert with a couple of different lines of questions. One is, how does our core technology relate to the engine that our competitor uses? How is ours better? How is theirs better? Or, can you go to the expert and say, “I’ve been thinking about X. Can you listen to my idea and help me find the things that are wrong with my approach or with my assumptions?”
Asking these kinds of questions will open the door to you learning some new things, and really unlocking things that even your expert doesn’t know he knows. That’s today’s episode hack.
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This is Tom Cooper. Thanks for listening. Be sure to join me next time for another episode of Becoming a Geek Leader. Join me in my mission of discovering better ways to lead others at work and at home.