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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #156: How Courageous is Your Communication?

September 30, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #156: How Courageous is Your Communication?

You don’t have a communication problem; you have a culture problem. Today Perry and Chris talk about how understanding the Four Dimensions of Culture can help you create a culture of courageous communication.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team, to deliver remarkable results. I am Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, Vice-president with the John Maxwell company. Welcome, and thank you for joining us, once again.

Hey, if you want to learn more about Perry Holley or our executive-

Perry Holley:    Wait a minute, it’s about me?

Chris Goede:     Yeah, listen, I’m completely taking over this podcast today, and we’re going to go rogue, forget what he’s wants to talk about. But if you want to learn more about just the impact that we’re able to have through coaching, or facilitating, through some of the content pieces, don’t hesitate to visit And we’d love to follow back up with you, and serve you in any way.

One of the things that we love doing is, creating content that resonates with organizations around the world, and where they’re at. And oftentimes, I know Perry, is the same way, through coaching calls, or in front of the room, same with myself, and some of our team. It’s like, man, you’ll never believe what we’re struggling with inside our organization, or what I’m struggling with, is later. I’m like, “Yeah. No, really, tell us.” And we have a privilege. It’s like a melting pot for us. It’s like everybody just shares that with us. And what we’re finding is that there’s some common themes, and common problems, that we’re all dealing with, as leaders in organizations, around our culture.

And what I’m really excited about today is, we’re going to talk about one of those that comes up in the top three year after year, which is communication. Today’s topic is, how courageous is your communication? If you did not listen to our episode, our podcast, previously last week, I want to encourage you to go do that, because this one is actually built off of that one, which was courageous culture.

There’s four dimensions of a culture. And we’re going to talk a little bit today, about what communication looks like. And the statement that I want to make, that I think is really important here is that, and Perry put this in, you don’t have a communication problem, you have a culture problem. But everybody thinks they have a communication problem. And so we’re going to to talk a little bit about this today, and give you some nuggets that Perry and I absolutely learned, as we went through this content piece that we created.

Again, we created this for a partner of ours that was struggling and said, man, we need to spend some time with our leaders on becoming better communicators, and it led to this culture thing. And so it is essential for us to figure out communication. Essential. And so we’re going to give you some practical tips and tools today, of what we learned.

Perry Holley:    What I think is funny, so much, we are always teaching, but this time we were the students.

Chris Goede:     We were.

Perry Holley:    And we have sat through all of these. That’s why I came up with this month long journey of, what did we learn? Because you and I were sitting there taking notes, and applying this to our team, and it was really quite valuable.

But just before we go, you mentioned last week and the four dimensions of culture. I will remind everyone listening that if you want a picture of this, the learner guide for this week and last week, has a picture of the four dimensions of culture.

And they are, from the bottom, the only negative component is a complacent culture driven by past success. One up from that would be, a compliant culture driven by process, procedures, rules being compliant. But as a positive, we have to have that. Next up, would be a committed culture, where it’s really driven by production, and results, and a commitment of the team to each other, and to the goals that we have. And then finally at the top, the courageous culture, really driven by purpose, in a much bigger picture, and looking out for each other.

I think one of the big takeaways for me, just like last week, we talked, as you mentioned, it was built originally for a safety culture, but you don’t have a safety problem, you have a culture problem.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    And so, that was a big aha for me, is that culture drives almost everything that we do. And that this week, as you already said, about communication is not the problem, it’s the culture that’s driving that communication. I guess we could, does everything rise and fall on the culture that you’ve designed? What do you think about that?

Chris Goede:     Absolutely. Now here’s the word though, that I want to pull out of the question you just asked. You said designed.

Perry Holley:    Oh, yeah.

Chris Goede:     Right? And so, I think that’s the key to your question, because… Maybe it’s not the key to the question, because everything does rise or fall in the culture, regardless one way or another. I think it has positive effects if it’s designed, if it’s intentional, something we talk about a lot here in regards to it. Because it’s going to happen one way or another.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. It sure is.

Chris Goede:     Right? We say that. And so absolutely, I think everything rises and falls, by the way, we say on influence, but I absolutely think that we can relate this to culture. So, absolutely.

When I think about communication, oftentimes, we think it’s maybe just for me to Perry, or maybe me to my team, and we think it’s, we’re just in this little vacuum of how we communicate, and that is wrong. Right?

We got to remember that all communication happens within a larger context, and that is your culture, and we need to start there. And we defined culture last week, in these three simple terms, that Greg introduced to us through these content pieces. Which was, how do we think, how do we act? And then, how do we interact inside our organization? So how we communicate at work, or at home, in the community, happens with the context of those three simple things. And we need to set that as the basis of our communication. So what are our acceptable thoughts, our actions, and interactions, in our culture? And then, how does that drive the communication, and how are you going about thinking about how you’re going to communicate, before you communicate on those three areas? I think, that’s key to be able to understand.

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Perry Holley:    Right. Right. I think we could take it a step further, that your culture depends on the relationships, and those relationships depend on how we communicate. Communication is really the key to almost everything, that how people perceive and receive each other, how they see you as the leader, how they see their peers, how they see those that work for them, or on the team. So the question you have to ask when we’re thinking about that is, how do I want the other person to think? How do I want the other person to act?

Chris Goede:     Yes.

Perry Holley:    How do I want to interact? When I see those three words about my communication, am I driving it the way people think, act, and interact, through the way I communicate? I guess, I’m learning that if you do this intentionally in your communication, you can really shape how people think, act, and interact, in your culture. And it’s a thoughtful, intentional way of communicating, that keeps these things in mind.

Chris Goede:     Those three simple questions about anything that you are going to communicate, text, email, video conference, even if you’re speaking to the entire organization, that will change the way and what, the way and the what, of how you’re communicating as a leader. And I think, that right there, if you don’t take anything away from our time today, that right there will help you communicate as a leader.

Another insight that I picked up from our learning, to your point, we did sit in several different lessons. We were like, are we actually going to ever do some work, like Ruben? But man, did we learn some stuff? But one of the things I picked up was this image of what we call, the cone of clarity.

Perry Holley:    And I did put that in the learner guide.

Chris Goede:     Thank you.

Perry Holley:    So if you want to see that, you can.

Chris Goede:     You can tell that I didn’t look at the learner guide before we started to sit down and start talking.

Perry Holley:    I didn’t provide it to anybody.

Chris Goede:     But that’s awesome. Yeah. Please go download that, because you’ll be able to see this, and it makes a whole lot of sense.

So whether it’s one to many, you’re communicating to many, or whether it’s even just one-on-one communication, you can have written communication, you can have audio communication, video communication, face-to-face. And I want to give you a couple of examples, as you think through all these different types of communication, where the clarity could be an issue. Okay? Because I think this is a great example of what we need to be thinking about, in addition to answering those three questions before we communicate.

So here’s a couple of things for you to think about. The potential for the least amount of clarity is, if it is written communication in a one to many.

Perry Holley:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Goede:     We’ve all had that before. We got those documents in our inbox, maybe in the mail. Right? So the least amount of clarity happens that way.

The potential for the most amount of clarity would be, if we were face-to-face in a one-on-one situation. Perry and I, sitting here, recording these podcasts today, we probably, no, I know we’ll have the least problem with clarity, because we’re here, and face-to-face. And so you really need to be thinking about, and considering, what is required of you as a leader, and as a communicator, in each one of these situations.

So if you need to communicate one to many, and can’t use video, what can you do to maximize, and connect, and be effective in your communication? You need to be thinking about things like this, versus just saying, what is it that I want to say?

Perry Holley:    All right. And I think, over the last year and a half, we have all-

Chris Goede:     Oh, geez.

Perry Holley:    … had a year of being remote.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    Even if you have audio/video communication happening, are you really being effective? So just because you we’ve gotten better at it, doesn’t mean we’re actually being effective at it. Things like observing non-verbals, can you read the room, when you’re using a web meeting? I think a lot is lost on we do a lot of our training virtually, I’m trying to read these 30 faces on my screen, am I connecting? Am I being clear? Is my message out there?

We often talk about the intention perception gap, or sometimes called, the intention interpretation gap. The IP gap, intention perception, where what I may have intended one way, is interpreted, or perceived, by someone else, in another way. I think, that’s probably the largest communication challenge, I think, most of us have.

What can we do to shrink that gap when communicating? I think this is present, to some degree, in every communication, but how do people close this gap, if you know it’s going to be there? What I intended one way, you perceived another.

Chris Goede:     Well, we’re giving you some practical tools that will allow you to take responsibility for understanding, and being understood. And I think, if you take it with the lens of what we’re sharing with you today, I think you’ll take a big step in being able to do that.

I think also, as communicators, you have to pay attention to the body language of those that you’re communicating with. Is there confusion or concern, maybe discomfort, or did they get it? Just this week, I had the opportunity, I had dinner with John. He was in town, and we were talking about some different things. He was actually carved out an entire day for writing, and he’s writing rewriting the The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. And so, I gave him a hard time. I said, “Well, then they obviously, weren’t irrefutable.” We had a good little laugh about that. And he’s the first one to admit that, but he’s rewriting it with some fresh new content that’s going to be coming out soon.

And so we were sitting there, and we were talking about how he develops and speaks on content, and what resonates, and what doesn’t. And he says, man, one of the things, the greatest things he loves to do is just to think on thoughts. He said, “People don’t think enough on thoughts and make them better, and then throw them out, and what kind of response.” He actually shared with me, and the team that was there, how he actually came up with The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He said, “I would think on, it took me a while, couple of years.” He said, “But I would develop one.” And then he said, “I would communicate it to a business leader at a lunch.”

And I’d be like, “What do you think about that?” And he said, “I would just take notes on how they received it, how they reacted, did it resonate?” And I was like, “Oh, that’s brilliant.” Right? Because if you can figure that out, and then he said, “Then I would speak on it, and I would just watch the crowd. And when I could read the room.” And you know, this year, incredible keynote speaker around the world, you can tell when somebody gets it.Perry Holley:    Yeah, something works, or it doesn’t work.

Chris Goede:     And he’s like, “I got it. I got it.” And then, he would take that, and then develop it into a book. And I think that’s our responsibility as a leader.

Perry Holley:    Well, let’s take a couple of minutes, as we think about wrapping up here, but I want to just hit those four dimensions of culture.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    And see, how does communication show up at each of these? So, I’ll throw one out to you, and you give me some feedback on it. But the only negative dimension that we mentioned, of this four dimensions of culture, was complacent dimension, driven by rafting on success and maintaining the status quo. What does communication look like in a complacent culture?

Chris Goede:     What I love about this, and what we’re sharing with you guys. One of the things that Perry and I learned is a great takeaway, very practical, was thinking about, okay, each one of these dimensions, you’re going to communicate a little bit differently. And then each one of these dimensions that whole, think, act, and interact, based off my communication, is going to be a little bit differently. And so it gave us scenarios, and we actually worked through it. And it was just, it was awesome.

And so, in this complacent dimension, I think, some of the things that take away where, it’s low level, or, I don’t want to say lack of communication, because then that wouldn’t be communication, but they’re very minimal.

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

Chris Goede:     Not a lot of questions. It’s, we already know it all, we’ve arrived. We’ve all have been in those situations. And there’s no innovation, there’s no need for change. It is what it is. Very complacent.

Now, the compliant dimension, which, this being compliant, think about driven by processes, and procedures, and rules, really were committed to avoiding mistakes. And there’s a need for that.

Perry Holley:    Right.

Chris Goede:     So we’re not calling this a negative dimension, there’s a need for that. When we think about it, we went through that exercise in communication. What did that look like?

Perry Holley:    Yeah. I see people, they’re really striving for perfection, at the expense of excellence. I’ll even slow things down, because I’m trying to get it all right.

Chris Goede:     Oh yeah. Yeah.

Perry Holley:    I want to make sure I dot the I’s and cross the T’s. Reminding each other of the rules, and how we do things around here. And by the way, we don’t do that around here, it can kill innovation a bit. We interact as an authority, not as a colleague or a partner, like I’m the keeper of the rules, and you’re breaking one.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    We don’t challenge or question. That’s the one I miss the most. I think at this level of, if people are in this compliant mindset, or compliant culture, they just follow the process. Just, this is what we, this is how we do it. We don’t think, is there a better way to be that change agent that we need?

And there’s not a lot of creativity, because it might be outside of the current process or rules that are there.

Chris Goede:     Yep. Yep.

Perry Holley:    The third dimension is called, committed dimension. And this, you’re usually driven by the need to produce results, achieve our shared goals. It’s a great level of culture. What do you think communication would look like, if you’re at a committed culture?

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I think this is where the team, we’re in agreement with our priorities, our vision. Maybe even the timeline. We may not all feel comfortable with the same timeline, but we’re in alignment, or we’re in agreement with that. I think this is also something where we talk a lot about in our leadership team, which is, Mark, our CEO is like, “Hey, let’s challenge this.” Like, push back on this. Let’s have a conversation. And then once we get through that, how do we help each other remove any obstacles or barriers that we have, in order to accomplish X, Y, and Z, or accomplish this type of communication, so that we can communicate from a committed standpoint?

The fourth, and final, dimension that we’ve talked about previously, and I encourage you to go back and listen to it if you didn’t, was the courageous dimension of a culture, and this is really driven by purpose and to do meaningful work. Talk a little bit about how communication would look like at this dimension.

Perry Holley:    I think you start to see things, like casting vision for the future. I mentioned that. And the previous dimensions, you don’t see change agent thinking, we’re up, we’re okay where we are here. You really find the change agent coming out, and looking for ways to improve. People are comfortable thinking outside the box, and communicating that way. Focus a lot on why we do what we do. Not so much how and what, but why. That bigger purpose thing.

This is a big one to me, is about how is conflict handled? I think at a courageous culture level, your people will navigate conflict, and not really avoid it.

Chris Goede:     Love that. Love that.

Perry Holley:    In a committed, or maybe even in a compliant, we’ll just avoid it, turn, and go the other way. And we welcome, I think, welcome respectful debate. It’s okay to dissent. You mentioned that earlier.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    Is it safe to push back? Is it safe to give another opinion or point of view? And I think that courageous communication really begins to look like we’re all thinking like owners, and we’re all trying to move ahead on the bigger purpose, together.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Well, let me wrap up with this. I want to go back to what we started this episode with, which was, you don’t have a communication problem, we have a culture problem. You don’t necessarily have a safety problem, you have a culture problem. You don’t have a leadership development problem. You don’t have, what we call, a succession planning problem. You have a culture problem. It all comes back to this culture thing that Perry and I are just sold out for helping you as leaders and organizations get better is, we want to help you enhance the leadership culture.

And communication. I said top three earlier, it might be the number one. Right? I know people right now, are dealing with the great resignation, and we’re talking about turnover and retention, all kinds of… But communication just, I think, would be the number one.

And so our culture doesn’t happen accidentally. And we need to make sure that we are very intentional about, what does this look like? We gave you the four dimensions we talked about last time. Gave you some thoughts about, how do you think about communicating? How do you act, how do you interact, in the communication pieces? And I will tell you this, communication happens on a daily basis with your team. And so, we’ve got to think about it a little bit differently. People often think about, when it comes to communication, what do I sound like? What do I look like? It’s all about the individual.

I’ll never forget. John said to me, one time, I said, what are you… He shared a story about communicating, doing a keynote. And this young leader was getting ready to go on, and John was the clean up that day. And this young leader said, “John, what do you think about, like right before you go on stage? How do you get rid of all the nerves?” And he’s like, “Well, first of all, I’ve done it for a long time. And second of all, it’s like, what do they need to hear from me today? Instead of, what is it that I need to share with them today?” And so then, how do you go about communicating it, based off of these four dimensions of culture?

So, man, there’s lots of meat here today. So grateful for the organizations that we’ve partnered with, that helped us get to this content piece, and Greg driving some of this content.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. It’s been a great learning experience for both of us. Thanks, Chris. And this reminder, if you want to learn more about these content pieces that we’re talking about, or see the other podcasts, or want to leave a message, a question for us, we love hearing from you. You can also get the learner guide, which has some of the graphics from this one today and last week.

You can do all that at We love hearing from you, leave a question or a comment. We’d love to get back to you on that. And we’re always grateful that you would spend this time with us each week.

That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership podcast.

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