How to Move From Level 1 to Level 2 Relationship With the People You Lead (The Power of Authenticity)

In my last post, I discussed Dr. Edgar Schein’s 3 Levels of Relationship between leaders/managers and employees/clients.

We discussed the Level 2 Relationship is the sweet spot.

The question I want to answer today is this: How do you move from a Level 1 Relationship (Distance) to a Level 2 Relationship (Helping)?

The answer is easy. The action potentially a little more complicated.

How do you move from a Level 1 to a Level 2 Relationship? Share something revealing/personal about yourself in seeking to help others move towards a Level 2 Relationship.

Most professional relationships begins at the Level 1 stage with both parties working overtime to keep their cards close, to maintain that distance. One party – hopefully you – has to show courage in being authentic and transparent about something (anything) that will help to break down the barrier.

This is especially true in working to create a trusting culture. Someone – preferably the leader – must lead the way in sharing something personal about themselves in order to move the team or organization towards a mindset of Level 2 (Helping) Relationship. Because all human beings are flawed in some way and work hard to hide those flaws from others, personal walls crumble when someone has the courage to share personally about themselves.

Be authentic. Be transparent.

3 Levels of Relationship Between Manager and Employee (Any Which One Actually Works)

Dr. Edgar Schein, the foremost expert on organizational culture, writes about the three levels of relationship between managers and team members.

Let’s first define relationship: To have a certain ability to predict someone’s behavior. The greater the relationship, the greater the ability to predict someone’s behavior.

This being said, here are the 3 levels of relationship leaders/managers can have with their employees/team members.

  1. Level 1 – Distance Relationship: Keep your professional distance. Don’t get too close to your clients, employees, team members. Keep them at arms length. See the person only as the role they play on your team or in your organization.
  2. Level 2 – Helping Relationship: Treat your clients, employees and team members as actual human beings. Get personal (not too personal) with those you lead. Not too personal…but, personal enough. See them as human beings with human feelings and emotions.
  3. Level 3 – Intimate Relationship: “Sleeping” with your clients, employees or team members. Those you lead become close, personal friends or lovers. This intimacy leads to favoritism and nepotism.

Dr. Schein argues Level 1 Relationship is dead, although it remains alive and well. You understand.

Level 3 is dangerous and leads to a loss of trust and, more than likely, your position.

Level 2 is the sweet spot. Treat the people you lead (or clients you work with) as human beings. Know who they are. Know who and what they care about. Know what motivates them.

Care about them.

Once you understand them – through your caring and knowing – you better understand how to help them.

Then… help them.

5 Leadership Lessons from Two Navy SEALs

This past weekend, I had the privilege of interviewing two Navy SEALs for our bi-annual Man Night at New Hope Eastlake. The wisdom that poured from their lips astounded me several times throughout the interview.

Here are the key takeaways that will help you on your own leadership journey:

  1. Humility is everything.
  2. Ambition may get you to your goal, but it will not sustain you. Your ambition must move to something greater than you in order to achieve sustained success.
  3. Leaders must excel about both character and competence. A lack of either erodes trust.
  4. Trust is key. No trust = no teamwork.
  5. We cannot achieve lasting greatness alone. We need others to help on the journey…just as others need us.

My best to you as you lead others to reach their highest potential in life and work.

Reflection… Good for Your Soul (And Your Team)

Life should be a path of continual growth. For yourself personally. For your team. For your organization.

Yet, growth requires understanding where we have come from in relation to where we are going.

This understanding requires reflection.

As the week comes to an end, are you planning some time to reflect? To look back in order to move forward with greater awareness?

Reflection is not simply good for you. Reflection is good for your team and for your organization.

I speak specifically to the leader here. The level of growth in your team members and organization is a direct result of the level of your personal growth. The culture of your team and organization is directly tied to your personal health. Healthy leaders attract healthy team members. Healthy team members create healthy organizations.

In some upcoming posts, I will be taking a look at the process of reflection. I do believe there should be a process when sitting down to reflect. Your process may ultimately look different from mine, but it is important for you to create process surrounding your reflection.

For now, just write.

Answer the following questions: Did I have a week that I can be proud of you? If so, why? If not, why not? What do I need to change to make next week better?

Start there and see where that leads you.

Embrace The Suck…and Grow

It’s Monday… back to the grind.

Back to the office. Back to the details. Back to the uphill climb towards the next goal.

Every job has its shining moment. Yet, in order to reach the shining moment, we must persevere through the suck (all the not-so-fun details). Even more, we must embrace the suck. We must live in the suck.

Youth is all about pursuing the “end goal.” I know I am talking with someone with an immature mindset when their entire focus is on the outcome. The older, and hopefully wiser, we become, the more we come to realize the journey is the the destination.

Yet, the journey is not easy.

In our daily work, it is the pressure to perform, the politics of the workplace, the boss or team members we struggle with, the details of the job at hand or a myriad of other issues we struggle with in reaching the desired destination.

Yet, this is where life happens. In the journey. In the suck.

Think of hosting a party in your home. The party may last 2-3 hours. The pre-party set up and post-party tear down will last 8-10 hours. This is the suck.

Life is found in the suck.

The people who understand and embrace this are the ones who find contentment in life and work.

I have a personal belief that goes like this: “Life is working for me. Life is on my side. Everything that happens to me is for my good.”

Embracing the suck is understanding that everything happening in your life is happening for your good. All of life is a teacher and you are the student.

The boss you don’t like? It’s teaching you something. Embrace the suck.

The project you failed on? It’s teaching you something. Embrace the suck.

The team member you struggle with? It’s teaching you something. Embrace the suck.

The details that cause you anxiety? It’s teaching you something. Embrace the suck.

The only way past the suck is through it. Complete and total embracement of the suck. It is where life is lived.

The greater the suck, the greater the growth.

7 Reasons Why You Need Negative People On Your Team

You know the person. You are thinking of them right now.

Negative Nancy. Gloomy Glen. Pessimistic Patty. Bleak Bill.

Every team has them. If you don’t know who that person is on your team, you’re it.

These are the people who have the ability to walk into any room and suck the air right out of it. No matter what suggestion is brought forward, it is never good enough. These people can see the worst in any person or situation.

Yet, you need them.

You need negative people on your team and in your organization and here’s why:

  1. Negative people are not easily enamored with flashy people or ideas.
  2. Negative people have no problem communicating the blind spots of everyone else and of the team or organization.
  3. Negative people will help team members see a problem or solution from a different perspective.
  4. Negative people can more easily see bullshit and call people out on it.
  5. Negative people help new people on the team earn their way through teamwork, knowledge and capacity rather than charm.
  6. Negative people place expertise over politics.
  7. Negative people probably care more about the team, organization or idea than the other members of your team.

Negative people are good and necessary for every team.

Notice, I did not say, “toxic people.” Toxic team members must be thrown off the ship as quickly as possible. Toxic team members are those people who want authority and respect yet lack courage. Toxic people move behind the scenes and in the shadows through gossip and causing unhealthy divisions on the team. Toxic team members are dangerous for any team or organization.

Healthy negative people truly want what is best for the organization and it’s team members. They simply see the sides of people and ideas that others refuse or choose not to see.

If you find yourself getting rid of negative people because you don’t like what they have to say, that says more about your leadership than it does about their negativity. Truly great leaders seek out and empower people with opposing points of view. Truly great leaders recognize the importance of seeing all sides to people and arguments, not just the sides they want to see.

Keep the negative people on your team.

And listen to them.

You will be a better leader (and person) for it.

“There’s Always Somebody Working Harder Than You”

I am not a sports guy… but I love the Super Bowl.

Outside of Christmas and the 4th of July, this might be my favorite “holiday.” The excitement. The competition. The top two teams in nation coming face to face in a battle for the Lombardi trophy.

It’s contagious.

Yet, my focus every year is on the personalities who will take the field. More specifically the head coaches and quarterbacks. I usually take two weeks and invest time in researching the teams for who my game day pick will be.

This year – 2020 – might be one of the toughest years to choose which team to root for based on personalities. Both coaches (Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan) and both quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo) – are simply great men and great leaders. They are all disciplined, hard workers who have worked extremely hard to reach this level.

I still have time to choose my pick.

However, what I am most impressed with this year are the parents of both Jimmy Garoppolo (Tony and Denise Garoppolo) and Patrick Mahomes (Pat Mahomes and Randi Martin). It is clear these young men have reached the level they have reached due to the incredible foundations they received from their families.

And both quarterbacks heard one message time and time again during their formative years: “Work harder than everyone else.”

In an interview with Jimmy G, he recounts a story of telling his father, a hardworking electrician by trade, about his workout for the day. Seemingly, he was proud of himself. The rest of the conversation went like this:

You think you worked hard?” Tony Sr. would ask.

“I think I put in some good work,” Jimmy replied.

“There’s always someone working harder than you,” his father would tell 18-year-old Jimmy, then walk away.

The words still leave Jimmy shaking his head.


In a recent pre-game media scrum interview, Patrick Mahomes credits his father, former MLB baseball player Pat Mahomes, for showing him what it took to make the pros and his Mom, Randi Martin, for instilling In him a mindset of hard work and discipline.

Year after year, I look forward to hearing the stories of the quarterbacks who have reached the very pinnacle of American success describes their journey. Year after year, the same theme runs true: Work harder than everyone else.

Sure, there are many factors (and some downright luck) that go into any person becoming a starter in the Super Bowl. But luck and “factors” can only take a person so far. They must do the work.

As a culture strategist who is constantly thinking about the workplace, I think of how this lesson applies to the every day leader/manager/team member. They key to success is simple: Be a team player…and work harder than everyone else.

Let’s go Chiefs!

…or 49ers!

Either way, today is going to be a great day.