By Allen Haynes May 10, 2024

Listen to the episode.

Suzy Gray (00:02):
Welcome to the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast reverb, a conversation that digs deeper into this month’s podcast topic, all designed to help leaders go even further faster. I’m your host, Susie Gray. And before we get started, I want to thank the ColorWorks Group who is bringing you today’s episode. Have you ever said something in a meeting and then immediately wished you could take it back, offered criticism you thought was constructive, but it came out a little too harsh? We have all been there. That’s why this month’s topic, our ability to effectively communicate is so important. Recognizing our intention doesn’t really matter when it comes to our words. I can intend to say one thing, but what the other person hears determines the temperature of the conversation. And this is where the ColorWorks Group can help you by getting your words right the first time. They offer corporate training, digital assessments and books that will teach you how your wiring influences your communication in meetings, emails, texts, and even around the dinner table.

See all the ways the ColorWorks Group can improve your team’s [email protected]. That’s the ColorWorks Now, let’s jump into today’s conversation. This month, we’re talking about our conversation last week with Charles Duhig regarding how we can become more effective communicators, essentially super communicators. And in our reverb, I’d like to pull together some of our learnings from several podcasts that we’ve released on this topic as this collective learning really is powerful. So Andy, we talk a lot on the podcast about the importance of being a good communicator as a leader, both publicly and within your organization. And in one-on-ones, we had our episode with John Maxwell last fall. Sheila Heen was in December. That was great. And then now we’ve had Charles and all of them underscored how critical this skill is. But honestly, for me, the trickiest conversations to navigate as a leader are the interpersonal ones. So to get us started, what do you think is at stake if a leader in particular does not get this right?

Andy Stanley (02:08):
Well, this sounds a little crass, but basically you talk, but you don’t communicate and you talk and don’t communicate, and you don’t know it because everybody nods along and takes notes and they’re polite because you’re the leader. What else are they going to do? And you finish. I mean, this has happened to me where I just felt like I did a great job. And then people ask questions and you’re like, I just explained that. Explain, I just say that I explain this so well. What are these questions? Where were you? Were you not there then? Well, they were there. I just finished. Or later on, somebody comes back. So you talk and talk and talk, talk, and then people talk about you, but they don’t connect with you again. You don’t know it because nobody’s going to tell you unless you employ what Charles talked about and make it a conversation, instead of just dispensing information, you learn to be conversational, not just one-on-one as we’ve talked about, but you can be conversational in terms of empathetic listening, recognizing multiple identities, all these things that he talked about.

You can even do that as a public speaker. In fact, anybody who has heard a public speaker, the time went fast and you felt more like it was a conversation than a lecture. They were employing all of these things. So the whole idea of being a super communicator according to Charles, is instead of talking at and talking to you, were talking with, and there are learned skills. And he did such a great job in the book, teasing all these out. But even in our conversation as well, that if we’ll just pay attention, employ some of these skills and make them habits, we can all actually be conversational rather than just talking all the time. And again, as a leader, going back to the point of our podcast, the deck is really stacked against us as leaders because when we talk, people are negotiating with us and their minds.

You can’t help it when a leader’s talking. There’s not equity in the relationship. It’s not peer to peer. I mean, the leader is a leader, I think, oh yeah, we’re just all friends, but I’m the boss. So there’s not equity. So my words are being filtered through the natural filter that somebody who’s depending on somebody for a paycheck has. You just can’t help that. So again, I think I’m being so clear and I’m being so precise, but there’s so many filters because as Charles talked about, there’s so many identities. Identities, yeah. You’re hearing this as a mother. You’re hearing this as a wife. You’re hearing this as somebody who’s taking care of an aging parent. You’re hearing this as somebody who’s got to go in 20 minutes. I wonder how long this is going to go. He’s already over time. All those things I got kids to pick up.

All those things are going through our minds. Meanwhile, I’m up here droning on and on about the mission and the vision, and it’s all so important. So again, there’s not equity. We aren’t peers. The leader who thinks he or she is mistaken, and the leader who doesn’t even want to be a peer. The other problem is not only are there’s leader that thinks, oh, we’re just equal and friends. Then there’s a leader that like, no, no, we’re not. I’m the leader. I’m the boss. And my words are authoritative, not just here in the office, but in your whole life. I can call you anytime because you owe that to me and lords it over their employees. They don’t even try to listen. They’re not even trying to communicate. So we’re doomed. I mean, either way you think you’re a peer, you’re not. You’ve Lord it over people. You shouldn’t do that. So the skillset we all need, all of us. And as much as I communicate, I just loved this conversation with him and loved the book, there are skills we can develop, habits we can develop to actually communicate, connect with people. Again, one-on-one, one on three, or even in large groups. But it is a learned skill. And just because we’re interesting doesn’t mean we’re communicating. They’re not even necessarily related. So anyway, that’s sort of my general overview of how this relates to leadership.

Suzy Gray (05:43):
And Charles even said last week that this idea of having learning conversations is so important, and that facilitates that conversational aspect of a communication exchange. And he gave us four rules that are part of learning conversations. But rule two about stating the goal of the conversation felt fresh to me. I think you actually said it feels awkward to you.

Andy Stanley (06:05):
Yeah, he explained it so well. When you talk about the purpose of a conversation, very few people start a conversation with, I want to talk to you about X, or the reason I want to meet with you in a corporate environment, you generally know we’re going to have a one-on-one, I’m going to be evaluated.

Suzy Gray (06:20):
I’m going to give you a whole list of things to talk about today.

Andy Stanley (06:23):
I want to follow up. Let’s get together. I want to follow up on the meeting yesterday. So in a corporate environment, it’s not unusual to state the purpose of a conversation, a

Suzy Gray (06:31):

Andy Stanley (06:32):
But interpersonal relationships, that’s not intuitive. But as he talked about it, so helpful, and I talked about the fear of whenever a parent says to a child, we need to talk. Oh, well, I just assume I’m in trouble. What did I do? It would be better if my, in fact, honestly, I didn’t mention this to him. I didn’t want to keep talking. He’s the guest. But with my kids, because that was such a thing with my dad, and he didn’t mean it, but my dad didn’t have a dad growing up. So he’d say, when I get home from school, I want to have a chat. Well, I just assume the world’s coming to an end. And it was rarely that. So with my kids because of that, I would say Andrew or Gary and Allie, Hey, you are not in trouble. I just need to talk.

I would just let him know upfront. Let’s just take that, dispel that concern. Yeah. Again, but that’s a little bit of an application of what he talks about. Let people know this is the purpose of this conversation. And I’ve heard you say that you don’t think you do that well, but I think you do do that. Well, and here’s why I say that When we get together, you are so great about sending me an agenda. Whenever I sit down with you, I know exactly what we’re going to talk about, which gives me an opportunity to be prepared for what we talk about, which is convicting to me because I just don’t create agenda sometimes with people. I mean, generally people know what I want to talk about, but that whole idea of here’s the agenda, I get it ahead of time. I mean, if there are surprises, there are good surprises. So again, that’s being polite. Charles talks about we could actually incorporate that same habit in interpersonal relationships. And again, it creates more conversation than just talking. Talking.

Suzy Gray (08:07):
Yeah. And I thought it was interesting too. He was saying that there’s some things you’re not even communicating necessarily, but you’re saying, what do I really hope to get out of this? What am I really trying to understand? And identifying that in yourself, even if you don’t with the person you’re communicating with beforehand, helps you take the right posture to facilitate the conversation you want to have. And I hadn’t really even thought about that is this is what we need to go over, but what do I hope to accomplish? Or what do I hope to understand? That’s another layer of preparation that I think would be so helpful in these learning conversations.

Andy Stanley (08:39):
Well, we just start talking. Yeah, we do, and we think we know what we want to get out of it. But the discipline of clarifying, especially if it may trend toward something negative or something hard or something emotional to be clear, here’s why want to talk to this person, or here’s the why behind the what. That prepares me to communicate rather than just start talking and leave them kind of guessing. What is this about? What is it about anyway? Yeah. And again, he clarifies it in the book.

Suzy Gray (09:09):
We both know Rick Holiday, and I feel like Rick is really, really good at this. When our division was preparing to launch as a separate organization, we would always start the meeting, not with necessarily the agenda, but with, okay, let’s remember what our goal is. Our goal is to finish this process with two strong organizations on mission and for each other. And every meeting we were like, okay, whatever we talk about, we’ve got to make sure that that’s what happens, that we create two organizations that are on mission strong and for each other. And that was a really great way to just set the tone of, yeah, there’s a little bit of you need this and I need this. But at the end of the day, we both want that goal and it set that tone for the conversation that, okay, I’m going to give as far as I can, and you’re going to give as far as you can because we both want the same thing. And we both have that same goal. So it did remind me a little bit of that section of the book of that’s an example of not just stating, this is what I want to talk about, but this is what my goal is for the discussion, to set a tone for what comes next.

Andy Stanley (10:15):
And then there’s the opposite of that. Well, I say it’s opposite. It’s similar, but it’s less structured. There are also times when someone has said to me, Hey, I want to get together, and I don’t have an agenda, which is, oh, so I don’t need to ask what are we going to talk about or worry what we’re going to talk about? That’s kind of a liberating thing to say, I want to get together and chat. I don’t have an agenda. Okay, well, I’ve just told you what kind of conversation this is going to be, what the goal of this conversation is. This is just a conversation to catch up relational connection. So just those little things upfront can be so helpful, especially I think in our marriages and specifically with our kids, because I think corporately we kind of automatically do that a little bit.

Suzy Gray (10:56):

Andy Stanley (10:56):
Easier. It’s easier, and you expect it. You don’t just say, Hey, I want you to come in at three

Suzy Gray (11:02):

Andy Stanley (11:03):
You don’t do that, especially at three, right? Yes, sir. Nine 30 at least. Okay, I got the whole day, three o’clock

Suzy Gray (11:09):

Andy Stanley (11:09):
A Friday. Can you come by my office? I’m busy then Forever, right? Forever. Yeah. So again, corporate is a little easier, but even then, I think I need to up my game on that, because again, I’m the boss. I just, Hey, let’s get together. Hey, Diane calls so-and-So tell ’em I want to get together with ’em. And she’ll even say sometimes, what should I say? The purpose is I’m like, oh, I’m too lazy to tell you. Just schedule it. Well, at least I should follow up and say, Hey, Diane called and here’s what I want to talk about. So anyway,

Suzy Gray (11:36):
It’s so good. Well, it’s interesting. On the subject of one-on-one communications, Sheila last December and Charles last week, both elevated the importance of understanding identity. That’s brought to a conversation. I think that is such an important thought, is you’re bringing all these different things to the table in terms of today I am weighed heavy because my husband and I had a fight on the way in. Or my kid isn’t doing well, and we’re struggling with that, and you bring all of these identities to any conversation. And Sheila had talked about identity from the perspective of you view yourself as something, and when someone steps on it, you may have a reaction that’s not aligned

Andy Stanley (12:19):
With, and they don’t know why, and

Suzy Gray (12:20):
They have no idea why. So talk a little bit about how both from Sheila’s perspective of how identity plays out and Charles’s perspective, how have you seen that in your own leadership? Well,

Andy Stanley (12:29):
First of all, the conversation with Sheila, I never thought about any of that in terms of using those words. We’ve all found ourselves in the confusing conversations because of this, but we didn’t know what it was. It was like, why are you so sensitive? Why are you so upset? Or I don’t think you’re listening. Or I’ve had conversations with people and they just shut down and I’m still talking, but they’re,

Suzy Gray (12:51):
Nothing’s coming back.

Andy Stanley (12:52):
They’re shut down and I’m still talking. Then I’m wondering, should I stop and say, what’s wrong with you? That’s so offensive? What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t is everything? Yeah, something happened. Well, I wounded an identity, not intentionally, but I should know better than that. So that’s one side of it. Then with Charles, the whole idea of being curious enough to discover those with what he talks about, these emotional conversations where I ask about a fact, and then instead of a second fact, I talk about an emotion associated with that fact.

Suzy Gray (13:25):
How did that make you feel?

Andy Stanley (13:26):
Yeah, where are you from? Or I’m from Boston. Oh, so hey, how do you enjoy living in the south? Is it different now? I’ve gone from a what to a, how does it feel to live here? Or those kinds of things. Well, those kinds of questions give a person an opportunity to reveal something about their multiple identities. Yeah. Well, I moved here, I got divorced, and my mom lives here, and I moved in with my mom. So now, okay, you’re a divorcee. That’s part of an identity. You didn’t choose that. You’re caring for your mom. You’re a caregiver. That’s an identity. You’re a Northerner who’s moved to the south. You’re a transplant. I mean, suddenly there all these layers that we all carry, and the more I’m aware of those and the people I work with or interact with, it gives me an opportunity whether I choose or not, to be sensitive, as opposed to just bulldozing through and sticking with the facts and the way he talked about it.

It sounds so complicated. And again, we’ve had two guests who went there, and it’s not complicated. It’s just remember, it’s just take the whole person into consideration. None of us are monolithic. None of us are just an employee. None of us are just a man. None of us. There’s multiple. And when I say that, everybody listening’s like, well, yeah, I know that. Well, we don’t take all that sometimes into consideration in a hurry. Let’s get to the facts. So for both of these conversations, that’s been a huge takeaway. And to flip it around, all of us have had the experience of talking to someone, and suddenly we discover we are just talking and talking, and we are telling this person so much about ourselves, and you kind of catch yourself being more vulnerable than maybe you’re accustomed to. And it’s because they triggered that in us and because now some people just can’t wait to talk about themselves. But generally they’re bragging and it is all about the facts. But when you discover I am being unusually vulnerable with someone, you’ve just met someone who opened up and acknowledged more than one identity, and now you are filling those gaps and it’s comfortable and it’s so accepting. But it’s a skill that we should all develop because people feel heard and they feel understood, and they feel loved, and everybody wants to be loved in an appropriate way. I

Suzy Gray (15:47):
Like the fact that Charles said, everybody can be a super communicator. This is an extroversion. Introversion. He

Andy Stanley (15:53):
Said, it’s hardwired into us as humans.

Suzy Gray (15:56):
We just can bring it out. And I liked at the end, he mentioned this idea of someone tells you something and rather than asking for, oh, and then what did you do? Or whatever it is asking, gosh, how did that make you feel?

Andy Stanley (16:09):
That must have hurt.

Suzy Gray (16:10):
Yeah, that must have hurt. Wow. How did you feel when that happened? I don’t lead that way. And that is something, just adding that in to the conversation, geez, with my kids even. But in all aspects, I think that that’s an easy way to step into this if you’re getting used to. How does this play out in conversation?

Andy Stanley (16:31):
I’ve mentioned to him, I took a course many, many, many years ago about empathetic listening. And the huge takeaway for me, I wasn’t even, this is before I was even married, and is that many years ago? And the whole idea of listening for emotion and naming the emotion is a door again, not to manipulate, although it can be. It’s that must have hurt. I bet you were so angry when that happened. Name

Suzy Gray (16:59):

Andy Stanley (16:59):
Feelings. Yeah. I’m going to name your feeling, and this is true of all of us. When someone acknowledges our emotion and doesn’t chastise us for it, it feels like acceptance. It may be the deepest sense of acceptance. I didn’t have to tell you how I felt. You guessed it correctly. You named it and you affirmed it. Like I would’ve been mad too, or I bet you were mad. If that had happened to me, I would’ve been so hurt. I was so hurt. Oh, of course. Again, I haven’t said, shouldn’t feel. You shouldn’t feel that way. Nobody should ever say that to anybody about anything, but it’s easy to go there. So yeah, that empathetic listening. Listening for emotion, naming the emotion, affirming the emotion, especially with kids that’ll keep your kids talking. Kids coming home from school, miss. So-and-so such and such, such. I hate her.

I hate her. I hate her. Well, my initial reaction is, what happened? Well, now I’m asking for information as opposed to I can tell you are so upset. Come here. You’re so upset. You are so angry. I’ve acknowledged it. I’m not going to chastise you, and you’re going to find out what happened. But starting with the emotion as opposed to what happened, give me more facts. That takes communication to an emotional level, which is one of the things that Charles talked about. And all of these things. Again, now, we’re not just talking, we’re actually communicating. People feel understood and we all want to work with. And for people who know the layers of our identities, appreciate those and are willing to take those into consideration in the course of even corporate life. So those are the people we want to work for. Those are the people we want to work with.

Suzy Gray (18:32):
So with all that we’ve talked about in the last year, on the topic of communication, from your own leadership experience on this topic, what is your biggest learning or your biggest takeaway from an interpersonal communication perspective?

Andy Stanley (18:45):
For me, I think it’s this whole thing of acknowledging and remembering to think about multiple identities. It’s not an identity crisis. It’s not somebody who’s trying to be something. It is almost multiple roles, but the word identity is more powerful because I identify as a father and a husband and a brother and an uncle, and a grand. I mean, it goes on and on, and a boss and a pastor, it’s multiple. So taking those into consideration in my communication with people, I want to be good at that because as a Christian, I’m supposed to do for others what I want others to do for me, and I want others to do that for me. I don’t want to be just the pastor. I don’t want to be just the boss. I want people to be able to appreciate all those different identities. So I need to do that for other people. Yeah,

Suzy Gray (19:34):
I think that has been one of my biggest takeaways as well. I also feel like understanding which identities do you hold most close to you has been really helpful because then it helps you identify, oh, this feeling that just got triggered in me, it’s not them, it’s me. And it allows you to not have as a bigger reaction as you would’ve otherwise. I feel like when you can identify, oh, I hold being a leader as one of the core identities, or I hold parenting and you just made me feel like I’m a bad mom. Whoa. My reaction was not in line with what you said. Knowing that upfront can help you quell that dissonance between what your action should be and what it actually is. So,

Andy Stanley (20:16):
Well, I can give an example of that. It’s probably been five years ago, an employee who worked here a long time. We let her go, and it wasn’t a huge deal, but she needed to go. And so we weren’t even close. I mean, I knew who she was and what she did, but I wasn’t the one who terminated her work here. But she told a friend of mine, she made a comment to a friend of mine about my leadership, and I can still remember it.

Suzy Gray (20:40):
Wow. Five years later.

Andy Stanley (20:43):
And it stung hearing someone else who wasn’t defending the other person just relaying it. They were just relaying this comment she made about my failure and leadership. And she just kind of went on thinking, that’s not hurting Andy’s feelings. I mean, he’s a leader. Look at all this stuff he’s done. I could still quote it. Wow. Because that is an identity for me. Now, if you’d ask me, Andy, what is your identity all wrapped up in? I probably would’ve never said the leader, but it’s a reality. And this is to the point you just made sometimes. This is how we discover just how important an identity is and mature people, and you just demonstrated to your maturity when I can realize, oh, the reason that stung was because this is something that I hold. This is a filter or a label through which I identify and measure myself by. So this is an area where I’m going to be easily wounded. And I just remember that need to remember that this is a me thing They didn’t know. They’re just talking. But again, for other people when they shut down and we’re not sure why, it’s because we’ve tripped over one of their identities, one of their

Suzy Gray (21:55):
Deeply held close ident. Yes.

Andy Stanley (21:57):
And again, I think sometimes we don’t even know what they are, but the opposite is true as well. Somebody will compliment you on something that it just means way more than they even meant for it to mean. Because again, it’s something that you, I don’t want to say pride yourself in, but again, something that we hold as an identity. So this whole topic, I just think of all these conversations, that’s the one that has been most intriguing to figure out how to appropriately leverage and appropriately identify personally so that I don’t overreact.

Suzy Gray (22:27):
Yeah. It’s been so good. Well, Andy, as we wrap up today, let’s end where we started. We’ve talked a lot about communication over this past year from John Maxwell to She Heen to this month with Charles. And I’ve said it before and I’m going to keep saying it because I deeply believe it, but communication is your superpower. And I know it’s so important to you, which is why we’ve been talking about it so much. But it’s so important to you that you just spent a few months creating a masterclass on communication for a specific set of communicators, specifically pastors. And I know what your calendar looks like, and I know how busy you are. So we’re going to link to this resource in the show notes. But why did you decide, I’m going to spend this much time reviewing scripts, editing scripts, shooting scripts, on a masterclass, on communication for pastors. Why does that feel like something that was worth that time?

Andy Stanley (23:22):
Well, if I can answer honestly, I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t have time. And it was an extraordinary project. Project took a lot of time. I wrote scripts and all that takes a lot of time. Lane Jones on our staff has been after me for two years. Oh, I know. Which is so honoring to me because he’s like, Andy, you’ve got all this stuff inside of you and it needs to be transferable. He would say that. And I’m like, I appreciate that. Thank you. That’s such a compliment. I do think you’re right, but I don’t have time to do this. So first of all, he talked me into it, to be honest. But number two, I know. Well, I’m so grateful he did that and to have a friend that values that, and he did so much of the work to get me up to the starting line and through the finish line.

But the other thing is, and I’ve talked about this before, I think all of us, this little crazy metaphor or analogy of I can’t fill anybody’s cup, but my responsibility is to empty mind. Well, all of us have a responsibility. Whatever we know about anything, we have a responsibility to pass that along. And we hesitate because we think, oh, I’m not an expert. But that’s not the goal. The goal isn’t to know everything. The goal is to pass along the something what you do know, what you do know. And this is an area where over all these 40 plus years of doing it, I’ve accumulated knowledge. And so I’m responsible to the next generation of communicators. I feel like to pass that along, not because I’m the be all end all. I mean, there’s so much more than what I know, and there’s so much more to learn than what I would ever be able to teach.

But because of my personality, I have a tendency to talk myself out of it. I think people have already talked about that. I’m not the expert. And I’ll hear somebody else talk about communication and go, oh, I never even thought about that. But that’s not the right way to approach it. So Lane just stayed after me appropriately. And so I shot all these videos, and of course I loved it. I loved working on the scripts. It’s something that I’m so passionate about. And now I feel like, okay, I did that. It’s out there. Nobody may ever watch it, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve done my part. I’ve put it out there for people who can benefit from it. And again, I think to some degree, whether it’s just what we pass along to our kids or if there’s a skillset we pass along to other people, Hey, when we have an opportunity, we should do that.

And again, this goes back to what Arthur Brooks talked about on the podcast. If there’s fluid intelligence and that crystallized intelligence, everybody has something they could teach about. If they had an opportunity to teach about it, it might be teach about teaching because you’ve been a school teacher for 20 years. My goodness. It’s whenever we try to get married couples to be mentors for newlyweds, people who’ve been married 15, 20 years, and they’re like, oh, what would we say to these young couples? We’re like, you wait so much more than you think. You know, don’t know how smart you are about marriage till you sit down with somebody who just got married. That’s right. And it’s like, oh my gosh, we know so much about marriage. Right? So much for that. Well, we all have responsibility and when we can get an opportunity to pass along what we know, we don’t have to know everything, our responsibilities to share what we do know. So that’s kind of what’s behind this.

Suzy Gray (26:28):
Well, that’s really great. It’s going to be a really helpful resource, and we will link to it in the show notes for people that are interested in it. But I think that that puts a period on the importance of communication for you to spend that much time of your personal time sharing what you’ve learned on communication. So anyway, well, that is all the time we have for this episode of Reverb. Andy, thanks so much as always for digging deeper in the topic of communication and providing a few more insights. And to all of our listeners who want to thank you for joining us, be sure to visit Andy where you’ll find more resources to help you go further, faster.

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