How to Lead People and Influence Teams

A little over a decade ago I found my passion in the areas of leadership development, organizational health, and personal & professional growth when I went to work for Inc. Magazine’s current #1 Leadership and Management guru Dr. John C. Maxwell.

My role at the time was Director of Corporate sales in charge of business development for the newly minted corporate training offering. It was an exciting time because of all of the new things that I was learning and all of the great people I was privileged to be around.

I simply fell in love with the people. Many of those co-workers, clients, and associates are still friends today. And many have gone on to outstanding careers and have done amazing things.

It’s About People

What I learned from that time is the importance of understanding people in the deepest sense. I learned what drove people. I learned how to truly serve people. I learned that much of life boils downs to what people,on their individual, rock-bottom level, value in their lives.

I learned that values drive decisions; decisions drive behaviors; and behaviors drive results.

This understanding of people on an individual level has led me to be much more sensitive to people that I lead; the people that I serve. I have lost my myopic view of life and now see how things really work. I see that people are wondrously purposeful beings and often just need some vision, guidance, or help to achieve great things. And it is in the simple act of helping people get things done that defines my leadership.

Recently, I put this philosophy to the test with a recent change initiative announced to a large virtual group on LinkedIn that I lead.

L2L Reader Survey 2014

Change is a Comin’

I lead a large private group on LinkedIn for the last 6 years called Linked 2 Leadership. We grow at the rate of about 100 new members per week and we now have over 27,000+ members who are dedicated to help global professionals learn, grow, and develop other leaders.

In a LinkedIn group, one of the most valuable tools is the Discussion Area. Unfortunately, the Discussion Area can quickly turn into an unwelcome place when people use it for spammy self-promotion, for “READ MY AWESOME BLOG!” entries, or for forwarding the latest Fast Company article.

With this unfocused and un-monitored approach, any true discussions become few and far between. This happened to L2L. The playground was just too crowded with bullies and we needed to make some drastic changes.

To remedy this increasing trend, my group moderators and I discussed what we thought the Discussion Area should be. But better than that, we designed a questionnaire to find out the good, the bad, and the really bad. Then we distributed the survey to the group members to get their opinions.

Being Inclusive and Interested

Deciding to INCLUDE the group in our new direction by asking their opinions was on target: In just over a day, we received 700 responses from people who took, on average, 12-minutes to fill out the questionnaire.

Many of the responses where passionate and provided us a lot of information. Many members commented that they really appreciated having their voice be heard.

>>> Values Drive Decisions

With our survey results in hand, it was easy to see how to design new rules for the Discussion Area that keeps the playground clean, fresh, and safe for everyone to play. (See “Anatomy of a Proper L2L Discussion“)

Now that we know what our group values in terms of a properly run Discussion Area, we were able to decide what we are going to be as a group and tailor the experience by only allowing certain type of discussions to be approved.

>>> Decisions Drive Behaviors

With such a large group, the Discussion Area needs group moderators to filter through all of the submissions. So an open call went out to the group explaining the need for a few “L2L Deputy Sheriffs” to patrol the playground and make sure everybody was playing nicely.

We immediately had over 30 applicants from around the globe interested in devoting their free time to serving in our new mission. (See the application.)

Presently, we are in the process of reviewing the applications now and are designing plans to implement our new rules with fresh new eyes and energy dedicated to a better future.

>>> Behaviors Drive Results

In the coming weeks, our new Deputy Sheriffs will be trained on best-practices for evaluatingand approving discussions. They will comb through each submission and decide if it is what we want in our Discussion Area or not. We will delete many and move many others to our promotions or jobs area.

Effective leaders must inspect what they expect.

Dedication to Excellence

In leading this new team of Group Moderators, I must be mindful that they are motivated by a calling and dedication to excellence. They are not being paid for their new role, nor are they materially compensated in any way. They want to be part of something meaningful and want their efforts to matter.

My leadership over this process will be the key to success. If I get off-target, you can guess what will happen. However, if I execute the plan as designed, properly train my new team, and continue to monitor efforts and results, you can also guess where that might lead.

Leading people and influencing teams is not complex when you break things down to the essentials and simply stay on target.

So what are you doing to know and understand the heartbeat of your team or group? How are you executing new visions or initiatives? Are you honoring the mission inspecting what you are expecting? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Tom Schulte
Tom Schulte is Executive Director of Linked 2 Leadership
He provides leadership training fit for the Blackberry-Attention-Span
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Jim Trunick on May 21, 2014 at 2:04 am

    Great update Tom Schulte. Thanks for leading the charge of values based skill building, the inner sanctum to high performance results building !!

  2. Jørgen Winther on May 21, 2014 at 8:56 am

    In general a nice approach, and also interesting to hear you talk about “leading a LinkedIn-group”, when LinkedIn themselves are rather talking about managing these groups. There is a difference.

    Moderators might be necessary but they are also potentially dangerous and much more powerful than they themselves imagine. I have seen real and seriously meant attempts to start a discussion being moved to promotions – in some groups almost everything was moved to there, where nobody ever looks.

    What is worse, often moderators or group managers decide to exclude a member – at times by mistake or based on misconceptions, and the member will not even be noticed about it. The moderator believes that is is the end of that story but for the ex-member the trouble has just begun! LinkedIn is constructed in such a way that if someone is being excluded from one group, he/she will loose their credibility in ALL groups: every posting to all other groups will now require the group manager to specifically approve the post before it gets published, a responsibility that many such managers are not even aware of having, so it happens rarely or never in some groups.

    Despite what LinkedIn claims, this partly exclusion from all groups sometimes will affect future groups as well. And for an active debater on LinkedIn it can ruin all efforts to be and remain a valuable contributor to the group communities. An it is irrevocable! The member will not be asked, no appeals will be heard, and it sticks forever.

    My suggestion – without knowing exactly what you did in your group – is to be very very careful with exclusions and to contact members first before excluding them. Only by what seems to be a permanent spammer behavior the drastical move to exclude someone should be considered.

    Additionally, make very clear what the promotions tab is there for – tell about it from time to time on the discussions tab – to allow all the good stuff published there to be read and… discussed! Before pushing posts to that tab, please consider what the member might have had in mind when publishing it. Often an article or a post from somewhere else can really inspire someone to a new discussion that is absolutely suitable for your group.

    In general – show some trust to your members and acknowledge that if you don’t like something it might be because you don’t understand it.

  3. Steve Quinn on May 21, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Tom, great call. Thank you for keeping the bar high. That is THE value of L2L. I’m so proud for you when I realize how far your dream has come.

  4. sumeetjadhav on May 25, 2014 at 4:26 am

    Reblogged this on Dreamers.