How to Support Leaders During Challenging Times

Saying it’s been a tough few years to lead would be an understatement. Navigating Covid-19, transitioning to remote and hybrid work, surviving rampant burnout, and pivoting with economic markets are just a few reasons leaders have been challenged.  

However, right when you think it should be getting easier, fears of global recession and news of massive layoffs at companies like Meta, Salesforce, and Wells Fargo add additional layers of complexity. 

In times like this, people need to sense hope, witness courageous acts, feel encouragement, see sound strategy, and experience elite decision-making. These only happen with excellent leadership. As I tell professionals in our leadership workshops,

Leaders are always needed, especially during challenging times.  

While it might seem like all great leaders have an S on their chest and wear capes, they don’t. They are ordinary people, just like you and me, who choose leadership and receive significant support from others.  

No one except God knows what the future holds for sure. However, there will always be problems to solve, challenges to overcome, and unbroken barriers to break. This is precisely why leaders are needed more than ever and why it’s our job to support those who choose to lead.  

Here are three detailed ways the best companies support leaders during challenging times:

1. Reward and Recognize Their Contributions

Surprisingly, most companies still use financial incentives to motivate their employees to perform. Economists, psychologists, and sociologists have found the more sophisticated and creative a task is, the more counterproductive incentives are. Check out Daniel Pink’s presentation on what motivates us to learn more.  

Effective leadership is a collection of both simple and complex skills that are as much art as science. This means leaders need the opposite of financial incentives to lead their best.  

Effective leadership is a collection of skills that are as much art as science.

Hubert Joly, the former CEO of Best Buy, who led the company in one of the great turnarounds in American business history, wrote in his book The Heart of Business, “If financial incentives do not motivate us personally, why would we think they motivate others? I now believe financial incentives are:

  • Outdated
  • Misguided
  • Potentially dangerous and poisonous
  • Hard to get right in any event

He continued, “Financial incentives are outdated as they were designed for a different type of work.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Joly, we know money is essential to life. So this is not to demonize money. It’s to open eyes to a different type of support leaders need. What leaders need during challenging times is to reward and recognize their contributions. As I wrote in Building the Best, “people have three needs- they need to feel well-liked, important, and appreciated. One way to fill these basic needs is to give authentic praise.”

People require appreciation for what they have done to continue doing more if it in the future.

To adequately support leaders during challenging times, find ways, big or small, to reward and recognize their contributions in ways that go beyond incentives. For example, give them an award, write them a letter, or say “thank you.” 

2. Reinvest In Their Development

Creating time, space, and money for development isn’t easy when things are busy and challenging. However, Starbucks recently opted for a different approach hosting a District Manager Leadership Experience for two days for over 2000+ leaders in person. The theme of the event was taking ownership and being accountable for results. 

Howard Shultz told Starbucks leaders at the event, “The future of Starbucks is sitting in this room. After 51 Years of growth, success is not an entitlement. The future of Starbucks is whether or not we’re going to understand what is at stake. Starbucks is not entitled to our customer’s business, we earn it.” 

Success is not an entitlement. Personal growth is a requirement for future success.

The cost of the event alone would detract from such an event for most companies. Think about 2,000 District Managers’ travel and expenses alone. Not to mention the cost of food, drink, entertainment, venue, outside speakers, and employees’ productivity to be away at training. An educated guess of the cost of the event would be $5-7M. 

However, the education, inspiration, and application from such an event will far outweigh the cost. As Boxer Manny Pacquiao said, “if you work hard in training, the fight will be easy.”

3. Inspire Them With Vision

Vision provides hope. The late great Dr. Myles Munroe used to say, “Vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.” While Munroe’s words may sound funny, our eyes are the enemy of a great vision. This is because they are limited to what you can physically take in.  

When times are challenging and we are working in the weeds, it’s hard to look above the clouds and have a vision for a brighter future. Regardless of your role, inspire people going through challenging times with vision of a brighter future. The reason is simple, the future can provide limitless hope, and hope breathes life into people.

The future can provide limitless hope, which breathes life into people.

Talk positively about the future, highlight what’s working, and focus on what great things will happen because of the effort given today. 

Closing

There is nothing easy about leading during challenging times. Recognizing contributions, Investing in Development, and Inspiring with Vision are just a few strategies to support leaders. Replanting core values and giving paid time off are other great tactics.  

Regardless of how you support leaders during challenging times, the key is that you are doing it. Because if there is one thing I know for sure, leaders need help, and no amount of it is too small.  

What are other ways to support leaders during challenging times? Tell me in the comments. Your comment might be highlighted it in an upcoming newsletter.

Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.

Free Leadership Skill Quiz – Most professionals are confused about why they aren’t progressing in their career. It turns out they are too focused on their technical skills instead of their leadership skills. Enter the SkillsLoft LeaderSkill Quiz. Discover Your leadership skill level in 5 minutes or less.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

When Coaching Employees Personalization is Everything

Do you ever feel like a team member is underperforming? Welcome to the leadership club. It’s likely your team member feels it as well. They are frustrated by their lack of success which creates doubt about whether they are good enough to do the job. Beyond those painful feelings, team members feel alone, disconnected, and unengaged when they don’t have someone in their corner to help them improve.

The remedy is for managers to start behaving like a coach. To put it bluntly, stop acting like they are the person who can fire employees and start behaving like the person who will help people get promoted. 

Stop acting like you are the person who can fire employees and start behaving like the person who is going to help them get promoted. 

As easy as this is to write, its application is complex. Most managers default to typical management activities instead of coaching. Ray Smith said it well, “to create a high-performance team, we must replace typical management activities like supervising, checking, monitoring, and controlling with new behaviors like coaching and communication.” Not only is he correct, but he also exposes a drastic shift managers must make in today’s workplace around helping their employees thrive. 

Coaching vs. Feedback

In the Q&A portion of the Coaching for Excellence Workshop, one of the participants asked an important question. “What’s the difference in coaching versus feedback?” It turns out many managers think they are coaching when in fact, they are just giving feedback. 

Coaching is a form of development. The first use of the term “coach” in connection with an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who “carried” a student through an exam. The word “coaching” thus identified a process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be. In Coaching for Excellence, I define it as “Improving the current and future performance of others to achieve higher levels of excellence.”

Coaching is improving the current and future performance of others to achieve higher levels of excellence. 

Feedback, on the other hand, is the information delivered to an individual or a group about its prior behavior so that they may adjust their future behavior to achieve the desired result.

Here are some general differences between coaching and feedback.

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Coaching:

  • Focused on behavior for the future
  • Developmental in nature
  • Tends to be question oriented to promote self-discovery
  • Best used to develop skill deficiencies

Feedback:

  • Focused on previous behavior, either good or bad
  • Evaluative in nature
  • Direct, often in person
  • Best used to improve will issues

As you can tell, the two are very different things trying to achieve a similar result.

How to Be a Better Coach to Your Employees

Contrary to popular belief, being an effective coach isn’t something you are born with. Coaching is a skill that leaders work to develop and master. It’s an essential leadership skill LearnLoft studied in the Leadership Style Quiz.  

If you want to be a better coach to your employees, it begins with your mindset before it’s an act.  

Effective coaching is a mindset before it’s an action.  

You must believe you are the kind of person who can help somewhere get where they are today to where they want or need to be. While this might seem trivial or a given, it is not. The reason is simple, a team member’s success tomorrow requires your best coaching today. You cannot coach your best if you don’t believe in yourself.

Team members’ success tomorrow requires your best coaching today.  

There are all kinds of techniques, tools, and strategies to help you be a better coach to your employees. But, for the sake of clarity, I am going to focus on two essential ideas.  

1. Clarify the Vision

I am amazed how many managers or executive coaches don’t spend time, energy, and effort in understanding or helping their coachee clarify their vision. You are on the road to nowhere without an image of a better future state.  

My two favorite coaching questions to ask about the subject of vision are:

  • “In 6 months, what does great look like for you?”
  • When you think of the leader or professional you want to be, what will it feel like, and what will the experience be like?

2. Personalize the Coaching

Great leaders identify where team members are currently in their development and align their coaching appropriately. They do this because they know they must help people reach a stage of development that exceeds where they are today. If you coach everyone the same way, you are making an egregious coaching error.  

If you coach everyone the same way, you are making an egregious coaching error.

While there are different tactics, tools, and strategies you should engage in at each team member’s stage of development, there is one coaching tactic that can be used at any level. It’s centered around asking insightful questions. This allows you to pull the information out of your people instead of the other way around.  

Taking this approach forces team members out of their comfort zone and encourages them to be more self-reflective. Use open-ended questions, free of judgment. Here are some of my favorite examples to add to your arsenal:

  • What can I do to help you?
  • What result are you trying to achieve?
  • Can you walk me through your thought process and what you have tried up until now?
  • What should we do to create the best result for everyone?

Closing

It takes work to help an underperforming team member. But as I tell my team, if it were easy, everyone would do it. You are just the kind of person to help others achieve higher levels of excellence through your coaching.

Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.

Coaching for Excellence Workshop Back by popular demand, register for the Coaching for Excellence Workshop. Get the tools and models that some of the greatest coaches in the world leverage to help develop those around you.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Small Courageous Acts Are Required to Lead

Courage is the most important leadership skill you can have. Without it, you can’t lead. Those who fail to develop a courageous muscle through actions big or small aren’t inspiring and aren’t worth following. 

C.S. Lewis famously said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Lewis got it right because every skill a leader needs to possess will meet its testing point at courage. 

However, the value of courage is consistently overlooked. Part of this is because when we first think of courage, we tend to think of heroic acts like landing a plane on the Hudson or saving a company going up in flames. Right behind heroic acts, courage is often thought of as an attribute that only a few extraordinary leaders possess because they are born with it. 

While these are widely popular views of courage, it is a far cry from how it’s leveraged by leaders daily. Most courageous acts are small, but they are never insignificant.  

Most courageous acts are small, but they are never insignificant.

Small courageous acts stacked upon each other add up. It’s having a crucial conversation, even when it’s inconvenient. It’s doing the right thing, especially when it’s not easy. It’s trying again right after failing.

I define courage in Building the Best as the “ability to do something that frightens you.” It comes from the Latin word cor, meaning heart. Courage comes from the heart.  In other words, acting from your heart and doing things that frighten you is a sign of leadership.  

What Happens When You’re Courageous

When you have yet to make many courageous decisions in your life or career, it’s tempting to believe you are just not a fearless leader. Instead, reject this negative thinking with all your might. 

Neuroscience research suggests that some people innately possess a thrill-seeking or “Type T” personality, courage is still required to act whether you are wired with higher risk tolerance levels or not.  Courage is a skill that anyone can develop.

In coaching leaders with different experience levels and industries, one thing always happens when leaders are courageous. They create clarity in the future. 

Clarity in the Future

One of the things many professionals are struggling with right now is clarity in their journey. There is so much uncertainty and doubt surrounding us right now; it has many questioning their purpose and pathway. Ironically, when you are frightened and decide to do something anyway, it creates clarity, not confusion. It shows us that we are on the right or wrong path, whereas if we did not act, we would remain stuck in the same place, filled with uncertainty. 

Leaders Who Act Courageously Create Clarity, Not Confusion

While we aspire to have clarity as quickly as possible, it is also true that the clarity we want may not find us at our own timeline but later. However, it should provide confidence to know that when you choose courage, you are on the path toward clarity. 

How to Be More Courageous

Since courage is essential in leadership and provides significant upside, we must work hard to exercise it. Here are a few of the strategies I have seen be effective:

  1. Write Down the Worst Possible Outcome. Our brains are fascinating because we have an almond-shaped mass called an Amygdala. This part of our brain has become best known for its role in fear processing. This means that this area in our brain controls fear and our responses to it. You are naturally wired to run from or avoid things that can be harmful. Getting in the habit of writing down the worst possible outcome from acting on something that frightens you often provides insight that the worst scenario isn’t actually all that bad.  
  2. Quantify the Best Possible Outcome. Since our brains constantly evaluate either the pain or gain in every situation, highlighting the benefits of courageous leadership is a powerful method to encourage action. Regardless if the end outcome meets or even exceeds our expectations, the practice of allowing your brain to visualize the possible benefits in a situation is a decisive step in the process of being more courageous. 
  3. Lean Into the Emotions. Acting as if emotions such as doubt or fear do not exist is a false path to courage. Being open and honest about your emotions is not a weakness; it is a strength. Dr. Susan David a leading expert on the topics of Toxic Positivity and emotions, said, “Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” The wisdom in Dr. David’s words can’t be overstated. Allow yourself to experience the emotions that would cause you not to act courageously and then decide to move forward despite them when it makes sense. 
“Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.”

Closing

The better you get at acting as a courageous leader, the easier it will be to set your fear aside and lead people, teams, and organizations to a better place than they are today. To quote the great Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 

Coaching for Excellence Workshop – Coaching is a skill that every manager or executive must constantly improve. Stop guessing whether your coaching skills are up to speed. Get the models and tools that many world-renowned coaches leverage to lead targeting coaching conversations to elevate others to new levels of excellence.

Free Leadership Skill Quiz – Most professionals are confused about why they aren’t progressing in their career. It turns out they are too focused on their technical skills instead of their leadership skills. Enter the SkillsLoft LeaderSkill Quiz. Discover Your leadership skill level in 5 minutes or less.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Sound Like a Successful Leader

Great leadership always comes down to actions. However, those activities are often a follow-up to spoken words or potent thoughts.

Here is the best part: there is one person whose words and thoughts you control, and that’s yourself. In my work coaching and developing leaders and the countless hours spent playing golf with people at all different skill levels, the words people speak to themselves and the negative thoughts that they allow in their minds are abominable. Powerless words and negative thoughts crush one’s ability to lead effectively or perform consistently. 

Powerless words and negative thoughts crush your ability to lead effectively or perform consistently.

Sound Like a Leader

More than one personality type can lead successfully. Some great leaders are introverts, and some great leaders are extroverts. Some of the best leaders have been exceptional speakers, while others have had trouble speaking in front of people. However, some familiar sounds emerge regardless of one’s leadership style

Sounding like a powerful leader means communicating in a way that inspires and empowers yourself or others to realize their potential. To become a better version of oneself. To instill courage and belief that people are worthy and good enough for impact and success.  

Sounding like a powerful leader means communicating in a way that inspires and empowers others to realize their potential.

However, words and language can have both a positive or negative impact. Yehuda Burg said, “words have energy and power with the ability to hurt, heal, hinder, harm, and humble.” Truth is, words can be a fantastic tool or a dangerous weapon.

Words can be a fantastic tool or a dangerous weapon.  

Each person is in a battle with the words we say to ourselves, whether we know it or not.  

What Kinds of Words Do You Use?

Certain words can be powerful or weak. They can transfer belief or create doubt. Take the example of Johnny Powerless and Suzy Powerful below: Whom would you prefer to speak like?

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Johnny Powerless uses language like:

  • “I can’t do it.” 
  • “I never get a chance.”
  • “It’s always her fault.”
  • “No one likes or respects me.”
  • “It’s easy for everyone else but me.”
  • “That’s not my job.”
  • “I am not good enough.” 

On the other hand, Suzy Powerful speaks to herself and others differently. She said things like:

  • “I don’t do that because I choose not to.”
  • “I haven’t done that yet, but I want to learn.”
  • “I made a mistake; I will learn from it.”
  • “I will keep getting better at handling hard situations.”
  • “I just haven’t met my tribe yet.”
  • “I can help when I am finished.”
  • “I am worthy of success.”

Both Johnny Powerless and Suzy Powerful’s words expose an essential leadership principle:

The words you say to yourself are the most important words you say.

Taking responsibility for your words, thoughts, and actions is a critical component of being a successful leader.

Language of Leadership Challenge

Sounding like a leader often doesn’t require massive changes, so start with some minor adjustments. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Eliminate Extreme Globalizing Words – Extreme globalizing words like always, never, and every time eliminate hope and are rarely accurate. However, we use them out of habit, hurting our leadership.  
  2. Stop Saying Can’t – Embrace the rule of “can’t say can’t.” When leaders use the word can’t it creates a victim mindset in themselves or others.  
  3. Reject Participating in Gossip – Gossip is tempting to engage in, but it’s a surefire way to sound like a powerless leader. Speak about things you know are true and reject the temptation of reducing someone else to elevate yourself.  

Reject the temptation of reducing someone else to elevate yourself

Closing

Something unique happens when you start to sound like a leader. Little by little, you will build confidence in yourself, and others will take notice. However, you won’t be perfect, so give yourself some grace when you come up short. 

The best part is you get an opportunity to use stronger and more powerful words tomorrow.

Take the Free Leadership Skill Quiz – Most professionals are confused about why they aren’t progressing in their career. It turns out they are too focused on their technical skills instead of their leadership skills. Enter the SkillsLoft LeaderSkill Quiz. Discover Your leadership skill level in 5 minutes or less.

John’s New Book Sign up to get early access to John’s new book. By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released Sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Reducing Burnout Is About Great Leadership

Nothing makes burnout worse than acting like it’s not happening. Unfortunately, many organizations are oblivious or don’t seem to care that their employees are struggling. Conversely, front-line leaders are experiencing team members at their breaking point and are unsure how to help their team and themselves. 

Take Paige, an experienced Regional Vice President, as an example. For two decades, her teams experienced high engagement, consistent growth, and low voluntary turnover. Then the combination of the Covid-19 Pandemic, constant pressure from her management team for double-digit growth, and a shaky economy had her team working around the clock with no end in sight. At first, she acted like it was no big deal, expecting it to be a short season of hard work. But no relief came; eight quarters later, the problem is more significant than ever. What started like a rock making a small crack in a windshield has now grown into long cracks moving in all different directions.

For the first time in her career, she had double-digit voluntary turnover, open positions with no candidates to fill them, and stress levels that caused a short stay in the hospital. 

In a recent coaching session, she asked a simple question, “John, how do I make things easier?” My answer was simple, “Instead of wanting things to be easy, prepare for them to be hard.” I continued, “There is nothing easy about leadership, which is why most people don’t do it. However, your leadership is needed most in uncertain and difficult times.”  

Instead of wanting things to be easy, prepare for them to be hard.

Burnout is a Real Problem

Before we go any further, let’s clarify what burnout is. The Mayo Clinic describes it as a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. 

In a survey of over 1000 respondents by Deloitte, 77% say they have experienced burnout at their current job. 91% say that unmanageable stress or frustration impacts the quality of their work, and 83% say burnout can negatively impact personal relationships.

Achieving anything meaningful requires a relentless work ethic and a willingness to consistently do what the ordinary person does occasionally. However, burnout goes beyond this kind of effort. Burnout isn’t a badge of honor; it’s the start of your life unwinding.  

Burnout isn’t a badge of honor; it’s the start of your life unwinding.

What starts as a bit of stress can quickly become health problems, severed personal relationships, and the pursuit of a meaningless life. So admitting you or your team is burned out isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength. 

Top Causes of Burnout

Research by McKinsey Health Institute found toxic workplace behavior is the single largest predictor of negative employee outcomes, including burnout symptoms. Here are some examples of toxic workplace behavior:

  • Unrelenting Leadership Communication – Managers and executives who communicate at night and on weekends expecting immediate responses
  • Unrealistic Expectations – Unsustainable activity or performance levels.
  • Consistent Micromanagement – Inability for professionals to be empowered to do their best work.
  • Lack of Community and Relationships – Sustained periods of loneliness or lack of support.
  • Sole Focus of Monetary Gain – Primary objective is profit above all else. 

If you didn’t notice, leadership is the common denominator in all the top causes of burnout.  

Why Solving Burnout is Essential

No one desires stress, anxiety, depression, or the like. However, eliminating work or retiring isn’t the answer to burnout. The late great psychiatrist Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, said, “People can find meaning in one of three places; work, love, and courage.” Former CEO of Best Buy Hubert Joly wrote in his book The Heart of Business, “Work, love, and courage often converge at work because doing something significant often involves caring for others and overcoming adversity.”

Work isn’t the enemy. Not only does it provide financial means, but it can create meaning, purpose, and community. 

Simple Ways to Unleash Change

There is no silver bullet or a one size fits all approach to unleashing the kind of change necessary to solve burnout in your team or organization. However, here are a few of my favorites:

1. Focus on a Deeper Purpose

People work harder and overcome adversity much easier when they know their effort is for a meaningful cause. Study after study shows that people who are connected to a meaningful purpose behind their work are more engaged. The best leaders recognize that even a tiny dose of meaning makes a significant difference in reducing burnout.  

Even a tiny dose of meaning makes a significant difference in reducing burnout.

It doesn’t matter what you do. There is some more profound purpose behind the work you or your team does, and it’s your job to be connected to it. 

2. Enable Personal Growth

Evidence suggests that personal growth, development programs, and learning opportunities effectively tackle burnout and engage and retain employees. However, new research by KPMG suggests the vast majority of CEOs (91%) are expecting a recession within the next year, with about a third anticipating it to be mild and short. This means layoffs and budget cuts around training development are likely.

However, companies and specifically Human Resource or Learning & Development Executives, that commit to investing in their employees will make meaningful contributions to people and business metrics. 

Companies committed to investing in employees will make meaningful contributions to people and business metrics. 

Want to empower your employees to achieve their goals and ignite their personal growth? Check out the new Catalyst for Growth Program.  

3. Hold Yourself or Managers Accountable

Almost all roads of burnout lead to executive management teams and managers in the organization. However, many organizations measure their leaders based on one thing, and that’s results. So I would like to suggest an alternative approach, one that looks at both results and culture. You can see the impact of effective leadership in more ways than one.  

The best organizations hold managers accountable for results and the culture they create.

Which would you rather have; 

Manager 1: Delivers double-digit revenue growth yearly but has an 80% turnover rate and a highly dysfunctional team.

Manager 2: Consistently delivers single-digit revenue growth, but has low turnover, develops talent, and a highly engaged team.

Your answer to this question should show you a lot about how you are holding managers accountable.

Closing

It’s time to bring burnout from the shadows into the light because nothing is worse than acting like burnout isn’t happening. Focusing on a deeper purpose, enabling personal growth, and holding managers accountable won’t solve the problem, but they will reduce it. When it comes to burnout, helping even one professional reconnect and find meaning at work is worth it. 

Take the Free Leadership Skill Quiz – You know how most professionals are confused about why they aren’t progressing in their career? It turns out they are too focused on their technical skills instead of their leadership skills. Enter the SkillsLoft LeaderSkill Quiz. Discover Your leadership skill level in 5 minutes or less.

John’s New Book Sign up to get early access to John’s new book. By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released Sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

7 Simple Ways to be a Smarter and Better Leader

Being a leader that gets results and elevates others is difficult. Even with an endless stream of leadership tips and tricks on the internet, it’s easy to lose sight of the main things being the main things. 

The goal of this column is to recenter and refocus your efforts so you can get results without going to get an MBA in Leadership Development. Leadership refresher in session: 

1. Increase Trust with Team Members

The ability to lead a team starts with good, quality, professional relationships built on the bond of mutual trust. George MacDonald said, “to be trusted is a great compliment than being loved.” The difference between managers and leaders isn’t always what they say. Instead, it’s how their actions and behavior build a bond of mutual trust.  

In Building the Best, I highlighted the Trust Compound Theory. This states that each team member evaluates how much they trust you based on how you share your competence, show you care, and expose your character. 

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2. Bring Contagious Energy Daily

Traditional thinking says energy comes from results. While this isn’t wrong, energy ultimately comes from people. For example, one person can completely change the energy on a team or in a room.

John Wooden famously said, “nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm. Our energy is infectious, whether it’s lethargic or enthusiastic is a choice we make each day.”

This means the energy you bring as a leader can be positive, negative, or neutral. Check out the video below

 

3. Play Big, Not Small

People tend to stay in spaces and environments that are comfortable. Thanks to the Amygdala, our brains are naturally wired to avoid risk and harm. Because of this, most leaders play small instead of big. Jim Rohn said, “Most people major in minor things.”

I have learned from coaching leaders that bad leaders set goals that are easy to achieve, and instead of raising the standards, they lower them.  

Bad leaders set goals that are easy to achieve, and instead of raising the standards, they lower them.

4. Think Long, Act Short

Our eyes are designed to look ahead and focus on what’s right in front of us. While this isn’t necessarily bad, Dr. Myles Monroe expressed the issue with our eyes as it related to leadership: “The enemy of vision is sight.” he continued, “vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.”

If you are going to transform your leadership, it requires having a vision of a better world that exists today while at the same time acting on what’s right in front of you to help get you there. 

Great leaders have a vision of a better world that exists today.

Everything big starts small. Once you have that big vision, act small by having a defined set of priorities and accomplishing a finite set of tasks daily. 

5. Randomize Leadership Responsibilities

Research has proven time and time again that player-led teams outperform leader-led teams. Since the purpose of leadership is not to create more followers but to create more leaders, one of the most effective ways to transform your leadership is to randomize leadership responsibilities on your team.  

Steve Kerr, the NBA World Championship Coach of the Golden State Warriors, made this approach famous when he insisted his team would handle coaching duties in an NBA game in 2018 (the team won 123-89.)  

While Kerr’s approach might not work in your particular leadership salutation, here are a few ideas: 

  • Instead of you running your team meeting, have someone else run it.  
  • Instead of coaching team members, have team members pair up and coach each other.  
  • Start a virtual meeting and disconnect on purpose to see who carries the ball forward in your absence. 

6. Know The Numbers, Know The Effort

It is astonishing how many people in leadership positions don’t know how their team performs. When pressed in coaching sessions, I hear answers like, “I think we are doing well.” It’s true, some roles, like a sales manager, have an easier path to measurable metrics, every leader must know how their team is performing. 

Every leader must know how their team performs against measurable metrics. 

However, you can’t stop knowing the numbers because leadership is not all about winning. The late Pat Summit said, “Winning is fun…sure. But winning is not the point. Wanting to win is the point. Not giving up is the point. Never letting up is the point. Never being satisfied with what you have done is the point.”  

You must know the effort your team is putting in because if you only care about the results, you miss the point of leadership.  

7. Repeat the Values and Purpose Often

If you lead a team or organization, do not go another minute without being clear on why you do what you do and its purpose. As I wrote in Building the Best, “It’s easy for people to get lost in the monotony of their everyday work without considering how their work positively impacts other people.” 

Part of your job as a leader is to stop people from going through the motions and help them to start growing through the motions:  

Stop going through the motions and start growing through the motions. 

One of the best ways to do this is to be what Pat Lencioni calls a CRO, “Chief Repetition Officer.” Constantly remind your team of the core values that guide their behavior and the deeper purpose behind their work. Purpose-driven leaders will not only be more successful long-term than those who aren’t; it’s a requirement in today’s leadership landscape. 

Closing

Being a leader that gets results and elevates others is difficult. However, if it were easy, everyone would do it. You are just the kind of leader to remake your leadership.

Take the Free Leadership Skill Quiz – You know how most professionals are confused about why they aren’t progressing in their career? It turns out they are too focused on their technical skills instead of their leadership skills. Enter the SkillsLoft LeaderSkill Quiz. Discover Your leadership skill level in 5 minutes or less.

John’s New Book Sign up to get early access to John’s new book. By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released Sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The 4 Components of Authentic Leadership

It goes without saying that being yourself is a lot easier than being someone you aren’t. However, when pressure rises, the stakes of decisions increase, and there is a surefire judgment from others; being authentic becomes infinitely more difficult for leaders. Those leaders who can be authentic in the face of adversity stand out above the rest. 

Those leaders who are authentic in the face of adversity stand out above the rest. 

In my work studying and coaching leaders, authenticity is one of the most essential leadership skills that doesn’t get discussed enough. To take it a step further, too many leaders are trying to be something or someone they aren’t, and their team knows it.  

Too many leaders are trying to be something or someone they aren’t, and their team knows it. 

What is Authenticity as a Leadership Skill?

In the SkillsLoft assessment, we define authenticity as being transparent, genuine, and honest. Living according to your beliefs and values. It comes of Greek origin that means genuine. 

Brene Brown said, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.” Not only are Brown’s words wise, but I would add to them. “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are and who we are trying to become.” If more leaders started with the mindset that the truth about who they are and what they are about will eventually come out, they would be themselves much earlier in their journey. 

In the end, the truth comes out; you might as well be your authentic self from the start. 

People follow people, not titles. Being an authentic leader who shares truth, passions, and even shortcomings will have people following you and not the other way around.  

Components of Authentic Leadership 

Transforming yourself from an inauthentic leader to an authentic leader isn’t easy. However, big changes always start small. There is a simple model that we coach professionals to use to determine if their authentic self is showing up in their leadership. It includes four components. 

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1. What You Stand For

If you go back to the definition of authenticity, “Being transparent, genuine, and honest. Living according to your beliefs and values.” I want to focus on two elements: our beliefs and values.  

Knowing your beliefs is critical because your beliefs become your behaviors. Napoleon Hill used to say, “whatever the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve.” Your core values are the fundamental beliefs you hold to be true. For example, in our Catalyst for Growth Program, one of the first personal development exercises professionals complete is putting definitions around their beliefs and core values. It never ceases to amaze me how many people haven’t put the effort to define them. 

2. How You Show Up

The two elements of authenticity relating to how you show up are self-awareness and vulnerability. If you have ever worked for or with a narcissistic leader, you know about someone who lacks self-awareness. Being self-aware is a skill, and it’s developed through being in vulnerable positions that expose the truth.  

Being self-aware is a skill, and it’s developed through being in vulnerable positions that expose the truth.  

Exercises like a leadership 360 °can be an excellent way to increase self-awareness and demonstrate vulnerability to team members.  

3. When You’re At Your Best

It’s difficult to be authentic if your current role doesn’t allow you to be at your best. I am amazed at how many professionals do jobs for years that they aren’t good at and don’t like. The two elements to consider around this are your skills and passions.  

There are phenomenal resources and assessments out there for leaders to explore their strengths and weaknesses as it relates to their leadership skills and passions. For example, Patrick Lencioni and his team at the Table Group did some excellent work and research with the Six Types of Working Genius.  

4. What You Want to Become

The most overlooked element of authenticity is not considering who you want to become. Dr. Suess wrote it beautifully, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” Every person is a work in progress, and showing up authentically should express how you are adapting as a person and continuing to have a growth mindset. 

Nothing is wrong with changing your mind when you learn something new. In fact, it’s inauthentic to be unwilling to learn, grow, and develop into a better version of yourself over time.  

Closing 

There isn’t a magic pill to start showing up as a more authentic leader and professional. However, having the courage to define what you stand for, know how you show up, realize when you’re at your best, and define what you want to become, is a fantastic place to start.

How important is it to you for leaders to show up authentically? Tell me in the comments how you determine if a leader is authentic.

Take the Free Leadership Skill Quiz – Discover Your leadership skill level in 5 minutes or less.

John’s New Book Sign up to get early access to John’s new book. By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released Sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How the Best Organizations Develop Their Leaders

When an organization struggles, it’s easy to point at outside factors like market conditions, strategy, or the division’s performance. However, more often than not, a failing organization boils down to ineffective leadership.

In the not-so-distant past, every critical decision was left to the CEO or Management Team. In today’s rapid change environment, this practice can and will be detrimental to an organization’s existence. Organizations that are highly effective at overcoming adverse conditions have leaders at every level, not just at the top. 

Unfortunately, most organizations believe they have leaders at every level because they are designed hierarchically. But, just because you have managers doesn’t mean you have leaders. 

Just because organizations have managers doesn’t mean they have leaders.

Instead of going into all the differences between managers and leaders, let’s get on the same page about what it means to be a leader. As I defined in Building the Best, “someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others.” Want to discover you are elevating others in your leadership style? Take the free leadership style quiz here. Every manager can learn to elevate others, but it doesn’t mean they are. 

On a recent episode of the John Eades podcast, Dr. Garland Vance backed this up, saying, “Leadership is a set of skills that have to be practiced, developed, and honed over time. There might be people that are born with it, but the people who get really good at it are the ones who work at it. Just like Steph Curry is naturally a good basketball player, but he practices like crazy to become great.”

Just because you can lead doesn’t mean you are.

Why Some Companies Don’t Invest in Their People

It’s no secret that some organizations don’t invest in their people. The list of reasons is long, but traditionally training can be expensive, time-consuming, and ineffective. If that weren’t enough, organizations can spend a lot of time, money, and energy to help develop someone, and they could leave. I love the CFO to CEO-conversation around this:

CFO Asks CEO: “what happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”

CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

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Richard Branson backed this up by saying, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.” While Branson is right, every organization would be more effective if professionals willingly invested in themselves as leaders instead of relying on their company. 

Most people won’t willingly invest in themselves, especially when it comes to their leadership development. 

Unfortunately, people avoid leadership development because there isn’t a clear and guaranteed outcome like money or entertainment at the end of the course or book.

Growth Takes Time and Action

The less talked about reason organizations don’t invest in their people is they aren’t patient, and they can’t control the outcome. The world has become so short-term focused, we forget that growth takes time. As much as we want to become great at anything, it takes repetition and experience. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut other than training, effort, and coaching, and even then, the outcome isn’t guaranteed.

Growth not only takes time, but it also takes action. Too often, leaders forget that growth isn’t a goal, it’s a byproduct of what happens when we take action. 

Growth isn’t a goal, it’s a byproduct of what happens when we take action.  

I constantly have to remind myself and others that great leadership doesn’t always show up in short-term results, but its impact is always realized in the long term in the people that experience a great leader. If you need a quick reminder about the importance of making an impact, watch this short video from my recent keynote.

Don’t Leave Leadership Development to Chance

Here are two simple strategies to ensure you don’t leave leadership development to chance on your team or in your organization. 

Create a Culture of Growth and Learning

Leadership, like many things, is a journey and not a destination. Many organizations know this and have built internal leadership development academies/universities. These include things like year-long courses, learning tracks, workshops, coaching, and mentoring, to name a few. 

Formal learning is fantastic, but learning can and should take place anytime. One of the best ways to embed this in a culture is to ask a simple question of yourself and others:

  • “What’s something you have learned in the last 24 hours?”

Promote the Coachable 

Since the best leaders are learners, being coachable is essential for any leader. More often than not, a person’s ability to say or do something significant is built on the backbone of hard work, dedication, and being coachable.  

What’s interesting about coachability is that it’s not a technical skill or inherent to us. It’s a mental mindset that anyone can embrace. Being coachable is how you show the world that you have a hunger to get better and are willing to put in the work and effort.

Being coachable is how you show the world that you have a hunger to get better and are willing to put in the work and effort.

Nick Saban, the legendary head football coach at Alabama, constantly preaches to his players and coaches to “respect the critical eye.” This means that instead of getting defensive, embrace when someone is coaching you with a critical eye because they are trying to improve you. 

Organizations that promote coachable and “respect the critical eye” professionals at every level will have more leaders than those who do not because coachable people eventually pour that knowledge into others. 

Closing

All kinds of strategies dramatically improve the effectiveness of leadership development programs. A few of my current favorites include:

  1. Provide proven content
  2. Include one-on-one or group coaching
  3. Subscribe to Cohort Based learning

Whether you use these tactics or not, great things happen if companies have the desire and commitment to developing leaders. Frontline employees provide a better experience to customers, managers will have healthier teams, and parents will have a stronger family structure outside of work.

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz – Discover your current leadership style for free in less than 5 minutes.

John’s New Book Sign up to get early access to John’s new book. By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released Sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

3 Reasons Employees Quit and How to Fix It

It used to be that employees just wanted a good job with a steady paycheck. Many would sacrifice their passions and tolerate an average job. However, thanks to a strong employment run and the rapid advancement of the gig economy, the veil of scarcity job thinking has turned into abundant job thinking by many professionals.  

The power of employment is now in the hands of talented professionals, and the best companies recognize it. Whether you call it the “Great Resignation” or “Quit Quitting,” there is no doubt this is the time period of the professional. Research by McKinsey suggests that 40% of employees are considering quitting their jobs in the next 3 to 6 months. Most professionals who have left or are thinking about it aren’t walking away for a small pay raise. Instead, they are focused on moving towards something better. They move toward leaders and companies who care about them and intersect with their passions and purpose.  

Professionals are moving toward leaders who care about them and companies that intersect with their passions and purpose.  

Why People Quit

Employees quit jobs for many different reasons. Many people believe, that “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” While this isn’t always the case, one of the primary reasons people leave is because of a bad boss. I shared some insights in a recent video here

 McKinsey’s research of why people quit highlights what I call “The Big Three.”
  1. Lack of Career Development / Advancement
  2. Inadequate Compensation
  3. Uncaring / Uninspiring Leaders
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None of these by themselves are shocking or insightful. However, in my work coaching leaders and helping build organizational culture, people often leave when these three interact. You can think of it this way; people are much more likely to quit when they have an uncaring/uninspiring leader and are inadequately compensated. Or they lack career development/advancement and have an uncaring /uninspiring leader.  

Employees leave when two or more reasons they would quit interact with each other. 

How the Best Organizations and Leaders are Adapting

While no company or leader is perfect, the best organizations know employee retention is a great business practice. On average, employee turnover costs organizations between 1x-2x a year’s salary once they have been in the organization for over three years. A Google study found that the average employee that turns over within one year costs about $50,000. The cost of turnover is expensive, and retention is essential.  

However, in the current talent market, retaining high performers and great team players deserves a dedicated strategy corporately and implemented by each manager. Because the best leaders build systems as if their employees will stay forever, even though they know it isn’t true. 

Build retention strategies as if employees will stay forever.  

Adapt Retention Strategies Quickly

As a leadership coach and consultant, I have the privilege of sitting in the front row as companies bare the truth about their recruiting and retention techniques and strategies. More often than not, companies focus more on recruiting than retention. While recruiting talented people is an essential element of leadership, the best leaders focus more on retention than recruiting because fulfilled employees do a lot of recruiting because they are raving fans of the company.

The best leaders focus more on retention than recruiting.

The best retention strategies revolve around four key elements:

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  1. Purposeful Culture – Provide meaningful work and make people feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves.
  2. Training and Development – Invest in managers’ development so they can lead more effectively. Provide learning opportunities for all employees to create a learning culture. 
  3. Ample Compensation – Compensation that exceeds the average pay by industry average and exceeds personal needs. 
  4. Empowerment and Flexibility – Create an environment that allows employees to take ownership of their work, decision making, and schedule. 

Closing

The “how-to” strategies to improve retention around creating a purposeful culture, providing training and development opportunities, giving ample compensation, and sharing empowerment and flexibility are endless. If you want to know if you’re doing a good job, look for these as proof:

  • Leadership development programs
  • Best-in-class technology tools
  • Core values designed and discussed
  • Culture of coaching and mentoring

I hope that instead of blaming, complaining, and acting as if people are disposable, you will do your part to make a difference in people right where you are. Use the opportunities in front of you to “bloom where you are planted” because that’s exactly what the best leaders do. 

John’s New Book Sign up to get early access to John’s new book. By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released Sign up here.

Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades

How the Best Leaders Focus on Execution

Flow management concept.

Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 100 company or a manager of a small team, execution is at the center of your success. However, just because it’s essential doesn’t mean we do it well or know precisely what it is. 

Execution is simply the carrying out of a plan, order, or course of action. After studying and coaching high-performing and low-performing leaders, the gap between goals and outcomes is execution.

The gap between goals and outcomes is execution.

The loftier the goals, the more difficult they are to achieve, so the execution gap is never truly eliminated. The highest performing leaders understand they aren’t trying to eliminate the gap; they are working relentlessly to shrink the gap through elite execution. 

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Execution Isn’t Just Hard for You

Many external factors like a rapidly changing economy, technological advancements, hybrid-work environments, and multi-generations in the workforce make executing at the highest level more challenging than ever. 

When looking at internal factors, almost all execution failure comes down to leadership. Execution expert Monte Pedersen on a recent episode of The John Eades podcast, said, “leaders today must be execution accelerators and create a culture of execution.”

To shrink the execution gap, requires leaders to take ownership, translate strategy, and use time and attention to their advantage. Unfortunately, it turns out most managers aren’t doing it well. 

Research by Forbes found that 82% of Fortune 500 CEOs feel their organization is effective at strategic planning. Only 14% indicated to be effective at implementing the strategy. If that wasn’t sobering enough, Harvard Business Review found only 16% of top leaders were rated as very effective at either strategy or execution, and only 8% were effective at both. 

This execution thing is challenging not just for a few but for many. So if you are looking for ways to improve your team’s execution, here are a few pillars of effective execution to evaluate. 

5 Pillars of Effective Execution

The best leaders constantly look for ways to shrink the execution gap between their goals and outcomes. Here are five pillars to help you. 

1. Create Clarity Around the Purpose Trifecta

Every great team is clear about its purpose, and in Building the Best, I called it the purpose trifecta. Its name comes from horse racing, where a bettor can make a wager on the outcome of a race through a trifecta bet. The bettor must have all three horses picked- who will finish first, second and third in the correct order. If the horses do this, the best yields a higher payout than any other form of wager in the sport.  

The same is true for clarifying a purpose to lay the foundation for effective execution. The purpose trifecta is made up of values, vision, and mission. These tend to be evergreen and rarely falter because the strategy may change, but the purpose will not. 

The strategy may change, but the purpose won’t. 

Clarifying these three cornerstones will increase your odds of team buy-in and successful execution. 

2. Define Stretch Goals with Deadlines

The verb form of the word team means coming together as a group to achieve a common goal. Setting a clear goal for your team is instrumental in attaining your mission and vision. However, the team is far more likely to succeed if the goal is specific and each team member gets behind it. Research by Dr. Gail Matthews found people are 42% more likely to achieve a goal if it’s written down. 

Have a stretch goal for your team that has a deadline. I use a formula in our leadership workshops that’s simple:

Clear objective + Completion Date + Carrot = Team Goal

The fastest path to improve execution is defining the targets for your team or individuals. 

3. Have a Clear Plan and Strategy 

Once we have a stretch goal defined, planning and strategy enter the picture. For a football coach, this would be their game plans, playbook, and formations. For a sales manager, this would be their messaging, compensation plans, sales process, and targeting of accounts. 

Monte Pedersen believed strategy is where most managers make mistakes. He said, “The #1 cause of execution failure from leaders is they don’t effectively translate strategy across the organization or team.”  

Pederson is right because executing without a plan or strategy is nothing more than hoping success will happen. While it’s possible success does happen, it certainly won’t have any consistency. 

Execution without a plan or strategy is nothing more than hoping success will happen. 

Using performance management tools like Peoplebox to house OKRs or Asana to track tasks and actions is essential in the modern workplace to be clear on planning and strategy, so it bleeds into execution. 

4. Make Modification in the Moment

Mike Tyson famously said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” One of the critical pillars of execution is knowing that plans will change, and making modifications at the moment is essential. Leaders who are slow to adjust or pivot will be left behind and will hold their team back from being successful.

Adjusting, pivoting, and being flexible are requirements for leaders to be successful today.  

If that wasn’t enough, if you are going to create a culture of execution, you can’t let things go beyond the moment of impact. For example, if someone on a team is failing to meet the team’s execution standards, they must know. The longer leaders let it slide, the longer it will take to recover. 

Have the courage to modify the plan based on new information and be willing to communicate with your team when they fall short. 

5. Align Team Members and Resources 

Many organizations fail to properly allocate resources (time, people, money) to implement strategies successfully. This causes teams to splinter and go at different speeds and in alternative directions.  

To counter this, yearly, quarterly, and monthly alignment sessions or what some call “strategic planning sessions” are essential. These dedicated times allow leaders to work on the business as much as in the business. To take a step back with their team to identify where they need to start, stop, or continue doing. 

Closing

Regardless of your role, execution is at the center of your success. Ideas are great, but action will always be more important. If you focus on these five pillars, you will be on your way to shrinking the gap between your goals and optimal outcomes.  

John’s New Book Sign up to get early access to John’s new book. By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released Sign up here.

Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.