The Simple Method to Act Like a Servant Leader

Business leadership and teamwork concept

Imagine for a moment you’re an architect of a new commercial building. It is in a busy, up-and-coming part of town, and there are only two rules for the project: The entrance has to be able to keep horses out, and no one who enters or exits will have to open the door for someone else. What kind of entryway would you design?

Normal hinge doors will not work. Neither will a new-age automatic slinging one. Instead, your only real option would be a revolving door. As legend has it, the revolving door was created by Theophilus Van Kannel in 1888 in response to these exact specifications. What is wonderful about this invention is that the revolving door does not care who pushes it. It does not automatically refuse to move because of someone’s gender, race, age, or skill level. It does not have an expiration date, but rather keeps turning, day in and day out, to help people get from where they are to where they are trying to go. 

I use this visual of a revolving door because the best leaders behave like one. They invite people in only to exit them on the other side, a better version of the person who walked in.  

Great leaders invite people on a journey and ensure they exit a better version than they started.  

Lean Into Purpose Over Motivation

Leaders that act as a revolving door aren’t afraid to lose a talented person to a better opportunity because preparing people to meet their potential is a part of their purpose. The best leaders are purpose driven and committed to a deeper cause. A great example comes from the sport of marathon running, which I shared in a recent keynote (need a speaker for an upcoming leadership event?)

Whether you have ever had a leader who is purpose-driven and acts as a revolving door for others or not, being someone who invites and improves others isn’t only meant for certain people. What’s required is someone to choose to take the initiative and responsibility to lead. In my work coaching and developing leaders over the last decade, I have found that most people don’t make this choice because they don’t know what it means to lead.  

In Building the Best, I defined leadership this way. Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others. It doesn’t take a title to lead like this. The reality is you can lead regardless of your title or position. 

You can choose to lead regardless of your title or position.

You can lead at work, in your family, or in the community. I hope you aspire to let people in, then come out on the other side better than they were before.  

The PTS Method

There is a simple yet highly effective method to help remind you to lead this way. The reason it is simple is that simple is remembered, and complex is forgotten. 

Simple is remembered, complex is forgotten. 

This simple strategy is the “PTS Method” and something I have put into practice in my own life, both at work and home. It’s a way to flip your mindset away from “about you” to “elevating others.” Here is how it works.  

When you change environments, say to yourself, “prepare to serve” and then put it into action. An example of changing settings would be moving from one meeting to the next. Before walking in the door or logging into your next Zoom meeting, you would say, “prepare to serve.” Without thinking much after that or trying to do anything drastically different, you will have other people’s interests top of mind.  

Try it tonight at home. Before walking through the door, say to yourself, “prepare to serve.” You will be amazed at how willing you are to help out your spouse or your kids simply because you have changed your thinking. This is essential because our mind is the single most powerful asset we have.

All servant leaders begin with a shift in thinking.

When you put the “PTS” method into practice every day, you’ll quickly become a servant leader, which makes others want to emulate your actions.  

Closing

I would be lying to you if I told you I was always able to remember the “PTS” Method. Leading other people is hard, and I make mistakes each and every day. I disappoint my team and I think about myself too much at times. I fail to serve, empower, and inspire others, and you will, too. This journey will never be a perfect one. There is no ultimate destination but a journey of becoming the very best leader you can be.

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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 Help Underperforming Employees

variation

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out some people perform better than others. Not only do high-performing professionals produce better business outcomes, but they tend to be more engaged and help their team or organization be successful. 

Unfortunately, most professionals aren’t reaching their full potential. Research of over 14,500 employees found approximately 85% were not working at 100% of their potential. If that weren’t bad enough, 16% said they were using less than 50% of their potential. 

As scary as these statistics are, feelings of doubt, worry, emptiness, and hopelessness set in when we underperform for long periods. We start to believe we aren’t good enough or worthy enough of success, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  

When people underperform for long periods, they start to believe they aren’t worthy of success, which couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Many possible factors can cause us to underperform. These are just a few: 

  • Lack of talent
  • Bad coaching or being uncoachable
  • Limited work ethic or self-discipline
  • Scarce resources
  • Bad or unfortunate luck 

Since some of these factors are outside of our control, it’s important to lean into the one thing that can help any underperforming team member. A leader who cares and embraces the responsibility of helping other people reach their full potential. 

Often, the only thing holding someone back from reaching their full potential is a leader who cares about them. 

If you are leading an underperforming team member or want to take your current team to higher performance levels, here’s what you can do.

1. Reinvest in the Relationship

People work harder and push themselves to new performance levels when there is a bond of mutual trust with their boss.

Researchers at the University of Berkley studied what motivates productivity in professionals. When people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive. But what’s even more astonishing is that when people felt valued and cared for, their productivity and effectiveness experienced a 43% increase. Make time for one-on-one meetings with team members to find out what’s important to them, what goals they want to achieve, and what current challenges they are facing in their life.  

2. Clarify The Truth

One of the most significant mistakes leaders make is providing a lack of clarity around how their team members are currently performing. If I have learned anything from coaching managers and executives over the last ten years it’s this: great leadership clarifies.

Great Leadership Clarifies

Clarifying performance doesn’t mean solely focusing on the outcomes, a person or team achieves. Instead, the best leaders focus on the leading performance indicators instead of lagging indicators. They observe and coach things like effort, attitude, and skill development because they know these are the things that ultimately produce consistent outcomes. 

3. Elevate the Standards

Anytime performance isn’t where you need or want it; it’s time to elevate the standard. A standard is simply defining what good looks like. In Building the Best, I wrote;

Good leaders define what good looks like; Great leaders define what great looks like. 

I shared some ideas for this in a recent keynote:

4. Accelerate with Accountability

Many words make people uncomfortable; “accountability” is one of those words. Accountability is simply the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.

My mentor always told me, “What you tolerate, you encourage.” It is your obligation to hold yourself and others accountable to the standards. Otherwise, you’re encouraging sub-standard behavior. To do this effectively, have the courage and a proven model to have direct dialogues with your people when standards aren’t met. 

5. Give Ample Time 

One of the fastest ways to improve performance isn’t by addition but by reduction. If you have given ample time, effort, and coaching to help improve a team member’s performance and nothing seems to change, it’s time to move on.  

Do your best to find a different situation, role, or leader to help support their future development. The hard truth is that no leader is the perfect fit for everyone, which is ok.  

Closing

While there is no perfect or full-proof strategy to turn around an underperforming team member, I hope these ideas help you. 

There is nothing easy about helping turn around an underperforming team member. However, helping someone meet their full potential is a worthwhile endeavor. The benefits to their life and career are unquantifiable. 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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 Think About Growth

growth

Everyone claims to be “so busy” these days. The truth is, we make time for what’s important to us. If you want to get in better shape, you make time for it. If you want to be a better golfer, you make time for it. The same is true in leadership. 

Before we go any further, let’s get on the same page about one crucial truth: Leadership skills are developed, not something you are born with. Your development as a leader is paramount because of the potential impact on other people. There isn’t a better quote to depict this than from Warren Buffett:

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted the tree a long time ago.

However, many professionals in leadership positions focus on one kind of growth, revenue growth. And while revenue growth is essential for any business, it can be taken away instantly by things out of your control. Or even worse, solely focusing on financial growth can turn us into something we don’t want to become. 

The best leaders recognize this and focus on growing themselves and others in order to expand their business. 

Growth in Outcomes vs Growth in People

Let’s use two different sales managers as an example to differentiate the difference in growth in outcomes vs. growth in people.

Sales Manager A, solely focuses on outcomes. His team achieves excellent results in the first, second, and third quarters. However, when adversity hits, both he and the team struggle mightily to overcome and persevere. Thus causing significant drops in performance and an increase in turnover over the next three quarters.  

Sales Manager B, is rooted in the growth of people. Her team achieves good results in her first and second quarters and great results in the third quarter. Then, when adversity hits, each team member embraces the new opportunity in front of them, pivots their approach, embraces change, and perseveres despite the obstacles. Performance drops in the fourth quarter, but her team stabilizes much faster than her counterpart, and the group becomes stronger the following year. 

What I want you to take away from the example of the two sales managers is this: 

Bad growth is rooted solely in outcomes; good growth is rooted in people.

Why Most People Aren’t Committed to Personal Growth

There are many reasons why people aren’t committed to growing and developing as a leader:

  • Companies prioritize new products, services, and increasing short-term revenue during company events over the development of their people.
  • Performance reviews rarely focus on the development of people and instead focus solely on the last year’s results.
  • Managers think they are a finished product and have leadership all figured out.

But since you are reading this, I have a sneaky suspicion you aren’t one to make excuses but instead embrace personable responsibility. You want to answer a simple question, “How do I continue to grow even though I am busy?” 

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

1. Growth Starts With Your Mindset

The most significant part of your ongoing professional success is constantly learning and developing. If you forget this lesson or get complacent in your role, this is precisely when your value starts to diminish.

In a recent keynote, I shared a couple of ideas worth learning from

Unsure if you’re in the right mindset, simply answer the following question:

What’s something you have learned in the last 48 hours?

If it takes you a long time to come up with an answer, it might be time to shift your mindset.

2. Start or End the Day with Growth Affirmations

The development of any skill centers around confidence. As Helen Keller famously said, “Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” If you want to grow and help people around you grow, it will only happen through increasing belief in oneself.

Since confidence comes from within, the words you say to yourself are the most important words you say. 

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

A leader we studied in Building the Best, doesn’t let the year’s results determine her confidence. Instead, she looks in the mirror every day and reminds herself, “I am good enough, and I am worthy.” This simple affirmation only takes three seconds but packs an enormous impact. Here are a few of my favorite affirmations:

  • “My test will eventually become a testament to someone else.”
  • “With more practice, it will get easier.”
  • “I am a magnet for good things.”
  • “I am in the process of becoming the best version of myself.”

3. Commit to Growth 20

The best leaders start their day with a routine that helps them perform at their best. Certain leaders begin at 4 am with a workout, while others get going at 8 am with prayer or meditation. Regardless of your method, the key is to commit twenty minutes or more to grow yourself intentionally. 

It’s what I refer to as “Growth 20.” Twenty minutes a day, reading, listening or watching something that will help you grow. The options are endless with the explosion of podcasts, youtube, audiobooks, and columns like this one. All you have to do is create a sustainable habit to make it happen.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Listen to a book or podcast during your commute
  • Read a chapter of a book before bed instead of watching TV
  • Block 20 minutes on your calendar to read LinkedIn or Harvard Business Review  
  • Scroll social media looking for educational lessons instead of entertainment

Closing

Something fascinating happens when you grow yourself and others. Not only will you reach your full potential, but you will attract like-minded and equally talented people into your life.

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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 to Empower Not Delegate as a Leader

guidance

Have you ever wondered what separates leaders from managers? The list is long, and it includes things like inspiration instead of motivation and visionary instead of temporary. However, one significant difference is under your control and, more important than ever today, empowering rather than delegating.  

A common piece of advice from executives trying to help less experienced managers is, “you have to delegate more.” While the suggestion of taking things off of your plate and putting them on someone else’s makes sense on the surface, the intention behind the ask makes the difference.  

If you take nothing else from this column, I want you to take this:

When leaders delegate, it’s about them. When leaders empower, it’s about others. 

Empower vs. Delegate

One of the most significant mistakes leaders make is confusing delegation and empowerment. So let’s get on the same page about the difference between them.  

Harvard Business Review defines delegation this way. Delegation refers to the transfer of responsibility for specific tasks from one person to another. From a management perspective, delegation occurs when a manager assigns specific tasks to their employees.

According to Oxford Dictionary, Empowerment is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights” It enables others to be responsible for and take ownership over something. 

In Building the Best, I defined leadership as inspiring, empowering, and serving in order to elevate others. Empowering others to make decisions is an essential part of successful leadership today.  

A Mindset Shift is Required

A great example of the difference between delegating and empowering arose during one of my recent coaching calls with a rising star named Kara. Kara’s clinic was performing well, but she was getting burned out because she did everything. When asked what would help her, she replied, “I could delegate our supply buying process to one of my team members.”

While it was a great idea, she was thinking about delegation instead of empowerment. So I challenged her to change her thinking. “Instead of simply asking a team member to start ordering supplies, what if you empowered them to improve the supply buying process?”

Immediately Kara’s shifted her mindset from delegation to empowerment. This was her response as she roleplayed the conversation with her team member, “I have been thinking about how we can improve our supply buying process. Since you are so detail-oriented and a great negotiator, would you be open to taking ownership of our supply buying process for the next three months to see how it goes?”

Empowering team members transfers belief and ownership.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the difference in how the empowerment approach transfers belief and ownership versus delegating a potentially dull task.

Why Empowerment is Essential Today

Since the invention of the assembly line, delegating tasks to employees has made sense. However, thanks to remote work due to Covid-19, employees want something different and demand flexibility.  

On a recent episode of the Work-Life Podcast with Adam Grant, when describing the need for companies to rethink flexibility at work, he said, “managers are constantly creating constraints and limiting opportunities. What’s required is more flexibility while still meeting organizational objectives.” 

Today’s workplace requires more flexibility while still meeting organizational objectives.

As obvious as this may sound, its execution is ridiculously challenging. However, the payoff is a more engaged, innovative, and committed team. 

How Leaders Can Empower Others

Now that it’s clear the best leaders empower instead of delegate, how can you do it more effectively? Here are a few ideas to explore:

  1. Build a Bond of Mutual Trust 

Empowerment requires high levels of trust. Specifically, trust that’s bound together from every corner of the organization. Trust is simply consistency over time. This means trust is earned through a two-way street paved by consistent action. 

Trust is earned through a two-way street paved by consistent action. 

A street paved with leaders giving others a chance to earn flexibility so they can be empowered to do their best work, then team members willing to be patient and prove they are trustworthy.  

2. Focus on Mutual Commitments 

There is a big difference between being interested and being committed. The easiest way to have confidence that empowering others is the next move is to have a group of people committed to the mission, each other, and the effort required to succeed. 

One way to ensure you have this level of mutual commitment is for each team member to write or say, “My commitment is…” As simple as this may sound, our words are our bond. People are more likely to follow through if they verbally commit to themselves and someone else about their plan and intentions. 

People are more likely to follow through if they verbally commit to themselves and someone else about their plan and intentions. 

3. Share Common Values and Purpose

Money is easily the most popular incentivizing tool organizations use to retain and recruit employees. While pay is significant, it’s not the most important. People give their best effort when on a team that shares values and purpose. 

People give their best effort on a team that shares values and purpose. 

A consistent and systematic approach to aligning core values and communicating the deeper purpose behind the work is imperative. There is nothing worse than defining and talking about core values, yet leaders are not demonstrating them. Leaders are the primary driver of core values, so they must embody them correctly. 

Closing

If I told you it’s easy to empower others, I would be lying. Most people, myself included, have a difficult time giving up control. However, if you want to act and behave like the best leaders, empowering others is precisely what you need to do.  

If behaving like the best leaders isn’t enough, consider the business metrics you will positively impact, such as reduced turnover, increased revenue, and improved productivity. 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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 to Ask for Help the Right Way as a Leader

He needs help.

Do you remember how it felt to ask for help from someone else when what you were asking seemed like part of your job? Whether you did it well or not, chances are you felt weak, nervous, and a bit embarrassed.  

While these are natural human emotions, figuring out how to ask for help is a key to your success as a leader. The good news is that asking for help isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. It demonstrates to others you are humble, vulnerable, and trust others to do something meaningful.  

Asking for help as a leader isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. It demonstrates humility, vulnerablity, and trust in others. 

When a manager is unwilling or unable to ask for help from others, it increases the tension in a team and lowers the potential for what the group can achieve.  

Take Carol, a first-time manager, as an example. In her first three months in her new role, she did many things well, including building trust-based relationships and developing a high level of competence in the business and industry. After 90 days, her management team began to raise the bar on results and revenue performance expectations.  

However, instead of asking her team for help with ideas and execution, she did the opposite. Carol attempted to do everything on her own because she felt it was ultimately her responsibility. While her initial efforts positively moved the results needle, the business saw significant dips in performance shortly after.

Her regional manager saw what was happening and suggested Carol enroll in one of the company’s leadership development programs to assist in her development. One of the first steps of the program was a 360° leadership style assessment. In the digital assessment, her team provided feedback that helped unlock the answer to the problem, “Carol doesn’t have to do it all on her own and take the blame for everything. We are here to help. She just has to ask.”

All Carol was missing in her approach was this simple leadership lesson that we all need to be reminded of:

Asking team members for help exercises empowerment. 

Ask For Help or Ask For a Favor?

Help in the context of leadership is defined as providing someone with something that is useful or necessary in achieving an end result. This definition is critical because it exposes an essential distinction between asking for help and asking for a favor.  

Asking for help is about performance, asking for a favor is about convenience.  

The best leaders know to ask for help on things that directly impact performance. This means asking for assistance in completing critical tasks, coming up with innovative ideas, or giving ownership over something important.  

Asking for a favor in things of convenience are things like getting a coffee, getting something off of the copy machine, or sending out a meeting invitation. While there is nothing inherently wrong with asking for a favor, they don’t have the same positive effect as asking for help with things that directly impact performance. 

When leaders ask for help around things related to performance, it creates an empowered team. When leaders ask for favors around things of convenience, it just exercises authority. 

How to Ask for Help

Even though we now know asking for help around performance is essential because it demonstrates humility, vulnerability and builds trust, it can still be challenging to do. So here are a few tips for making the ask:

1.Frame it as they are the “Batman” not “Robin.”

Rather than acting as if you are “Batman” and you need “Robin” for a quick assist, reframe the request as they are “Batman.” It might sound like, “I am struggling to solve a specific problem, and I have seen you solve difficult problems before. Would you be willing to help me?”

2. Be Specific

Most leaders make a mistake when asking for help in not being specific about what they need help with. The more precise you can be about what outcome needs to be achieved and by when, the more urgency and focus it will create in your team members. 

3. Make it Conclusive

People are more likely to help when they know “why” their help is so important. An example might be, “Our team’s quarterly bonus depends on achieving XYZ, and I couldn’t think of a better person to help us get there.”  

Closing

Asking for help isn’t easy, but it’s a leadership superpower. I hope that you will begin to look at asking for help as a strength instead of a weakness. Because when you find the courage to invite your team into the improved performance process, excellent outcomes are right around the corner. 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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 Great Leaders Unleash the Best in Others

leadership

When it comes to someone developing into the best version of themselves, we’ve been tricked into believing a common myth: It’s the idea that people grow into this version of themselves on their own. 

We have all thought about this or even tried it. If you just read enough, practice enough, watch enough or get enough reps, your growth and development will take of itself. 

There is one big problem with this mindset; you are only going to be able to take yourself so far on your own, and it’s not going to be the best version of yourself. 

This is where leadership comes in. As Alex Judd, CEO of Path for Growth, reminded me in a recent episode of The John Eades Podcast, “The highest calling of a leader is to unleash the best in others.” He continued, “If you’re going to pursue that calling of leadership, you have to believe the best is possible.”

A leader’s highest calling is to unleash the best in others.

Why Most Managers Don’t Do It

There are many reasons leaders stop short of helping unleash the best in others, but to put them in the most common order, it would be:

  1. They don’t think they are good enough or worthy enough to do it
  2. They don’t know how to do it
  3. They are concerned about losing team members to turnover
  4. They are fearful team members will surpass them (thus the leader becomes less valuable)

If you have ever felt these or experienced any of these from a previous boss, know these are unhealthy and faulty beliefs. And before anyone can change how they do something, it begins with their beliefs. If you take nothing else away from this article, please remember this; the things you believe determine how you behave.

The things you believe determine how you behave. 

So how do you change your beliefs and unleash the best in others? Here are four tips to keep in mind:

1. You Can’t Do it For Them.

I know this sounds counterintuitive, but you have to start with the correct mindset that you can’t do the self-disciplined work for anyone else. You should model the behavior and demonstrate to your team the kind of effort and discipline it takes to unleash the best version of yourself, but you shouldn’t force them to do the same.  

It reminds me of the old quote; “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” A leader’s job is not to do the work for someone else. Instead, it’s to be a vehicle to help them develop. 

A leader’s job is not to do the work for someone else. Instead, it’s to be a vehicle to help them develop.

2. Discover What They are Trying to Achieve

The best and easiest way to unleash the best in others is to have a solid grasp on what they are trying to achieve and where they are trying to go. Too often, leaders assume people want to arrive at the same or a similar destination as they do.  

For example, a salesperson may want to be a VP of Sales, but not every salesperson wants to go on to be a VP of Sales. It’s possible for a college basketball player to have a vision of playing in the NBA, but not every college basketball player wants to play professional basketball.  

The only way to unleash the best in others is to uncover their personal goals, dreams, and aspirations and tie your coaching to helping them achieve those things. 

3. Challenge Their Growth

If you settle for the same opportunities, output, or effort people give on a day in, day out basis; there won’t be much growth. One of my favorite quotes on the subject comes from Fred DeVito, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!” Often what leaders must do is to challenge their team healthily. 

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

Challenging people in a healthy way comes in many forms. For example, you can do it verbally in coaching interactions or with development opportunities such as industry events, distributing books, sharing blogs, or bringing in a speaker. Instead of getting caught up in how you do this for your team, the key is that you are doing it.   

Essential Reminder

The danger of this kind of challenging approach is if the people you are trying to develop don’t know you care about them, you risk challenging them having the opposite of your intended effect. So keep in mind one of my favorite leadership lessons, “connect before you correct.”

“Connect before you correct.”

4. Be an Uber Coach

One way a leader separates themselves from being a manager is the mindset they take to coaching others. A coach, by definition, trains and instructs. Coaching comes from the word “carriage,” meaning to take someone from point A to point B.  

In our Coaching for Excellence workshops, I teach leaders to embrace the mindset of an “Uber Coach.” Much like an uber driver, leaders must be willing and able to coach team members anyplace and anytime when needed or required.  

Coaching once a year in a performance review isn’t coaching, it’s negligence.

If you are going to unleash the best in others, you must coach them like crazy. While outside professional or executive coaches can provide tremendous perspective, they can’t coach daily. If you lead a team, it’s your responsibility to make coaching your people a top priority. 

Closing

Doing these things will not work on 100% of the people you pour into. But it will work on individuals who are coachable and desire to get better.

This is when your leadership efforts will propel them to unleash the best version of themselves and allow them to move onwards and upwards to bigger and better things.  

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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.

Why the Best Leaders Look at Challenges as Opportunities

Business challenge and risk concept

Overcoming complex challenges can be tough. You’ll have moments when you feel your only option is to give up. Doubt, stress, and obstacles can come in intense waves. Challenges, especially as a leader, are a journey with many steep mountains. 

But if you want to be a successful leader- the sort you were created to be, it requires looking at challenges as opportunities. Because the best leaders know challenges are opportunities wrapped in ugly wrapping paper. 

The best leaders know challenges are opportunities wrapped in ugly wrapping paper. 

To take this idea even a step further, approach challenges not as something you have to deal with, not even as something you get to deal with, but as something you choose to solve. 

In research by LearnLoft, we have found that there are a set of common challenges that leaders face regardless of industry. While they are typically described differently with varying symptoms and players, the root of the issues remains the same. These eight challenges are faced by middle to upper managers pretty uniformly. 

So what are these opportunities wrapped up as challenges in ugly wrapping paper?

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1. Inspiring Others

This challenge is number one because inspiration is the core difference between managers and leaders. Managers use authority and titles to demand behavior while leaders inspire action. 

2. Redefining Culture 

Another challenge facing leaders today is redefining their culture amidst remote & hybrid work. Redefining and maintaining an elite culture is difficult but ultimately attainable. 

3. Meeting the Needs of Team Members

The challenge of consistently trying to meet every team member’s needs and expectations is wildly complicated. If that weren’t enough, the number of direct reports leaders now are responsible for has increased by 25% or more on average. This means devoting adequate time to more people is hard. 

4. Enabling Change

The challenge of opening people’s hearts and minds to different ways of thinking and behaving than they are previously accustomed to is difficult because we are wired to resist change. However, every industry is in a state of transformation, so change is required to stay ahead or advance past the competition. 

5. Developing Skills

Whitney Johnson, Author of Smart Growth, highlighted developing people as a significant leadership challenge. She told me, “People want to grow. They want more because the Great Resignation is really the Great Aspiration. Leaders have the humility to grow themselves to grow their people.” There is nothing easy about coaching skills and creating new opportunities for people to develop. If this is a struggle for you, check out the upcoming Coaching for Excellence workshop. 

6. Recruiting Talent

The challenge of recruiting talented people is evergreen. However, there isn’t a leader I have coached or trained in the last twelve months that isn’t concerned with recruiting more than they used to be. The labor shortage has hit nearly every industry.

7. Creating an Excellent Team 

A challenge for any leader is to bond people together to accomplish more than they can on their own. A team, by definition, is a group of people that come together to achieve a common goal. While it might sound simple, it’s anything but, especially in remote work and mental health crises. 

8. Unlocking Elite Execution 

A significant opportunity for any leader is improving daily execution. Monte Peterson, Principle of CDA Group and expert in all things execution said it well, “For as much as people talk about execution and claim it as the reason their organization’s plan was met with failure for yet another year, it just proves that not many really understand it.” 

9. Avoiding Burnout 

The most emerging challenge facing leaders today is avoiding burnout in themselves and their team. There is immense pressure from the C-Suite to increase results faster. While speed is essential, it also causes burnout. 

When leaders solve these nine challenges they will have more fulfilled, engaged, and productive team members. 

How to Begin to Solve These Leadership Challenges

Solving some or all of these will require ongoing effort, strategy, and modifications. Here are a few solid ideas to help you in the short term. 

Earn Trust and Strengthen Relationships

Leadership has always been about relationships, but trust-based relationships are more important than ever. Remote and hybrid work has made it increasingly difficult to have authentic and genuine relationships built on the bond of mutual trust.  

Great leaders build authentic and genuine relationships built on the bond of mutual trust. 

In Building the Best, I wrote about a way to build trust called “The Trust Compound Theory.” This means you get the opportunity to develop stronger bonds of mutual trust by sharing your competence, showing you care, and exposing your character. 

Empower Others to Solve Problems

You will solve more problems and overcome challenges faster and more effectively if you empower others to make decisions. The word empower means “to give control over another’s life and the authority to do something.” So often, managers do the opposite of empowering. They micromanage when challenges arise. 

Suppose you want to get better at empowering your people and inviting them into the problem-solving process. In that case, it starts with making them aware that solving problems is a part of their job responsibility regardless of their title. 

Make team members aware that solving problems is a part of their job responsibility regardless of their title. 

Come up with a Maximizing Mantra for the Year

There will always be priorities and market changes that grasp your people’s attention. With as fast as the business world is moving, we are past the point of being able to have a one-item execution list. 

However, you can create a maximizing mantra to create consistent energy on a team or company. A Maximizing Manta is a short and simple phrase that provides clarity, is action-oriented, and is fun. A few of my favorite examples include:

  • Let’s Go
  • Move the Needle
  • Row the Boat

When you or your team come up with a Mantra for the rest of this year, please put it on walls, T-shirts, or slack channels. Use it to keep it in the forefront of your people’s eyes and hearts. 

Recommit to Core Values 

Take a lesson from Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerburg. After two decades of running one of the largest tech companies in the world, they have reset and added new core values to help prepare for a more distributed, more honest, and faster future. 

On a recent episode of the Tim Ferris Podcast, Zuckerberg said, “One of the things that I’ve always found is you can … get an organization and a team through almost any challenge as long as you can maintain good cohesion.”

He outlined five refreshed core values and precisely what they meant to him and his team at Meta. 

Reward and Recognize Effort

One of the biggest reasons teams consistently face the same challenges is because leaders are too critical of their team. Instead of encouraging them to persevere and looking for new and better ways to solve problems, they judge.  

People tend to shut down and give less than their maximum effort when this happens. While there are places for critical feedback and tough conversations, more leaders must start rewarding and recognizing the positive effort team members demonstrate daily. 

Leaders must start rewarding and recognizing the positive effort team members demonstrate daily. 

A great trick for this is to give at least three positive comments to every critical one.  

Closing

If there has ever been a time to turn challenges into opportunities, it’s right now.  

It’s my hope these strategies will help you turn your team or organization run toward these opportunities because that’s precisely what the best do.  

Coaching for Excellence Workshop Ready to develop your coaching skills to help others reach their full potential? Learn more about Coaching for Excellence

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.

Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Be Coachable

Business Coach

Do you remember how it felt when you were unsure how to do something, and someone stepped in to coach you through it? Whether it was to finish a big project, accomplish something meaningful, or learn a new skill, chances are, you felt thankful, grateful, and empowered.

While these are natural human emotions, figuring out how to consistently seek help from others and learn from those around you isn’t easy. The reason is simple; most people want to do it independently. They want to believe the false narrative of being a “self-made man or self-made woman.” One’s ability to put ego and pride aside and be coachable is often is the difference between success and failure. 

One’s ability to put ego and pride aside and be coachable is often is the difference between success and failure.

Take Mike Grier as an example. He grew up in Massachusetts with dreams of playing in the National Hockey League (NHL). 

Thanks to some success in high school, Grier got the opportunity to play at Boston University. The problem was he was too big and slow at over 250 pounds to make a significant impact on the ice. While fans loved watching his big hits on the opposing team, most didn’t believe he had any long-term future in hockey.

However, others didn’t know the advice his parents had given him before starting his collegiate career. “We only ask one thing of you, and that’s to be coachable.”

They were right. The college coaches told him he would need to follow a rigorous offseason conditioning program. He lost 27 pounds and started his sophomore year as a sculpted athlete. And he became committed to becoming a better defensive player.

The rest was history in more ways than one. He emerged as a collegiate superstar that year. With the blessing of his coach, he left college early and went directly to the NHL. After being born and trained in the United States, he became the first-ever African-American player to make the NHL. He was never a superstar, but he had a long and successful career in the NHL. 

While Mike Grier’s story is unique to sports and him, being coachable is essential, especially for you and me.

What’s Coachability and Why is it Important?

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. A mentor of mine always told me:

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.

According to Leadership IQ, if you aren’t coachable, it’s also tough to make a successful job move. They conducted a three-year study of 20,000 hiring decisions and asked, Why do 46% of new hires fail within a year and a half? The number one reason from hiring managers was lack of coachability. If you have big career advancement goals, you had better learn to be coachable and show that trait to others.

What’s interesting about coachability is that it’s not technical skill or inherent to us. It’s a mental mindset that anyone can embrace.

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

Reject Your Natural Instincts

What’s interesting about coachability is it tends to follow our instincts. The less experienced and less mature you are, the harder it is to be coachable. (No better example than teenagers). Then on the opposite end of the scale, as you get older and have more success, your results will tell you that you have figured it all out and don’t need to be coachable. But what’s most impressive are those professionals at both ends of this spectrum who remain coachable and seek coaching. 

What I have learned studying and coaching some of the best and worst leaders on the planet is the best leaders don’t define their coachability by learning alone. Instead, they define it by their ability to apply what they learn.

The best leaders define their coachability not by learning alone, but by their ability to apply what they learn. 

Unless you lack the skill of coachability altogether, you can probably keep your mouth shut for long enough to listen to someone else. The trick is to ask yourself the following question: 

  • “Are you genuinely interested in learning from someone else and applying what they teach you, or are you just thinking about how you will respond to what they say to demonstrate all you know?”

Coachable vs. Uncoachable

You would think most people would know the difference between being coachable and uncoachable, but that wouldn’t be the case. Here is a simple way to think about it:

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So the natural question becomes, how do you “respect the critical eye” and develop the skill of coachability.

1.Stay on the Path of Growth

I saw TD Jakes speak one time, and he summed up the best way to stay on the path of growth, “The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you go to school.” These aren’t just wise words; they are brilliant words. It’s a reminder to never stop learning and seeking growth on your personal and professional journey. Since you are reading this, I know you are on a growth path. The challenge for you is to stay on it. I wrote in Building the Best about a patten around personal development called AOL, an acronym that stands for Action, Outcome, Learning. Embrace AOL on your path of growth. 

“The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you go to school.”

2. Get a Coach

If you are lucky enough to have a manager or boss that acts as a coach, consider yourself in an elite class. If you don’t, get someone with outside expertise and experience to help you on your journey. If budget is a problem, try to leverage someone close to you, such as a friend or group of colleagues. The best part is coaches aren’t like a marriage, it doesn’t have to be forever.  

3. Be Willing to Accept Feedback Responsibly

There is an old saying that’s it’s tough to read the label from the inside of the jar. Often we get so close to things or people that it’s hard to accept that we have blind spots or need help. Leave your ego at the door, put the excuses in the drawer, and take any criticism or feedback as a vehicle to help you grow.

Closing

A few keys to being coachable are staying on the path to growth, getting a coach, and accepting feedback responsibiliy. I will leave you today with the exact words I tell my 7-year-old daughter when I drop her off at dance. “There are only two rules today. Be coachable and be competitive.”

I hope you will be in a relentless pursuit to be both coachable and competitive. Here is the best part, if you and your team stay coachable, results are right around the corner.

Coaching for Excellence Workshop Ready to develop your coaching skills to help others reach their full potential? Learn more about Coaching for Excellence

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 to Develop The Most Underrated Leadership Skill

Conceptual image of business vision and leadership

Leadership, in many ways, is a journey of learning, refining, and applying a multitude of essential skills. From the moment you embrace the responsibility to lead, you’re bound to this cycle whether you know it or not. 

Skills like communicationcoachingaccountability, and relationship building show their importance rather quickly. Then others fly under the radar like emotional intelligence, empathy, and positivity that most learn through the school of hard knocks.  

As important as all these skills are to being a successful leader, there is one attribute that most people overlook and undervalue. That skill is vision. 

The most underrated and often overlooked leadership skill is vision.  

The reasons most leaders overlook vision as a leadership skill is typically one of three reasons:

  • Assume people are born as visionary
  • Assume its only for executive leaders like CEO’s
  • Have never been taught how to develop a vision

While these are common, none of these beliefs are helpful or true. However, what we have found in our research is when leaders lack vision, it limits results, reduces energy, and creates a culture that struggles to embrace change.  

When leaders lack vision, it limits results, reduces energy, and creates a culture that struggles to embrace change.  

What is Visionary Leadership?

In Building the Best, I defined leadership as inspiring, empowering, and serving in order to elevate others over an extended period of time. I want to emphasize “over an extended period of time.” It is extremely difficult to create an improved state for a long time without first delivering a vision of a vastly better future than exists today.  

The best leaders are visionaries. They have in view what is possible in the future. They rarely know precisely how their team or organization will get there, but that’s what elite execution is for. The late great Dr. Myles Munroe used to say, “vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.”  

“Vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.”

While this may sound funny, your eyes are actually the enemy of you becoming a better visionary leader. This is because they are limited to what you can physically take in. 

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Examples of Visionary Leaders

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

The janitor got it. He understood NASA’s vision and his part in it even though most others would say he was just mopping the floors.

In modern times, there is no better example of a visionary leader than Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX. While astronauts have ventured into space for decades, Musk and his team at SpaceX are fervently working on space travel for the citizen population. Elon set out a beautiful and bold vision for his team, “We are going to land people on Mars by 2025.” Imagine coming to work every single day working to put human beings on Mars!

How to Develop Your Leadership Vision 

You don’t have to be the President of the United States, a janitor, or a tech titan to have a vision people can get behind. While it is true, some people may have an easier time thinking in the future tense, every single person can develop a vision and learn to see beyond what is right in front of them.

Every leader can develop their vision and learn to see beyond what is right in front of them. 

Here is how I coach leaders to lean into their vision. It starts by asking these questions: 

  • What does the future look like? 
  • What is happening on the team or in the company? 
  • How many people are joining you on the journey? 
  • What kinds of people? 
  • What is the celebration going to look like? 
  • How are you going to feel when it happens? 
  • How is your team going to react?  
  • What is your family going to say? 
  • How will the world be different? 
  • How will the lives of the people you touch in the process be different?  

Closing

Whether you have proactively thought about a vision for yourself, your team, your organization, or your family before, it’s time to leverage something I learned from one of the best visionary leaders I have watched speak, Mike Whan. Whan is the CEO of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and he puts his vision into action by calling it, “Big Bold Leadership Initiatives” 

Here is the exercise to come up with your own Big Bold Leadership Initiatives.

Find yourself a quiet place. Put on an inspiring playlist (here is mine on Spotify), close your eyes, and envision big, bold possibilities in the future. If you need to ask yourself the questions from above. Regardless of what comes to mind, write them down. Do this exercise at the rhythm and cadence that you require. The more often you do it, the more comfortable you will get. Of course, you always know you are becoming a visionary leader when you communicate these big bold leadership initiatives and you hear people say, “No way, that is just not possible.”

Do you agree vision is the most underrated leadership skill? Tell me in the comments

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. 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 Are Handling the Return To the Office

Remote work

For many people, March and April are the beginning of the end of remote work.  

Whether you love remote work or hate it, most people have been amazed at the performance and productivity of employees. Several studies over the past few months show productivity while working remotely from home is better than working in an office setting. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47% more productive.

If productivity wasn’t enough, saving hours a day from a commute and having more time for exercise and family are enormous benefits. But after two years of working from home, the return to the office is now upon you. Companies of all sizes and industries have communicated their return to the office policy.  

Take Google as an example. They announced a mandatory three-day-a-week return to the office for most employees. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, CEO Sundar Pichai said, “A set of our workforce will be fully remote, but most of our workforce will be coming in three days a week. But I think we can be more purposeful about the time they’re in, making sure group meetings or collaboration, creative collaborative brainstorming, or community building, happens then. I’m excited. I think people and teams are going to figure this out, but overall I feel energized that we get to rethink for the next 10 years.”

While I am sure not all of Google’s employees are thrilled with the decision, Pichai demonstrated outstanding leadership and thoughtfulness in his approach by looking beyond just having employees back physically in an office. 

I was a guest of Tyler Dickerhoof on a recent episode of The Impact Driven Leader Podcast, and I said this about the return to the office, “In many ways, a return to the office is a great thing. However, if we are going to go back into the office to work exactly like we are working at home, that is a terrible policy.”

Don't just bring people back to the office to do the same work they are doing at home.

See, most companies and leaders have been so focused on defining their return to the office policy they have forgotten the most essential part: “What team members are going to do differently while they’re there.” So you might as well take this moment to answer the question for yourself:

“What are team members going to do differently while they are in the office versus working remotely?”

Go Beyond the Screen

Having interviewed and coached hundreds of professionals in the last year, the overwhelming priority employees mention in a job search is “flexible and remote work options.” The scary part is they say this before their salary or compensation desires. The organizations and leaders who embrace this demand will win the talent war.  

Leaders whose return to the office policy is anchored in trust and focuses on work beyond a screen will be most successful. 

If you are interested in going beyond the screen and making sure the time you are in the office with your colleagues is more purposeful, make sure these are on the agenda:

1. Team Building Activities

Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and email are great ways to communicate and get work done collaboratively. What these tools often lack is mechanisms to build stronger relationships and more cohesive teams. However, being back together in person allows teams to be authentic and vulnerable with each other. 

Being in person allows teams to be authentic and vulnerable with each other. 

But here is the kicker, this doesn’t happen by accident. Team building activities could be a planned event like playing pickleball or a tough roundtable question like, “what does each person need to do better to help us be more successful?”

Regardless of the activities that work best for your team, to be authentic and vulnerable requires leaders to craft time and safe spaces for teams to open up, get to know each other, and say what needs to be said. 

2. Purpose Sessions 

I wrote in Building the Best “people persevere because of purpose, not pay.” Fully remote work makes it hard to engrain a more profound purpose like mission, vision, and core values into a team.  

People persevere because of purpose, not pay

Now is the time to double and triple down on the core values of your team or organization and highlight precisely what it means to live them out daily. 

3. Role and Skill Audits

The majority of organizations have performance evaluations yearly. Now is the time to Conduct “Role and Skill Audits.” Role and skill audits have three essential parts:

  1. Ask team members, “Are you in the right role?” or “Are there any other roles or skills you want to explore?”
  2. Ask managers, “What team members aren’t in the right role” or “What skill gaps do you have on the team?”
  3. Shift employees to better align with their interests and gaps that exist

4. Strategy Symposium

Strategic alignment is one of the essential things any organization or team can achieve. However, doing it well online is difficult. Block three days to solely focus on strategy, competition, and the current market. This will be time well spent because most people like to work in the business versus on the business.  

There has never been a time to schedule a strategy symposium. Here is the kicker: whether you plan to return to the office or not, don’t wait another month without blocking an offsite strategy symposium. 

5. Development Workshops

As someone who has taught hundreds of virtual leadership development workshops through the pandemic, I have learned a few things. First, virtual workshops are more cost-effective and easier to host attend. Second, they are tougher to develop meaningful skills.  

If that wasn’t enough, it’s challenging for managers to keep a finger on the pulse of their team’s skill development with a fully remote workforce. So, unfortunately, most managers default to looking solely at short-term results instead of coaching long-term skills.

Most managers default to looking solely at short-term results instead of coaching long-term skills.

The point is, if you are going to bring people back together in person, focus on meaningful skill-building and development. 

A few additional ideas include: 

  • Mentoring Meetings
  • Innovation Conference
  • Employee Ted Talks About Lessons Learned From the Pandemic

Closing

Whether April is the beginning of the end of remote work for you or not, the reality is every team should be focusing on being more purposeful with the time team members are together in person. 

The stakes are high, and getting the return to the office right could make or break the future of your company. So focus more on what people will be doing together versus how many days they will be doing it.

John’s New Book Sign up to get early access to “The Leadership Lens” By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy it’s 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. 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.