3 Proven Leadership Strategies to Set Your Team Up for Success This Year

Analyzing strategy

Most leaders can attest to this truth: Success doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. When you plan, strategize, and maintain the right mindset, it creates sustained performance. Pablo Picasso said, “Our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan. There is no other route to success.” 

Unfortunately, most managers and executive leadership teams ignore this sound advice. Instead, they jump from one year to the next without much thought to strategy or planning. According to research outlined by Harvard Business Review, 85% of executive leadership teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy, and 50% spend no time at all. The research also reveals that, on average, 95% of a company’s employees don’t understand its strategy.

The best leaders spent dedicated time on a strategy to create focused execution.  

A strategy, by definition, is a plan of action intended to accomplish a specific goal. While the explanation is simple, few leaders use the downtime at the end of the year to set their team up for success in the new year. Instead, they roll into the new year by raising the revenue bar a little bit and hope the team achieves the new target. The problem is, as the late Rick page used to say, “hope is not a strategy.”

Hope is not a strategy.

So, whether you’ve spent a lot of time on strategy and planning yet or not, here are a few leadership moves to boost your team’s performance in the new year. 

1. Define New Goals and Systems

One of the most popular excuses I hear from leaders I coach who fail to meet their team goals each year is, “my employees aren’t good enough.” While talent could be lacking, employees are never the only problem. Edward Deming, the father of change management, said it well, “Employees are not the problem. The problem is the system and leaders are responsible for the system.”  

After working with various organizations to help their leaders improve their performance, I have concluded that team goals/systems fail for one of four reasons:

  • Clarity about the goals/systems
  • Commitment to the goals/systems
  • Agreement to the goals/systems
  • Coaching to achieve the goals/system

Now is the time to avoid these pitfalls, get crystal clear on what your team will achieve in the new year, and define the systems that will help you get there. 

Belief is a required ingredient for results. 

The truth is I don’t care whether you use OKR’s, KPI’s, WIG’s, or some other goal system. What I care about is that you select a method that works for you and your team. Because any method increases belief & belief is a required ingredient for results. 

2. Set the Crossbars, Standards, and Shelters

After studying thousands of organizations over the last ten years, I have noticed that world-class organizations have “Centers of Excellence” at every level. The leaders and team members are bought into the idea of excellence and the behaviors required to surpass ordinary standards year in and year out.  

I teach leaders who want to create “Centers of Excellence” in their sphere of influence to focus on crossbars, standards, and shelters. If you aren’t familiar with or haven’t been to one of our leadership workshops, the idea comes for the sport of High Jumping. The crossbar is the height in which the athlete must clear. The standards are what adjust the height of the crossbar. The shelter provides a safe place to land.  

Your job as a leader is to set inspirational crossbars (goals), define clear standards of behavior that are required to achieve those goals (standards), then create a psychologically safe environment for people to perform at their best (shelters).  

3. Schedule Personal Development Reviews

When individuals get better, the team gets better. The best leaders and teams understand this and work relentlessly to get improve. I share some ideas in a receive interview about why failure is not final; failure is feedback.

Instead of hoping your team members have this same mindset, it’s your job to encourage and coach them to improve in the new year. But, it turns out, most people have a warped sense of their strengths and weaknesses. The reasons for this are long, but it revolves around not being told the truth.  

If you want to set your team us for success in the new year, get the truth on the table. Schedule “Personal Development Reviews” (PDR’s) with each team member to share the truth about their strengths and weaknesses in a loving way. 

While this might seem like a meeting you could wing, it is not. It would help if you took time in advance to write out gains they have made and the opportunities for improvement for each team member. 

Individuals who make small improvements in themselves set their team up for big achievements. 

Professional Note: It’s tempting as a leader to share truths with team members and forget that you also are a work in progress. At the end of PDR’s, ask this question:

“I am working on my own development. What can I do more of or less of to help you become the best version of yourself?”

Closing

At the end of each year, I often reflect on the wise words of the late Colin Powell to prepare myself for success in the new year, “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in the little matters. Excellence is not an exception; it’s a prevailing attitude.”  

There has never been a better time to focus on the little things than the present. I hope you will make dedicated time to strategize and plan around some of these ideas to help set your team up for success in the new year. 

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.

John’s New Book John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up 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.

3 Ways to Be a More Authentic Leader

Leadership

When coming up with a list of essential leadership skills, it’s not uncommon to see words like “coaching” or “visionary” come up. While such skills are undoubtedly necessary, another skill has emerged as essential in modern leadership; authenticity.

Like many words and skills today, its true meaning has been hijacked. The word authentic is traditionally defined as “real or genuine; not copied or false.” When used in the context of leadership, I describe it as, “how a leader demonstrates and shares their genuine values, stories, and desires.” If the definition wasn’t clear enough, I want you to remember this leadership truth about authenticity:

Authentic leaders forge strong relationships and inspire others to bring their human self to work.

Are Today’s Leaders Authentic?

We have new leaders emerge every generation, but one truth endures; we become the leaders we watch, hear, and experience. Unfortunately, many current leaders who were exposed to inauthentic leadership are now leading the same way. They withhold the truth, act like they have it all figured out, and leverage people to serve their needs. While I believe people can change and remain hopeful those leading this way would take a different approach, those are challenging habits to break. 

Luckily, many of today’s leaders appear to be fed up with being fake and are committed to being authentically human in their approach. 

The best leaders aren’t fake and are committed to being authentically human in their approach. 

Whatever your leadership journey has looked like so far, here are a few ideas for how to be more authentic as a leader:

No alt text provided for this image

1. Share Personal Stories

There is a long list of things you can do to be an authentic leader, but sharing personal stories is at the top of the list.  

I asked Kara Goldin, founder of Hint and author of Undaunted, “Why is being an authentic leader so critical in today’s environment?” on the Follow My Lead Podcast. Her response was fantastic. “The best leaders are authentic and willing to share their story and struggles. The reason is people understand through stories who you are and what you are trying to achieve.”

Not only is Goldin correct, when leaders share their personal stories and struggles, it reveals their humanity to others. It fosters trust and makes leaders relatable.  

There is a fine line between sharing personal stories and oversharing information that makes people uncomfortable. The questions I coach leaders to answer before sharing a story are these: 

  1. “Is this going to help your people know you or relate to your perspective better?” 
  2. Does this story demonstrate empathy for their situation?”  

If the answer is yes to either of those questions, all it takes is the courage to share it. 

2. Tell the Truth

All too often, when there are things leaders must say to people, they avoid the topic or sugarcoat it so much that the truth never comes out. Authentic leaders refuse to fall into this trap and lean on telling the truth, even when it’s hard. The truth needs no crutches. I like to think of opinions versus reality this way. 

Opinions are overrated, and truths are underrated. 

Now that you know that telling the truth is an essential element of being an authentic leader, the secret is how you tell the truth. If you share the facts empathetically, it enhances the potential that someone is open to doing something different. However, if you speak condescending or come from a place of superiority, you will almost certainly get the inverse of your intended effect, 

3. Inspire With Hope

The reality of a situation isn’t always what we want to hear. This is why the most authentic leaders always paint a picture of hope if people decide to do things differently.  

“The most authentic leaders always paint a picture of hope.”

Napoleon famously said, “a leader’s role is to define reality, then give hope.” The longer I have studied great leaders, the more I recognize that they are constantly looking for opportunities to give hope. The world we live and work in is hard and constantly changing. Having a leader in a relentless pursuit of a better future is inspiring. 

Closing

There is nothing worse than a leader who believes they are tricking their people into thinking they are someone they are not. While it might last for a while, the truth always comes out. If you find yourself in a similar situation right now, I urge you to start the journey now of being a more authentic leader. 

Developing the skill of authenticity is a requirement to be a great leader. However, it isn’t easy and often takes decades to master it. Start small and focus on sharing personal stories, telling the truth, and inspiring with hope. 

The better you get at these three things, the more likely your people will look at you as someone authentic.  

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 to Coach Others When You’re a Manager

It’s a lot easier for people to perform without assistance than having to assist in their performance.

While most professionals have a decent sense of what skills they’re good at and which ones need work, most of us don’t have a manager who coaches and challenges us to get from where we are to where we want or need to be.  

Most professionals don’t have a manager who challenges us to get from where we are to where we want or need to be.

That lack of coaching from managers can be the difference between a promotion, achieving success, and increased self-confidence. When there is a lack of coaching from managers, team members are left to develop alone, which doesn’t allow one to reach their potential.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when this happens, professionals turn to wise voices outside of the organization, thus increasing the likelihood of leaving the organization sooner. Now, this isn’t to say executive coaching or external mentorship isn’t good or helpful; they are. However, they are best capitalized in addition to internal coaching efforts by managers and executives.  

Many coaching studies show that people who receive coaching can increase their confidence by as much as 80%. Most professionals also benefit from increased productivity, career clarity, and more effective communication skills. That’s because, contrary to what the culture might tell us, exceptional performance doesn’t happen independently. It’s often people who act as a coach who helps us reach our potential.  

Contrary to what the culture tells you, exceptional performance doesn’t happen independently. 

So, if you’re not sure if you are coaching others effectively, or you feel a little awkward trying to coach people you have worked with for some time, here’s a playbook to assist you.

1. Choose the Right Moments

Timing is everything in coaching because every moment isn’t a coaching moment. Many managers who struggle to coach their team treats every moment like a coaching moment.

Take Mark, a sales manager, as an example. Instead of having dedicated sales coaching sessions with his team to develop their skills and confidence, he chose to coach during or right after every sales call with his reps. Instead of it having the intended effect, his team began performing worse because they felt micromanaged and pressured to win. Thus, making them more tight and tense because they were solely focused on outcomes and what Mark might say about their performance. 

Conversely, if Mark chose to coach in the right moments, his team would focus on the process and skill-building, thus focusing on the process and concentrating on what they can control.  

While this is a specific sales example, it’s true for all managers because of this leadership truth:

Great coaches know there is a time to perform, and there is a time to work on things to perform.

Do your best to choose moments like one-on-one’s, performance reviews, or training sessions to provide coaching in the right moments. 

2. Focus on the Individual 

Coaching might appear like a group activity, but it’s really about the individual. While there are scenarios like a basketball coach where group coaching is essential, the focus should be on each person more often than not. 

One of the things I have learned in my leadership coaching practice is how essential it is for managers to identify where team members are currently in their development and align their coaching appropriately. The reason is that the goal is simple, to help someone reach a stage of development that exceeds where they are today. 

The goal of coaching is simple: help people reach a stage of development that exceeds where they are today.

One of the ways to do this is to make coaching a priority. I share some ideas in a video here

3. Stick to the Basics

While there are undoubtedly advanced tactics, tools, and strategies that can be used for team members at an advanced stage of development, most managers would be better at coaching if they stuck to the basics, centered around asking great questions. This allows managers to get curious and pull the information out of people instead of always giving them the answer.

Most managers would be better at coaching if they stuck to the basics centered around asking great questions.

Try to use open-ended questions, free of judgment. Here are some of my favorite examples to add to your arsenal:

  • What was a highlight and lowlight in your performance this week?
  • Can you walk me through your thought process and what you have tried up until this point?
  • What do you think we should do to create the best result for everyone?
  • Can you tell me more?

Closing

Coaching others as a manager isn’t easy. It takes confidence, courage, and a belief that you are following a proven playbook. I hope that choosing the right moments, focusing on the individual, and sticking to the basics will help you develop your people in the best way possible.  

The best part about being a manager is that even if you don’t do your best today, you will get another chance tomorrow.  

Do you agree?

Coaching for Excellence Workshop: Ready to be a more effective coach? Register for the Workshop on December 16th at 12 PM EST.

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.

John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and VP of Thought Leadership at Peoplebox. 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 Reduce Turnover in Key Employees

Inbound Marketing, Lead Magnet, Customer Attraction and Retention, B2B Concept

There is this common belief that every high-performing employee is looking for a different job. It’s almost as if a cloud of panic and worry has set in about the “great resignation.” It’s gotten so bad that the #1 concern of CEOs has become “hiring enough of the right people.”

While it’s undoubtedly true the quit rate for professionals is at its highest point since the U.S. Bureau of Labor started tracking the statistic in 2000, it doesn’t mean every employee is on the brink of quitting. 

In fact, if organizations put as much effort into retention as they do in recruiting they would be in a much better position. This is why the best organizations are winning the war for talent by focusing on retention over recruiting.  

The best organizations are winning the war for talent by focusing on retention over recruiting.

In a recent episode of the At the Table Podcast, Pat Lencioni said it well, “It’s never been more important to have a healthy organization and good culture because, for the shortage of people, the good ones are going to stay at the right places.” Not only is Lencioni right, but he also exposes the truth about how essential outstanding leadership is to retention.  

Great leaders put more effort into retention than they do in recruiting.

Prioritizing Retention Improves Recruiting

Recruiting talented people to join a team or organization will always be critical to long-term success. However, something phenomenal happens when leaders prioritize retention over recruiting. I refer to it as the “Retainment Cycle.” Here is how it works:

Great Culture + Engaged Employees + Optimum Results = Attracts Talent

No alt text provided for this image

Are you looking for ways to prioritize retention with your employees? Here are some great places to start. 

1. Make Retention Everyone’s Responsibility 

It’s tempting to believe that retention is only a manager’s responsibility, but that wouldn’t be true. While front-line managers play the biggest role in the retention of an employee, retention is everyone’s responsibility. I shared some ideas in a recent interview here:

2. 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. 

3. Coach and Train Like Crazy

People stay longer when they feel invested in and cared for. As Sir Richard Branson famously said, “train them well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

One way to train and care for employees is to have managers who act as a coach. A coach, by definition, trains, and instructs. In the Coaching for Excellence, I define coaching this way:

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

Organizations that create a coaching culture outperform their competitors and maintain an upward trend in human capital development. 

Closing

Making retention everyone’s responsibility, sharing common values & purpose, and coaching like crazy are just a few of the critical things leaders can do to priorities retention over recruiting. Other best practices include:

  • Engagement surveys
  • Training Programs
  • Executive Communication
  • Mentorship Programs
  • Rewards and Recognitions Programs

The key is to find what works best for your organization and go all-in on executing it relentlessly every day.  

Coaching for Excellence Workshop: Ready to improve your coaching skills? Register for the Workshop

John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

About the Author, John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and VP of Thought Leadership at Peoplebox. 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 Persist in Leadership Even When It’s Hard

Success is rarely ever built on one moment of genius; it’s often built on a shameless refusal to quit. That’s true in many things, leadership included. However, every professional leader has faced challenges on their journey; they are unavoidable and can cause feelings of doubt, fear, frustration, and a sense of defeat. 

While no one likes to feel these emotions, they typically cause managers to quit or persevere. Persistence is defined as the firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. In other words, it’s a shameless refusal to quit, especially when most people or teams would give up.  

Great leaders who have achieved sustained success know what, on the surface, looks like talent is mainly a heavy dose of perseverance. 

Great leaders know successful performance looks like talent on the surface, but it’s mainly perseverance. 

The Equation for Performance

A compelling body of research has explored the factors that underpin successful performance, which is best explained in a simple equation:

Ability x Persistence = Performance.

Talent by itself isn’t enough; persistence alone is also not enough. What’s required is both to perform at a high level over time. Calvin Coolidge said it well, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

If like me you align with Coolidge’s quote and you want to persevere more in leadership, here are three proven ways to do it:

No alt text provided for this image

1. Focus on the Cause

You can’t accomplish what you give up.

Do you know the mile most marathon runners quit? Most people think it’s at the begging of the race around mile 5 or the very end, like mile 25. Research shows most marathon runners quit at mile 20. The reason is it’s when runners say to themselves, “I don’t think I can make it.” If at that moment runners don’t have a deep enough cause for finishing the race, that’s precisely when they will first give up mentally, followed by giving up physically. 

Whether you are a distance runner or not, there is a lot to learn about perseverance from this lesson. If you focus on the deeper cause of leadership, which is elevating others, you will keep going. Real leaders know they can quit a job, but they can’t leave leadership because people need their help. 

Real leaders can quit a job, but they can’t leave leadership. There are always people that need help. 

If you are struggling and having difficulty remembering the deeper cause of leadership, I always coach leaders to go back to the source. Reach out to previous team members you have gotten the opportunity to lead and ask them what you did well and what kind of impact you made on their journey. More often than not, those answers will remind you of the deeper cause of leadership. 

2. Remember Failure is Feedback

Leadership is hard. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it or give up because failure is not final. As I wrote in Building the Best, Failure is a part of leadership, which means failure must become feedback. When you make mistakes, please don’t beat yourself up; learn from them. If leadership were easy, everyone would be doing it. 

If leadership were easy, everyone would be doing it. 

One of the best methods of learning from your failures or experiencing the mistakes of others is to keep what I call a Personal Leadership Guide or “PLG.” The idea behind “PLG” is to write leadership lessons in your favorite note-taking app or a notebook. Anytime you experience something you want to start, stop, continue, or one day do as a leader, write it down. Then at the end of each year, pull out the 5 to 7 most important lessons and review them. Then you rinse and repeat year after year. 

3. Concentrate on Growth

It’s a lot easier to persevere when you concentrate on your growth instead of your gaps. The best leaders concentrate on the growth of progression, not the gap in execution. 

The best leaders concentrate on the growth of progression, not the gap in execution. 

One of the biggest reasons people quit is an unhealthy focus on the gaps in skill or execution. There is a simple question to determine if you concentrate on the growth of progression or the gaps in execution. 

“Am I actively working on getting better as a leader?”

While the question is simple to ask, so few of us do. If you are actively working on getting better as a leader and you can point to specific examples of how you are better today than you were yesterday, you are on the right track.

Closing

Perseverance and the shameless refusal to quit on people is an essential leadership skill to develop and possess. If you are lucky enough to have a leader who has stuck with you, please find the time to say thank you.

If you are questioning yourself and whether you are right where you are supposed to be, it’s my hope you will focus on the cause, remember failure is not final, and concentrate on growth, instead of giving up.

Coaching for Excellence Workshop: Ready to improve your coaching skills? Register for the Workshop

The Heart of Leadership Free Live Summit: Join Join and hundreds of heart-centered leaders for a free live summit on Sunday, December 5th.

Leadership Development Day 2022: Join John and an amazing group of speakers in person or virtually. Use the code “eades” to get 20% off registration.

John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and VP of Thought Leadership at Peoplebox. 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 Help Managers Who Lack Leadership in Your Organization

No one wants to work at an organization lacking leadership, especially for a long time.  Despite not wanting to be in this situation, most people will stay regardless. Whether it’s the golden handcuffs or convincing our brains that things will change; something keeps us in less than ideal leadership situations.  

recent study found that 77% of organizations report that leadership is lacking, confirming that most professionals previously settled for average leadership. Luckily, that is starting to change. 

Take Jess, a former accounting manager at a global technology company, as an example. For two years, she worked under a fantastic leader who worked hard to elevate those on his team.  When he left for a big promotion at a different company, Jess got a new manager.

It didn’t take long to figure out that her new manager had a lot of industry experience but wasn’t a leader.  She barked orders, put her own needs ahead of the team, and blamed others when things didn’t go well.  

After multiple unsuccessful attempts from Jess and others to help her new manager change, she decided to take recruiters’ calls.  In just a few weeks, she accepted a new position at a different company for nearly an identical salary.  Not only was Jess’ decision proof that modern professionals aren’t tolerating bad leadership anymore, but it also reminds us of a critical truth about organizational leadership. 

Every organization has managers, not every organization has leaders

Being a manager is a position, but being a leader is a decision.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Since being a leader is a decision, it probably has you asking an essential question about the topic, are leaders born or made?  I shared some ideas in a recent interview:

To summarize, leaders are both born and made, but they are primarily made through hard work by individuals and their organizations, encouraging their growth and development. If an organization is going to reach its potential, it rests on the leadership of its people. 

If an organization is going to reach its potential, it rests on the leadership of its people.

Not only do the best organization understand this, they know it’s not about just hiring great leaders but building them.  Here are a few ideas to empower your managers to be high performing leaders:

No alt text provided for this image

1. Promote People With a Heart for Leadership

The most common retention technique organizations use is to promote people to managerial positions. Most do this without considering one’s heart for leadership or the new skills needed to be developed to be successful in their new role.

If more organizations would promote people with a heart for leadership, engagement would skyrocket.  

The simplest and most effective way to empower managers to be high-performing leaders is to promote the right people to leadership positions.  I wish there were a silver bullet to evaluate one’s heart for leadership, but unfortunately, there is not. Before promoting someone or giving them direct reports, a simple technique is to evaluate any previous behavior where they have proactively served others.  

2. Provide Them a Common Definition of Leadership

Having had the opportunity to work with hundreds of Executives and HR leaders to help develop their managers into leaders, most companies haven’t defined what it means to be a leader in their particular organization.  

They spend countless hours defining their mission, vision, and values (which is essential), but they stop at explaining what it means to be a leader.  When I talk about this with leadership teams, the most common excuse I get is, “we have so many experienced leaders at the organization; we don’t need to define it.  

It’s never too late to define something meaningful because the future hasn’t yet happened. 

To this I say, it’s never too late to define something meaningful because the future hasn’t yet happened. Maybe there is an unwritten definition about what it means to be a leader in your organization; but, I would prefer having it defined and communicated to increase the odds that future leaders buy into it.

3. Supply Them the Mirror for Self-Awareness

Improving in any skill, leadership included, requires a level of self-awareness that opens the heart and mind to do some things differently. A common practice for officers in the Marines is to put together what they refer to as an “Iron Council.” 

This group consists of six direct reports and peers of an officer.  A few times a year, the Iron Council meets with their officer in a group setting to provide feedback about his or her performance. This isn’t meant to air petty grievances but rather to provide a constructive place to improve.  

Something unique happens after these Iron Council meetings.  While feedback can be tough to hear, officers finds themselves on a mission to grow and get better.  This is essential because you can’t change what you don’t know. 

You can’t change what you don’t know

If you are a leader or you help develop leaders in your organization, be sure you have tools like 360 leadership assessment to supply the mirror for self-awareness. 

4. Give Them the Digital Tools to Lead

No one likes people who make excuses, but leading a fully remote or hybrid team is challenging.  While most leaders have gotten used to remote work because of the pandemic it doesn’t mean leadership is easier.  My experience has been that the sooner you give managers the tools to lead, the slower the excuses become. 

The sooner you have the tools, the slower the excuses become

While no tool is a silver bullet, tools like Peoplebox exist for these reasons.

5. Provide Them Coaching and Development

This one might come across as self-serving because of my industry, but the best athletes in the world have coaches, shouldn’t your leaders? 

Developing leadership skills is challenging. So providing team members a safe place to mold and grow their skills is essential. Since there isn’t only one perfect method to help leaders grow and develop, each organization has to come up with a sustainable and scalable way to make it happen in their organization.  

Closing

It would be fantastic if “empowering managers to be leaders” were as easy as turning on a light switch. But when you think about all the work, effort, and dedication it took and continues to take for that light switch to turn on the lights, it proves there is nothing easy about it.  

If you are have taken it upon yourself to become a better leader, thank you. If you are in Human resources or HR and have dedicated your career to helping other professionals develop, thank you. If you are a professional coach who helps other people see their blind spots, thank you. If you are a leader who works relentlessly to help your people grow and develop, thank you.

Coaching for Excellence Workshop Ready to improve your coaching skills? Learn More About the Virtual Workshop

John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and VP of Thought Leadership at Peoplebox. He was namLinkedIn’sLinkedIn’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 Communicate Like a Great Leader

communication

Leadership, like life, is a journey and not a destination.  

Now I must emphasize one point before you start reading this column that will attempt to make you a better leader. Writing and doing are two different things. Yes, I have spent the last 10+ years of my career studying what the best and worst leaders do, then transferring those lessons to myself and others, but I have struggled mightily to apply many of these lessons daily. Instead of crushing my soul and believing I am not meant to be a great leader, it’s convicted me to constantly look at the journey of becoming a better leader rather than just arriving as one.  

I have learned that the closer you get to being a truly authentic leader, the less you feel like one.  

The closer you get to being a truly authentic leader, the less your feel like one. 

In many things, ignorance can be bliss, but not in leadership. There is nothing worse than a manager who isn’t self-aware of their shortcomings as a leader. It’s caused more professionals to leave a company or a profession altogether than any other factor. Don’t believe me? A recent study found a staggering 79% of employees will quit after receiving inadequate appreciation from their managers.

Many Leadership Skills Matter

There are many talents and skills leaders must develop and demonstrate to be effective over time. Our research indicates building trust, having empathy, establishing a vision, giving recognition, and coaching others are essential. However, communicating effectively is at the top of the list. 

It could be as simple as writing an email, giving a presentation, sending a text, or turning on your listening ears. Regardless of the type of communication, the key is that you’re effective at it. I like to think of it as the essential rule of leadership. “If you struggle with communication, you will never reach your potential as a leader.”  

If you struggle with communication, you will never reach your potential as a leader.

As I wrote in Building the Best, the key to successful leadership today is elevating others. So the problem with not reaching your potential as a leader is you won’t be helping others achieve theirs.  

The Big Communication Mistake

There are a lot of gifted orators with silver tongues and unmistakable mannerisms. At the same time, many professionals clam at the thought of delivering a presentation. Regardless of the camp you are in, or somewhere in between, there is one communication mistake anyone is susceptible to make, and that is demanding and downloading, not inspiring.  

Too many leaders demand and download instead of inspire when communicating.

This doesn’t mean every email or conversation must have your audience ready to run through a wall, but it does mean you have to be more concerned with the audience than the person doing the communicating. The word inspire means “to breathe life into.” You can’t breathe life into someone or get someone else to take any action they wouldn’t otherwise take if you don’t get past their mind and into their heart.  

Communication improves when leaders get to the employees’ hearts, not just their minds.

I was reminded of this truth in a conversation with a talented therapist named Kimberly Mengel. She said, “the heart is the wellspring of life.” It’s stuck with me for some time now because I have repeatedly seen when leaders fail in their communication, they never get to their people’s hearts.  

How to Improve Your Communication

There are all kinds of tactics and strategies to become a more effective communicator. Instead of going into the depths of storytelling or the three C’s of successful communication, I want you to turn your attention to two things; how much you speak and being more transparent.  

1.How Much You Speak – Being an exceptional listener is key to being a great communicator. Not only is this true, but Simon Sinek took it a step further in a keynote some years ago, when he spoke about “being the last to speak.” You can watch the short clip here

As brilliant as this idea is, I know it’s not always possible. Instead, turn your attention to “how much you speak.” Your goal as a leader shouldn’t be to tell people what to do. It should be to help them determine what to do and what can be done to implement it. This means speaking less and asking better questions.

2. Be More Transparent – All too often, when there are things leaders must say to people, they avoid the topic or sugarcoat it in a way the truth never comes out. Instead, I want you to opt for more transparency in your communication. The reason is transparency implies openness and accountability. 

I asked Robert Quesnel, a seasoned executive and phenomenal leader at American Family Insurance, why leaders aren’t transparent, and what he said moved me. “Many leaders aren’t transparent because they are insecure narcissists and lack confidence in themselves.” Not only is Quesnel right, but too many leaders hide behind the shield their title provides instead of being transparent and telling the truth. 

Too many leaders hide behind the shield their title provides instead of being transparent and telling the truth.

Closing

The best part of communication is you get endless opportunities every day to work on improving. I hope some of these ideas inspire you to evaluate how much you speak and how transparent you are in and effort to apply them on your leadership journey.

Tell me in the comments Do you agree and what tactics or strategies do you or others leaders leverage to be effective communicators?

Effective Leadership Communication Ready to improve your communication skills? Register for the virtual workshop.

John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and VP of Thought Leadership at Peoplebox. 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 Leaders Handle Team Conflict to Make it Constructive

Blocks of two team leaders compete with each other. Competition, conflict resolution

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out some groups of people perform better than others. Not only do high-performing teams produce better results, but their team members have a sense of meaning, belonging, and achievement.  

There have been many great studies about what makes a team successful, but maybe none better than Google’s two-year study called Project Aristotle. Google’s research team found that the best teams were effective because they worked well together, regardless of who was on them. The five characteristics of enhanced groups include; Psychological Safety, Dependability, Structure and Clarity, Meaning, and Impact.

The most essential of the five was psychological safety. All psychological safety means is when team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. 

Bad leaders and teams are void of this crucial element because they look at being vulnerable, taking risks, and speaking up as negative instead of positive. It’s precisely why they never meet their potential and achieve their biggest goals. 

The best leaders and teams embrace constructive conflict. 

What’s interesting about psychological safety is that it’s impossible to achieve unless the leader and team members embrace the idea of constructive conflict.  

Three Types of Team Conflict

Conflict, by definition, is an escalation of a disagreement between two parties. It comes from the Latin word “Con” meaning together, and “Fligere” meaning to strike. While the definition is simple, what I have found coaching and working with leaders and teams for over a decade is there are three types of conflict:

No alt text provided for this image

What Leaders and Teams Can Do to Have Constructive Conflict

Both high-performing teams and great leaders realize the only way to successfully have constructive conflict is for every team member to work toward a shared goal. The moment a team loses sight of the shared goal is the moment constructive conflict begins to fade away.  

The moment a team loses sight of the shared goal is the moment constructive conflict begins to fade away.

Take a small startup working in the eCommerce industry, as an example. The eight-person team was in a feverous debate (in Slack of all places) about their branding and modifying their company logo. In just a few slack messages, the discussion heated up, and each team member was passionately communicating the reasons for their particular position.  

As the conflict began to rise, it started to get a little personal, so I sent a short reminder message: Conflict on a team can be good! As long as we can remember, we want the same outcomes.

No alt text provided for this image

Kudos to this high-performing team because they quickly pivoted from deconstructive conflict to constructive conflict by reminding each other of their shared goal and passion for the mission they were on together. 

Relish the Conflict, But Stay Kind and Curious

While some people’s personalities lend themselves to avoid conflict and others run towards it, a common desire is to be treated well in a disagreement. In Mareo McCracken’s new book, Really Care for Them, he wrote, “Nobody likes to be told to be quiet, or to be calm, to shut up.”

Not only is he right, but it’s also an essential part of constructive conflict. Being kind and recognizing that each person is a human with feelings is easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Great leaders recognize this and speak the truth, but they do it with empathy and humility.  

Great leaders speak the truth, but they do it with empathy and humility. 

As hard as it might be, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and communicating the truth is what the best leaders do. They recognize they aren’t above someone else, and there will be times where they will be the one who needs truth spoken into their life, so leaving their ego out is required. They rely heavily on the trust they have earned with their team in the small daily acts, so people will let them say hard things.

How to Embrace Constructive Conflict as a Leader

If you lead a team, you might think this sounds good, but there is no way this type of constructive conflict will work on my team. Instead of assuming it won’t, try to embrace the following: 

  1. Establish a Shared Goal – Where is your team going, and what are they working every day to accomplish?
  2. Ensure Everyone is Committed – It’s one thing to have a goal; it’s another thing for each team member to be committed to achieving it. 
  3. Invite “TVD”– “TVD” stands for the truth, debate, and vulnerability. If team members can leverage facts, discussion, be vulnerable in front of each other, success is in your future.
  4. Debate Doesn’t Mean Decision – Debate doesn’t mean the decision. On a recent episode of Master of Scale with Reid Hoffman, he covered one of Ray Dalio Principles about conflict; “Make sure people don’t confuse the right to complain, give advice, and openly debate with the right to make decisions.”

Closing

When you invite constructive conflict into your team and relationships, they will get better. The only question that remains is will you be the kind of leader who does it?

In the comments, please tell me how you invite constructive conflict on your team or organization.

Effective Communication for Leaders Ready to improve your communication skills? Register for the virtual workshop.

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 Win the Post Pandemic Talent War

talent

You can’t lead without people. Unfortunately, many bad leaders forget this simple truth. Instead of investing in and developing solid relationships with those they get the opportunity to lead, they complain, blame, and act as if people are disposable.  

While no great organization would advocate with this as a sustainable approach, it wasn’t the worst talent strategy for decades. Countless professionals were looking for employment, and those employed were scared about keeping their job. This put the power squarely in the hands of organizations.

However, the current environment has shifted dramatically, and the power of employment is now in the hands of talented professionals, and the best companies recognize it.  

The current talent environment has the power of employment in professionals’ possession, and the best companies recognize it.  

Research suggests that between 55% – 70% of professionals are actively looking to change jobs. Most professionals who have left or are thinking about going aren’t walking away for a small pay raise. They are walking towards leaders and companies who care about them and add value to their lives beyond a paycheck.  

Great companies change the lives of their team members, not just their bank account.

While no company or leader is perfect, there is a long list of companies going above and beyond to positively change the lives of their team members. Chick-fil-A, Movement Mortgage, Lippert Components, and Cora Health come to mind, to name a few. Creating a culture that changes the lives of their team members sounds obvious; putting it into action is a much different challenge.  

Retention Rules.

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.  

Most leaders and organizations grasp this, but instead of implementing formal retention efforts, they go with the “Next employee up mentality.” This is a powerful mantra that many of the best sports teams live by when a player gets hurt or can’t play for another reason. Not only is it a good one, but it’s true. Every single person is replaceable, and no one is trying to change that.  

However, in a talent market like our current one, retaining high performers and great team players deserves a dedicated strategy corporately and implemented by each manager. 

The key to retention is for front-line managers to behave like leaders.

All Turnover Isn’t Bad.

One of the most significant mistakes leaders make is that believe they have to retain a team member that hurts their culture because the talent pool is limited. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Team members who aren’t willing to sacrifice their interests for the team might seem to help in the short term, but they hurt in the long run. 

There is never a good time for a leader to retain selfish team members.

Now contrary to popular belief, people do change. Especially when it comes to grasping the consequences of one’s actions. If a team member is struggling to meet or exceed the standard required to be a part of a team, make them aware. Then coach and give them a chance to make adjustments before deciding to move on.  

Be Proactive Around Talent.

A recent Korn Ferry study found by 2030, there will be a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people, resulting in $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues. This means the talent shortfall is here to stay, and the employment market will continue to be hyper-aggressive. What’s required to thrive in a hyper-aggressive talent market is proactivity in seeking and developing people.  

Lawrence Bossidy said it well, “nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.”

Not only is Bossidy right, but it’s also never been more critical than it is today. A relentless approach to seeking talent and an equally persistent effort to develop people inside the organization are required to succeed today.  

A relentless approach to seeking talent and an equally persistent effort to develop people inside the organization are required to succeed today. 

Closing

The “how-to” strategies to improve retention, good turnover, and successful recruiting are endless.  If you want to know if your organization is doing a good job, look for these as proof:

  • Leadership development programs
  • Best in class technology tools
  • Core values highlighted in the hiring and promotion process
  • 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. 

Effective Leadership Communication: Ready to improve your communication skills? Register for the virtual workshop.

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 Great Leaders Share Knowledge With Their Team (and the masses)

Think different

Over the years, leaders leverage a wide variety of experiences that they turn into actionable knowledge. Of course, it’s one thing to obtain knowledge. What you do with it is something else entirely.

Too often, professionals hoard knowledge and keep it to themselves. After all, they put in all the work to acquire it. Why should someone else get the benefits without putting in the blood, sweat, and tears themselves?

In reality, however, the best leaders take the opposite approach. They relish the opportunity to share their wisdom with others — even people outside their company.

The best leaders relish the opportunity to share their wisdom with others. 

What is a Thought Leader?

The term thought leader has been overblown and might even be a bit scary to most people. In reality, thought leadership is simply the expression of ideas that demonstrate you have expertise in a particular field, area, or topic. 

Thought leadership is demonstrated in two ways:

  1. Externally – Typically demonstrated through large social media followings. Ideas and insights change the behaviors of large groups of people in all different industries.
  2. Internally – Typically demonstrated within a company or team. Ideas and insights influence smaller and often more tangible relationships.

Regardless of which one resonates with you more, as long as you can be a trusted source to educate and inspire people with your ideas, you either are or can be a thought leader.  

In fact, the best leaders become thought leaders not for money, fame, or accolades but for one big reason; to help others.

You Have Insight to Share

Having had the opportunity to teach and coach thousands of leaders, the most common cause of not sharing insight with others or becoming a thought leader isn’t selfishness; it’s often imposter syndrome.  

In many ways, I don’t blame people for feeling this way. Everyone sharing their highlight reels on social media has tricked people into comparing themselves to others. This comparison causes people to believe they aren’t good or worthy enough to share their expertise with others. 

The thing is, your hard work and professional experiences are what make you an expert. While the best leaders understand that they can always learn from others, it’s okay to recognize that there are areas where you have expertise that can help others be more effective and successful. 

The best leaders share expertise to help others be more effective and successful

I recently read a great example of this in the book “60 Days to LinkedIn Mastery” by Josh Steimle. In a book that is focused on teaching people who feel like relative novices on LinkedIn how to optimize their profile, Steimle writes the following:

“You don’t have to know more than everyone else in order to teach — you only need to know more than your audience. However little you feel you know about LinkedIn, there are thousands of people who know less than you do. That means you can help them. As you help others, you’ll become more analytical in your thinking. You’ll create experiments, you’ll study, and you’ll learn more about LinkedIn than I or anyone else can teach you.”

This quote is just as applicable to any other type of knowledge business leaders have. But it also hints at a crucial point — that sharing your knowledge can benefit you, not just your audience.

Why Share Your Knowledge?

Transferring knowledge to your team and others is one of the best ways to create an actual win-win scenario. Here are a few benefits of making this a habit.

1. You Act Like a Leader 

Whether you think of yourself as a leader or not, you behave like one when you share wisdom with others. A leader is someone whose actions inspire, empower and serve in order to elevate others. It’s a sacred responsibility for someone to call you a leader, and the only way others do that is if they trust and respect you. 

It’s a sacred responsibility for someone to call you a leader, and the only way others do that is if people trust and respect you. 

In an interview with Bobby Starks, I shared some expertise to help inspire managers to act as leaders.

2. You Improve Your Communication Skills 

Sharing knowledge with others shouldn’t start with benefiting yourself but mastering your communication skills is a fantastic byproduct. Regardless of your industry or role, being a highly effective communicator will supercharge your career. 

Regardless of your industry or role, being a highly effective communicator will supercharge your career. 

You may be surprised to discover that communication skills are among the three most important leadership skills for professionals to demonstrate, according to preliminary research by LearnLoft

The simple act of writing, speaking, teaching, or coaching others provides invaluable repetitions to hone your skills. If you are interested in resources to improve your communications skills check out the Effective Communication for Leaders Workshop

3. You Improve the Team’s Performance and Loyalty 

Communicating knowledge is one of the best ways to enhance the performance of your team. Because the performance of a team is a reflection of the communication they receive. 

The performance of a team is a reflection of the communication they receive.  

As you share time and knowledge, you demonstrate through your words and actions your heart for others. Your team members will respect and be motivated to give their best effort. Better yet, you will empower your team members to use this newfound knowledge to improve their performance continually.

4. You Foster a More Collaborative Culture

As a leader, your example sets the tone for your team’s culture, including how employees share knowledge. In this case, a willingness to share your knowledge helps create a more collaborative and elite culture. 

Great leaders share their expertise with others to help create a collaborative and elite culture.

A research report from CultureIQ found that companies with strong collaborative cultures had a 20 percent higher quality rating from employees. This type of positive culture is key to attracting, retaining, and nurturing top talent. 

Closing

“Sharing is caring” is a commonly used idiom — often when parents try to get their child to share their toys with a sibling. But like so many other childhood lessons, this isn’t something you should put aside as you get older.

As a leader, sharing your knowledge and experiences ultimately becomes one of the best ways to demonstrate that you want to help others. Keeping your knowledge to yourself doesn’t help anyone. But as you open up and share with others, you will benefit yourself and others in the long run.

The only question remaining is what knowledge are you going to share with others today?

Effective Communication for Leaders: Ready to improve your communication skills? Register for the virtual workshop.

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.