How to Handle Frustration Like the Best Leaders

Frustrated business woman sitting at the table in office.

We have all been there at one point or another; there is probably something right now that is frustrating you. It may not be, I am joining “the great resignation” club bad, but it is still a consistent struggle with someone or something at work.  

Maybe it’s a team member who isn’t giving their best effort. Perhaps it’s your boss who micromanages every move. Whatever the case, it started as a minor inconvenience, and now it nags at you daily.  

It turns out, your capacity to overcome frustrations is a sign that you are an effective leader. Early research by LearnLoft indicates that the ability to handle adversity is one of the most overlooked traits of successful leaders. 

The ability to overcome adversity like frustration is a good predictor of effective leadership.

What is Frustration and its Causes?

Frustration is defined as the feeling of being upset or annoyed. There are two states of frustration that professionals can find themselves in.

  1. Consistent State
  2. Momentary State

When someone is in a consistent state of frustration, they get negative and pessimistic, which never allows them to live up to their potential. 

Momentary frustration happens to all of us, but it isn’t always a bad thing since it can be a helpful indicator of problems. As a result, frustration can act as a motivator to change. However, when that momentary frustration turns to anger, depression, elevated levels of stress, and resentment, it becomes destructive. 

Now that we know, frustration is a feeling that can be destructive, it’s essential to recognize some common sources of frustration in the workplace:

  1. Communication Issues – When two or more people don’t have consistent communication that is clear, concise, and conclusive, it’s a recipe for frustration for one or both parties. (Want to be a more effective communicator? Check out the Effective Communication for Leaders Workshop)
  2. Lack of Meaningful Change – When things stay the same, or there isn’t a viable path to improvement, it causes people to get annoyed or even upset. If employees start to say, “It’s always going to be this way, nothing is going to change here,” it’s a bad spot to be.
  3. Limited Opportunities for Career Advancement – When team members feel there is nowhere to go beyond their current role, it causes frustration. This is particularly challenging in organizations with less than 100 employees.
  4. Process or Technology Problems – Inefficient and manual process that can be automated or improved is a bain in many professionals existence. “This is so manual and repetitive; there has to be a better way to do this.” 

How the Best Leaders Handle Frustration Like a Professional

If you want to stop being frustrated, you aren’t going to hope your way there. You have to start acting differently. The idea of hoping things change is a terrible strategy. As the late Rick Page used to say, “hope is not a strategy.”  

The best leaders know, hope isn’t a strategy.

A solid and consistent strategy followed by action is the best way to overcome frustration. The best part is, anyone can adopt new methods and then develop their skills to help them be successful at it.  

Overcoming frustration requires you to take action.

Now that you’re aware that action is the key, here are some things you can do about frustration to model the best leaders.

1. Add the Truth

When you notice a team member is showing signs of frustration, don’t hope it goes away. It’s time to add the truth to conversations. While it might seem like an obvious strategy, the majority of people would rather avoid the truth for fear of what they might hear or what might happen. As a mentor wisely told me, “Our ability to sense truth is amazing, and the truth needs no crutches.”

The best leaders embrace talking about the truth because they know the best path to remove frustrations is to add the truth. 

The best way to remove frustration is to add the truth.  

There are a few ways to get to the truth; first, ask yourself or team members to communicate the source of their frustration. Second, listen or seek to understand what might be causing it.  

2. Acknowledge the Root Cause and Develop Solutions

Rarely will our first pass at communicating the root cause of our frustration come out clearly. It’s worth the mental bandwidth to get to the source by asking that hard question of “why.” A strategy I go through with some of my executive coaching clients is called the “Two-Level Why” All I do is ask executives to take their feelings of frustration two levels lower than they start.  

Here is a simple example:

No alt text provided for this image

It’s a short and straightforward example, but if you get in the habit of leveraging the “two-level why” with yourself or your team, you will get to the root cause of the frustration more often and get to solutions. 

3. Perseverance Over Perfection

Knowing we are human and emotions are part of what makes us great, it’s impossible to remove frustration altogether. So what’s required is to persevere instead of expecting perfection.  

If you are expecting perfection, you will constantly be frustrated.  

One of my favorite strategies for this is a simple, practical resolution to say to yourself. It goes like this: “I will not be frustrated anymore by things others do or do not do, but rather I will take ownership over things in my control and be proactive in finding ways to reconcile them.”

A simple affirmation like this gives you the power to overcome frustration versus blaming others.  

Closing

Frustration and adversity are guarantees in life. Your ability to overcome them and create the best outcomes for all those involved is vital in determining your success.  

Take an honest look at the things that are frustrating you right now. Are you doing all you can adding the truth, getting to the root cause, and persevering without expecting perfection? If the answer isn’t what you want it to be, now is the time to act before the frustration gets to a point where you join the “great resignation” club.

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.

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 60k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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 Handle Fear Like the Best Leaders

courage

Do you remember how it felt when you had to make your first big professional decision? Whether it was to fire someone or make a significant purchasing decision, chances are, you felt fearful, nervous, and a bit skeptical.

While these are natural human emotions, figuring out how to consistently overcome them is a key to your progress. The reason is simple; your mind is more powerful than you think it is. It often is the difference between success and failure.  

Take Martha, an experienced salesperson at a software company, for example. She was outstanding in her role and had been a high performer for over five years. However, she yearned for more influence and impact on others in her career. So much so, she kept a leadership notebook of lessons she wanted to practice or avoid when she got her opportunity to lead.  

When a sales director position opened up in the firm, she immediately got excited and dreamed of what she would do in the role. But when the email went out about applying for the job, she didn’t respond right away. Instead, she doubted whether she was ready and if she was good enough to lead other people. She allowed her fear not to pursue the job, and one of her colleagues with less experience ended up as her boss.  

Now, there is no way to tell if Matha would have gotten the job over her colleague, but her mind, not her skills, eliminated her from a job she wanted. She allowed fear to win over courage. All her leadership notebook was missing was a simple lesson:

Rejecting fear and choosing courage dictates your future.

What is Fear?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined. According to Arash Javanbakht and Lisa Saab, in their article in the Smithsonian, What Happens in the Brain When We Feel Fear, “Fear reaction starts in the brain and spreads through the body to make adjustments for the best defense or flight reaction. The fear response starts in a region of the brain called the amygdala. This almond-shaped set of nuclei in the temporal lobe of the brain is dedicated to detecting the emotional salience of the stimuli – how much something stands out to us.”

When your amygdala activates through seeing or experiencing a feeling, it naturally triggers a fear response. Ryan Holiday, the author of Courage is Calling, wrote, “No human is without fear. What’s required is the ability to rise above it in the moments that matter.”

Holiday is correct; the most remarkable leaders on the planet have an amygdala in their brain, just like you and me. However, they recognize the battle against fear is permanent, and they have to overcome it constantly. 

The battle against fear is permanent. Choosing courage to overcome fear is temporary.

Why the Best Leaders Choose Courage

Regardless of how experienced you are, no one is immune to feelings of doubt and fear. However, the best leaders don’t allow it to stop them. Roy T. Bennet said it well, “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart!”

Leaders today, unlike previous generations, have been thrust into a hyper uncertain work environment which causes higher levels of fear and anxiety. They have to overcome uncertainty in their minds and help their team members do the same as well. 

Uncertainty for leaders is when they face unmeasurable and unpredictable risks, often caused by things outside their control. However, if leaders had all the data and there was no uncertainly, not only would they not be required, there would be no decisions, there would just be foregone conclusions. 

In a keynote to global leaders, I told them, “uncertainty is why leadership is needed.”

“Uncertainty is why leadership is needed.”

The best leaders embrace uncertainty and choose courage because they would rather be part of the solution, not a bystander. They would rather be the “man in man in the arena” rather than sitting on the sidelines, allowing others to make a positive difference.  

The only way for this to happen is for leaders to reject fear and choose courage. I defined courage in Building the Best as “Being frightened and deciding to do it anyway.” The root of the word courage is cor- the Latin word for heart. Getting to people’s hearts is precisely where the best leaders start to separate themselves from others. 

Don’t Stop at Yourself, Help Others

Not only are the best leaders able to choose courage for themselves, but they can also inspire others to do the same by getting to their hearts. They breathe life into their team members by encouraging, challenging, and empowering them. All in an effort to help them learn and grow

Even though leaders know this isn’t easy, great leaders embrace failure and don’t accept fear as a decision on their team.  

Great leaders don’t accept fear as a decision they expect courage.  

Closing

It would be common thinking to believe the best leaders reject fear and choose courage naturally. This wouldn’t be true. Fear will always make itself felt because that’s how our brains are naturally wired.  

Rejecting fear and choosing courage is a decision, and it’s learned. It makes me reflect on some wise words about parenting. A mentor told me, “John, your job isn’t to keep your kids safe. Your job is to make them courageous.”

Whether you are leading kids or team members at work, people feel more engaged and alive when they make courageous decisions and it’s often someone else that helps us make them.

Just think back to Martha; if she had a leader or a coach who helped her overcome her fear and choose courage, where might she be today in her professional career?

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.

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 60k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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 Know Teamwork is a Key to Their Success

Conceptual for brainstorming and teamwork

Golf is one of the last sports you would expect to glean leadership lessons. It’s primarily an individual sport, with the exception of one week every other year during the Ryder Cup. If you aren’t familiar, the tournament is filled with spirited competition and drama as 24 of the world’s greatest players from the USA and Europe compete in a team competition.

Whether you are a golf fan or not, a unique leadership challenge that both teams’ captains face has similarities to what many organizational leaders encounter.  

They work to get individuals to act and behave like a team to produce the best outcome for the group.

The ability for leaders to do this successfully isn’t easy and is a skill that very few do consistently well. However, teamwork is the remedy, and it’s achieved when each individual buys into the group’s greater good over their self-interest. 

Take Amy, a sales manager in a technology company, as an example. I started working with her as a coach when she was hired to take over a group of 15 sales reps. At the time, only 20% of the team was hitting their quota, collectively they hadn’t hit their sales target in five years, and the engagement was an abysmal 57%. 

As excited as she was about her first ample leadership opportunity, the uphill challenge didn’t scare her because management jobs rarely open up when things are going well. She jumped right in, got to know her team members personally, made some tough decisions about letting a few reps go, and brought in some fresh faces, then got to work in developing teamwork.

She invested time, energy, and money to bring the reps together in person once a quarter and created weekly meetings where each person was an active participant. During those crucial interactions, she manufactured human connection, gained buy-in, and built the belief that the team could collectively achieve a big goal.  

Little by little, the results started to come together, and by the end of her second year on the job, 80% of the reps hit their quota, the group exceeded their sales target by 40%, and the engagement rate jumped 84%.  

Amy understood the key to her leadership success was getting each individual to buy into the group’s greater good over their own self-interest.

“Great teams are made up of individuals that buy into the group’s greater good over their self-interest.”

Focus on Teamwork

When team members are authentic, collaborate, and challenge each other, the results are almost always superior to working alone. Teamwork is when people bring their authentic selves and skills together to produce excellent outcomes for the group. 

Teamwork is when people bring their authentic selves and skills together to produce excellent outcomes for the group. 

Looking back at the most significant achievements in sports or business, you will always find great teamwork was behind it. There is a plethora of research that supports the essential nature of teamwork. 

If you want to improve teamwork, here are a few ideas to get individuals to work as a team.  

1. Get Obsessive Buy-In Towards a Shared Goal

A team, by definition, means to come together as a team to achieve a common goal. Success won’t follow if leaders don’t define a common goal that team members care about achieving.  

If leaders don’t define a shared goal that team members care about achieving, success won’t follow.  

The keyword here is “shared.” While it will be tempting to stand at the top of the mountain and scream a big, hairy, audacious goal to your team, if they aren’t bought into, help define what’s possible, and determine what it would take to achieve it, they won’t give their best effort. 

In the example of the Ryder Cup, the ultimate shared goal is simple, take home the Ryder Cup Trophy at the end of the tournament. However, every team competing since 1927 has had that goal. The key as a Ryder Cup captain or as a team leader at work, is getting obsessive buy-in from each individual about achieving the goal.  

2. Manufacture Human Connection

Teamwork can’t be achieved without people getting to know each other and working well together. Too often, leaders assume and take for granted the quality of relationships between members of their team. Here is the hard truth. Just because members of the same team are in meetings together, doesn’t mean they know or care about each other.  

Just because team members are in meetings together, doesn’t mean they know or care about each other.  

Conflict and diverse thinking are essential elements of teamwork. Because of this, developing relationships built on the foundation of trust and respect is a requirement. While it might be uncomfortable at first, part of a leader’s job is to manufacture human connection and create a sense of belonging between team members. There are all kinds of strategies for this, but my favorite from our leadership workshops is the hero, highlight, hardship exercise. 

3. Inspire Personal Growth That Benefits the Team

When people are growing, they are much more likely to buy into the leader that is helping them do it. So often, we think about growth in terms of a company, but rarely do we think about it in terms of people.

Personal growth is the foundation of motivation. It’s hard to motivate team members who aren’t growing. Personal growth is the foundation of any successful professional. 

It’s hard to motivate team members who aren’t growing. Personal growth is the foundation of any successful professional.  

Leaders have a unique advantage of creating healthy competition between team members to fuel personal growth and development. In the case of the Ryder Cup, successful captains have created pods of smaller team members in the build-up of the competition to fuel personal growth and performance. 

Closing

There is nothing easy about leadership and getting individuals to work as a team. As many stories there are about sales managers like Amy, there are more stories of managers who have the opposite outcomes.  

Since you are thinking, reading, and looking for specific ideas to apply in your leadership approach should provide you confidence that you are on the right track. 

What did I leave out? Tell me in the comments.

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.

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

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 Solve Problems to Be An Effective Leader

Businessmen solving problems

How important is it that you are a problem solver? Why do some people tend to have better critical thinking skills than others? These are the types of questions you may ask yourself or even read an article about, but understandably don’t ask your boss. Because admitting you aren’t excellent at identifying solutions to complex or straightforward problems might be a yellow flag in your career.

According to research, you would be accurate because problem-solving and critical thinking is in the top 10 most vital professional skills in 2021. If that wasn’t enough, your value to a company or team often reflects the number of problems you help solve. 

The good news is that problem-solving and critical thinking skills can be developed and refined with the right mindset and work. Because they aren’t about being brilliant, they are about being logical, relentless, and consistent. 

Problem-solving isn’t about being brilliant; it’s about being logical, relentless, and consistent. 

Your willingness to be proactive in problem-solving is more important than solving one big problem. Whether this is a skill that comes easier to you or not, getting good at running towards issues instead of avoiding them is a secret to your success. 

Experts agree, “There are a lot of people who can identify the problem, but I frequently see the people who have made it to the highest levels of organizations, are the ones with those critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” says Spencer Bethmann, a director in HR & Talent Management at KPMG.

How to Solve Problems Like the Best Leaders

Each person is responsible for developing their problem-solving skills. If you want to improve, here are a few standard suggestions:

  1. Identify the Problem
  2. Research Possible Solutions
  3. Test the Best Solutions
  4. Modify Based on Results

Just getting in the routine of executing these steps at a higher level will make you a better critical thinker and problem solver on your own, but the best leaders on the planet go beyond this. They know the key to their leadership success isn’t being the only problem solver; they need a team full of people who embrace the responsibility of thinking critically. 

It reminds me of a powerful idea David Marquet shared with me in an interview on the Following My Lead Podcast, “great leadership is all about making decisions where the information is.”

Great leaders know the secret to a team’s success is for every team member to solve problems where the information is. 

How Do You Get Others to Embrace This Thinking?

When leaders are great problem solvers, team members begin to rely on them to solve every problem naturally. If you are in this camp, be humble and embrace the skills you have developed, but don’t settle. If you are the only person solving problems, you won’t go far as a leader.  

If you are the only person solving problems, you won’t go far as a leader.  

It’s your job to embrace problem-solving through systems and collaboration. Then to talk about the shared responsibility of every team member to problem solve, and never settle for anything less.  

Keys to Creating Proactive Problem Solvers

Great leaders use all kinds of strategies and techniques to get team members in a problem-solving mentality. Horst Schulze, the famous customer service and hotel executive, allowed employees at the Ritz Carlton a budget of up to $2,000 to solve problems and delight customers without approval when they deemed necessary.  

Since each companies budgets are different, the common threads for leaders to focus on are:

  • Culture 
  • Coaching

I defined culture in Building the Best as “the shared values and beliefs that guide thinking and behavior.” When solving problems is a core value, and it’s rewarded and recognized when team members live it out; it becomes engrained in your culture. Once this happens in a company, not only does each team know it, they hold each other accountable. If you are interested in company culture, you can register for the free webinar here.

Since not everyone has fully developed their problem-solving skills, coaching is essential to help them thrive. There are great ideas in a previous column, however, there is one particular coaching question that you should add to your repertoire when a team member presents a problem. Here it is:

“What have you done or attempted up until this point to solve it?”

This coaching question demonstrates to team members that you care about what they have attempted. You reinforce the essential nature of their critical thinking before suggesting or collaborating on a possible solution. 

There are certainly exceptions to every rule, like a genuine emergency. Outside of these situations, the better you get at asking questions to challenge people to solve a problem, the better off your team will be in the long run. 

Closing

Unfortunately, there are many professionals out there who believe they are effective problem solvers, but in reality, they are relatively average. If you are curious about yourself, answer this question, “do people know you for your problem-solving skills?”  

If you are a team leader, I want you to ask a slightly different question, “do people know your team members as proactive problem solvers?” If you don’t know the answer to either question, you are just blending in with every other professional. 

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.

Simple Things Great Leaders Care About Everyday

Wooden miniature at the start point of puzzle maze wood block. Leadership concept.

Ask a group full of professionals what they want out of a manager, and chances are you’ll hear “someone that cares about me” at least half of the time. While it seems like an obvious and simple desire, the sad reality is it’s a rarity.  

According to Gallup, managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, yet only 36% of U.S employees are engaged in their work and workplace.  

While employee engagement is undoubtedly a complex topic, engagement improves when managers genuinely caring about the people they lead.  

Employee engagement improves when managers genuinely care about the people they lead. 

Webster defines caring as “to look after and provide for the needs of.” It doesn’t take skill to care. All that’s required is to have a heart for people and the courage to do what’s in their best interest, even when it’s not easy.

Do’s and Do Not’s

Megan Witherspoon had a viral post on LinkedIn got me thinking, effective leaders do and don’t care about many things; what are they? Based on my personal experience, studying over 60,000 managers and coaching leaders at every level here is my list. Let me know in the comments what you would add or subtract: 

Effective leaders DO care about:

  • Their people and helping them reach their potential
  • Their organization and team culture 
  • Each team members attitude, including their own
  • Each team members effort, including their own
  • Respect and trust between team members
  • Proving the best tools and environment to help achieve success
  • How people are leading themselves
  • How team members are growing and developing
  • The achievements and results of their team 
  • Empowering people to make decisions
  • The core values and character of people
  • The mental, physical, and financial health of their team members
  • Getting the truth on the table
  • Communicating clear standards and expectations

Effective leaders DON’T care about:

  • Who gets the credit
  • Where work is done
  • How work is done
  • Pleasing everyone
  • Always being right
  • Changing their mind

Does a Long List Mean Leadership is Hard?

Often when lists are long, it means the job, role, or task is difficult. Leadership is no different. However, just because leadership is hard doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, especially if you start the complex topic of being a successful leader through the correct lens. I defined a leader in Building the Best this way, 

“A leader is someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others.”

Instead of thinking about leadership as unattainable or something only meant for certain people with unique talents, start thinking that it’s for you. The most essential element of leadership isn’t talent; it’s choosing to lead right from where you are.

“The most essential element of leadership isn’t talent, it’s choosing to lead right from where you are.”

Leading from where you are starts with a decision to embrace two primary things:

  • Responsibility
  • Ownership

When you can get in the headspace that you are responsible and are willing to take ownership of things in your sphere of influence, you are leading right from where you are. It’s my hope you will not only embrace this challenge but you will invite it into your career. Because if there is one thing I know for certain, we need more people choosing to take responsibility and ownership to lead right where they are.

What did I miss out on? Tell me in the comments

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.

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

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.

Most Managers Make This Significant Mistake When Coaching Others

Make a mistake

There are thousands of professionals all across the world who call themselves “leaders.” In reality, the vast majority are leaders in title alone. While they have direct reports and authority over others because of seniority or prior performance, they aren’t actually leading; they’re managing. 

One of the ways a leader separates themselves from being a manager is by coaching their people. A coach, by definition, is one who trains and instructs. I define it in Coaching for Excellence as, “Coaching is improving the current and future performance of others to achieve higher levels of excellence.”

Leaders who coach others effectively have never been more critical than they are today because behind every excellent professional is an excellent leader who acted as a coach and refused to settle for anything other than their best. 

Behind every excellent professional is an excellent leader who acted as a coach and refused to settle for anything less than their best.

As easy as this is to write, the application of it is complex. John Wooden said it well, “a coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” Managers have countless opportunities, from performance reviews to one-on-one, to daily interactions, to give correction without causing resentment. However, this is precisely where most managers make a significant mistake. 

The Worst Mistake Leaders Make When Coaching Their People

Mistakes are a part of life, coaching others included. The key to any mistake is not making it habitually without correcting it in the future. Like virtually everything in life, there are always exceptions. Still, for the sake of this column, the worst mistake a leader can make when coaching others is:

“Consistently telling others how to fix or solve the issues or challenges in front of them.”

Perhaps one could make worse mistakes, like not coaching at all or demeaning someone to make them feel inadequate intentionally. Clearly, don’t do that. Most people can get behind not making these egregious mistakes when coaching. However, consistently telling the people you are coaching how to solve an issue or challenge is not only easy to do; it’s hard not to do. 

The Reason Leaders Make This Mistake

The reason so many managers give advice and answers so quickly is typically one of two reasons:

  • They don’t have time
  • They know the answer

When you are in a hurry and or you know the answer to a question, it’s far easier and more efficient to give the answer and move on. Micromanagers take this a step further. Not only do they tell their team members the answer, but they do it for them because no one can complete a task as well as they can. 

Micromanagers not only answer every question, but no one can complete a task as well as they can. 

Delivering the answer to a question is quick and effective. However, it rarely does anything to encourage a person’s development.

How to Become a More Effective Coach

Great leaders identify where team members are currently in their development and align their coaching appropriately. The goal is simple: help your people 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.

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

Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of The Coaching Habit, explained this well. He told me, “Leaders should stay curious a little bit longer and rush to advice-giving a little bit slower.” By taking this approach, you force team members out of their comfort zone and encourage them to be more self-reflective.  

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

  • What can I do to help you?
  • What result are you trying to achieve?
  • Can you walk me through your thought process and what you have tried up until this point?
  • What do you think we should do to create the best result for everyone?
  • What other approaches might you take next time?

Closing

Regardless if you are guilty of consistently telling others how to fix or solve the issues or challenges in front of them or not. It’s never a bad time to be reminded to ensure you don’t make the mistake in the future. As a mentor of mine taught me, “people need to be reminded more than they need to be taught.”

How do you do to be an effective coach to others? Tell me in the comments.

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.

10 Leadership Tips for Managers Who Want to Be Great in Their Job

Mislead, word in 3D wooden alphabet letters with mis crossed out leaving the word lead.

It’s often the small things that make the biggest difference.  

What manager doesn’t want to be excellent in their job? To not just get consistent results, but to have team members fully engaged, developing, and living out the organization’s mission.  

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that most managers aren’t very good. My in-the-field research, gained by training managers to become leaders the last several years, suggests that 50% of managers should turn in their title and go back to being individual contributors. The list of reasons is long but boiled down; it’s their inability or unwillingness to inspire, empower, and serve their team members. 

Most managers aren’t leaders because they are unwilling to inspire, empower, and serve their team.  

However, a significant group of managers enjoy their role and aspire to become the best leader they can be but struggle to make the leap. Often, there is too much focus on doing big or significant things like giving a big speech, solving a huge problem, or making changes to the team. But the truth is, rarely is it one big thing that causes one to be perceived as a leader. It’s often the small things done repeatedly well that make the biggest difference.  

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains

Take, for instance, David Brailsford, the British Cycling coach who made famous the theory of marginal gains. If you are unfamiliar with either Brailsford or Marginal gains, here is the summarized version.

Coach Brailsford took over a British Cycling team that was abysmal and had been for 100 years. Instead of changing everything about the team, he adopted a different strategy known as the aggregation of marginal gains or the 1% rule. The idea was simple; if you broke down everything you could think of that it takes to be a successful rider, then improved by 1% every day, you would get a significant increase in the long run.  

The cycling team took on the manta of 1% better, and day after day, they focused on getting a little better, and eventually, it added up on the scoreboard. In the 2012 London Olympics, they won 8 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze, and in Rio, in 2016, they won 6 gold, 4 silver, and 1 bronze. An enormous improvement from a team that has just won 2 bronze total since 1984.  

In other words, the aggregation of marginal gains works whether you are talking about sport or leadership. So, with that in mind, I listed 10 tips for managers to get 1% better to become the leader they can ultimately be.  

1. Do One Thing Every Day to Build Trust-Based Relationships

Your ability to lead and not just manage a team starts with good, quality, professional relationships built on the bond of mutual trust. George Macdonald famously said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” To do this, you must consistently share your competence, care, and character for people to trust you. The key here is consistency, Reid Hoffmann, a founder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock, provides a simple formula for quickly understanding trust.

Consistency + Time = Trust

2. Take Leadership Outside the Business Conversation

In a hybrid or remote work environment, most interactions between managers and their team focus on business and results. While results are essential, understanding that part of a leader’s job is to elevate others inside and outside work. As Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, “my job is to serve my player’s hearts, not just their talents.”  

Create opportunities to take your leadership outside the business conversation by asking one of my favorite questions: “Is there someone whom you admire or aspire to be like because of the kind of person they are inside and outside of work?”

3. Put 1-on-1’s on the Calendar

Spontaneous 1-on-1 meetings with team members are great but not super realistic as the daily hustle and bustle take over. Sure, the idea of scheduling dedicated time to help support the growth and development of people doesn’t sound super realistic, but it can help keep people on track. If this is an area of improvement for you or the managers in your organization, check out Peoplebox

4. Let Other People Solve Problems

Maybe you’re a bit of a control freak. Maybe you are an elite problem-solver, which helped you get to your position today. Those things by themselves are great, but if you are the only person who can solve your team’s problems, you won’t go far or fast. There is an old African proverb that all leaders must remember, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

Find at least one opportunity each week to challenge team members to solve a problem independently or develop a list of possible solutions to solve it collaboratively. When you do this, you will have shared responsibility and be moving together as a team of people pulling their weight. 

5. Tell a Story a Day

If you want to inspire people like the best leaders in the world, you might want to think about telling a story every day. Storytelling allows you to reach both the emotional and the rational parts of an employee’s mind. Unfortunately, many managers forget how important storytelling is and stick solely to facts and figures, which turns their team members’ brains to negative or neutral. 

Managers speak primarily in facts and figures; leaders talk in stories.

6. Embrace Taking Blame

Taking the blame for something that you didn’t physically do can be challenging. However, that’s exactly what the best leaders do because they know this essential lesson:

Leaders are responsible for the people, and those people are responsible for the results.  

Your job is to be responsible for your people, and when a mistake happens (which it will), don’t throw them under the bus; fall on the sword for them. You will be amazed at how hard team members will work to make it up to you, knowing that the mistake should have fallen on them. 

7. Don’t Forget to Give Credit

If it’s hard for you to take the blame, that means it’s even harder to give credit. Dave Cancel, the founder of Drift, said, “My best advice for leaders: when things go wrong, take all the blame. When things go right, give away all the credit.”

Following up and following through on this leadership truth is hard and takes practice. From the time we are in school, we are taught to raise the trophy high above our heads, not above others.

8. Say Something When Effort Isn’t There

When it comes to getting better as a leader, we tend to focus on changing the behavior of others. But the reality is, we should be focused on looking at our behavior first. An example of this is our courage and skill to have difficult conversations.

When something isn’t right, like a lack of effort or a bad attitude, it’s your obligation to determine what is going on. Find the courage to say something, and get to the root of what may be causing the issue. 

9. “Thank You” a Day Keeps the “My Boss is an Ass” Away

There is nothing wrong with being a leader who elevates the standard of what’s required to help produce positive results. However, if you refuse to say “thank you” or “great job,” it will eventually wear your people out. Instead of being called a “leader,” you will be called “ass” behind your back.  

Challenge yourself to give praise or recognition on a more consistent cadence and rhythm than you are today. 

10. Invest In Your People

Being invested in feels good. It shows that either through money or time that someone cares about you. The best companies in the world and the best leaders in the world understand that investing in people is a worthwhile investment. Or you could say it this way, a company that doesn’t invest in managers doesn’t value leadership. 

A company that doesn’t invest in managers doesn’t value leadership.

If you don’t control the company budget for the investment in people, look for smaller opportunities to invest in your people with learning opportunities. You could start a book club, run an internal training session, or simply pass around a leadership column (hint…hint)

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop. https://bit.ly/3goZLv2

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

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 Handle Working for a Bad Manager

Retro office interior workspace and robot manager.

Unrealistic expectations cause problems and are exposed in a multitude of situations. Sometimes they are related to ourselves and thinking we should never make a mistake. Other times, they are connected to someone else that we interact with, like a boss or manager. 

We all have unrealistic expectations, but this doesn’t mean they are good for you. Quite the opposite, they can ruin a relationship, cause disengagement at work, and stop us from achieving attainable goals. 

“Unrealistic expectations are the seeds of resentment.” 

These are the wise words a coach and mentor told me as I wrestled with feelings of frustration with a former boss. While I struggled to understand his remarks at the time, it’s clear now that when we or anyone else falls short of our unrealistic expectations, we draw false conclusions, feed ourselves lies, and start the process of adverse outcomes becoming a reality.  

Take Larry, an experienced salesperson, as an example. He joined a company in startup mode and reported to Tom, a young and energetic first-time VP of Sales. Larry held the unrealistic expectation that “Tom should never be late to a virtual meeting.” He viewed tardiness as a sign of disrespect to him and anyone else attending a meeting.  

While Tom didn’t intend to be late for meetings with Larry, it was impossible for him to always be on time due to situations outside of his control. He reported to a long-winded CEO, had twelve salespeople with various experience levels, and was responsible for helping his young kids navigate virtual school at home. 

When Tom joined calls late, Larry concluded that Tom wasn’t a good leader because he lacked great time management skills. Instead of getting curious and uncovering the reasons for Tom’s tardiness, Larry allowed his disappointment to affect his effort. This eventually snowballed into an unfortunate split from the company that was eventually purchased by a competitor, causing Larry to miss out on a significant payday. 

What are Unrealistic Expectations?

An expectation is a belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. Unrealistic expectations assume a level of control that we don’t actually have in a situation. This is not to say that having expectations or standards of behavior is a bad thing. The keyword here is unrealistic.  

The gap between unrealistic expectations and reality lies in disappointment. If disappointment isn’t dealt with, it will hurt instead of helping your future outcomes. 

If disappointment, the gap between expectations and reality, isn’t dealt with, it will hurt instead of helping your future outcomes.

As someone who cares about achieving goals, properly dealing with feelings of disappointment is something, you should care about. While the strategies for best navigating dissatisfaction are long, it’s essential to be aware and have the courage to confront it. 

Why Most Employees Have Unrealistic Expectation of Their Boss

Most people are hard on themselves and even harder on their managers at work. The reason is simple, we desire people in leadership positions to be better and make fewer mistakes than we do. While it’s true that experience and wisdom lend leaders to make effective decisions and perform at a high level, no one is perfect.  

Just because someone has a title doesn’t make them perfect. Give leaders the grace you should give yourself.  

If this Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, employees need people in their corner who can empathize with their situation and act accordingly; leaders included.  

How to Relinquish Unrealistic Expectation of Your Manager

One of the keys to your engagement and performance is relinquishing unrealistic expectations of your manager. Here are a few ways to do that:

1. Focus on Growth Mode

There are so many bad managers because being an effective leader is hard. Having said that, there is a big difference between having solid boundaries for how a boss/manager should treat you and being patient with them when they are actively working on improving. If a manager constantly berates or treats you like you are beneath them, it is safe to assume that there is a need for immediate change.  However, there is more to flesh out than meets the eye in a situation like Larry and Tom’s.  

One way of relinquishing unrealistic expectations for a manager is to evaluate if they are in growth mode. The reason is simple;

“One mark of a leader getting better is their willingness to seek feedback and act differently because of it.”

If you were new to a job or role, you would want others to be patient as you developed the skills required to succeed. Now is the time to do the same for others. To determine if your boss is deserving of this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are they reading books, listening to podcasts, or attending workshops to grow their knowledge and develop their skills?
  • Do they ask for feedback from you or anyone else about what they can do better?
  • Have they completed a 360° assessment in the past 12 months?
  • Are they leading their best in the corporate environment and culture you both are in?

2. Use the Heart to Heart Technique

This technique isn’t for the faint of heart (pun intended). The heart-to-heart technique is a scheduled meeting with your manager designed and practiced before it takes place. It’s a courageous conversation laying evidence and feelings about what you need from your manager to be engaged and perform at your best. 

While this technique doesn’t always go as planned or have the desired outcome, you should feel good about opening the lines of communication and giving the situation a chance to improve. 

Closing

Unrealistic expectations about your manager are unhelpful expectations. They set both parties up for disappointment. Now is the time to reevaluate, better communicate, and have higher levels of empathy for everyone in the workplace, your boss included. 

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop. https://bit.ly/3goZLv2

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz: Join over 65k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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 Inspiring Others is an Essential Leadership Skill

Inspired to work together.

Stopping something good is better than never starting it at all.  

Leaders do all kinds of things for others to consider them a leader. To name a few, creating strong trust-based relationships, casting a compelling vision, and constantly coaching for development. While each of these are essential, there is one attribute that, without question, causes someone to consider you a leader, and that’s how well and how often you inspire. 

Former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner took the idea of inspiring people to a new level when he defined leadership this way, “Leadership is the ability to inspire others to achieve a shared objective.”

Not only is Weiner right, but research and other great leaders back him up. Richard Branson identifies the ability to inspire as the #1 leadership skill. According to an IBM study of over 1,700 CEO in 64 countries, the ability to inspire was one of the top three leadership traits. When leaders inspire they get an engaged team that gives maximum effort and produces maximum results.

When leaders inspire they get an engaged team that gives maximum effort and achieves maximum results.

However, knowing it’s essential to inspire as a leader and doing it are completely different things. I am sure of this leadership lesson in all my years of studying, teaching, and coaching leadership. 

Your potential to inspire others depends on how inspired you are.  

When you look at the word inspire, it’s best defined as filling (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. It comes from Latin meaning, “to breathe life into.”

What Happens When Leaders Stop Inspiring

It’s not hard to get behind the idea that inspiring others is an essential leadership skill. However, sustaining it and doing it consistently through verbal and body language communication is difficult.  

When one stops inspiring others, it’s like how you or I get out of shape. We don’t make a conscious decision to stop working out or eating healthy. It happens subconsciously because we are busy doing other things, or we get complacent in our position. Suddenly, it’s been a month since we have been to the gym, and pizza is a regular part of our diet. Here is what happens when leaders stop inspiring on a timeline:

Within 2-4 weeks – Nothing significant changes. However, engagement begins to dip a few points. The focus starts to shift from being mission and habits-focused to outcome-only-focused. 

Within 3-6 months – Visible changes start to happen. There will be some bad turnover in one or two key roles. Meetings and activities will be solely focused on outcomes and results.

Within 18 months – Significant changes start to happen. Turnover is a problem, as crucial team members and those who could have become vital team members have left. HR or Learning and Development has been called in, results have dipped, burnout is high, engagement is low. 

Within 3-5 years – Changes have happened. The leader has been replaced, demoted, or left the role on their own accord. For those that stay, it’s typically because they are the CEO and the work culture is deficient or even toxic. 

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What Leaders Can Do to Keep Inspiring

There are many strategies and tactics leaders can leverage to “breathe life into someone else” consistently. Here are a few of my favorites from leaders featured in Building the Best.

Care about them first.

To inspire your team consistently, they first have to understand how much you care about them. To do this, you must reject the notion that words hold great power. Instead, accept the power of actions. The first action has to be getting to know them on a professional and personal level. 

Great leaders first care about others in order to share the inspiration inside them.

 Start by asking them questions about their journey, experiences, challenges, aspirations, and what drives them. Instead of just going through the motions, be intent on listening and remembering so you can adjust your actions in the future to show them you heard. 

Like all great relationships, the only way to get there is by dedicating time. A mentor of mine always told me, “kids spell love, T-I-M-E.” The same is true in showing people you genuinely care about them. Your time is valuable, and you can’t get it back. Devoting time to someone else indicates that you care, and they are more important to you.

Communicate the Cause

Everybody, whether they admit it or not wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves and do meaningful work during our lives. Part of your responsibility as a leader is to connect yourself to a deeper cause or mission and then do the same for those you get the opportunity to lead. 

 “The leaders that inspire are purpose-driven and constantly repeat the deeper mission behind their work.”

If you lead a team, do not go another minute without being clear on why your team does what it does and its purpose for existence. It’s easy for people to get lost in the monotony of their everyday work without even considering how their work impacts the organization and how it impacts people beyond its walls.  

By connecting people to a deeper cause, you’ll magnify purpose and immediately raise the ceiling of what’s possible. When things get difficult (and they will), this deeper cause will give your team a reason to continue, even through the most trying times. 

Here’s the hard truth about inspiring others. Not everyone will be inspired. Not everyone will buy into the shared cause, and you can’t choose for them. Your responsibility is to inspire them to action, and if they end up making a choice not to get on board, it’s up to you to find someone else that will.

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.

Drive Better Results and Retention: Exciting news! LearnLoft has partnered with Peoplebox to help provide HR Leaders and Executives an all-in-one engagement and performance platform. Learn More 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 Confidence is Required to Be a Successful Leader

Group of friendly businesspeople with male leader in front

To be successful in almost anything requires confidence, leadership included. 

Brand new research from Predictive Index’s 2021 People Management Report asked a series of questions around what makes a world-class manager. They found that the #1 skill employees value from their managers is confidence.

Most people know confidence is essential, but it’s fascinating to learn how important it is in today’s business environment. 

I asked Blake Bozarth why confidence is so critical for leaders today, and he said, “If you don’t have confidence in yourself, how can anyone else? When you’re confident in who you are, your gifts and strengths, and the mission you’re on, it’s contagious.” To take Bozarth’s wise words a step further, confidence breeds followership and increases influence. 

Confidence breeds followership and increases influence

As easy as this is to say, everyone from Olympic Athletes to high-performing CEO’s has struggled with confidence at one time or another. The reason is simple, most people don’t know what it is, what it isn’t, and how to develop it.  

What’s Confidence and How is it Developed?

Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.” Ford was talking about confidence, which is best defined as the belief in oneself and one’s ability to succeed. It comes from a Latin word meaning “to have full trust.”

Confidence is not cockiness or arrogance. It is not masking gaps inside by portraying something different on the outside. Confidence in leadership isn’t ‘Every team member loves me,’ confidence is ‘I will be a great leader to them even if they don’t.’

Confidence in leadership isn’t ‘Every team member loves me,’ confidence is ‘I will be a great leader to them even if they don’t.’

I have learned studying, coaching, and working with great leaders is confidence is built through consistent daily repetition. On a recent episode of The Ringers, “Flying Coach Podcast” with Sean McVay, Pittsburgh Steeler Head Coach Mike Tomlin described perfectly how confidence is developed, “confidence is steeped in the work.”

Here are a few proven strategies if you are ready to do the work required to build authentic confidence as a leader that will attract people to follow you.

1. Visualize Yourself as a Great Leader.

The mind is a powerful thing. Every achievement started as an idea and a vision in someone’s mind. What I have learned is, how leaders think about themselves will shape their future. 

How leaders think about themselves will shape their future.

The Journal of Consulting Psychology outlined an experimental study of visualization techniques, and the results were pretty amazing. They studied two groups of job seekers. Both groups were exposed to the same career counseling and interview coaching, but the second group also learned visualization techniques. 

Within two months of training, there was a 45 percent increase in the second group getting employment versus the first group. Leaving no doubt about the power of visualization. 

If you want to grow your confidence, you have to visualize yourself as a great leader first. 

2. Be Curious and Listen. 

The best leaders have wisdom to share and are fantastic problem solvers, but their curiosity and listening skills allow both of those things to come to fruition. I was a guest on The Tie Podcast, and I told host Walker Simas, “if I could impart anything on young people, it’s to be curious and to listen. You will be amazed at what happens in your life.”

Just this week, I sat in a meeting with a highly successful Vice President in a Fortune 100 company with 25 years of experience. I watched as she diligently took notes, asked curious questions, and listened for over two hours at an elite level. Not only was it impressive, but it allowed her to communicate with conviction when she spoke. 

Model your behavior after her and allow your curiosity and listening skills to build confidence daily. 

3. Leverage Specific Kinds of Daily Affirmations. 

Building confidence begins with the words you tell yourself every day because 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

Affirmations are a great place to start. An affirmation is a formal declaration of emotional support or encouragement. Instead of telling yourself, “I am good enough” or “I am worthy enough,” add to the statement WHY you are good enough or WHY you are worthy. It would sound like this, “I am worthy of being a great leader because I care more about others’ success than my own.” 

4. Strengthen Your Words. 

While adding words of affirmation is a great place to start, you also must eliminate the words that protect you from failure because they are setting you up for it. 

Most managers are afraid of failure or being negatively judged for an idea. To cope, they try to soften the blow by saying, “I am going to try…” or “I might be able to…” or “We might.” Instead, replace those with courageous words like, “I am going to…” or “We will…” or “We can…”  

5. Filter The Words of Others. 

As Lou Holtz said, “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” If you rely on developing confidence from other people’s praise, you are in a dangerous spot.

Since you can’t control what others say, it’s important to take others’ words with a grain of salt. Remember, confidence comes from within, so allowing others’ words to dictate your feelings isn’t true confidence.  

Closing

Confidence is crucial for both short-term and long-term leadership success. Stop hoping or pretending you have it. Your consistent daily repetitions and steeping yourself in the hard work of leadership will provide it.

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.

Drive Better Results and Retention: Exciting news! LearnLoft has partnered with Peoplebox to help provide HR Leaders and Executives an all-in-one engagement and performance platform. Learn More 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