Simple Phrases Great Leaders Say to Their Team

communication

Managers are constantly communicating with their employees to transfer knowledge and information. This communication is crucial to the success of any team or organization; but, only if it is performed appropriately. Barking orders, giving directives, inserting negative comments, and providing unempathetic feedback are also communication methods, but they won’t give you the same success rate.  

Anyone is susceptible to getting caught up in the daily hustle and forget the weight and consequences of the words they use, neglect to use, or how they affect other people.  

Great leaders don’t lose sight of the power of their words, even long after they have said them.

John Eades

Early in my career leading a business division, I had yet to grasp this important concept. At the end of a one-on-one performance review, a team member asked if they could provide feedback to me after I finished her review. My team member said, “Recently, your attitude and words have taken a pessimistic and negative turn with myself and others. It seems you are highlighting everything the group is doing wrong versus the things we are doing right. While I know you are a positive person, this has become a pattern, and it’s wearing on the team and me.”  

My first reaction was to get defensive and make excuses. Instead, I thanked her for her courage and agreed to do some self-reflection. Over the next few days, I evaluated her specific examples and concluded she was speaking the truth. She told me because she cared and wanted me to improve. 

It taught me an important lesson that I have since seen in many of the great leaders I have studied:

Leaders don’t take things personally; they seek the truth because all improvement starts with it.  

While no leader is a perfect communicator, there are phrases the best leaders say consistently to their team members that make them more effective.   

1. “I’m not going to be perfect, and I don’t expect you to be either.”

It’s easy for professionals to look up to someone in a leadership position and fool themselves into believing they are perfect. For a leader to put the truth on the table and say, “I’m not going to be perfect, and I don’t expect you to be either,” creates a foundation of empathy and forgiveness. It expresses to your people that you are human and you know that they are human. Together you are allowed to make mistakes.

When those mistakes happen, we will admit the mistake, learn from it, and then work to not make the same ones in the future. As I wrote in Building the Best, “Failure is not final, failure is feedback.”

2. “Thank you.”

Saying “thank you” is simple, and it must be done often because it means a lot to your team. Those two little words are magical; people desperately want to be acknowledged for the work they do.  

Don’t just take my words for it. A recent study by US psychologists in the journal Psychological Science provides clinical proof of what many of us already knew: Saying “thank you” can positively transform your relationship with others. 

3. “What Have You Done Today to Help Yourself Tomorrow?”

The best leaders are obsessed with helping others reach their potential. Even with this obsession, they know they can’t do it all for their team. Each person has to make the daily decisions and self-disciplined choices to get a little better today than they were yesterday.  

The best leaders are obsessed with helping others reach their potential

By using a phrase like, “what have you done today to help yourself tomorrow,” challenges your team to not only think but act differently. I share a great story on the topic of a grasshopper and the ant in a video on LinkedIn that’s worth your time. Maybe you will share the story with your team when you ask them the question.

4. “Tell Me More.”

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

In our Coaching for Excellence workshops, I teach leaders to leverage questions and statements to help their team solve their own problems. A simple statement like “tell me more” is a fantastic coaching technique to allow others to get their entire point across before a leader swoops in to solve it for them.  

Leaders withhold answers as long as possible to give people the space to solve their own problems first.  

Reject your instincts to interject your insight and opinions by using “tell me more” daily. Often people will answer their own questions without you having to be the hero. 

5. “What can I do to help you?”

There are many forms of leadership, but the concept of servant leadership has emerged as an effective leadership style. The concept behind servant leadership is to flip the traditional hierarchical management model on its head. Instead of your team working for you, you work for them.  

Gary Vaynerchuck shared this LinkedIn post recently that describes it perfectly, “Do for them, not what can they do for you! Good workers come from great bosses.”

6. “What are your personal goals?”

Work and careers have changed dramatically in the last 30 years. It was typical for someone to stay with one company for 30+ years, which is now an anomaly. Professionals have embraced the idea of movement and side hustles to achieve their professional goals. 

While most managers put their heads in the sand or reject this reality, the best leaders do the opposite. They embrace this shift and participate in helping their people achieve their personal goals.  

One of the most powerful questions any leader can ask their team is, “what are your personal goals?” If you want to take it a step further, at the beginning of every year, ask each team member, “What are your goals for this year?” this will help you align your activities and coaching to ensure they achieve them.  

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

How the Best Leaders Navigate Office Politics

Business competition

For everyone in the United States, November 3rd was Election Day. It’s was day when we got the opportunity to exercise our right to vote for our country’s leaders. Many care deeply about this particular election (myself included). 

While talking about politics can get most people’s blood boiling, there’s another type of politics that deserve your attention — organizational politics or “office politics.”

Before you shrug off the idea or claim you don’t get involved in “office politics,” let’s define what the term means. Politics are the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups or other forms of power relations between individuals.  

There isn’t an organization in the world that doesn’t make decisions in groups or navigates power balance.  What I have learned in working with leaders in different sizes and types of organizations is that the best leaders not only recognize the politics in their organization, they are active participants in it. 

Great leaders are active participants in organizational politics.

Great leaders do this because they recognize that if they want to make positive change, have influence, and be a part of the solution, they must be active participants and not passive bystanders.

Don’t Ignore It; Learn it.

One of the most popular things I hear from people, “I ignore the politics in my organization; it’s not worth my time.”  I can absolutely understand this comment if their organization has more people jockeying for position than working to advance the company forward. However, this isn’t typical and even in organizations like this, ignoring politics isn’t the answer; learning it is.  After studying leaders who navigate office politics well, here are some best practices you can implement to ensure you aren’t ignoring your organizational politics.

1. Rely on Relationships

One of the biggest mistakes any politician makes is thinking they can do it all by themselves.  Many professionals make the same mistake.  Instead of relying on strong relationships, they “go rogue” and are blindsided when their initiatives are struck down or thrown out. Mark Sheilds said it well, “There is always strength in numbers. The more individuals and organizations that you can rally around your cause, the better.”

Start early and never stop building strong relationships you can rely on.  As I wrote in Building the Best“Without strong relationships, you can’t lead.”  Build strong trust-filled relationships at every organizational level by being reliable, consistent, and helping others get what they want.  

If you are curious about the strength of a relationship in your organization, ask yourself this question, “Have I given my time or demonstrated my intentions through actions to this person?”  If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes!” it’s time to make a change with them. 

2. Build a Resume of Accomplishments for Influence

John Maxwell declared, “Leadership is influence.”  That’s not all leadership is, but I know you can’t lead without it.  Influence, by definition, is the power to have an important effect on someone or something.  The best way to gain influence is to build a resume based on actions and accomplishments.  

Too often, people assume that influence comes from how long you have been somewhere. While this might have been true in previous generations, it’s becoming less and less important today.  

Great modern leaders care more about your actions than your age.

The fastest path to influence is accomplishing meaningful things with others. When you play an integral part on a team that takes action, solves problems, and gets results, your influence skyrockets.  

3. Understand the Decision Making Process

Decision making is choosing between two or more courses of action. Some decisions are based on reason and others on intuition. Each organization has a decision-making process woven into the fabric of their culture. I have come to define them in two ways:

Centralized Authority:  These organizations make decisions in a slow, pragmatic, and hierarchical way. Centralized Authority decision making is common in highly regulated industries with significant financial or safety-related ramifications in most decisions.  

Dispersed Authority: These organizations make decisions in a quick, decisive, and shared way.  It’s common for team members to be empowered to “make decisions where the information is.”  This is common in entrepreneurial cultures or in technology companies where innovation rules the day. 

There are always exceptions to every rule, but in most situations, the better model is dispersed authority.  You might not be able to change the decision-making process in your organization, but you should be able to answer these questions:  

Who are the key people?  

What are those people’s priorities? 

What do they value most?  

Once you can answer these questions, you can align your initiatives and influence to get things accomplished.

4. Be Patient

I learned early in my career, “patience is a virtue.”  This week Gary Vaynerchuk said, “patience is the core ingredient of success for most people.”  Most people don’t have patience, and instead expect to build relationships, have influence, and make decisions in days, not years.  

The leaders who navigate office politics the best are the ones who are patient and do the right thing day in and day out.  So do your best to stay patient while being an active participant in your office politics.  

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

3 Simple Reasons Empathy Makes You A Better Leader

When coming up with a list of key leadership skills, it’s not uncommon to see phrases like “good communicator” or “strong decision-making abilities” come up. While such attributes are certainly important, another vital trait is often overlooked: empathy.

Like many words today, its true meaning has been hijacked. My company LearnLoft defines empathy in the Elevate Others Leadership Report as “how well you are able to identify with your team to understand their feeling and perspectives, in order to guide your actions.” 

Empathy is key to connecting with employees and earning their respect–and there are plenty of examples that prove its value.

1. Empathy fuels productivity and performance.

An empathetic outlook has been found to significantly improve productivity. A comprehensive study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that empathetic interventions could dramatically increase productivity in a wide range of environments.

One aspect of the study had lifeguards read stories about how their work helps others to increase their “perceptions of social impact and social work.” The study found that those who read these stories had a noteworthy increase in “job dedication and helping behavior.” Similarly, university fundraiser participants were able to double how many donations they obtained when empathetic stories were shared.

Russ Ruffino, founder, and CEO of Clients on Demand, calls empathy “the key to great marketing.”

As he explains, “When everything is said and done, that’s what your clients want — to be understood. They want to know you understand their problems and concerns on a deep, personal level, and that you have the answers they need. The key to creating trust is to show clients that you know exactly how they feel, and how to fix what’s wrong. When you can do that, everything else is simple.”

These same principles are just as important when leading your internal team. Your team will be more productive and perform better when they know you understand them versus just being another employee.  

2. Empathy increases happiness in the workplace.

Happiness in the workplace matters — for both you and your employees. For many, feeling appreciated or valued by their organization is key to finding purpose and satisfaction in their work. In fact, one study found that 66 percent of employees state they would leave their job if they felt unappreciated — and for millennials and gen z, those numbers are even higher.

Empathy is one of your best avenues for showing your employees that you care about their needs and value their contributions. Gary Vaynerchuk who is mildly obsessed with kindness and empathy in the workplace said, “A lot of people think of leadership qualities as “paternal” — qualities like being aggressive or stern. I think of them as more “maternal.” I think the best managers have caring, empathetic, kind personalities.”

When leaders do this they spur a release of serotonin and oxytocin in people as a result of their empathetic leadership. Not only will it help employees feel a stronger bond to the team and organization, but it will also reassure them that their contributions are valued. Happier individuals will work harder and are less likely to leave for other opportunities.

3. Empathy fosters collaboration.

Companies rarely succeed or fail based on the efforts of an individual leader — they require the collaborative input of several parties. Many of the most successful business leaders understand that innovative solutions often come from others in their organization. They value the input and perspective others have to offer.

Google’s Project Aristotle research notably found that the most successful groups demonstrate empathy by having team members who are willing to discuss emotions utilizing nonverbal cues, while also giving each group member equal time to contribute ideas. Studies in education have similarly found that empathy is the baseline for successful collaborative efforts.

Empathy creates an environment where each team member becomes more willing to share their insights–and this is where many of the best ideas are found.

The above examples are just a small sample of how empathy can transform your office environment. By learning to better understand your staff and demonstrating that you actually care about their needs, you will cultivate stronger performance than ever before.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

5 Ways Great Leaders Create High Performing Teams

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out some professional teams are higher performing than others. Not only do high-performing teams contribute to better business outcomes, but their team members embrace the daily challenge to solve problems and achieve things together.

A team, by definition, is a group of individuals working together to achieve a goal. While the definition is simple, almost everyone has been a part of a group of individuals who weren’t working to achieve a collective goal.  

There have been many incredible studies about what makes a team successful. Including Google’s two year study that found there were five characteristics of enhanced teams, with the most important being psychological safety. While psychological safety is important, there is another common thread of all high performing teams, and it consists of two words: great leadership. 

Teams without great leadership might have periods of success, but it’s literally impossible to sustain that success without great leadership. Here are five things leaders do to help make their teams more successful:

They know they aren’t the only leader on the team.

Conventional wisdom would say the person at the top of the proverbial food chain is the only leader, but that would be wrong. In order for any team to reach heights they never thought possible, it needs leaders at every level whose behavior reflects what it means to be a leader. 

While this can be difficult to institutionalize, it starts with changing your mindset that you, in fact, aren’t the only leader. Once your heart and mind are in the right place, you have to teach others what it means to be a leader and why it’s so important they lead right where they are. 

They have quality and productive meetings.

A recent estimate suggests that employees endure a staggering 55 million meetings a day in the United States. This tremendous time investment typically yields only modest returns. In a recent interview on the Follow My Lead Podcast, Steven Rogelberg, author of the new book The Surprising Science of Meetings said, “In many ways, meetings are the building blocks and core elements of our organizations. They are the venues where the organization comes to life for employees, teams, and leaders.”

You can have quality and productive meetings by narrowing your focus on the purpose of each meeting and making sure each person attending is included in the discussion. While this can be difficult, there might be nothing more important in your business than having meetings that matter.

They focus on elevating others.

After interviewing hundreds of leaders and completing over 35,000 assessments of organizational leaders, I have come to define leadership this way:

Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.

There are two key words here; elevate others.

If you want your team to come together and achieve a goal, it requires you focus on elevating others on a daily basis. You cannot take a hands-off approach to leadership, but instead must be involved by challenging and coaching people to elevate their performance.  

They lean into the journey.

Leading a team today is more difficult than ever because of the constant pressure from the outside to create positive results immediately. While the best leaders absolutely care about the results, they lean into the journey instead of the results. Gary Vaynerchuk who preaches the importance of this all the time said during a recent interview, “if you don’t love the process of what you’re up to, you already lost.”

Gary is right. Get your team to buy into the journey and embrace the process. The only way to do this is to celebrate the day to day work ethic and behavior rather than just the outcomes.

They create a culture of accountability.

In many ways, the hardest element of leadership is being a leader of consequence and holding people accountable. Accountability is one of these words that has been used to the point that its meaning has been a bit lost. The actual definition of accountability is, “The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.”

The best leaders don’t look at accountability as optional. You can make accountability an obligation by giving praise to your people when standards are exceeded, acknowledging people when standards are met, and giving direct feedback if your people fall short of those standards.  

A Version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is also the author the upcoming book “Elevate Others: The New Model to Successfully Lead Today.” You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

The Critical Thing Great Leaders Bring to Work

It didn’t take long to realize that morale was at 3 on a 1-10 scale. The team had been through a lot in a short period of time; poor business performance, selfish leadership, and unrealistic expectations. My first reaction was to jump right in and try to start solving problems, but I knew from my mentors that solving problems was only part of the equation. What everyone needed was hope and confidence about the future.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the exact definition of optimism. Just this week, on Snapchat, I heard Gary Vaynerchuk say in a quick 10-second snap:

“The world lacks optimism, it’s in short supply. So if you find it, latch onto it. If you have it, much love.”

Optimism is what stops those with great talent from reaching their full potential. It’s a leaders responsibility to bring optimism to the workplace EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. If you do, these are the things that will happen:

People Will be Drawn To You

Optimism is like cookies coming out of the oven – you will draw people to you. Being surrounded by people with a deep interest in what you are doing and the desire to be around you is an enormous part of successfully leading a team to higher levels of performance.

 People Will Follow You

You can’t be a leader without people following you. Optimism provides a foundation to build great relationships with your team so they are willing to follow. Once someone is willing to follow, you have a chance to win on an ongoing basis. You probably have amazing leader-employee relationships but if you want a short reminder check out thisvideo.

 People Will Come to You in Times of Need

A mentor of mine once told me “everybody is going through something.” I don’t care how perfect someone else’s life looks on the outside, they are battling something. That means when people need to talk about their problems and challenges, the last place they want to go to is someone who has a negative outlook. Your optimistic outlook will allow you to help others during difficult times.

People Will Emulate You

Have you ever seen a small child watch their parents then immediately emulate them? This works for both positive and negative behaviors, and as parents it’s our job to set the example for our family. Obviously, your people aren’t children, but just like a family, your example sets a certain level of expectation. Give everyone a good example to follow.

People Will Spread Your Optimism 

Your team will pass their new found optimism on to new hires, interns, and their family. Much like the power of social media you begin reaching a lot more people than you could ever imagine.

I am under no dissolution that bringing optimism to the workplace everyday is easy. In many ways, it might be the hardest thing any leader does because there are so much negativity and challenges in the world. That being said, I picked up a few ways to be an optimistic communicator from Jon Gordon, best selling author and speaker:

  1. Shout Praise, Whisper Criticism
  2. Encourage
  3. Smile More
  4. Don’t Complain
  5. Welcome Feedback

It’s my hope that by reading this, I will pass my own optimism on to you, at least for the day. The challenge will be evaluating how optimistic you are in your professional and personal life and committing to putting these into practice.

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