How the Best Leaders Are Handling the Return To the Office

Remote work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Beyond the Screen

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

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

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

1. Team Building Activities

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

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

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

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

2. Purpose Sessions 

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

People persevere because of purpose, not pay

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

3. Role and Skill Audits

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

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

4. Strategy Symposium

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

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

5. Development Workshops

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

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

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

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

A few additional ideas include: 

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

Closing

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

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

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

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

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Leadership is So Powerful on the Front Lines

Some leaders emerge in the most trying times that inspire a whole new generation of leaders. These leaders don’t choose, they are chosen. It’s as if they have molded themselves and been shaped by their experiences to lead in moments and situations where most would run or crumble.  

Enter Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The former actor and comedian turned wartime symbol of courage and leadership. When Russian President Vladimir Putin began invading Ukraine, most people assumed the smaller country wouldn’t put up much of a fight. If that weren’t enough, the much less experienced leader Zelenskyy would flee his homeland for safety in the West.  

Insert a plot twist. 

Zelenskyy has taken a much different leadership approach, one that we all need to learn from. He chose to lead from the front lines, and it’s inspired millions of people worldwide, including his fellow Ukrainian citizens. 

Not only did he reject the offer to flee, but he told the US, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” In a video posted last Saturday morning, Zelenskyy revealed that he is still in Kyiv. “I am here. We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this.” 

Ukrainian or not, Zelenskyy is courageous and brave for staying with his people and fighting on the front lines while risking his own life. 

There is no telling what the next few weeks, months, or years will have in store for Ukraine, Russia, and the world. However, the leadership lesson is clear:

A leader's willingness to be on the front lines is inspiring and powerful because it moves people to action.

Now, this isn’t to say that every leadership situation requires the President of a country to fight on the front lines or the CEO of a company to be working in the weeds. However, their willingness to do it demonstrates their commitment to the mission and their people.  

Front-Line Leadership is Brave

I wrote in Building the Best about five unique leadership styles, with the “elevate style” being the best. I have never been more sure that leaders whose style is Elevate would be willing to lead from the front lines. When leaders make courageous decisions like suiting up, working long hours, or solving big problems with their people, it makes them authentic and relatable.  

When leaders make the courageous decision to lead from the front lines, it makes them authentic and inspiring.

When former US President Donald Trump was asked about Zelensklyy, he said, “You never know about bravery. Some people think they are brave and they aren’t brave. Other people don’t think they aren’t very brave, and they step up. You never know until you get tested. Zelenskyy is being tested at the highest level, and so far, he has shown great leadership and bravery.” 

Whether you think of yourself as brave or not, one way to increase your bravery is by thinking about others instead of yourself. That’s exactly how the best leaders think because they know they work for their people instead of the other way around.

Closing

Today Ukraine and Russia are meeting for the first time at the border of Belarus to discuss peace talks. While the outcomes of these meetings are unknown, there is a leadership lesson to take away.

Be willing to lead like a Zelenskyy.

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

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.

The Communication Technique That Will Make You a Better Leader

Why is it that a professional will be fully engaged in a youtube video for 20 minutes but mentally check out of their boss’s team meeting in the first 5 minutes? Lazy or unwilling clearly wouldn’t be the right words. It often comes down to the quality of the communication they receive.  

There are many skills leaders must develop and demonstrate to be effective over time. Research by LearnLoft indicates relationship building, coaching, accountability, and communication are in the top four. However, communicating is the one that ultimately causes success or failure.  

Communication is the leadership skill that ultimately causes success or failure.

Take Robert, a sales manager in the aftermarket car industry, as an example. When the performance and motivation of Ginger, one of his star salespeople, saw a dramatic dip, he did what most managers do. He attempted to motivate her with money. He provided an increased commission structure and gave her a pep talk.

After a few months of continued lackluster results, Robert started to believe that Ginger’s best days were behind her. In a coaching session, we unpacked his previous attempts to assist Ginger and covered some alternative approaches that revolved around improving communication. I told Robert two lessons from the Effective Leadership Communication workshop. First, “you can’t motivate others, but you can inspire them.” Second, “the effectiveness of your communication determines the ceiling of your leadership.”

The effectiveness of your communication determines the ceiling of your leadership.

These two lessons spurred a conversation that led to a communication technique that immediately moved the needle with Ginger. It’s what I call, “Remind them of the reason.”

Remind Them of the Reason

Everybody, whether they admit it or not, wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves and do meaningful work during their lives. For example, in the case of Ginger, she admitted to Robert that she wasn’t motivated by the increase in commission and that ultimately she had forgotten the reason for her work beyond just making money for herself. 

Robert took this opportunity to inspire Ginger by “reminding her of the reason.” Here is what Robert said to Ginger in a one-on-one:

“The aftermarket car industry is ripe with deceit causing average Americans to be taken advantage of. It’s our job to keep the trustworthy mechanics and independent shop owners in a place where they can thrive. So every American has a trustworthy auto shop with the best service and prices.” He continued, “So the next time you want to give up when a shop owner tells you they don’t have time, remember; we are on a mission to help auto shop owners save $10M this year alone. We do this by providing a world-class eCommerce marketplace to empower independent shop owners to buy quality products at wholesale pricing.”  

Not only did Ginger’s performance improve after their talk, but she wrote a note on her whiteboard, “Remind Yourself of the Reason Daily.” The story of Robert and Ginger reminds us of an essential leadership lesson: 

Part of your responsibility as a leader is to constantly remind your team of the deeper reason 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. By reminding people of the reason for their work, you’ll immediately raise the ceiling of what’s possible. When things get complicated (and they will), this deeper reason will give your team a reason to continue, even through the most trying times. 

Effective Communication Starts by Listening and Observing

What’s the best way to inspire and communicate with others? Most people would assume it’s about speaking, which wouldn’t be wrong. However, effective communication isn’t just about speaking, it’s also about listening and observing. 

Effective communication isn't just about speaking but also about listening and observing.

Knowing when and how often to remind your team of the reason is impossible without listening to your people. There has never been a more critical time to replace your judgemental mind with your eyes and ears. One of the best ways to do this is to distinguish between hearing and listening.  You could write a whole book about the topic, but a simple way to think about the difference:

Hearing is with your ears, listening is with your mind.

Be intentional and create interactions that allow you to be present and truly listen to your people. You will be amazed at what you learn, which will allow you to connect with them and inspire them better.

Closing

Here’s the hard truth about being an effective communicator and inspiring others. You won’t naturally connect with everyone, and everyone won’t buy into the deeper reason for your work. While it would be great you could, you can’t choose for them. Your responsibility is to communicate effectively and inspire them to action daily. 

Effective Leadership Communication Workshop Start Communicating more confidently and effectively as a leader. Sign up for the next Effective Leadership Communication Workshop Friday, February 25th at 12 PM EST.

John’s New Book John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read 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. 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.

Super Bowl Winning Coach Sean McVay’s Leadership is So Simple You Should Model It

Every leader, good or bad, should be your teacher. It’s just more fun to learn from successful leaders. 

Whether you are a football fan or not, LA Rams Head Coach Sean McVay is a great leader to study. In a sport where age and experience create a perception of one’s ability, McVay has risen to the challenge and showed that age was just a number. At the ripe age of 35, he is the winningest active coach in the NFL and the youngest coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl.

While McVay has the work ethic of many great coaches with the intellect to match, that’s not what’s most impressive. His leadership and, specifically, what he leads with that sets him apart.  

A Great Leader Cares First

McVay said it well in a recent interview, “Good coaches help their players reach their highest potential. In order to do that, it starts with being able to connect with them as human beings first. You do that by believing in guys and caring about them. When you care about the players you are working with, that’s when they want to play hard for you.”

McVay’s comments could be summarized in a simple and powerful leadership lesson: care for your people. Because when you care for your people you earn the opportunity to get everything they have. Caring means a feeling of being concerned for someone and having an urge to show kindness to them.

When you boil leadership down to the simplest form, the simple act of authentically caring for someone is leadership.

The simple act of authentically caring for someone is leadership.

In order to show your people you care, much as Sean McVay does, you have to get to know them on a professional and personal level. This starts with asking them authentic questions about their journey, experiences, challenges, and aspirations. So instead of just going through the motions, you have to be intent on listening and then remembering what you hear, so you can adjust your actions in the future to show them you listened.

Beyond the tough yet straightforward leadership lesson of caring for your team first, there are three other lessons that you should model in your leadership approach from McVay.

1. Be Demanding But Uplifting at the Same Time

McVay is a leadership junkie who reads, listens, and absorbs ideas from every possible place to apply them with his team. A great example of this was when he was asked about surpassing Steelers Legendary Coach Mike Tomlin as the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl. Not only did he give a glowing response to the kind of leader and man Tomlin is, but he gave us a secret to leadership.

“Mike (Tomlin) is a great example for all leaders as far as how you are demanding but uplifting to your players. How you’re so steady and so mentally tough in those moments when your team needs it the most.”

Great leaders are demanding but uplifting to their team

2. Embrace Consistency as a Key to Performance

It’s easy for managers to measure performance based on outcomes. While results are essential, McVay doesn’t believe they are the best measure of performance. On an episode of the Flying Coach Podcast, McVay said something that caught me off guard, “Consistency is the truest measure of performance.”  

Consistency is the truest measure of performance.

The closer you look at his words the more accurate they become. In business or sports, the reality is that we rarely, if ever, control the outcome. However, we can control how consistent we are with our effort, preparation, attitude, and energy.

We can't control the result, but we can control how consistent we are with our effort, preparation, attitude, and energy.

When every single member of a team shows up consistently at their highest level, there is a good chance the outcome will match. However, if the results don’t end up favorable, McVay and other great leaders can live with the result because they know their team was consistently excellent in their actions.

3. Lead with Urgent Enjoyment. 

If you are a fan of HBO’s hit series Ted Lasso, you know all about the main character’s positive leadership approach that includes a simple locker room sign that says, “believe.” McVay channels his inner Lasso with phrases and mantra’s on walls of the LA Rams facility like:

  • “The Standard is the Standard”  
  • “We Not Me” 
  • “One Rule – Be On Time”
  • “Situational Masters”
  • “Embrace the Suck”

However, it’s another leadership saying behind the desk in his office that grasped my attention. All it says is “Urgent Enjoyment.” In a world that moves faster than ever before, and opportunities come and go seemingly before they arrive, urgent enjoyment is the perfect mantra for a leader and team. I like to think of the term this way:

Urgent – We don’t know what will happen tomorrow

Enjoyment – Find joy and passion in work

"You don't know what will happen tomorrow, so you might as well be urgent today."

The urgent part is easy for most leaders. The enjoyment part is much more difficult. While work isn’t meant to be easy, no one says you shouldn’t have fun while doing it.  

Closing

Whether you were happy about the outcome of the LA Rams NFL Championship, take leadership lessons from Sean McVay. Care about your people first, be demanding but uplifting, embrace consistency as the truest measure of performance, and lastly, lead with urgent enjoyment. 

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.

Effective Leadership Communication Start Communicating more confidently and effectively as a leader. Sign up for the next Effective Leadership Communication 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. 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.

5 Mistakes You’re Making When Leading Your Team

Shaming colleague for mistake

You’ve got the title; you’ve got the direct reports; you’ve got the desire to be a leader and not a manager; yet, when it comes to getting results, your team keeps falling short.

The voluntary turnover is high, the engagement is low, and you end up doing most of the work (or, worse, micromanaging the work) to get the numbers to look acceptable. 

It’s time to stop hoping and start leading. While each company and situation is slightly different, managers make some fairly common mistakes when leading their team. At the center of many of these mistakes is the belief that your instincts are enough and that leadership should be easy. 

Many leadership mistakes stem from the false belief that your instincts are enough and that leadership should be easy.

In Building the Best, I highlight research from Leadership Quarterly. They found that 24% of our leadership ability is genetics, and 76% of that ability is learned or developed. 

It’s true that instincts or DNA is a proven aspect of leadership. However, genetics by themselves won’t mold you into the best leader you can be. Often it requires overcoming simple mistakes through hard work. Mistakes by themselves aren’t bad; it’s repeated errors that keep us from being the best leader we can be. If you take nothing else away today, let it be this:

Great leaders aren't afraid to make mistakes, because they always learn from them.

Here are a few common mistakes I have made myself and those I have seen coaching and teaching leaders.

Mistake #1: You Care More About Your Title Than Your People

Do you remember how it felt when you got that promotion that was accompanied by a Manager, Supervisor, or Executive title? Chances are, you felt pride, a sense of accomplishment, and a bit of excitement. 

While there is nothing wrong with having a new title, there is a good chance it’s hurting your ability to lead effectively. Titles are dangerous for those who hold them because they create a distraction from the purpose of leadership; elevating others.

There is a substantial difference between the title of "manager" and the actions of a leader.

There’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. Many of the primary roles of a manager can be automated and replaced by technology; but, there has never been a more critical time in our history to be a leader.  

How to Overcome It: The only time your title matters is on the first day.  After that, it’s how you use it. Turn your attention to the primary job of your position and leadership- elevating others. Constantly remind yourself how to do this by serving others instead of yourself. A great way to remember this is what I call the “PTS Method; “Prepare to Serve.” Anytime you change environments or Zoom meetings, remind yourself, “prepare to serve.”

Mistake #2 You Take Credit and Shift Blame

Taking credit and shifting blame is a mistake made by many leaders to jockey for hierarchical positions. The best leaders are quick to take the blame when things go wrong, and equally as fast to give credit to their team when things go right. 

Great leaders take more responsibility for a team's mistakes and less responsibility for a team's success.

How to Overcome It: As Jack Welch famously said, “When you were made a leader you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.” Get in the habit of recognizing team members daily for their effort and positive attitude. You will be amazed at how your team responds when you give credit and take the blame. It’s almost always with better effort and increased responsibility. 

Mistake #3 You Execute Without Input (or buy-in)

I get it, work is coming at your fast, and we don’t always have to as leaders to be molders of consensus. There are undoubtedly times when sole decision-making and executing with optimal speed are required. However, try to avoid superseding your team to save time in these situations.  This kind of mistake is demoralizing and causes an immediate reaction of resistance from team members. 

How to Overcome It: Invite experienced team members into the decision-making process. Ask for their opinion or, better yet, empower them to make the final decision. Provide clear directions and a timeline, and then let them do their job!  

Mistake #4 You Assume You’re an Effective Communicator

Most managers assume they are effective communicators, but in reality the opposite is true. They aren’t clear, concise, and conclusive when they communicate, and they struggle to tell stories that inspire. 

There has never been a more critical time with hybrid work and multiple communication methods to stop making this excuse and intentionally work on your communication skills. I tell participants in Effective Leadership Communication.

Leaders can make small changes in communication to lead to big changes in performance.

How to Overcome It: One-word managers use to modify an employee’s behavior is the word “Don’t.” Not only is it a micromanaging word, but it’s demotivating to people. Here is how managers typically use it:

  • “Don’t do it that way.”
  • “Don’t miss the deadline.”
  • “Don’t say it like that; say it like this.”

Writing these statements that start with “don’t” exudes a manager trying to control, not inspire. Since inspiration is a key to elevating others, breathing life into team members will help change behavior with an internal trigger instead of an external motivator. Do your best to remove the word “don’t” from your communication. See what I did there? “Do your best to… instead of “Don’t use don’t….” Once inspires you and one is demotivating. 

Mistake #5 You Think You Can Do it All On Your Own

Joe Burrow joined the Cincinnati Bengals as the #1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is now taking his team to their first Super Bowl (the pinnacle of the sport) for the first time in 33 years. While watching the Bengals underdog victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship, an essential leadership lesson emerged:

You might be like Joe Burrow was to the Cincinnati Bengals and be the leader that changed everything in your organization. You might be supremely talented, have incredible skills, and work 120 hours a week, but you can’t do everything alone. It’s time to stop making this mistake and to empower your people.

How to Overcome It: Don’t isolate yourself. Matthew Kelly wrote, “When we isolate ourselves, we don’t cut ourselves off from the problems, we cut ourselves off from the solutions.” Secondly, ask for help from your team or get a professional coach to challenge and support you. Remember, one leader can change everything, but one leader can’t do everything. Said differently, be the leader, not the hero. 

Be the leader, not the hero.

Closing

I don’t know anyone who likes making mistakes; but, it requires significant mental energy and effort to keep from repeating them. A mentor reminded me recently, “a mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker. A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end.”

Brush off your mistakes, learn from them, and do your best not to make them again.

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.

Effective Leadership Communication Start Communicating more confidently and effectively as a leader. Sign up for the next Effective Leadership Communication Workshop.

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

Why You Should Care More About Growth Than Tenure

Growth or business concept

Just imagine you are sitting in a boardroom, and it’s time to introduce yourself to another organization. It would be tempting to begin your professional introduction with “I have been at the company for 15 years.” But just because it’s tempting doesn’t mean you should do it.

Thanks to nearly every job application and HR hiring manager globally, most professionals have been brainwashed to believe that their tenure is essential for opportunity and respect. In 1995, that would have been true. However, in today’s market, the best leaders don’t care about tenure; they care about growth and progress. 

The best leaders don't care about tenure, they care about growth and progress.

Now before we go any further, this isn’t a green light to go job-hopping for the sake of changing companies. It’s quite the opposite because tenure by itself isn’t bad.  The reality of tenure is security, comfort, familiarity. It serves us with pay increases, job promotions, and decision-making authority. It also can create a sense of belonging, community, and identity.

But there is also a dark side to tenure. When it becomes the sole goal, it leads to a slow downward spiral. It shifts us from growth to neutral. Tenure is a beautiful outcome but an ugly path to complacency. 

When tenure becomes the sole goal, it leads to a slow downward spiral.

Tenure Creates Complacency

Employee tenure is defined as the length of time someone has been in their current job or with their employer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average tenure for employees is 4.1 years. However, there are also many advantages and disadvantages, according to Indeed

Little by little, tenure tends to erode our hunger, drive, and engagement if we aren’t careful. In the last few years, it turns out that we were in a little bit of a complacency bubble. Research completed by an Achievers survey in 2019 found 70.1% of employees did not consider themselves “very engaged,” but only 34% of those professionals had a plan to look for a different job. While I hesitate to use any research done before the pandemic, it was clear employees weren’t engaged, yet they were comfortable staying where they were.  

Complacency is defined as feeling so satisfied with your abilities or situation that you do not need to try harder. No one, leaders included, is immune to feeling comfortable.  

As you can see in the image below, our commitment will constantly be tested as time continues. 

Constant Change is the Only Constant

In a constantly changing business environment, having team members who care more about their tenure than growing and progressing is a dangerous place to be. As Grace Hopper famously said, “The most dangerous phrase in language is, we have always done it this way.”  

To give you a sense of just how much change is happening, look no further than an example from Tony Robbins. When Covid shut down in-person travel, a significant pivot was essential. His team quickly decided to transform their in-person experience into a virtual one. He was told by many experts this transformation would take six to nine months, but this wasn’t acceptable to Robbins. He needed it done in nine weeks, not nine months.

To make it happen, he did the opposite of what most executive leaders in big companies would do. He didn’t rely on tenure; he relied only on hungry people that believed in the mission. On a recent episode of Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu, Robbins said, “I don’t let go of someone who has the drive, desire, and hunger. If they have that, it’s a matter of coaching them on skills and finding a solution together. So when I find someone who no longer believes in the mission, I make changes quickly because the weakest link will keep us from a mission. We have to value the mission more than the individual.”

"Value the mission more than the individual."

While I have never attended one of Robbins conferences, their virtual experience is world-class by all accounts. This central pivot has allowed people from all over the world to change their lives that would have never otherwise been possible.  

Tenure Doesn't Equal Leadership

Many managers who attend any of our leadership workshops believe that the idea of complacency and growth only applies to their people. But, of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Just because you have been a manager for some time doesn’t mean you are a leader. 

What’s required is to know the fundamental skills (coaching, accountability, etc.) required to be an effective leader and practice them deliberately to get better faster. 

No one can do this for you because skill development is like physical fitness; it can’t be outsourced. If you keep growing and looking for new and better ways of making progress in your role, you will feel engaged at work. When you are engaged, you will be giving your best to others. When you are growing and giving, work is fulfilling.  

When you are growing and giving, work is fulfilling.

Closing

Now I don’t pretend that the tenure and people caring about length of employment will go away anytime soon. But it’s my hope that whether you lead a team or not, you first look at someone’s growth, progress, and initiative for change, before you look at their tenure.

Most importantly, the next time you are in a board room or introducing yourself to someone outside your organization, punt on the idea of leading with your tenure and instead lead with something this: “I have been in the industry a long time and remain the ultimate student of the market, there is a lot I can bring to the table.”

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’s brand new fable book on leadership is 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.

Why You Must Be Resilient to Be a Successful Leader

Purple pansy growing out of the concrete pavement stone crack overcoming all odds.

Do you remember how it felt the last time you or your team achieved something meaningful? Whether you received an award on stage or it showed up in the bank account, chances are, you felt pride and a natural high.  

While those feelings are wonderful, have you ever stopped to think about the key ingredients that helped you get there? There is a good chance talent, timing, coaching, and teammates had a lot to do with it. However, without the skill of resilience, your ultimate success would never have happened. 

Take Owen, a young entrepreneur, for example. When he first set out to solve the problem of reducing turnover in young professionals through software and coaching, he was flush with passion and excitement. 

At first, everything looked up as he successfully raised money, hired his first five team members, and acquired an initial round of customers. However, quickly those early wins turned into significant losses. The software failed, customers got disgruntled, and the promised results weren’t coming to fruition. 

So Owen did the opposite of what he should have done. He blamed his team members, complained about his customers, and eventually folded up shop. The result was unhappy investors, lost jobs, and a talented professional who believed he wasn’t worthy of success. 

One of the main reasons these negative outcomes happened was because Owen and his team hadn’t developed the skill of resilience.

What is Resilience?  

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and demonstrate toughness. By itself, resilience is dynamic because one can have more or less of it in different situations. Resilience enables people to continue learning and adapting to overcome challenging situations. 

Resilience enables leaders and teams to learn and adapt to overcome challenging situations.

Those professionals lacking resilience get easily overwhelmed, flustered, and often have worse outcomes. While negative results alone should drive you to be more resilient, most people choose not to be out of bad habits and faulty thinking. 

People can get better at being more resilient because it’s a skill. It is a way of thinking and behaving that’s developed gradually through experience and often unlearning what bad parents or bad bosses have taught us. 

Resilience is a way of thinking and behaving that is developed gradually through experience and often unlearning what bad parents or bad bosses have taught us. 

Resilience is a way of thinking and behaving that is developed gradually through experience and often unlearning what bad parents or bad bosses have taught us.

The Makeup of Resilient Leaders

Researchers have identified the leadership skills that build a team’s capacity to take risks and bounce back from setbacks. They found that leaders who encourage employees to learn on the job and listen when they voice their ideas for change build team resilience and effectiveness.

Beyond listening and encouraging team members, I have found that there tend to be four essential elements that allow leaders to demonstrate resilience.

  1. Responsibility
  2. Confidence
  3. Emotional Intelligence
  4. Competence

When leaders take ownership of challenges happening in their world (responsibility), have an internal belief in themselves (confidence), get their emotions to work for them and not against them (emotional intelligence), and can do something successfully or efficiently (competence), resilience comes out naturally. 

If you see some of these elements in yourself, or you find yourself falling into the same pattern of thinking as Owen, here’s what you can do to develop the skill of resilience further.

1. Remind Yourself to Be Resilient Daily

Life is difficult, which means work is challenging. You can accept this or get aggravated, but you cannot change it. The mistake professionals make is that we believe work should be easy and that our professional and personal lives would be happier if it were. 

The problem isn’t that work is difficult. It’s supposed to be. As I tell leaders in the Coaching for Excellence Workshop, “If coaching were easy, everyone would be doing it.” Suppose this wasn’t enough—the more important work you are doing, the more resistance you will encounter pursuing it. So work in whatever capacity you do it proposes a series of problems and dilemmas. How we respond to these events determines the direction of professional journeys.  

The more important things are, the more resistance you encounter pursuing them.

Your job will be to remind yourself daily to be resilient. Find a mechanism like a rubber band on your wrist or a say to yourself when adversity hits, “The only way is through.” 

If you lead a team, it’s your job to remind teammates that they can become more resilient, and you can help them do this by creating a supportive and problem-solving culture.  

2. Take Maximum Responsibility 

The culture we live and work in today has leaders who teach us to reject responsibility. To blame someone else instead of taking personal responsibility. While there are many things out of your control, the best leaders always take responsibility.

Responsibility is the state or fact of being accountable for something. I wish in the dictionary they would make the primary synonym of responsibility, leadership. A great way to think about this is leaders either created the problem, contributed to the problem, or tolerated the problem.

Leaders either created the problem, contributed to the problem, or tolerated the problem.

When you take maximum responsibility, you are decisive, solve problems, abstain from placing blame, and look at your actions to improve the situation. There is nothing easy about this, but you do it without thinking once you master it through your mental habits. 

3. Take One Step Towards Improvement

When leaders are at their best, they are getting a little bit better every day. The aggregation of marginal gains (1% rule) was made famous by British cycling coach David Brailsford. To be more resilient, you have to take one step towards improving every day. 

In her new book Smart Growth, Whitney Johnson said, “Grow or don’t grow. You choose.” The power that is in these words is unrelentin. Can you or your team take one step toward improvement? Is there one thing you can do today that will make the challenges you are up against better tomorrow?

It is ok to delay gratification, embrace reality, and release the illusion that you should have it all figured out in a day. Commit to taking one step at a time and advance forward. 

Closing

Some enormous challenges and crises are going on in the world and in your workplace right now. What I want you to remember is no crisis is insurmountable. In contrast, this doesn’t mean the outcome you wish will happen on the timeline you desire. However, it certainly won’t happen if you give up and don’t choose to be resilient.  

If you remind yourself to be resilient daily, take maximum responsibility and take one step towards improvement, you will be on your way to modeling what the best leaders do, demonstrating the skill of resilience.  

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.

Why the Best Leaders Always Stay on Mission

Mission, Vision and Core Value blocks

There are many things that leaders must have wisdom in to create a meaningful impact in the workplace.  Authenticity has proven to be a precious commodity, coaching unlocks others’ potential, and communication allows meaningful connection with team members. 

But among these many attributes, the value of being on mission and staying on the mission seems to be consistently overlooked.  

The value of being on and staying on the mission is constantly overlooked by bad leaders.

Part of it is due to the common misconceptions about what being a mission-driven leader means. In reality, however, being mission-driven is one quality that no leader should overlook.  

Unfortunately, many leaders aren’t interested in being mission-driven because it feels “soft” or even “dumb.” The most common response I get from these leaders is, “This mission stuff is fluffy. We are here to make money.” Others flat out say, “we don’t need it.” So while I can understand why people would say these things, they could not be more wrong.  

What’s Being and Staying on Mission?

The word mission is traditionally defined in leadership as an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction; a calling or vocation. While the definition makes sense and would be hard to argue that it’s not essential in the world of leadership, some great leaders take it further. 

On a recent episode of the 3 Things podcast, Host and CEO of Red Ventures, Ric Elias, asked CEO of Movement Mortgage, Casey Crawful, “What advice would you give to someone to have a purposeful and joyful life?” Crawford’s answer spoke to me.

“Go on a mission in life, and run hard after doing something meaningful and impactful that you can look back on be proud about.” He continued, “If you do meaningful work with people you love, it’s been a formula that has brought a lot of joy to my life.”  

“Go on a mission in life and run hard after doing things meaningful and impactful” – Casey Crawford

If you look beyond Crawford’s wise words, no military operation is set in motion without a clear mission. For example, Seal Team Six, which killed Osama Bin Laden, was put in harm’s way to carry out a specific mission: take out the world’s most dangerous man. 

You can look at both of these examples in many ways, but what I want you to remember is this:

Mission Makes Meaning

In other words, when you are on mission, you have meaning in your work. The best leaders know having meaning behind your work is a key ingredient to success and purposeful achievement. 

How to Be Mission Driven

I come from the school of thought that we can have a personal mission, a team mission, and a company mission. While all three are independently essential, I get fired up most about a team on a mission. 

Take Sarah, a team manager in a mortgage company, as an example. Her group was responsible for preparing final loan documents for closing appointments for all parties to sign before the transfer of the deed. It’s tedious and stressful work without a lot of genuine excitement. 

Sarah saw an opportunity to create a deeper connection to the purpose of her team’s work every day. She asked the companies loan officers who received her team’s final documents to send pictures of clients executing the final paperwork at closing. 

Soon after, a photograph of a single mother with her young daughter arrived. Both beamed with pride as the mother signed the paperwork solidifying the purchase of their very first home. Photographs like this one continued to roll in. Sarah’s team better understood their mission of helping families become homeowners as they did. 

If you lead a team, do not go another year without being clear on why your does what it does and its mission. It’s easy for professionals to get lost in the monotony of their work without even considering how their work truly impacts lives.

It’s easy for professionals to get lost in the monotony of their work without even considering how their work truly impacts lives.

Creating or reinforcing a team mission statement immediately raises the ceiling of what’s possible and improves your odds of having highly engaged employees. If you need help, try this formula from Building the Best:

We do X in order to achieve Y for Z. 

For the mortgage team responsible for preparing final loan documents, the mission could be something like this: “We rapidly compile and complete closing documents for families so they can be “home” as soon as possible.”

Closing

Whether you have previously considered yourself mission-driven or not, now is the time to remember never to stray far from the mission. Leaders who are mission-driven will not only be more successful long-term versus those who aren’t, but it’s a requirement in today’s leadership landscape. 

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 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.