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.

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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.

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

Why the Best Leaders Embrace the Uncomfortable

angry businessman yelling and working with documents and cardboard laptop in box

Doing hard things isn’t easy.  

Most people avoid challenging things altogether. Others choose to start, but when they figure out the difficulty of what’s ahead of them, they decide to take the path of least resistance. 

Take Mike, a former front-line manager in a manufacturing facility as an example. After seven years of honing his skills as an engineer in the plant, he applied for an open management position in another organization. It seemed like the next logical step in his career progression and there was a significant jump in pay. To his surprise, he was awarded the job.  

Even though he started with good intentions, he quickly began to dislike his new role for one big reason; the people that reported to him. As he described it to me in a coaching session, “Outside of a few team members, employees weren’t passionate, motivated, or very skilled. If that weren’t enough, they complained and made excuses instead of taking responsibility.” He paused, then continued, “I was young and inexperienced as a manager, so instead of coaching, developing, and hiring new people, I put my head down and did the jobs of as many people as I could, working 60+ hours a week.”

In less than two years, Mike resigned from his management job and went back to his old engineering position at his previous company. Even though each person’s situation is slightly different, Mike’s story reminds us of an authentic leadership truth:

There are so many bad managers because being a good leader is hard.  

Leadership is Hard, But You Can Be Successful At It

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

Instead of thinking about a leadership position as unattainable or something that is 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. After that decision is made, success will require you to navigate two primary issues:

  1. Time
  2. Effort

Overcoming Time and Giving Maximum Effort. 

Leadership is not an action to be carried out one time and then forgotten. There will be moments of leadership in one’s journey where one courageous act will demonstrate leadership. These moments should be celebrated and then replicated as much as possible over the course of your daily life.

Do not imagine that leadership is an action to be carried out one time and then forgotten

Once you choose to inspire, empower, and serve to elevate others for the long term, you will be on a path to successful leadership. At some point on this journey, you will realize that only hard work allows you to be a great leader. Here are two action items to carry in your leadership toolbox that will allow you to succeed along the way: 

1. Invest in Your Development Daily

Karl Popper famously said, “True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.” Don’t wait for the next corporate leadership training initiative or pass on opportunities to pick up a book. We are in the golden age of education. Research indicates that we create as much information every day as the world did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. To put this in perspective, blog writers post 1,400 blogs, and YouTube users upload 72 hours of content a minute. That doesn’t even begin to touch content added to platforms like LinkedIn, TikTok, and Podcasts. The amount of valuable and invaluable is limitless. 

“True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.” – Karl Popper

Your job is to invest in your development daily, and put the right content in your brain. No excuses because no one can do it for you. 

2. Get Good at Thinking of Others

When you first look at a group picture on Facebook or Instagram with yourself in it, who is the first person you look for? Nearly 100% of the time, it’s yourself. We are hardwired to think of ourselves and our self-interest first, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can train yourself to think of others first and put others’ needs ahead of your own.  

I don’t pretend this is easy, but to lead effectively, you have to get good at thinking of others. If this is an area where you struggle, start small. Look for small opportunities daily to put someone else’s needs before your own, and you will find it’s often more rewarding than the alternative. 

Closing

Being a leader is hard and, at times, uncomfortable. This is precisely why you should run towards it instead of away from it. Living a life of significance and creating a career with a positive impact isn’t found in easy or comfortable things.  

You will never be a perfect leader because leadership is a journey and not a destination. You will fail more than you succeed: but, what’s most important is you understand that being a successful leader is hard, but you should pursue it anyways. Through investing in your development and getting good at thinking of others, you will be on the correct path. 

Do you agree? 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.

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

How to Successfully Lead a Hybrid Team

work from home

A lot goes into a companies’ successful transition into hybrid work. Everything from software and tools to modified office space leases to creating corporate policies around the future workplace, just to name a few. 

Research is suggesting hybrid work is not only the future; it’s what most employees want. In one survey, only 12% of U.S. respondents said they wanted to go back into the office full-time, and nearly half of those would even take a pay cut to be able to work from home.

According to new data from LinkedIn’s Glint Unit, the majority of workers (56%) prefer a hybrid working model, allowing them to shuffle between working from home and the office. Comparatively, 31 % prefer to be fully remote, and 13% prefer to be onsite.  

Not Everyone Agrees

James Gorman, the Morgan Stanley CEO, has doubled down on his stance against working from home by saying, “I fundamentally believe the way you and I develop our career is by being mentored and by watching and experiencing the professional skills of those who came before us, You can’t do that by sitting at home by yourself, there’s a limit to Zoom technology.”

Gorman isn’t wrong, and many CEOs agree with him and have planned a total return to the office. 

While there isn’t one correct answer for every company, only time will tell if organizations that demand a return to an office will experience the “great resignation” as research and experts have predicted. In a survey conducted by Apple employees in June, 36.7% of respondents said they were worried they’d have to leave Apple due to the lack of flexibility.

Note: Having had the opportunity to train and coach leaders in all different industries, I don’t see the “great resignation” happening because of hybrid work policies, if it happens it will be because people are being overworked.

It’s essential to note that hybrid work isn’t an option in many industries, to begin with. Manufacturing, construction, or warehouse workers need to be onsite to complete the job, as do most healthcare workers. It’s been estimated that remote work is an option for less than half of the U.S. workforce.  

However, for those industries where work can be done remotely, managers and executives should be trying to enhance flexibility for team members to maintain job satisfaction and long-term retention. To go a step further, what is most important is for managers to choose leadership because that’s what’s required in the hybrid world of work. Because choosing to lead is as important as leadership itself.

Choosing to lead is as important as leadership itself.

Unfortunately, we have too many people in positions of authority who aren’t choosing leadership. 

Hybrid work brings complexities to managers that have rarely been experienced. While it’s far from easy to lead a team when everyone is in the same situation, there will undoubtedly be times where half a team is in person, and the other half is remote. Thus causing a more complex and challenging environment to accomplish goals, collaborate effectively, and develop people.  As Brian Tracy famously said:

“Flexibility in times of great change is a vital quality of leadership.”

Since hybrid work is what most employees want and it’s likely here to stay in some form or fashion for years to come. If you are going to choose to lead and not just manage your hybrid team, here are a few best practices to help you:

1. Drop the Judgement and Embrace Empathy

Everyone’s situation and how they work best won’t be the same. To pass judgment on employees for being lazy because they don’t want to return to the office full time is awful leadership. Some people have fallen in love with not sitting in the car for 2+ hours a day, grabbing a quick home workout during a break, or interacting with their family more. Reject the temptation to judge employees who are highly successful working remotely who prefer to keep scheduling flexibility.  

To pass judgment on employees for being lazy because they don’t want to return to the office full time is awful leadership.

Instead, embrace empathy. Put yourself in your teammate’s shoes and act differently because of it. Suppose traffic and commute are a problem, schedule critical meetings mid-day to allow team members to come into the office after rush hour. If culture and teamwork are an issue, schedule an offsite at a destination hotel to reconnect the team and strengthen relationships. The point is to know your people and devise a strategy that allows them to maintain the flexibility that they have come to love. 

2. Clarify Hybrid Work Standards

A standard is defining what good looks like. From all of our research in studying what the best leaders do in Building the Best, it’s clear:

Managers define what good looks like; leaders define what great looks like. 

It will be tempting to lower the standards since the team will be in and out of the office. I urge you to reject this temptation and instead maintain or even raise the standard. 

An example of an excellent hybrid work standards includes; a standing weekly team meeting where everyone is an active participant, a bi-weekly one-on-one meeting with every team member to focus on growth and development, and a biannual in-person meeting to focus on skill development, strategy, and alignment.  

3. Coach for Development 

Since so much work is about outcomes, leaders need to make a dedicated effort to coach and develop their people. The word coach comes from “carriage,” which means to take someone from where they are today to where they want to go. In Coaching for Excellence, I define it this way:

“Coaching is helping improve current and future performance to reach higher levels of excellence.”

Doing this effectively as a manager of a hybrid team is challenging. If you are going to coach your people for development, being present in your interactions is essential. Reject the temptation to multitask and instead lock in and focus on how you can help them develop.  

You can download the 8 Coaching Questions Download for free here.

4. Leverage Hybrid Tools That Promote Leadership

There is an old saying, “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” Trying to lead a hybrid team without technology tools to lead the team is a recipe for disaster. Thanks to an exciting partnership between LearnLoft and Peoplebox.ai, you or the leaders in your organization can now leverage the best hybrid leadership tools on the market at the best price.

Measure manager effectiveness, provide one-on-one, and OKR tools in one place. All you have to do is schedule a demo today.

Closing

Regardless of your organization’s new future work policy. You are capable of leading your hybrid team in this new world of work. Embrace the discomfort of your environment and elevate your people to higher levels of performance.

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

Successful Teams Have Leaders Who Do These 4 Things

Team work

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out some groups of people perform better than others. Not only do high-performing teams produce better business outcomes, but their team members are engaged, feel like they belong, and contribute towards the team’s success. 

There have been many great 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 essential, there is another common thread of all high-performing teams, a shared goal.

A team, by definition, is a group of individuals working together to achieve a goal. While the explanation is simple, almost everyone has been a part of a group that wasn’t working to achieve a shared goal. This is precisely where many managers fail. They assume that because of their position, they lead a team, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.  

Just because you manage a group of people doesn’t mean you lead a team. 

What Leaders Do To Build a Successful Team

Leaders think and act differently than managers. They realize a group of people can work well together without a shared goal, but the likelihood of sustaining success or staying together when adversity hits are very low. 

I have found coaching so many effective leaders that they are not only obsessive about gaining buy-in towards a shared goal, but they do a few other things to build a successful team. If you want to emulate them, here are a few things to remember. 

They Aren’t the Only Leader.

Conventional wisdom says the person at the top of the hierarchical org chart is the only leader, but that would be wrong. For any team to reach heights they never thought possible; it needs leaders at every level.

For any team to reach heights they never thought possible, it needs leaders at every level.

While this can be difficult to institutionalize, it starts with changing your mindset that you are 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. 

In Building the Best, I defined leadership this way: “Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others.”

There are two keywords here; elevate others. Every single member of your team, regardless of their role or title, can elevate others. It often just takes a leader like you, who invests in the leadership development of others to help make this a reality.

Their Team Meetings Are Essential 

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. Add to the fact that the new remote and hybrid world of work is our new reality; the time leaders dedicate to coming together virtually or in-person must be time well spent. If done well, team meetings can be the backbone to build trust, develop teamwork, and mold culture. 

The time leaders dedicate to their team coming together virtually, or in-person must be time well spent.  

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

They Embrace the Journey

Leading a team today is more complicated than ever because of the constant pressure to create positive results immediately. While the best leaders care about the results, they lean into the journey instead of the immediate outcomes. 

No team’s journey is the same, but every team will experience adversity and failure. The leaders who keep their view on the long term instead of the short term will set their team up for success.  

You can do this by getting your team to buy into the journey and embracing the process. As I wrote in a previous column, “focus on the gain, instead of the gap.”

They Create a Culture of Accountability.

In many ways, the most challenging element of leadership is being a leader of consequence and holding people accountable. Accountability is a word that has been used so much that its meaning has been lost. The actual definition 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.”

As I teach in our Leveraging Accountability workshops, the best leaders don’t look at accountability as optional; they embrace the obligation because they know it’s a key to a team’s success. You can make accountability an obligation by praising people when standards are exceeded, acknowledging people when standards are met, and giving direct feedback if your people fall short of those standards. 

As that culture of accountability spreads, members of your team will hold each other accountable, and that’s precisely when you know your team has arrived. 

Closing:

There is nothing easy about bringing together people from different places, with different strengths, and with different experiences to work together to achieve a common goal. However, I believe you are in your position for a reason and are just the person to make it happen. 

The only question is, “are you willing to do the hard work necessary to make it a reality?”

What are other strategies you use or have observed other leaders leverage to create effective teams? 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.

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