3 Common Mistakes Leaders Make (and How to Avoid Them)

The wooden block fell out of order

No one likes to make mistakes, but it’s a part of being human.

When it comes to leadership, one significant mistake can cause you to fail. 

Take Jordan, a division President as an example. In one of his big hiring decisions, he was down to two external candidates. Everyone in the company preferred Ron over Ellen because of his deep industry experience. But in the interview process, Jordan saw significant character issues that he thought would cause problems down the road. Instead of trusting his judgment, he hired Ron anyway. Sure enough, within two years, Ron cost the company millions of dollars in a lawsuit because of a flawed character decision. If that wasn’t enough, Jordan lost his job because of Ron’s actions.  

Since then, Jordan has bounced back and gone on to be the CEO of a high-growth company, but he refuses to make the same mistake again. He spends a significant amount of time refining the organization’s hiring system and evaluating core values alignment before signing anyone on the dotted line.  

In studying so many great leaders and coaching leaders like Jordan, I have learned an essential lesson:

All leaders make mistakes, the best leaders learn from them and refuse to make them again.  

Mistakes Come in All Sizes

A mistake is defined as an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong. As previously noted, leaders can fail because of significant errors, but more often than not, it’s repeating the same small mistakes over and over again that cause an unengaged team. With this in mind, here are some less obvious mistakes I see that you will want to avoid to be a more effective leader. 

1. Focusing on the Gap, Not the Gain

There is a good chance you wouldn’t be in a leadership position if you didn’t have a vision for a better place tomorrow than where you are today. Because of this, it’s tempting to focus on the gap between where you are concerning that vision versus how far you have come. 

In a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Pete Burak described it so well, “Many millennial leaders make the mistake of not trusting the process and measuring the gain and not the gap.” Not only is Burak right, but every leader regardless of age, can make this mistake. You can watch the clip here.

2. Losing Sight of a Deeper Purpose

It will always be easier as a manager to focus on the outcome of hitting metrics. While targets such as revenue are crucial for any business, it’s a mistake to only focus on them and lose sight of a deeper purpose.  

For some people, “purpose” feels like a righteous or elitist word. But being able to persevere through tough times or challenge your team to new heights often requires a more profound purpose or cause. Dr. Miles Munroe said, “you must believe, deep inside of you, that you were born to do more than survive, make a living, and die. You were created with a gift inside of you; your job is to find that gift and serve it to the world.”

The best leaders not only know this, but they lean into it. They spend the time, energy, and effort to determine their deeper purpose and connect their team to a cause beyond just making money.  

3. Taking Credit for Sucess and Shifting Blame for Failure

Taking credit and shifting blame is a mistake many leaders in big organizations have made to jockey for hierarchical positions. However, it’s not an error you want to repeat. Great leaders take more responsibility for mistakes and less responsibility for success. 

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

By leading this way, team members will recognize what you are doing and give more effort in the future to elevate the job you are doing. Everyone will make mistakes when they are doing challenging work, so embrace leadership’s responsibility and stop blaming your team. 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.”

Closing

I don’t know anyone who likes making mistakes, but if you aren’t going to repeat them it required significant mental energy and effort. If you recognize you are making some of these mistakes in the way you lead, don’t beat yourself up. 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 try not to make them again.

Do you agree? What are simple mistakes you see managers make?

Leveraging Accountability Workshop There is nothing easy about accountability. Learn how to leverage accountability as a manager in less than an hour. Learn more 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.

Have an opinion about the key leadership skills for emerging professionals? Please help us with brand new research to help identify the critical leadership skills for young professionals to develop for John’s new book. Take 2 minutes to complete this quick survey to share your expertise and insight.

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

What Bad Managers Consistently Get Wrong About Leadership

leadership

If you are like most people, you don’t often think about bad leaders unless you had or currently have one. However, studying or experiencing them can be a more effective teacher than learning from some great ones.  

Take former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling as an example. His management and leadership style was built on the foundation of fear. He used practices for performance reviews that eventually became known as “rank and yank.” This method required 15 percent of Enron’s employees to receive the lowest score, regardless of their actual performance. Those employees were given two weeks to find another job within Enron or be terminated.

Skilling believed this unorthodox process was one of the most important in the company because he thought people were only motivated by two things: money and fear. (This isn’t true, read more about motivation here) He carried this belief into his personal life, creating the same kind of disastrous effect that imploded his company. Skilling didn’t realize his leadership style caused his failure at work and home, but luckily we get to learn from it.

However, bad leaders aren’t going to give up or admit their shortcomings easily because they want the power and title, but they don’t want to do the work associated with becoming a leader. As Austin Kleon said, “Lots of people want to be the noun, without doing the verb.” Think of it in leadership terms this way, 

Most managers want the title without acting like a leader.

I have been fortunate to coach managers who mold themselves into leaders because of self-reflection and hard work. People can change for the better, especially if they want it enough.

Having said that, if you are working for a lousy leader and they aren’t actively trying to change and get better, I want you to find freedom in what you are about to read. 

You are never going to do enough for a bad boss.  

There will be times in a relationship with a bad boss where it’s bearable or borderline pleasant. But eventually, their judgment attitude, lack of coaching, and egotism catch up, causing you to not be good enough for them.  

How to Know If a Manager Isn’t Leading

The last thing we need is another article about the differences between management and leadership. So here are three of the most common things managers do to ruin their leadership development. 

 1. They only care about results.

Let’s go ahead and get this on the table; results matter. Not only are they a good barometer for financial performance, but without them, no one will have a job. But there is also a stark difference between what managers evaluate and what leaders consider. 

Take the legendary coach John Wooden as an example. He won 10 National Championships in a 12-year span, and he never mentioned the word “win” to his players at any time. The reason is, he knew the minute his words solely focused on the final results was the minute his team wasn’t focused on the behaviors and habits required to attain the result.

He understood this critical leadership lesson:

Great leaders elevate standards to create positive results over time. 

You can learn more about “elevating standards” in this short video from a workshop helping managers to lead their best. 

2. They can’t stop thinking about themselves.

Every one of us wakes up thinking about ourselves. The last time you looked at a group picture, what did you look at first? I guarantee you scanned the image to look for yourself. We all do it. Selfishness is a battle we face whether we like it or not.  

Here’s where the challenge lies: leadership is all about other people. In Building the Best, I define a leader as “someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others.” 

Managers who refuse to think about others can’t become influential leaders because they can’t elevate others. If you struggle to put others’ needs ahead of your own, try the PTS method. Anytime you change environments, say to yourself, “prepare to serve.” It will help reset your mindset from serving yourself to serving other people.  

3. They think they’re a leader, well before they are.

My company, LearnLoft, has spent years studying what the best and most effective leaders do and codified it to help new managers make the leap. Through this work, we have also seen the other side of the coin. Managers who think they are effective leaders but their people tell a much different story.

It’s most common in Executives because they have risen to positions of power and prestige, so in their mind, it doesn’t make sense to do things differently. Managers who make the most significant strides in their leadership development are humble enough to admit they don’t have all the answers and are a constant work in progress. 

Managers who make the most significant strides in their leadership development are humble enough to admit they don’t have all the answers. 

Closing

Leadership is a journey and not a destination. Whether you have experienced a bad leader like Jeff Skilling or not, everyone is susceptible to falling into the path of becoming a bad leader. Keep studying, testing, and working to become the leader you were meant to be.

Coaching for Excellence Workshop There is nothing easy about coaching. Learn how to be an effective coach in less than 2 hours. The Coaching for Excellence Program is for any manager, executive, or professional coach who wants to develop their skills to help others improve their current and future performance. Learn more Coaching for Excellence Workshop.

Have an opinion about the key leadership skills for emerging professionals? Please help us with brand new research to help identify the critical leadership skills for young professionals to develop for John’s new book. Take 2 minutes to complete this quick survey to share your expertise and insight.

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

How the Best Leaders Are Combatting Employee Burnout

Burnt matches, concept for highly prevalent resident burnout. Highly prevalent resident burnout.

Ever wonder when most executives and managers will stop talking about employee burnout and instead do something about it?  

Take Whitney Wolfe Herd, current CEO of Bumble, for instance. In light of a hectic year, with her company navigating remote work, a global pandemic, a public offering (Nasdaq BMBL), and immense user growth, Wolfe Herd was done talking about employee burnout and decided to do something about it. She gave all of the company’s 700 employee workforce a week off of paid vacation to help them with burnout. 

In a statement, Bumble said that like most people, “our global team has had a very challenging time during the pandemic. As vaccination rates have increased and restrictions have begun to ease, we wanted to give our teams around the world an opportunity to shut off and focus on themselves for a week.” 

Now I don’t pretend making a decision like this is an easy one whether you are the CEO of Bumble or any other organization. To go a step further, just because it was the right decision for Wolfe Herd doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for another organization. However, it proves she found the courage to make a tough decision, especially when it came to taking care of her people. 

“Great leaders find the courage to make tough decisions, especially when taking care of their people.”

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a term thrown around so much; it feels like it’s lost its meaning. It’s defined as; a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It typically occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

The Mayoclinic goes a step further, saying, “Burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis. Some experts think that other conditions, such as depression, are behind burnout. Researchers point out that individual factors, such as personality traits and family life, influence who experiences job burnout.”

If you or a team member is burned out, here are a few warning signs:

  • Inability to think or focus on anything other than work
  • Loss of passion for completing work you previously loved
  • Constant negativity about the future where once positive
  • Excessive weight gain or weight loss without a significant change in diet or exercise
  • Inordinate satisfaction about achievement or positive results

Now that we’re clear on what it is and some of the signs, the natural question is, are workers burned out?

According to an Indeed survey, 52% of all workers are feeling burned out, and more than two-thirds (67%) believe the feeling has worsened over the course of the pandemic. So not only is burnout real, but it’s still uncertain how it will affect professionals in the future.  

Here are a few strategies to implement to lead effectively in this increased level of burnout.  

Don’t Ignore It, Talk About It.

The first step to identifying any problem is to open up lines of communication about how people are feeling and what burnout is. There is a decent chance your team might be experiencing signs of burnout without knowing what it is. A couple of good ideas to consider include: 

  • Run a pulse survey to get insight into how people are feeling and their engagement level
  • Share the results of the survey with the team
  • Share the definition of burnout and signs I previously outlined
  • Collaborate on ideas to prevent burnout specific to your team

Turn Down Demands But Don’t Lower the Standards.

One of the leading causes of burnout is excessive demands of a job. Now here is where many managers get leadership wrong. They confuse demands with standards. A leader who makes demands gives insistent requests made as if by right. A leader who leverages standards defines what great looks like and helps their team meet or exceed it.  

Great leaders don’t make demands, they elevate the standards.

An excellent way to think about this is the quality of work that’s required. For example, if a leader of an engineering team that designs bridges or buildings were to lower the standards of her team, it would put people in danger who use the building or bridge in the future. So instead of lowering the standard, this leader should extend project timelines or limit the number of projects her team takes on to maintain the design standards while putting her people and their wellbeing over short-term profit. 

Give More Recognition than Usual

Recognition matters to people, and it works. Don’t just take my word for it; according to research, When asked what leaders could do more of to improve engagement, 58% of respondents replied: “give recognition.”

O.C. Tanner found 45% of surveyed employees said the recognition they receive at work feels like an empty gesture that is not meaningful to them. Here are a few ideas from a video to help:

Closing

There is no doubt that each professional, team, or organization could be affected differently by burnout. So to assume there is just one way for every leader to respond would be foolish. So whether you want to take a page out of the Wolfe-Herd book of leadership and give your people a paid week off to show them you are serious about their health and well being or not, the key is that you don’t ignore burnout or downplay those that might be experiencing it. It’s your job to elevate others, and being proactive in overcoming burnout will be a sign you are doing just that. 

Do you agree with Bumble’s CEO Wolfe-Herd’s decision? How do you suggest leaders combat burnout? Tell me in the comments.

Coaching for Excellence Workshop Back by popular Demand, register for the Coaching for Excellence Workshop. Get the tools and models that some of the greatest coaches in the world leverage to help develop those around you.

Have an opinion about the key leadership skills for emerging professionals? Help us with brand new research to help identify the critical leadership skills for young professionals to develop for John’s new book. Take 2 minutes to complete this quick survey to share your expertise and insight.

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

Why Great Leaders Believe in Success Before They See Success

Businessman building a graph or ladder of success

If you are worried about achieving success, you aren’t alone. The vast majority of people struggle to believe that the future will end with a good outcome; which is precisely why it won’t.   

The best leaders and top performers understand this important truth:

Believing success will happen doesn’t guarantee it will, but not believing ensures it won’t.  

A belief, by definition, is an attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is true. An alternative definition is; trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.

The power of this definition is constantly on display in the world of sports. Take Trae Young, the leader and best player of the Atlanta Hawks, as an example. In a pivotal game against the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA’s 2021 Eastern Conference Playoffs, Young and his teammates found themselves down by 20 points heading into the 4th quarter. Instead of giving up and mailing it in to get ready for game six at home, they chose belief.  

Over the next 12 minutes of game action, the Hawks erased the deficit and overcame the long odds to win, 109-106. After the game, during the on-court interview, when asked about the comeback, Young said, “We never stop believing until the final buzzer goes off.”

Young’s words unlock the fact that great leaders believe it before they see it, and just because they think it, doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Seeing it Makes it Easy to Believe, But Rarely Does it Happen

In a 1950’s study, Harvard professor Dr. Curt Richter placed rats in a pool of water to test how long they could tread water. On average, they would give up after 15 minutes. 

Just before giving up due to exhaustion, the researchers would pull them out of the water, dry them off, let them take a rest, and then put them back in the water for a second round.  

In this second attempt, the rats didn’t tread for 15 minutes; they lasted for 60 hours on average!

There is no denying that psychology is a complicated field of study, but just by experiencing and seeing they were going to be pulled out of the water when they got tired, the rats lasted 240 times longer.  Unfortunately, leaders rarely have the luxury of testing the waters of success.  

Great leaders and top performers know they must believe before they achieve.

Train Your Brain the Same Way You Build Skills

There is no denying that believing something that hasn’t yet happened is difficult, which is why most people don’t do it. Instead, they use a strategy of hope, but as Rick Page used to say, “hope isn’t a strategy.”  

To believe excellent outcomes will happen well before they do takes training. You must build the belief in your brain the same way you build technical skills. It requires mental reps, affirmations, and building habits around looking for the good in things. It also requires you to look beyond your past experiences.  

On a recent episode of the Tim Ferriss show, Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, said, “I could see how constraining my beliefs were by creating my future from the past.” Not only is Wilson right, but the best way to believe is not to look back but to look forward.

The best leaders are visionaries because they can easily manifest future possibilities. The late great Dr. Myles Munroe used to say, “vision is the capacity to see beyond what your eyes can see.” Your eyes and your past are the enemy regarding building belief and becoming a visionary leader. 

Your eyes and past are the enemies regarding becoming a visionary leader.

There aren’t many secrets or shortcuts to increasing your belief except one: Set goals you care about achieving.

The Power of Goal Setting

Whether you lead a team or want to increase your personal belief, setting short and long-term goals is a phenomenal strategy. It will force you to think about the future and challenge you to define things you and your team want to accomplish. 

Even if you or the team fails to meet the goals, there is a 100% chance you learned from the failure, and got closer to achieving it. There are all kinds of incredible goal-setting systems and formulas; however, instead of regurgitating SMART goals or something similar, I want you to consider writing down one goal for yourself or your team today. Use your favorite formula or the one I wrote about in Building the Best:

Clear Objective + Completion Date + Carrot.

Closing

Regardless of your faith or religious background, there is a scripture in the Bible that says, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” There is nothing easy about having belief in something we can’t see; but, just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean you can’t do it.  

Today, challenge yourself to define a new goal, keep it visible, and invite others to hold you accountable. You will be amazed at what you or your team will see in the future!

Do you agree? If so, how do you believe something in order to help make it happen?

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.

Have an opinion about the key leadership skills for emerging professionals? Help us with brand new research to help identify the critical leadership skills for young professionals to develop for John’s new book. Take 2 minutes to complete this quick survey to share your expertise and insight.

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 Create a Coaching Culture in Your Organization

Businessman coach in the auditorium

Getting managers and executives to act like coaches is a battle worth fighting.

A Manager, by definition, is a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization. If you felt a little uncomfortable reading that description, you aren’t alone. Just the thought of “controlling” or “administering all” of something, especially when it comes to people, feels all too “1950’s workplace” for me as well.

Grace Hopper said: “you manage things; you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership.” Not only is Hopper right, but you can’t control the growth and development of someone else.  

Most managers want to help grow the skills of others, but their lack of follow-through and coaching keeps this from happening. Instead, leaders embrace their responsibility in the growth process and inspire and coach others to meet their full potential. 

Leaders know they can’t control the growth of team members, but they can inspire and coach for it.

Coaching is a skill that anyone, regardless of role, can adopt and develop. I define coaching this way in the Coaching for Excellence Program, “coaching is improving the current and future performance of others to achieve higher levels of excellence.” 

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

By getting in the mindset to coach, bringing specific attributes in each interaction, and coaching team members differently based on where they are in their development, anyone can play a role in helping someone else achieve higher levels of excellence. 

Having a Coaching Culture Improves Performance

When one or two people are doing something positive, small changes happen. When the vast majority of people are doing something positive, transformation occurs. This is precisely what happens when organizations adopt a coaching culture. I defined culture in Building the Best as “The shared values and beliefs that guide thinking and behavior.” When everyone in an organization believes that part of their job is helping others improve, organizations thrive.  

Don’t just take my word for it. In one study, 51% of organizations with a strong coaching culture reported revenue above their industry peer group, and 62% of employees in those organizations rate themselves as highly engaged.

What Holds Companies Back From Adoption

Like many things, most people and organizations start with great intentions, and coaching is no different. But when immediate results aren’t realized, people default to their old way of leading. 

When immediate results aren’t realized, people default to their old way of leading. 

An ICF Global study in 2020 found the three top obstacles to building a strong coaching culture inside an organization are: Limited support from senior leaders (50%), inability to measure the impact of coaching (42%), and a lack of budget for coaching activities (38%).  

While each organization is a little different, the commitment to coaching separates those who adopt and sustain it versus those who do not.  

How to Create and Maintain a Coaching Culture 

If you or your organization is committed to creating a coaching culture, here are a few strategies to adopt.

1. Start with Coachable People

It is a lot easier to adopt a coaching culture when the talent in the organization is coachable. This requires starting at the beginning of the talent development lifecycle and hiring people excited to listen, learn and grow within their role and the organization. 

It’s easy for someone to say they are coachable, but I look for proof. A good barometer is when someone demonstrates their desire to get better and is willing to put in the work and effort. 

“Being coachable is how you show the world you desire to get better and are willing to listen while putting in the work and effort.”

Hiring coachable people is precisely where Human Resources and Hiring Managers get the opportunity to rise to the occasion. There are many methods to ensure you hire someone who is coachable, and looking at a resume isn’t one of them. The ticket is asking candidates tough situational questions;

  • Can you tell me about a time when someone challenged you in the past and how you responded?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you helped someone else improve?

2. Promote Managers and Executives Willing and Able to Coach

Nothing will hurt the development of a coaching culture more than executives at the top who aren’t coachable. When you have professionals at every level of an organization, from the CEO to interns, who are coachable, performance skyrockets.   

For decades professionals have been promoted because of success in previous roles, without thinking much about their leadership skills. Sir Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Airlines, evaluates both when promoting, “I like to take chances on people, and whenever possible, promote from within – it sends a great message to everyone in the company when someone demonstrates a passion for the job and leadership skills at every step along the way is rewarded with a leadership job.” 

“Individual contributor results are important, but they aren’t an indication of how someone is going to do in a position of leadership.”

Creating a coaching culture requires promoting people who remain coachable and are willing and able to teach and mentor others.  

3. Equip Them With Tools and Training 

Bob Nardelli said, “without a coach, people will never reach their maximum capability,” and I couldn’t agree more. While some people are wired with a better predisposition to coach, anyone who wants to be a more effective coach needs tools, methods, training, and experience to improve. This is precisely how you mold any skill.  

I believe that in just a few years, most thriving organization’s employee development strategy will have a coaching program or certification for managers and executives to refine their coaching skills.  

Closing

Each organization and its leaders are going to go about developing a coaching culture in slightly different ways. Whether they leverage external coaches, internal coaches, or elevating the coaching from managers, their people need help and support to achieve higher levels of excellence. 

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.

Coaching for Excellence Workshop Back by popular Demand, register for the Coaching for Excellence Workshop. Get the tools and models that some of the greatest coaches in the world leverage to help develop those around you.

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.

7 Skills You Should Develop to Be an Effective Leader

Multicoloured ladders on wall. Pastel tones. Concept for success and growth.

Skill development is a never-ending process. Not only do the great ones in any field recognize this, but they have a borderline obsession to develop and improve their skills daily.

Merriam Webster defines a skill as “the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance.” Skills are often divided into domain-general and domain-specific. For example, golf is a general skill; driving, putting, and chipping are specific skills that make someone an effective golfer.  

Leadership is a general skill; whereas, many domain-specific skills like coaching and empathy make a leader effective in performance. As a leader, you learn new skills every day. However, simply mastering a few skills isn’t enough to be a highly effective leader in today’s environment.

Just mastering a few skills isn’t enough to be a highly effective leader in today’s environment. 

As a ten-year veteran in the leadership coaching and speaking industry, I have been fortunate to have a front-row seat to many great leaders across various industries. If that wasn’t enough, the SkillsLoft Leadership Assessment has provided unbiased research of thousands of leaders. I want to share the seven leadership skills that are the most essential to your success.  

No alt text provided for this image

Demonstrate Empathy

While many skills are essential in this new leadership era, empathy stands above the rest. Before you shake empathy off as a weak skill, let’s get clear on what it is, in the context of leadership. I have come to define it as how well you identify with others to understand their feelings and perceptions in order to guide your actions. I often describe it to coaching clients as “your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and act differently because of it.”  

The one thing that every professional wants is to be understood, especially by their boss. 

Empathy is a critical leadership skill because people want to be understood, especially by their boss.

Feelings aren’t always directly communicated, so understanding them can be difficult to do and it’s an art that requires practice. If you want to improve your empathy skills, take a few lessons from an earlier column

Be a Great Communicator  

Effective communication is at the heart of effective leadership. James Humes famously said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Leaders of high-performing teams leverage the proper amount of communication and are clear, concise, and conclusive. 

Consistent communication is tough, even for good orators. So often, quality communication is a skill that leaders believe they possess; in actuality, it is one of their most significant weaknesses. 

When leaders don’t communicate effectively, team members fill the silence with their own story.

Developing your communication skills around storytelling, writing, and listening is a lifelong journey. 

Act Like a Coach

A leader separates themselves from a manager in today’s modern business environment by coaching their people. A coach, by definition, trains and instructs. The late great John Whitmore took the formal definition even further, saying:

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential and helping them learn rather than teaching them.”

Leaders who coach their team members have never been more critical than they are today. If coaching is a skill, you want to improve, check out the new Coaching for Excellence Program here

Model Servant Leadership

It might seem odd to read that modeling something is a skill, but it’s not. We have all heard the saying, “talk is cheap”; it’s never been more true than in leadership. The best way to create more leaders is to model outstanding leadership in one’s actions and behaviors.  

“The best way to create more leaders is to model servant leadership in your actions and behaviors.”

How you exemplify the standards and behaviors you expect from your team is connected to how committed you are to living out your character and values. This is easy to write, but to do it well takes immense wisdom and self-discipline daily.

Have Great Focus

If there is one thing this Pandemic has taught us, it is how easily distracted we are. Staying focused and prioritizing is not only a skill, but it’s essential for leaders today. If you are anything like me, you suffer from “shiny penny syndrome,” and you act like a squirrel moving quickly from one thing to the next. 

Suzanne Anschutz, Regional VP and Director of Leadership Development at Cora Physical Therapy, said it well, “The leaders of today need to be able to be fully present. There is such a strong sense of urgency and moving quickly in today’s world, but we should not underestimate the power of taking the time to be present in the moment. Understanding what is happening “right now” will allow you to strategize for a better future.”

Unite People and Create Belonging

Making people feel like they belong and uniting team members is a leadership superpower. Look no further than the hit show Ted Lasso on Apple TV. The show portrays an American coaching a European Soccer club. Coach Lasso knows the team can’t and won’t succeed without the team members feeling like they belong, and are a part of something bigger than themselves.  

While Lasso does his coaching in person, most managers don’t have this luxury today when leading a remote team. For those teams that plan on staying 100% WFH, leaders must think about one or two in-person events a year, with its primary mission to create teamwork and belonging. 

Make Accountability an Obligation

Last but certainly not least is accountability. Accountability is one of these words that has been hijacked. I define it in Building the Best as; the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them and disclose the results in a transparent manner. 

It is the obligation of leaders to account for their actions and the actions of their people.  

Leaders are obligated to care for all their people equally and to serve their hearts, not their talents. 

 If you want to model how the best modern leaders leverage accountability, get comfortable with having difficult dialogues, which I wrote about here or join an upcoming Leverage Accountability Workshop.

Closing

There are many other key leadership skills that just missed the list like; decision-making, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, and vision. Which of the 7 key skills do you believe are most important? Which skills are missing that deserve to be on the list? Tell me in the comments.

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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.

Why Bad Managers Focus on Friendship Instead of Leadership

leadership or different concept with red and white paper airplane on blue background

Until you are a manager, you never really know the struggle of balancing friendship with leadership. In one sense, friendship shouldn’t even be on the radar, but on the other side of the coin, everyone wants to be liked, which puts leaders in a bit of a challenging position.  

Anyone who has led or has studied the field of leadership development will tell you that building and maintaining quality relationships is a key to success. However, having the goal of being best friends first with every team member will hurt you.  

This doesn’t mean you or any leader should avoid or reject being friends with a team member. If a friendship grows, that is great, but that’s not the purpose of leadership. If being friends with a team member becomes more important than doing what’s in their or the team’s best interest, your priorities are out of alignment.

If being friends with a team member becomes more important than doing what’s in their or the team’s best interest, your priorities are out of alignment.

Healthy boundaries for both parties

Boundaries, respect, and trust are essential to the success of any relationship. For leaders, think, “friendly is essential; friendship isn’t required.”

It turns out; team members need healthy boundaries as well. Most professionals don’t want or even need a friend in their boss, but they do have to know their manager cares about them.

Professionals don’t need their manager to be a best friend, but they do have to know they care about them.  

How to focus on leadership over friendship

When you dig into friendship in the workplace deeper, it becomes less elusive identifying its five key components from research; (a)Affect (b) a Grand Project (c) Altruistic Reciprocity (d) Moral Obligations, (e) Equality.

In the workplace, one of these stands out, which is “a grand project.” C. S. Lewis said, “lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” Wikipedia defines friendship as a relationship of mutual affection between people. While there is nothing wrong with a platonic relationship between colleagues, the best leaders see the lines of friendship and leadership differently. They know their primary job is not friendship.

Instead, they know their job is to connect team members to a deeper cause, remove barriers to help them be successful, coach them up daily, and challenge them to become a better version of themselves.

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If you have fallen too much into the “friend zone” as a manager or want to get back to leaning into the shared common interests with team members, here are some ideas.  

1. Reconnect to the Team to a Deeper Purpose

No matter your business, there is a deeper purpose for why it exists. Maybe it’s to make the lives of your clients better, or perhaps it’s to transport joy around the world. Regardless of what it is, it’s the leader’s job to constantly reconnect people to the cause behind the work a team does.  

While this might sound corny, it’s not. By constantly talking about important things that matter, you elevate the conversation and relationship between the people you get the opportunity to lead.

2. Elevate the Standard

To ensure leadership comes before friendship, it’s a great idea to elevate the standard of what’s expected to be a team member. A standard is defined as what good looks like. However, managers define what good looks like, leaders define what great looks like. 

Your team’s behavior will default to the standards that you demonstrate and define for them. Be crystal clear, concise, and conclusive. Limit yourself to as few standards as possible so they can be remembered and applied. If you struggle to set clear standards, ask yourself the following three questions:

What’s the end result I want from my team?

What’s stopping us from getting there?

What can be done instead?

3. Act Like a Coach

The best way to demonstrate to team members that you are in your role to lead and not just be a friend is to help them perform at their best and be proactive in helping them reach their full potential. A great way to achieve this is to act as a coach for them.  

Just think of the best sports coaches in the world. They are constantly looking for ways to bring out the best in their players and to help them get from where they are to where they want or need to be. 

The best coaches help people get from where they are to where they want or need to be.

Arm yourself with a set of go-to coaching questions to get your people to think differently and solve their problems. Then, check out the Coaching for Excellence Program if you want to improve your coaching skills in less than 1 hour. 

4. Prepare to Be Tested

No one likes change, and there is a high likelihood you will be met with resistance or downright defiance. Be prepared and willing to follow up and follow through with your mindset of leadership over friendship. 

I don’t pretend this to be easy. In fact, you will be tempted to default to your old ways. Leaders aren’t immune to resisting change, and the path of least resistance can be tempting. Reject this with all your heart, soul, and mind. As I wrote in Building the Best, “only leaders who are tested become great. 

Only leaders who are tested become great.

Remember, it’s your job to elevate others and improve performance over time, and it doesn’t happen by accident. 

Closing

What’s interesting about this topic of friendship and leadership is there isn’t only one correct way. I have had team members where real legitimate lifelong friendships developed because of our work together and others where it didn’t. I am profoundly grateful for both.  

However, as long as leaders keep the main thing, the main thing, and focus on leadership over friendship, our teams and our performance will be in a better place.

Do you agree?

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

How Great Leaders Overcome the Current Talent Shortage

Search for talent or looking for employee

There is no shortage of challenges facing leaders today. Leading remote teamscommunicating the company return to the office policy, navigating a rapidly changing market, and handling a constricted supply chain, just to name a few. While these are all legitimate constraints, there is one challenge rising above the rest, acquiring talented professionals.  

Don’t just take my word for it; the stats regarding acquiring talent in the short term are staggering. According to the Allegis Group’s Global Workforce Trends Survey, 79% of respondents in North America experience challenges acquiring critical talent. In addition, Randstad Sourceright’s 2021 Talent Trends Report found, 40 percent of human capital leaders report that talent scarcity has negatively impacted their organization – the highest total in the past five years. 

As jaw-dropping as these statistics are, the talent shortfall appears to be here to stay. A recent Korn Ferry study found by 2030, there will be a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people, resulting in $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues. 

The Problem Isn’t Isolated.

The talent shortage isn’t just forcing some teams or businesses to have to close or pause operations; it’s also contributing to the rising employee burnout problem. When a team is short on staff, it causes team members to work longer and harder to pick up the slack. The managers of teams in this situation might not recognize it, but leaders certainly do. 

Managers care about short-term productivity regardless of the price. Leaders care about the long-term price of productivity.  

Most managers focus solely on results. Leaders recognize results matter, but they see a world beyond just immediate outcomes.  

Since the talent shortfall is here to stay and the problem isn’t isolated, what can you do to thrive in this challenging environment?

Recruit Year-Round, With Everyone

Coaches in NCAA Division 1 college athletics know that to be great over a long period of time, they must recruit year-round and not just during open recruiting periods. The same is true in the workplace.  

Mark Wojcik, Founder & President at HireLevel, told me, “Be consistent and be flexible. Be consistent in your interview process and your communication. Be flexible with requirements and with candidate qualifications. Because at the end of the day, great leaders can harness great potential.”

Great leaders can harness great potential.

Instead of waiting until the need is extreme, every single team member, from the CEO to a front-line employee, should feel responsible for attracting talented people to the organization consistently. 

Look for “Cultural Cofounders.”

In the middle of talent crunches, it’s easy to forget about hiring for a good culture fit and settle for the thinking that “any warm body will do.” While it might help you in the short-term, this will no doubt hurt your team in the long run.  

On a recent episode of The Masters of Scale podcast with Reid Hoffman, Workday’s CEO Annel Bhusri talked about personally interviewing their first 500 employees for what he called “cultural co-founders.” The idea was, “if we hired the right first 500, it would give us the next 5,000 because they would be with the company for 10+ years to uphold the culture and attract the people that fit our culture well.”

“The best leaders hire for culture fit and for people who desire to get better.”

While this might seem extreme, if you are going to create a development and people-first culture, you better be sure to hire the right people who fit your culture and desire to progress.

Be Proactive for Talent Outside Your Vertical

W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne coined the terms red and blue oceans to denote the market universe in their book, Blue Ocean Shift. The idea being, Cutthroat competition turns the ocean bloody red. Hence, the term ‘red’ oceans. Blue oceans denote all the industries not in existence today – the unknown market space, unexplored and untainted by competition.

While seeking talent isn’t a perfect fit to their idea, there is excellent value, seeking talent in professionals outside your traditional vertical. For example, I have been helping an upstart in the automotive industry seek talented customer service and salespeople. Instead of looking for people with experience in the automotive industry, we are looking for people who have hospitality service experience, because technical knowledge is easier to teach than a servant’s heart.  

Find an alternative industry where talented people have developed great leadership skills and be proactive in getting them to make the switch. It might be precisely what they are looking for, and no one is reaching out to them. 

Closing

There is nothing easy about the current talent shortfall, especially in specific industries like hospitality and manufacturing. However, if you recruit year-round, look for cultural cofounders, and focus on the untapped people outside your vertical, you will be on your way to a more talented team.

Lastly, as I tell my team all the time, “if it were easy, everyone would do it well.”

Leverage Accountability in Leadership: The development of your accountability skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Leveraging Accountability in Leadership Workshop! https://bit.ly/3uCLzFF

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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.

The Simple Rule You Should Adopt Before Firing an Employee

Boss firing a male subordinate

If you have chosen a position that comes with the responsibility of leading people, you have wrestled with this question, “Is this person the right fit?” There are times when that examination is silent in your mind, or it’s a full-fledged conversation with someone else for counsel.  

Unfortunately, the hard decisions around talent management are just part of the territory of leadership. Anyone involved in the talent management life cycle knows the three essential components; hiring, retaining and firing. 

Many phenomenal leaders have adopted the talent mantra “hire slow, fire fast,” and for good reason. Getting the right people on the team is the most critical decision any leader makes.  

Getting the right people on the team is the most critical decision any leader makes

When teams have the right people, leading is not only easier, it’s more enjoyable. But even the best leaders who spend a substantial amount of time vetting potential candidates for skill and culture fit make mistakes.  

Other managers are hired or promoted into their role and they assume responsibility for team members they didn’t choose or hire. This means their first two to four weeks are heavily focused on identifying whether they have the right team on the bus.  

For any manager that finds themselves in one of these positions or has recently asked the question, “Is this person the right fit?” It’s time to adopt the “45 Day Rule.”  

The “45 Day Rule”

Time and feelings are funny things when paired together. In one moment, we can be sure of something, and just a few days later, we can feel the opposite way. Because of this, the “fire fast” mantra is a little too hasty for my liking.  

Instead, I coach leaders to leverage the “45 Day Rule.” Here is how it works. Once you question whether someone is the right fit or in the right role, you set a date on your calendar 45 business days in the future. Then, on or before that date, a decision is made about their future employment.

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This approach provides the timeline and freedom to coach them up or move them out. 

Within the “45 Day Rule,” commit to doing three key things:

1. Communicate the Truth 

I have written before, “all improvement starts with the truth.” When it comes to talent-related decisions, communicating the truth is no different. Talented professionals deserve the truth when it comes to their future.

Now, there are different ways to communicate the thought or belief that this person might not be in the proper role. But, regardless of what you say, it should always start with something like this: “I care about you as a person, which means I care about your performance.”

Opening up your conversation this way demonstrates that you are sharing the truth with them because you want them to be successful and are not judging them as a person but how they are performing.

2. Coach Them Daily

It’s far common for managers who have mentally made up their minds that someone isn’t an excellent fit to ignore them to help justify their upcoming decision. I can’t stand this approach because it’s the easy way out.  

There is no denying that fact some people won’t work out. However, we owe it to ourselves and to them to do what’s in our power to help them succeed. One of those things is coaching.  

The development of team members should always be a priority, and coaching them should be a daily habit. However, when a team member is within the “45 Day Rule”, turning up the coaching dial is required.  

The development of team members should always be a priority, and coaching them should be a daily habit. 

Seek out opportunities to help develop their skills and be conscious of asking great coaching questions instead of just giving them answers.  Learn to be an effective coach in less than 1 hour with the Coaching for Excellence Program.

3. Provide Quality Feedback

Coaching and feedback are different things trying to achieve a similar result and both are important during the “45 Day Rule.”

Here are some general differences between coaching and feedback:

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There is a simple and effective way that researchers call “Magical feedback” that I described in Building the Best.

The Exception to the Rule

With any rule, there is always an exception. If the person whom you would add to the “45 Day Rule” is; an energy vampire, hurts your culture, is a terrible personality fit, or has shown no desire to develop the skills required to do the job, there is no need to wait.  

The sooner you decide someone is a bad cultural fit, the less time and energy both parties waste.  

Closing

Deciding to retain someone or removing them to help them find a better fit someone where else isn’t easy. But you are in your role for a reason and that’s to make decisions like this. So have courage and use the “45 Day Rule” to help you make the best decision possible. 

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Learn more 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.

How Great Leaders Make Big Decisions

One Way street signs

We all make bad decisions. Trust me, even the most level-headed exceptional leaders not only have made poor decisions in their career, but they will make them in the future. What matters when it comes to decision-making isn’t necessarily the outcome; it’s having a method or strategy to rely on before making significant decisions that matters most.  

Before you jump on my case in the comments, please let me explain by saying the outcome isn’t always the most important factor. In the vast majority of cases, we have little control over the final result, but what we do have control over is the process and effort we put in that produces the outcome. So the more significant the decision, the better our decision-making method should be.  

Take Paul, the CEO of a medium-sized business. When company growth sputtered, he began exploring the possibility of acquiring another company to fuel future growth. In one of our coaching conversations, he said, “I am going to go with my gut on this decision and move forward with the acquisition.” Since he didn’t have prior knowledge or experience in making acquisitions, I found it strange to rely on his gut.

So I passed along some wisdom to help him think differently since it affected so many people.  

“Great leaders don’t stop at just communicating the final decision; they articulate how and why they got to the final decision to gain maximum buy-in from the team.”

See, by definition, a decision is a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration. It comes from the Latin word, meaning “to cut off.” So in Paul’s case, if he couldn’t articulate how and why he reached the decision of acquiring another company to his management team or the employees at either company, the likelihood of its future success would be low. Because at the end of the day, it would be the people in both companies that would produce the results, not the decision itself. 

Proven Methods to Make Big Decisions

If you have a big decision, like taking a new job, buying a company, getting married, or hiring someone, run it through one of these simple methods to be more confident that you made the right decision.

Method 1: 3 Steps “Before You Decide”

Decisions come in all different sizes. Some research suggests we make as many as 35,000 decisions every day. Matt Confer of Abilitie has spent a significant amount of time and energy studying what organizational leaders do right and wrong when making decisions. In a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Confer told me, “The best leaders get buy-in from above them and below them by sharing why they are making the decisions they are making.”

For any leader to describe “why” they are making a decision, Confer shared a 3 step method that leaders can use that enhances the way they come up with the final decision.  

  1. Challenge the Constraint – This is all about thinking outside of the box and not just solving the problem in the fastest way possible. This is a strategic step to think differently about the decision in front of you.  
  2. Embrace the Pre-Mortem – It’s human nature to decide or contemplate making a decision, and all one thinks about is envisioning success. While thinking positively about an outcome is never wrong, an essential question to embrace is, “If this decision fails, what are five ways it would fail miserably?” Thinking about how failure would happen will open up your eyes to problem areas that still need to be addressed. 
  3. Check the Basics – The more complex a decision, the more likely a small essential detail is missed, which can cause a big decision to fail. As the great Kobe Bryant used to say, “never get bored with the basics.”

Confer’s 3-step method of ” before you decide” has a whiteboard session written all over it to help make your significant decision. If done correctly, it will provide you with clarity about moving forward or put the brakes on a big decision.  

Method 2: The 40-70 Rule

In our virtual leadership workshops, I coach leaders to leverage Colin Powell’s 40-70 Rule when making a decision. If you aren’t familiar with the 40-70 Rule, Powell says, “Every time you face a tough decision, you should have no less than forty percent and no more than seventy percent of the information you need to make the decision.”  

If you decide with less than forty percent of the information, you are taking a wild guess, but if you wait until you have over 70% of the information, you are making it too late. 

If you have all the data, it’s no longer a decision; it’s a forgone conclusion.”

The art of this rule is using both your intuition, experience, expertise and also the priorities of short vs. long-term ramifications. Thus, the 40-70 Rule is a powerful strategy to get comfortable with making more intelligent decisions before they are needed most. 

Method 3: Remove the Emotion and Decide in the Morning

Not all decision-making methods have to be complicated. But just because it’s not complex doesn’t mean it’s easy. Many poor decisions have been made because of emotions and timing.

I am obsessed with Dr. Susan David’s quote: “Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” 

Science has shown that we make worse decisions when we are emotional and when we have decision fatigue. So instead of ignoring your emotions, embrace the uncomfortable pause, sleep on it, and then decide in the morning when you have lowered the feelings and have a fresh brain.  

Closing

If you happen to be like Paul in our opening story and you like making decisions by your gut, challenge yourself to articulate how and why you are making it. If you aren’t like Paul and you love every punch of data you can get before you make a decision, lean into the 40-70 rule or the “3 Steps Before You Decide.”

Regardless, all I ask is that you have the courage to make the decision and commit to it. Part of a leader’s job is to make significant decisions, and you are just the person to do it.

What methods do you use to make significant decisions?

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 59k 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.