Why Being Humble Makes You a Better Leader

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There is something remarkable about humble leaders. It could be the way they make you feel when they communicate; it could be the fact that you feel drawn to going out of your way to be a part of what they’re doing; or it could be the way they model what you want to become.  

According to research in the Academy of Management Journal, humble leaders actually “embolden individuals to aspire to their highest potential and enables them to make the incremental improvements necessary to progress toward that potential.” 

Being a humble leader pays off in the performance category, but what’s most remarkable is the vast majority of humble leaders have every reason, because of their accomplishments to reject humility, but instead they embrace it. They don’t just talk about it, but it’s built into who they are and how they lead. It’s as if deep down, they understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility, not pride.  

Great leaders understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility, not pride.  

Most leaders grasp this concept because, before their achievements, they encountered strain in the form of failures, challenges, and or heartaches.  

What is Humility?

When you think of some famous recent leaders like Donald Trump, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos, humility is far from the first leadership trait that comes to mind. Whether you believe those leaders have humility or not, we often don’t think of humility in leaders because we don’t know what it is.

Websters defines it as; freedom from pride or arrogance, the quality or state of being humble. Being humble isn’t a lack of confidence or not believing in yourself. In fact, quite the opposite is true. To have freedom from pride and arrogance, it must start from a place of introspection.

C.S. Lewis said, “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” 

In an article a few years ago, the Washington Post found: “True humility, scientists have learned, is when someone has an accurate assessment of both his strengths and weaknesses, and he sees all this in the context of the larger whole. He’s a part of something far greater than he. He knows he isn’t the center of the universe. And he’s both grounded and liberated by this knowledge. Recognizing his abilities, he asks how he can contribute. Recognizing his flaws, he asks how he can grow.”

So the natural question is, if you struggle with humility or want to be a more humble leader, how do you do it? It won’t be easy, but here’s how to get started.

Start with the Truth

I have written before, “all improvement starts with the truth.” When it comes to humility, being a humble leader also starts with the truth. Philadelphia 76ers basketball coach Doc Rivers said, “Average players want to be left alone. Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.”  

The truth is every position that exists today will one day be held by someone else. The President of the United States, The Pope, and even your current role will one day be someone else’s seat. Allow this truth to sink into your soul.  

You have a significant role to play while you have it, and you should give everything you can to do meet your potential, but it can’t and shouldn’t be all about you. It has to be about elevating others and helping those around you become the best version of themselves.

Stay a Student

Some of the signs of an arrogant leader include; not listening, always wanting to be right, avoiding accountability, and thinking they know it all. A humble leader looks and feels much different. They admit when they make mistakes and are obsessed with learning.  

TD Jakes mentioned in his new book, Don’t Drop the Mic, “The world is a university, and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure you wake up and go to school your entire life learning from the good and the bad.”

It reminds me of when I interviewed Villanova’s head coach Jay Wright for an episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast right after they had won the national championship. He heard a quote from Napoleon about leadership during the show, and I watched him grab a pen and write it down. After we had finished recording, he said, “I hadn’t heard that quote, and I want to use it with my team.”

Wright had every right to feel like he had learned it all because of his team’s success, but instead, he continued to embrace the mindset of staying a student, which you and I must do as well. If at any point you stop learning, you will be dying.  

Embrace Accountability

One of the most significant mistakes leaders in choosing pride over humility is avoiding accountability. Instead of inviting people in their lives to be feedback vehicles, they decide to go it alone. In the beginning, it isn’t a big deal. But as time goes on, the lies and thoughts in one’s head become their reality. Those thoughts then become engrained in their behavior, and it’s what other people experience. 

The vaccine for this situation is to embrace accountability. Put people around you who keep you grounded and are willing to have difficult dialogues when they recognize something is off. Then you keep an open mind and heart to the words they say without getting defensive or making excuses.  

I recognize this is easy to write but difficult to put into practice. But the best part, is when your team sees you embracing accountability, they will embrace it as well.

Closing

The best leaders indeed understand that the path to effective leadership is paved with humility and not pride. However, it doesn’t mean it’s easy, or it doesn’t mean you won’t have moments where pride or ego win you over. The key is to recognize these moments and get back on the humility path as quickly as possible. 

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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.Report

One Word Micromanagers Use That You Must Avoid

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With leadership comes responsibility. A significant portion of that responsibility includes being accountable for team members’ behaviors. While this might sound like no big deal, trying to influence or control what other people do is hard.  

The strategies and tactics managers leverage but are not limited to include; setting clear standards, aligning teams to core values, defining hiring processes, providing coaching, and having difficult dialogues. While all of these are effective and things I teach leaders to use, there is a less effective method many managers adhere to called micromanaging. 

Now before you act as you have never micromanaged, stop right there. You have been guilty of it, and I have as well. To closely observe, control, or remind others what they should be doing or how they should be doing is an easy thing to do when you are ultimately responsible for their choices. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it correct.

What is Micromanagement and Why Do We Do It?

The term micromanagement has skyrocketed in popularity in the last few decades. Webster defines it as “manage[ment] especially with excessive control or attention on details.” It has a negative connotation both in the marketplace and to employees because it limits the freedom to complete jobs or tasks instead of trusting things will be done correctly. 

Managers tend to micromanage for one of three reasons:

  • Comfort – Many managers were successful in the role the people they now lead are currently work in, so it’s comfortable for them to get in the weeds. 
  • Connectedness – There is a sense of being a unit when a manager helps do the work with their team. 
  • Importance – No manager wants to feel they aren’t necessary anymore. So they micromanage to feel important. 

Many full-fledged micromanagers have been exposed and removed from their position in the last few years because of high turnover rates, engagement surveys, and 360° Leadership assessments. However, the best leaders know there is a fine line between setting high standards and coaching someone and reminding others what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.  

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Since most managers don’t have an overt problem with micromanagement, they often do small things that lead to their people feeling micromanaged. These small things tend to be the words they use and when they use them.  

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

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

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

Writing these statements that start with “don’t” exudes a manager trying to control, not inspire. Since inspiration is a key to elevating others, breathing life into team members will help change behavior with an internal trigger instead of an external motivator.  

The best leaders don’t control, they inspire.

The word “don’t” has a negative connotation, and it stirs up feelings of defensiveness in people. Instead of responding positively, more often than not, it will have someone responding a begrudgingly way.  

Just check out these same statements communicated without the word “don’t.”

  • “Do you need any help making the deadline?”
  • “Try saying it this way to see if you get a better response.”
  • “I love your effort; if you modify your technique there is a chance it’s easier for you.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the enormous difference between a leader communicating like this versus one using the word “don’t.”

Closing

Eliminating or modifying a word from “don’t” from your managerial language won’t be easy. The challenge to you this week is to take a mental checklist around how often you say the word “don’t” to your colleagues, teammates, significant other, or even your kids.

Once you recognize the extent of your “don’t” habit, then it’s time to change your language moving forward to something more positive, inspirational, and encouraging.  

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 LeadershipWorkshop! 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.

5 Things Modern Employees Need to Be Fully Engaged

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Modern employees have needs—a lot of them. The typical needs revolve around fair compensation, exciting work, and being a part of a team. 

Meeting these basic needs as a leader is essential to have engaged, productive, and positive team members over time. However, it’s meeting a team member’s advanced needs where the difference between a manager and a leader begins to emerge.

Managers meet their team’s basic needs, leaders meet their team’s advanced needs.

Difference Between a Want, Need, and an Advanced Need

It’s common to use the words want and need interchangeably. Just for the sake of clarity, there is a slight distinction between the two. 

Want: have a desire to possess or do something; wish for

Need: require something because it’s essential or very important rather than just desirable.

The difference between an employee’s basic needs and their advanced needs is slightly more complicated. Most people are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; when it comes to employees, the basic needs are essential and fall within Maslow’s “deficiency needs” (physiological, safety, belonging, esteem). Maslow’s top-level, known as “growth needs,” by definition, growth needs do not stem from the lack of something, but rather the desire to grow as a person. This is precisely where most of the advanced needs employees desire now live.   

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Since this pandemic has changed many of us in ways we couldn’t imagine, the advanced needs of employees have evolved. Here are five things modern employees need, whether they know it or not, that all leaders must know.  

1. They “Need” a Flexible Schedule

The jury is still out on what companies will do with the work from home model post-pandemic. Companies like Ford and others have adopted permanent work from home policies. The future of work is almost certainly a hybrid model.  

Regardless of your company’s WFH policy moving forward, professionals have had a taste of flexibility, and they loved it. Whether it be having family dinner at 5:30, workouts during breaks in the calendar, working from a tropical desk, or avoiding rush hour traffic, flexibility is now essential. I would go as far as to say, companies and bosses that offer no flexibility will be forced to overpay for talented team members.  

“The best leaders will embrace calendar flexibility to attract and retain top talent.”

While there are industries and situations where being in the same room has enormous advantages and will always be required, leaders who embrace flexibility will attract and retain top talent.  

2. They “Need” Development Opportunities

A lightbulb has turned on for many professionals thanks to the ease of access to educational content. We no longer need to wait for the next company-wide training event to grow and develop our skills. It turns out that having a growth mindset is one of the essential things professionals need to adopt. 

The best leaders provide development opportunities to encourage their people to have a growth mindset. Things like workshops, seminars, conferences, books, and lunch & learns are great ways to help employees scratch their development needs. 

3. They “Need” to Be Empowered to Make Decisions

No one likes to be micromanaged, but most managers ignore this because they don’t believe they are the micromanaging type. Indeed defines micromanagement as; a management style that involves the close supervision of an employee by their manager.  

Too many managers second guess every decision their people make in fear of losing control or the belief that no one can do the work as well as they can. Micromanagement is a hurdle every manager can and must overcome because employees have an advanced need to be empowered to make decisions.  

In his new book Winning the War in Your Mind, Craig Groeschel said, “The strength of your organization is not a reflection of what you control, it’s who you empower.”

Not only is Groeschel correct but he should have you asking yourself the question, “Can you let go and allow your people to do their best work?

4. They “Need” You to Behave Like a Coach

You might think I am a broken record, writing about managers behaving and acting like a coach, but I will not stop until it starts to become a reality. It is the most crucial skill for a manager to develop today.  (See if the next Coaching for Excellence workshop is for you.)

Coaching is the most crucial skill for managers to develop in the modern workforce. 

We love to believe people are self-made, but that has never been true. It’s often the coaching of someone else that helps us become the best version of ourselves and grow our self-belief. Since most professionals or HR budgets don’t set aside a budget for an external coach, this responsibility falls squarely on the manager’s shoulder.  

If you aren’t comfortable with playing the role of a coach, at a minimum, equip yourself with a couple of great coaching questions:

  • What do you think we should do to create the best result for everyone?
  • If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to? (Out of the Michael Bungay Stanier Playbook)

5. They “Need” You to Share the Truth

This one might have caught you by surprise, but in order to grow, people need the truth. Unfortunately, too many managers and executives avoid sharing the truth with people in fear of how they might react or them leaving altogether.

Take Brent the CEO of a small business as an example. During a coaching conversation, he said something that caught me by surprise. “John, I just can’t fire this person on my team. She has been there too long and has added value over the years. Having said that, she doesn’t put in the maximum effort anymore and brings a lot of negativity into the office.” Without beating him up, I just asked him a simple question, “If someone had information about you that was true that would help you improve, would you want them to share it with you?” Without hesitation, he said “yes.”  

Part of your job as a leader is to share the truth with people and that requires courage. I wrote about courage here, but I define it in Building the Best as, “Being frightened and deciding to do it anyway.” Choose courage and share the truth with your team.

In the comments below, tell me what you think. What advanced employee needs are you experiencing yourself or have observed with your people?

Leveraging 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.  

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.

Simple Phrases Great Leaders Say to Their Team

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

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

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

John Eades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. “Thank you.”

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

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

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

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

The best leaders are obsessed with helping others reach their potential

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

4. “Tell Me More.”

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

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

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

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

5. “What can I do to help you?”

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

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

6. “What are your personal goals?”

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

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

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

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. Sign up and get “8 Questions to Leverage to Be a Better Coach” for free today! 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 Lead With Courage

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Leaders must develop many attributes or skills if they want to have a meaningful impact in the workplace. Having a positive attitude will change your life, empathy improves your ability to connect with team members, while a focus on goal setting and accountability ensures that your team members meet their professional potential.  

But among all these essential elements of leadership, the value of courage is consistently overlooked. Part of this is because when we first think of courage, we tend to think of heroic acts like landing a plane on the Hudson or running into a burning building to save someone. Right behind a heroic act, courage is often thought of as an attribute that only a few extraordinary leaders possess. One’s that walk around with a big S on the chest like the comic Superman.

While these are widely popular views of courage, it is a far cry from how it’s used by great leaders on a daily basis and the word’s actual meaning. I defined it in my book Building the Best as the “ability to do something that frightens you.”

C.S. Lewis famously said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Lewis got it right because each and every virtue a leader needs to possess will meet its testing point at some time. If that wasn’t enough the great William Wallace said it well in Braveheart; “people don’t follow titles; they follow courage.”

People don’t follow titles; they follow courage.  

In other words, a courageous leader is precisely the kind of leader required in today’s hyper-changing marketplace. 

What Happens When You’re Courageous

When you haven’t made many courageous decisions in your life or career, it’s tempting to believe you are just not a fearless leader. Reject this negative thinking with all your might. Courage can be exercised at any time with situations big and small by anyone willing to embrace it. 

While neuroscience research suggests that some people innately possess a thrill-seeking or “Type T” personality, courage is still required to act whether you are wired with higher risk tolerance levels or not.  

In working with leaders from all different backgrounds and industries, two significant outcomes happen when leaders are courageous. 

  1. Clarity in the Future
  2. Increased Opportunities

Clarity in the Future

One of the things many professionals are struggling with right now is clarity in their journey. There is so much uncertainty and doubt surrounding us right now; it has many questioning their purpose and pathway. What is ironic is when you are frightened and decide to do something anyway, it creates clarity, not confusion. It shows us that we are on the right or wrong path whereas if we did not act, we would remain stuck in the same place filled with uncertainty. 

Leaders Who Act Courageously Create Clarity, Not Confusion

While we aspire to have clarity as quickly as possible, it is also true that the clarity we want may not find us at our own timeline, but at at later time. However, it should provide confidence to know that when you are choosing courage, you are on the path towards clarity. 

Increase in Opportunities

Something funny happens when you act courageously as a leader, opportunity finds you. With an increase in opportunities comes the ability to make a significant impact on others and drive additional revenue. 

Entrepreneur John Wiesehan told me, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor. When you act courageously, these new opportunities have a funny way of finding you. Which then allows you to make calculated decisions about which opportunities to pursue.” 

Courageous leaders can examine new opportunities quickly, as Wiesehan suggests, to reject recklessness. If they feel they lack information or the bandwidth to pursue something, it allows them to choose the right time to act courageously in the future.

How to Be More Courageous

Since courage is essential in leadership and provides significant upside, we must work hard to exercise it. Here are a few of the strategies I have seen be effective:

  1. Write Down the Worst Possible Outcome. Our brains are fascinating because we have an almond-shaped mass in them called an Amygdala. This part of our brain has become best known for its role in fear processing. This means that this area in our brain controls fear and our responses to it. You are naturally wired to run from or avoid things that can be harmful.  Getting in the habit of writing down the worst possible outcome from acting on something that frightens you often provides insight that the worst scenario isn’t actually all that bad.  
  2. Quantify the Best Possible Outcome. Since our brains constantly evaluate either the pain or gain in every situation, highlighting the benefits of courageous leadership is a powerful method to encourage action. Regardless if the end outcome meets or even exceeds our expectations, the practice of allowing your brain to visualize the possible benefits in a situation is a decisive step in the process of being more courageous. 
  3. Lean Into the Emotions. Acting as if emotions such as doubt or fear do not exist is a false path to courage. Being open and honest about your emotions is not a weakness; it is a strength. In a recent episode of Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead Podcast, Dr. Susan David was speaking about the dangers of Toxic Positivity and said, “Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” The wisdom in Dr. David’s words can’t be overstated. Allow yourself to experience the emotions that would cause you not to act courageously and then decide to move forward despite them when it makes sense. 

“Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” Dr. Susan David

Closing

The better you get at acting as a courageous leader, the easier it will be to set your fear aside and lead people, teams, and organizations to a better place than they are today. To quote the great Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 

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.

Why the Best Leaders Use Purpose to Improve Engagement

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There is this common belief that disengaged employees are bad employees. The reasons are numerous, but a few common behaviors include; laziness, boredom, uninspired, and limited productivity.

While it’s undoubtedly true these aren’t the habits that produce excellent results; it doesn’t mean a disengaged employee is a bad employee forever.

Take Mark, the CEO of a medium-sized manufacturing company, as an example. Thanks to his entrepreneurial spirit and relentless work ethic, he and a small team grew his business from nothing to $15M in revenue over ten years. But as the company saw revenue plateau for three consecutive years, Mark began to lose interest.  

He started working fewer hours, stopped holding daily huddles with his management team, and found himself just going through the motions. You could say he was lazy, bored, and uninspired, thus he became disengaged from an outside perspective.  

Thanks to his team and external coaching help, Mark began to recognize what his disengagement was costing his own company and how it was negatively affecting his people. Through a lot of hard work and soul searching, he rediscovered his passion and purpose and committed to new habits to replace the stale ones. Mark has transformed his leadership approach in just six short months and has breathed new life into the business and his team.  

He also provides an example that disengaged employees aren’t bad employees, and no one is immune to becoming disengaged, even the CEO.

Disengaged employees aren’t bad employees permanently, and no one is immune to becoming disengaged. 

How Disengaged Are We?

Now before we get into the state of engagement in the workplace, we must level set on a common definition of employee engagement. While there are tons of great definitions of employee engagement, I have come to define it this way, “Employees who are emotionally committed to the success of the team or organization, demonstrated through their actions.”

When employees are engaged in this way, they are more productive, happier, and fulfilled in their professional careers. This makes it hard to imagine why anyone would sign up to be disengaged, but unfortunately, it’s more popular than the latter. 

To give you an idea of how unengaged the workforce is today, Gallup research found only 39% of employees are engaged, and 14% are actively disengaged

Managers are Most Important

While the current engagement statics are no doubt a bit gloomy, I am an optimistic thinker. Instead of seeing it as a problem, I see it as an opportunity, much like many of the great leaders I have studied. Great leaders look for opportunities in problems.  

When you look at employee engagement through the lens of an opportunity instead of a problem, clarity emerges. The opportunity present is for managers to take personal responsibility instead of pawning it off on HR or relying on the bi-annual company-wide engagement survey. While Human Resources professionals are key and engagement surveys are essential, research indicates that managers affect 70% of team engagement variance. 

So if you have a title that comes with the responsibility of leading others at work, know the actions you exhibit today will reflect the engagement you get tomorrow.

The actions leaders exhibit today will reflect the engagement they get tomorrow.

How to Drive Higher Levels of Engagement

Most bad leaders assume that disengagement will take care of itself if you throw money at people (If only it were this easy!). In Adam Grant’s book, Think Again, he wrote, “Research across industry, shows once people are earning enough to meet their basic needs, paying them more doesn’t stop them from leaving a bad job and bad bosses. In most companies, if the pay were the carrot, that would have already solved the engagement problem.”

Grant is correct; while pay is essential, it won’t solve the problem. One key action leaders can leverage to drive higher engagement levels is to connect the team’s activity to a deeper purpose.  

Connect your team to a deeper purpose for higher engagement levels

Shared Purpose

Employees don’t get burned out because of their work; they get burned out because they forget WHY they do their work. Because of this, leaders of high-performing teams are constantly reminding their people of the deeper purpose behind the work they do.  

One of the most prominent mistakes managers make is believing it’s not their job to connect their team to a deeper purpose. Don’t fall into this flawed thinking. Embrace the responsibility that you are the connector of cause.  

On a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Rodney Showmar, the CEO of Arkansas Federal Credit Union, said, “Engaged professionals don’t get up every day to do a function; they get up every day to fulfill a purpose.” Showmar and his team do a phenomenal job connecting every single one of their 350+ employees to “making a difference in people’s lives.”

A deeper purpose like Showmar articulates has been instrumental in achieving higher levels of success for his organization. Do not go another minute without being clear on why your team is doing what it’s doing. It’s easy for people to get lost in the monotony of their everyday work without considering how their work impacts the larger organization and customers. 

If you’re unsure how to communicate this to your team, start by answering these three complicated yet straightforward questions:

  1. What do you do? 
  2. Why do you do it? (Hint: it’s got to be more than making money)
  3. What positive impact does our work have on others?

It’s easy to skim past these questions, but I’m challenging you to pause. Reread them and ask yourself if each member of your team could answer it with clarity. If the answer is no, you have some work to do.

Closing

Disengaged employees aren’t bad employees. Before judging them, use your empathy skills and recognize disengagement can happen to any of us. Then look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What can I do to get them emotionally committed to the success of the team?” There is a good chance the answer to that question has nothing to do with money but instead reconnecting them to the purpose behind their work.

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. Sign up and get “8 Questions to Leverage to Be a Better Coach” for free today! https://bit.ly/3goZLv2

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 Great Leaders Understand About Employee Motivation

Motivation, solution, success key

One of your team members is disengaged at work. What do you do as a leader?

Do you let it slide because of the Pandemic? Do you say something immediately, or do you wait a few weeks? Do you give them time off in hopes they rekindle the fire? 

The answer to these questions all relates to truly understanding motivation, but probably not in the way you’re thinking.

Most leaders think of motivation as something people should have all the time. In reality, motivation is someone’s willingness to do something that fluctuates over time. Researchers define motivation as a reason for actions, willingness, and goals. The word is derived from the word motive or a need that requires satisfaction.

As simple as this definition is, the layers of complexity behind being and staying motivated are more complicated than most people realize. Organizational leaders need to be aware of this because part of their job is related to helping others be and stay motivated. Dwight D. Eisenhower said it well: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done, because he wants to do it.”  

Leadership requires getting to someone’s heart, management requires exerting authority. 

Even though there are sentiments of coercion in Eisenhower’s definition, the statement holds truth. Because leadership requires getting to someone’s heart, while management only requires leveraging authority.   

What Bad Leaders Get Wrong About Motivation

One of the surprising things about motivation is that each person can be motivated by different things. Those motivations can also shift as needs are met, or as situations change. James Clear provides some great ideas about the Science of Motivation here.

However, bad leaders fail to recognize this. Bad leaders move forward under the assumption that their team is motivated by the same goals, failing to recognize their differences. 

Bad leaders assume that others are motivated by the same things they are motivated by.  

In the for-profit business world, this often manifests itself in the carrot that is money. Now before you go thinking I will bash financial returns as a lousy motivator, stop yourself. Finances are one of the common motivators for professionals, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, money is not the only one. Part of your job as a leader is to understand what I call a “Prime Motivation” for each team member. Some of the other “Prime Motivators” outside of financial rewards include: Praise from Others, Being Challenged or Solving Tough Problems, Being Heard or Known, Helping Others’ Have Success.

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How to Properly Help Motivate Team Members

As a leader, you are responsible for energizing your team and helping them become motivated to be at their best. The good news is that boosting your employees’ enthusiasm isn’t necessarily as hard — or time-consuming — as you might expect. 

1. Connect Them to a Deeper Cause

What I have found in my work helping leaders from different industries is we are most inspired by our impact on other people. We will work harder and longer and better—and feel happier about the work we are doing—when we know that someone else is benefiting from our efforts.

So the fastest and most effective path to helping motivate people on a daily basis is by connecting them to the deeper cause behind their work. Even the most repetitive jobs and tasks, when tied to a deeper cause, can be incredibly motivating and rewarding.  

If you have never done this exercise before or if your primary target has solely been a revenue number at the end of the year, I would ask yourself this simple question:

How do you help improve the lives of others who are positively impacted by your team’s effort?

The answer to this question gets to the root of the deeper cause behind your team’s work.

2. Provide a Maximizing Mantra

Mantras may only be a few words long, but they can have a powerful motivating impact. After studying great leaders in different industries, it’s clear they tap into their power to help motivate their team. I refer to these in Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success as “Maximizing Mantras.” A maximizing mantra provides energy to the team even before you achieve the results. With just a few words, you create the inspirational drive that helps inspire future successes.

One of the most recent (and well-known) maximizing mantras was college football coach P.J. Fleck’s “Row the Boat,” which helped bring the previously overlooked Western Michigan football team into the limelight with a winning record and a spot in the 2017 Cotton Bowl. The mantra has come to define the coach and his teams, even after moving to a new job at the University of Minnesota.

In an interview with MLive, Fleck explained that the mantra referred to three parts: the oar, which provided the energy, the boat, which represented the sacrifices that team members, administration, and fans were willing to make for the program, and finally, the compass, which symbolized the direction the team wanted to go. Combining all these ideas into a single phrase served as a powerful motivator for the team.

When you find short, simple phrases that encapsulate big ideas, you can quickly inspire your team to work harder and with more intensity than they’ve ever had before.

3. Encourage Them to Pursue Things Outside of the Workplace.

The most controversial way to motivate a team member is to encourage them to pursue ambitions and goals outside of work that is in alignment with their prime motivator. We are in a brand new era of work, where in most industries outside of the manufacturing space, work can be completed anywhere and anytime.  

Instead of acting like the job someone is doing as a part of your team or organization is the only thing on the planet, take the opposite mindset. Encourage them to pursue fitness goals, side hustles, or family passions. Things like running a marathon, starting an eCommerce business, or coaching a kids soccer team.  

Not only will your people appreciate the fact that you are with the times, but they will also develop confidence and skills by pursuing passions outside of work that will help them do their job more efficiently and effectively. 

Closing

These ideas and strategies are just the tip of the iceberg as it relates to motivation. The fact you are thinking about and are concerned about adequately motivating yourself and others in ways beyond cracking the whip or just throwing more money at the problem places you far ahead of the competition.  

Energizing and motivating your team isn’t something that consistently happens in strategy meetings or a brief virtual encounter on Zoom or Slack. It’s best done in arranged one-on-one coaching sessions dedicated to understanding each person and their goals on a deeper level. By taking a little time out of your schedule to use these unique motivational tactics, you can give your team the drive they need to succeed.

Live Coaching for Excellence Workshop: Block one hour on your calendar to sharpen your coaching skills by joining the Coaching for Excellence Workshop. Learn more and sign up.

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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.

7 Excuses You Must Avoid to Be an Effective Leader

I ran out of time word dice

The culture of accepting excuses as reality is here. In previous generations, people were held accountable for making excuses for their behavior or decisions. Today’s workplace is different. Not only are we ok with rationalization, we almost encourage it.  

To give you an idea of how popular making excuses has become, a recent study found the average American will make 2,190 excuses yearly (six reasons daily) to validate their decisions.

Before you go making an excuse for the research, we’ve all been there. Something doesn’t work out, or we are disappointed because reality didn’t meet our expectations. When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to look for something or someone else to blame. This is precisely what an excuse is; an attempt to lessen the blame; seek to defend or justify.

The best leaders recognize an excuse for what it is and refuse to make or accept them from others.  

Great leaders don’t make excuses because it gets them further away from positive progress. 

Turning Excuses into Power

Allowing excuses to become a regular part of your everyday routine is a recipe for mediocrity and will put you in a powerless position. What if, instead of justifying things, you embraced responsibility and became powerful? How much better would you and your team perform if each person took ownership each day?

Take my health journey as an example. I have a weight goal that I am working towards this year. My accountability partner texted me yesterday, “Get your work in today?” My first response was an excuse, “Rear deltoid injury.” Without missing a beat, his response exposed my excuse, “But your legs still work, no?”

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When it comes to leadership, many Managers and Executives have mastered the art of making excuses; placing responsibility onto someone else. With this in mind, here are the most common excuses I hear and ways to turn them into statements that will help you and your team be successful. 

Excuse 1: “I am waiting on someone else.”

Without a doubt, this is the most popular excuse in corporate America. “I am waiting on someone else to do something, so I can do something.” While there is no denying the corporate decision-making structure and hierarchy in an organization, this excuse is paralyzing for a team working on accomplishing meaningful goals.  

Instead of making this excuse, commit yourself to create a more compelling and value-oriented case for why a decision or action from someone else is needed quickly. Commit yourself to figure out why there is a delay and what you can do to help the situation instead of sitting back, powerless. 

Excuse 2: “I don’t have the money or budget.”

Finances and budgeting are a part of life and management. Instead of making this excuse, commit yourself to understand the budgeting process and what you or your team can do in the future to invest in the things you know are essential.  

While this might mean delaying an initiative you believe is important, it will put you in a more powerful position the next time you’re ready to invest in your team or adopt a new software tool.

Excuse 3: “I don’t have enough time.”

Time management is a part of every leader’s life. The collision course of people and things needing your time and attention is endless in a position of leadership. As Bhrett McCabe said on a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, “The job of a leader and a coach is a thankless job because you can never do enough.”

But there is one lesson I have learned in studying so many great leaders: “you make time for what’s important.”

“Great leaders make time and prioritize what’s important.”

Instead of making this excuse, commit yourself to a time management system that works for you and your team. Become a 5 AM club member, and you will be amazed at how much more time you have your day. 

Excuse 4: “It’s my team’s fault.”

If there is an excuse that gets my blood boiling, this is it. I have written about this before; “what a leader tolerates, they encourage.” Instead of making this excuse, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “what else could you do to help a team member perform better or make better decisions.”  

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.”

Excuse 5: “I haven’t done this before.”

As quickly as technology and the markets are changing, there is a good chance you and your team are now responsible for doing work that it wasn’t doing six months to a year ago. Pat Gelsinger’s (New CEO of Intel and incredible leader) inspirational message to his new team at Intel highlighted the speed at which they had to innovate. He wrote, “passionately innovate with boldness and speed.”  

As great as the vision is, it won’t happen if employees at Intel use the excuse, “I haven’t done this before.” Instead of making this excuse, commit yourself to a growth mindset. Get comfortable with the idea that you can figure things out with research, hard work, and collaboration with others. 

Excuse 6: “It’s not only me, others are doing it as well.”

In this world with an ever-growing grey area, there still is right from wrong. I have written before about how to ensure you don’t become a bad leader. Understanding your core values and embracing your character is paramount in leadership.

Robert Caslen, a retired US Army Officer, current president at the University of South Carolina, and author of The Character Edge, told me in an interview on the Follow My Lead Podcast, “If you fail at character, you fail at leadership.”

Instead of making this excuse, take ownership of the mental and moral qualities distinctive to you and draw a line in the sand for what’s right and wrong. You might not win in the short-term because of your character, but you will in the long-term.

Excuse 7: “This market makes it too hard.”

There is no denying the impact of Covid on business markets. For some, it’s been a blessing they could never have expected, and for others, it’s been the curse no one would wish on their worst enemy.

Instead of making this excuse, accept the reality that COVID has placed on your team or business and look to transform and survive in the new market. The truth is, anyone or any team can reinvent themselves within a year if they put enough time, energy, and effort into it. With this mindset, you and your team can challenge yourself to try new things, innovate, and pivot to find new ways to succeed. 

Closing

Excuses are easy to make, which means you will have to work twice as hard to recognize when making them. There is a simple trick I learned from Brian Kight, “Eliminate BCD; eliminate blaming, complaining or defending” from your language.  

As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Someone that is good at making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Be the kind of leader who doesn’t make excuses and figures out a way to get things done.

Leverage Accountability in Leadership: Ready to take your accountability skills to the next level? Join us for the next Leverage Accountability in Leadership Workshop. Sign up and get “Proven Techniques to Leverage Accountability” immediately. Sign up today!

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop. Sign up and get “8 Questions to Leverage to Be a Better Coach” for free today! 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 Lead When You Don’t Feel Like a Leader

Business leadership and teamwork concept

If someone tells you they were born a leader, don’t believe them. No one is born a leader, but people do develop into one. While some of the most outstanding leaders of all time were born with some leadership DNA, they still had to work to develop their skills over their journey.

This question of whether leaders are born or made has been debated for decades. Leadership Quarterly did some fantastic research; they found 24 percent of our leadership comes from DNA, while 76 percent is learned or developed. 

Why is this important? I don’t know whether you were born with this leadership DNA or not, but I know you can become a better leader regardless if it comes naturally or not. For many people, this is a significant change in thinking, but it’s the only way to think if you are going to get better.  

Take Ben, a project manager in a manufacturing company, as an example. For the first five years of his career, he was a team member instead of leading a team. When he became a head project manager, he was thrust into keeping projects on time and within budget, which meant leading people. He struggled early in this new role to build strong relationships, set clear standards, and create a culture of accountability. As the project started to fall behind, Ben realized that the problem wasn’t his team; it was his lack of leadership.  

After coaching Ben, it became evident that he had many of the skills required to lead successfully, but the problem was that he didn’t think of himself as a leader. I will share with you what I shared with him:

Thinking of yourself as a leader is a key to becoming one.

Now before you start running down the ego trail, it’s essential to clarify this. You don’t decide if you are a leader; others do. However, most people struggle because, in their mind, leadership is only meant for certain types and kinds of people, not for them.  

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone is called to lead in one way or another. Either leading themselves, leading at work, or leading at home.

Everyone is called to lead in one way or another.

So whether leading comes naturally or not, it should be evident now that you’re called to lead in some part of your journey, so you might as well become a better leader. Here are some ideas to help:

1. Anchor yourself in belief 

Belief is one of these things that most people assume only a few people possess. It couldn’t be further from the truth because belief by definition is; trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something. Everyone can have trust, faith, or confidence in themselves and what they expect to happen in the future.  

On a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Amy P. Kelly said, “When a leader has belief, it’s a magnet for others to want to be part of it. Conversely, if you don’t have belief, no one else around you can.”

Not only is she correct, but it highlights the essential nature of self-belief and the belief in others as a critical element of leadership. Because as Michael Korda said, “if you don’t believe in yourself, then who will believe in you?”

2. Focus on the fundamentals 

Leadership, in some ways, is like golf. For some people who have excellent hand-eye coordination, the game comes more manageable than those that don’t. But even without excellent hand-eye, you can still play the game and get better at it by focusing on the fundamentals—grip, posture, balance, technique, and the mental game. 

If you weren’t born with the natural instincts of leadership, it’s best to lean into leadership fundamentals—things like relationships, communication, standards, accountability, and coaching. 

Don’t get bored with the basics and work relentlessly to develop your skills in these areas. If you want a recap of leadership fundamentals, check out a previous newsletter, 8 Building Blocks Successful Leaders Get Right, or get a copy of Building the Best

3. Demonstrate you care 

There aren’t many leadership hacks, but simply demonstrating you care about others in each interaction might be one. Whether leadership comes naturally or not, if people don’t think you care about them as human beings, you won’t go far as a leader.

If people don’t think you care about them, you won’t go far as a leader. 

One of the easiest ways to show you care is by implementing this simple technique within the first minute of every interaction you have; it’s what I call the “One-Minute Rule”: 

Within the first minute, decide to care by giving your undivided attention and showing genuine curiosity in the other person.

While this might seem obvious, most leaders don’t have difficulty caring; it’s starting to care. Leaders are busy and have many things on their mind, so getting in the correct mindset of care in each interaction can be easily forgotten.  

Closing

Suppose you are among the few people where leadership comes naturally, congratulations but don’t take it for granted. Reaching your full leadership potential won’t happen without a lot of hard work and effort. 

If leadership doesn’t come naturally, don’t for a second think you can’t be a leader. By anchoring yourself in belief, focusing on the fundamentals, and demonstrating you care about others, you increase your odds of positively impacting others.

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me today the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop from 12-1 PM EST. Sign up and get “8 Questions to Leverage to Be a Better Coach” for free today! https://bit.ly/3goZLv2

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

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

3 Proven Rules to Increase Accountability as a Leader

Red figure of the leader in the center of the circle of people

Accountability as a leadership skill is among the most difficult to be highly effective when you solely rely on instincts. Most leaders struggle with accountability not because they don’t have the talent to be effective but because they don’t know what it actually is. 

Accountability is one of these words that has lost its meaning because of overuse. 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. Accountable leaders provide a path for personal improvement and team performance. 

Accountability is an advantage; make it your obligation.

In a best-case scenario, managers and executives have a lot of training and experience to learn, develop and mold their accountability skills. However, when business and HR executives expect individual contributors to be highly effective managers on day one after their promotion, it sets both parties up to be disappointed.   

What most managers do is rely on their instincts when it comes to accountability. While instincts can undoubtedly be good, just because you have them doesn’t mean they’re always right. 

Just because you have instincts as a leader doesn’t mean they are always right. 

Research for the SkillsLoft assessment has shown accountability is one of the top 4 weakest leadership competencies in managers, only behind listening, empathy and communication. So clearly, if you struggle with accountability as a leadership skill, you are not alone. So if you are ready to get better and take some steps to increase accountability in your leadership approach, follow these rules.  

Relationships Come First

Joe Maddon, a successful Major League Baseball manager and current skipper for the Los Angeles Angels, has a unique way of leveraging accountability. When one of his players violates a team rule or isn’t meeting a standard, he asked the player to purchase a nice bottle of wine, then they open it and have a glass or two in a one-on-one meeting. Thus he’s dedicating time to the player to have the disapproval dialogue while at the same time creating a deep sense of connection between himself and the player.

While this isn’t a strategy every leader can use, Maddon understands this critical leadership lesson regarding accountability. 

“Leaders must connect before they correct.”  

The reason this rule exists is that “rules before relationships lead to rebellion.” The stronger your relationship with team members, the more comfortable and more effective accountability can be. 

No Standards, No Accountability

One of the most significant mistakes leaders make is not setting clear standards or assuming people know them. By definition, standards define what good looks like. The way I want you to think about them is slightly different. The best leaders don’t define what good looks like; they define what great looks like. When you define what great looks like for your team and communicate it correctly, these standards will produce behaviors and habits that are vital to achieving results.  

They also become the foundation for what you hold your people accountable for. Without their presence, it’s nearly impossible to be an accountable leader and to have an accountable culture.  

Praise and Recognition Count as Well

Most people think of accountability in a negative way and believe because they are willing to have difficult dialogues or fire someone, they are good at it. The truth is, accountability isn’t only focused on the negative; firing someone is one of the weakest forms of it. To go a step further, accountability can be used to praise and recognize team members who meet and exceed the standards as well.  

When team members go above and beyond the standard, sharing praise and recognition released dopamine in the brain, making them feel good. Beyond that, dopamine has also been proven to create innovative thinking and promote problem-solving at work. Those small recognitions make people want to keep emulating the behavior that caused them to give it.  

An excellent way for you to think about this is what I call the Constructive Praise Meter, or “CPM.” Over the course of a month, a leader should balance between 40% and 60% of delivering constructive feedback and praise. If at any point that meter dips too much in one direction over an extended period, accountability gets out of balance.    

Closing 

The absolute best part about accountable cultures is that they produce great outcomes, and team members end up embracing them. But accountable cultures don’t happen by themselves. They are created by leaders who work hard at developing their accountability skills daily.

How do you raise the accountability level on your team or organization?

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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.