How the Best Leaders Think About Growth

growth

Everyone claims to be “so busy” these days. The truth is, we make time for what’s important to us. If you want to get in better shape, you make time for it. If you want to be a better golfer, you make time for it. The same is true in leadership. 

Before we go any further, let’s get on the same page about one crucial truth: Leadership skills are developed, not something you are born with. Your development as a leader is paramount because of the potential impact on other people. There isn’t a better quote to depict this than from Warren Buffett:

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted the tree a long time ago.

However, many professionals in leadership positions focus on one kind of growth, revenue growth. And while revenue growth is essential for any business, it can be taken away instantly by things out of your control. Or even worse, solely focusing on financial growth can turn us into something we don’t want to become. 

The best leaders recognize this and focus on growing themselves and others in order to expand their business. 

Growth in Outcomes vs Growth in People

Let’s use two different sales managers as an example to differentiate the difference in growth in outcomes vs. growth in people.

Sales Manager A, solely focuses on outcomes. His team achieves excellent results in the first, second, and third quarters. However, when adversity hits, both he and the team struggle mightily to overcome and persevere. Thus causing significant drops in performance and an increase in turnover over the next three quarters.  

Sales Manager B, is rooted in the growth of people. Her team achieves good results in her first and second quarters and great results in the third quarter. Then, when adversity hits, each team member embraces the new opportunity in front of them, pivots their approach, embraces change, and perseveres despite the obstacles. Performance drops in the fourth quarter, but her team stabilizes much faster than her counterpart, and the group becomes stronger the following year. 

What I want you to take away from the example of the two sales managers is this: 

Bad growth is rooted solely in outcomes; good growth is rooted in people.

Why Most People Aren’t Committed to Personal Growth

There are many reasons why people aren’t committed to growing and developing as a leader:

  • Companies prioritize new products, services, and increasing short-term revenue during company events over the development of their people.
  • Performance reviews rarely focus on the development of people and instead focus solely on the last year’s results.
  • Managers think they are a finished product and have leadership all figured out.

But since you are reading this, I have a sneaky suspicion you aren’t one to make excuses but instead embrace personable responsibility. You want to answer a simple question, “How do I continue to grow even though I am busy?” 

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

1. Growth Starts With Your Mindset

The most significant part of your ongoing professional success is constantly learning and developing. If you forget this lesson or get complacent in your role, this is precisely when your value starts to diminish.

In a recent keynote, I shared a couple of ideas worth learning from

Unsure if you’re in the right mindset, simply answer the following question:

What’s something you have learned in the last 48 hours?

If it takes you a long time to come up with an answer, it might be time to shift your mindset.

2. Start or End the Day with Growth Affirmations

The development of any skill centers around confidence. As Helen Keller famously said, “Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” If you want to grow and help people around you grow, it will only happen through increasing belief in oneself.

Since confidence comes from within, the words you say to yourself are the most important words you say. 

The words you say to yourself are the most important words you say

A leader we studied in Building the Best, doesn’t let the year’s results determine her confidence. Instead, she looks in the mirror every day and reminds herself, “I am good enough, and I am worthy.” This simple affirmation only takes three seconds but packs an enormous impact. Here are a few of my favorite affirmations:

  • “My test will eventually become a testament to someone else.”
  • “With more practice, it will get easier.”
  • “I am a magnet for good things.”
  • “I am in the process of becoming the best version of myself.”

3. Commit to Growth 20

The best leaders start their day with a routine that helps them perform at their best. Certain leaders begin at 4 am with a workout, while others get going at 8 am with prayer or meditation. Regardless of your method, the key is to commit twenty minutes or more to grow yourself intentionally. 

It’s what I refer to as “Growth 20.” Twenty minutes a day, reading, listening or watching something that will help you grow. The options are endless with the explosion of podcasts, youtube, audiobooks, and columns like this one. All you have to do is create a sustainable habit to make it happen.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Listen to a book or podcast during your commute
  • Read a chapter of a book before bed instead of watching TV
  • Block 20 minutes on your calendar to read LinkedIn or Harvard Business Review  
  • Scroll social media looking for educational lessons instead of entertainment

Closing

Something fascinating happens when you grow yourself and others. Not only will you reach your full potential, but you will attract like-minded and equally talented people into your life.

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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 Unleash the Best in Others

leadership

When it comes to someone developing into the best version of themselves, we’ve been tricked into believing a common myth: It’s the idea that people grow into this version of themselves on their own. 

We have all thought about this or even tried it. If you just read enough, practice enough, watch enough or get enough reps, your growth and development will take of itself. 

There is one big problem with this mindset; you are only going to be able to take yourself so far on your own, and it’s not going to be the best version of yourself. 

This is where leadership comes in. As Alex Judd, CEO of Path for Growth, reminded me in a recent episode of The John Eades Podcast, “The highest calling of a leader is to unleash the best in others.” He continued, “If you’re going to pursue that calling of leadership, you have to believe the best is possible.”

A leader’s highest calling is to unleash the best in others.

Why Most Managers Don’t Do It

There are many reasons leaders stop short of helping unleash the best in others, but to put them in the most common order, it would be:

  1. They don’t think they are good enough or worthy enough to do it
  2. They don’t know how to do it
  3. They are concerned about losing team members to turnover
  4. They are fearful team members will surpass them (thus the leader becomes less valuable)

If you have ever felt these or experienced any of these from a previous boss, know these are unhealthy and faulty beliefs. And before anyone can change how they do something, it begins with their beliefs. If you take nothing else away from this article, please remember this; the things you believe determine how you behave.

The things you believe determine how you behave. 

So how do you change your beliefs and unleash the best in others? Here are four tips to keep in mind:

1. You Can’t Do it For Them.

I know this sounds counterintuitive, but you have to start with the correct mindset that you can’t do the self-disciplined work for anyone else. You should model the behavior and demonstrate to your team the kind of effort and discipline it takes to unleash the best version of yourself, but you shouldn’t force them to do the same.  

It reminds me of the old quote; “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” A leader’s job is not to do the work for someone else. Instead, it’s to be a vehicle to help them develop. 

A leader’s job is not to do the work for someone else. Instead, it’s to be a vehicle to help them develop.

2. Discover What They are Trying to Achieve

The best and easiest way to unleash the best in others is to have a solid grasp on what they are trying to achieve and where they are trying to go. Too often, leaders assume people want to arrive at the same or a similar destination as they do.  

For example, a salesperson may want to be a VP of Sales, but not every salesperson wants to go on to be a VP of Sales. It’s possible for a college basketball player to have a vision of playing in the NBA, but not every college basketball player wants to play professional basketball.  

The only way to unleash the best in others is to uncover their personal goals, dreams, and aspirations and tie your coaching to helping them achieve those things. 

3. Challenge Their Growth

If you settle for the same opportunities, output, or effort people give on a day in, day out basis; there won’t be much growth. One of my favorite quotes on the subject comes from Fred DeVito, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!” Often what leaders must do is to challenge their team healthily. 

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

Challenging people in a healthy way comes in many forms. For example, you can do it verbally in coaching interactions or with development opportunities such as industry events, distributing books, sharing blogs, or bringing in a speaker. Instead of getting caught up in how you do this for your team, the key is that you are doing it.   

Essential Reminder

The danger of this kind of challenging approach is if the people you are trying to develop don’t know you care about them, you risk challenging them having the opposite of your intended effect. So keep in mind one of my favorite leadership lessons, “connect before you correct.”

“Connect before you correct.”

4. Be an Uber Coach

One way a leader separates themselves from being a manager is the mindset they take to coaching others. A coach, by definition, 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 embrace the mindset of an “Uber Coach.” Much like an uber driver, leaders must be willing and able to coach team members anyplace and anytime when needed or required.  

Coaching once a year in a performance review isn’t coaching, it’s negligence.

If you are going to unleash the best in others, you must coach them like crazy. While outside professional or executive coaches can provide tremendous perspective, they can’t coach daily. If you lead a team, it’s your responsibility to make coaching your people a top priority. 

Closing

Doing these things will not work on 100% of the people you pour into. But it will work on individuals who are coachable and desire to get better.

This is when your leadership efforts will propel them to unleash the best version of themselves and allow them to move onwards and upwards to bigger and better things.  

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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 Communication Technique That Will Make You a Better Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remind Them of the Reason

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

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

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

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

Part of your responsibility as a leader is to constantly remind your team of the deeper reason behind their work.

If you lead a team, do not go another minute without being clear on why your team does what it does and its purpose for existence. By reminding people of the reason for their work, you’ll immediately raise the ceiling of what’s possible. When things get complicated (and they will), this deeper reason will give your team a reason to continue, even through the most trying times. 

Effective Communication Starts by Listening and Observing

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

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

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

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

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

Closing

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

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

How Leaders Handle Team Conflict to Make it Constructive

Blocks of two team leaders compete with each other. Competition, conflict resolution

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out some groups of people perform better than others. Not only do high-performing teams produce better results, but their team members have a sense of meaning, belonging, and achievement.  

There have been many great studies about what makes a team successful, but maybe none better than Google’s two-year study called Project Aristotle. Google’s research team found that the best teams were effective because they worked well together, regardless of who was on them. The five characteristics of enhanced groups include; Psychological Safety, Dependability, Structure and Clarity, Meaning, and Impact.

The most essential of the five was psychological safety. All psychological safety means is when team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. 

Bad leaders and teams are void of this crucial element because they look at being vulnerable, taking risks, and speaking up as negative instead of positive. It’s precisely why they never meet their potential and achieve their biggest goals. 

The best leaders and teams embrace constructive conflict. 

What’s interesting about psychological safety is that it’s impossible to achieve unless the leader and team members embrace the idea of constructive conflict.  

Three Types of Team Conflict

Conflict, by definition, is an escalation of a disagreement between two parties. It comes from the Latin word “Con” meaning together, and “Fligere” meaning to strike. While the definition is simple, what I have found coaching and working with leaders and teams for over a decade is there are three types of conflict:

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What Leaders and Teams Can Do to Have Constructive Conflict

Both high-performing teams and great leaders realize the only way to successfully have constructive conflict is for every team member to work toward a shared goal. The moment a team loses sight of the shared goal is the moment constructive conflict begins to fade away.  

The moment a team loses sight of the shared goal is the moment constructive conflict begins to fade away.

Take a small startup working in the eCommerce industry, as an example. The eight-person team was in a feverous debate (in Slack of all places) about their branding and modifying their company logo. In just a few slack messages, the discussion heated up, and each team member was passionately communicating the reasons for their particular position.  

As the conflict began to rise, it started to get a little personal, so I sent a short reminder message: Conflict on a team can be good! As long as we can remember, we want the same outcomes.

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Kudos to this high-performing team because they quickly pivoted from deconstructive conflict to constructive conflict by reminding each other of their shared goal and passion for the mission they were on together. 

Relish the Conflict, But Stay Kind and Curious

While some people’s personalities lend themselves to avoid conflict and others run towards it, a common desire is to be treated well in a disagreement. In Mareo McCracken’s new book, Really Care for Them, he wrote, “Nobody likes to be told to be quiet, or to be calm, to shut up.”

Not only is he right, but it’s also an essential part of constructive conflict. Being kind and recognizing that each person is a human with feelings is easy to forget in the heat of the moment. Great leaders recognize this and speak the truth, but they do it with empathy and humility.  

Great leaders speak the truth, but they do it with empathy and humility. 

As hard as it might be, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and communicating the truth is what the best leaders do. They recognize they aren’t above someone else, and there will be times where they will be the one who needs truth spoken into their life, so leaving their ego out is required. They rely heavily on the trust they have earned with their team in the small daily acts, so people will let them say hard things.

How to Embrace Constructive Conflict as a Leader

If you lead a team, you might think this sounds good, but there is no way this type of constructive conflict will work on my team. Instead of assuming it won’t, try to embrace the following: 

  1. Establish a Shared Goal – Where is your team going, and what are they working every day to accomplish?
  2. Ensure Everyone is Committed – It’s one thing to have a goal; it’s another thing for each team member to be committed to achieving it. 
  3. Invite “TVD”– “TVD” stands for the truth, debate, and vulnerability. If team members can leverage facts, discussion, be vulnerable in front of each other, success is in your future.
  4. Debate Doesn’t Mean Decision – Debate doesn’t mean the decision. On a recent episode of Master of Scale with Reid Hoffman, he covered one of Ray Dalio Principles about conflict; “Make sure people don’t confuse the right to complain, give advice, and openly debate with the right to make decisions.”

Closing

When you invite constructive conflict into your team and relationships, they will get better. The only question that remains is will you be the kind of leader who does it?

In the comments, please tell me how you invite constructive conflict 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.

Most Managers Make This Significant Mistake When Coaching Others

Make a mistake

There are thousands of professionals all across the world who call themselves “leaders.” In reality, the vast majority are leaders in title alone. While they have direct reports and authority over others because of seniority or prior performance, they aren’t actually leading; they’re managing. 

One of the ways a leader separates themselves from being a manager is by coaching their people. A coach, by definition, is one who trains and instructs. I define it in Coaching for Excellence as, “Coaching is improving the current and future performance of others to achieve higher levels of excellence.”

Leaders who coach others effectively have never been more critical than they are today because behind every excellent professional is an excellent leader who acted as a coach and refused to settle for anything other than their best. 

Behind every excellent professional is an excellent leader who acted as a coach and refused to settle for anything less than their best.

As easy as this is to write, the application of it is complex. John Wooden said it well, “a coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” Managers have countless opportunities, from performance reviews to one-on-one, to daily interactions, to give correction without causing resentment. However, this is precisely where most managers make a significant mistake. 

The Worst Mistake Leaders Make When Coaching Their People

Mistakes are a part of life, coaching others included. The key to any mistake is not making it habitually without correcting it in the future. Like virtually everything in life, there are always exceptions. Still, for the sake of this column, the worst mistake a leader can make when coaching others is:

“Consistently telling others how to fix or solve the issues or challenges in front of them.”

Perhaps one could make worse mistakes, like not coaching at all or demeaning someone to make them feel inadequate intentionally. Clearly, don’t do that. Most people can get behind not making these egregious mistakes when coaching. However, consistently telling the people you are coaching how to solve an issue or challenge is not only easy to do; it’s hard not to do. 

The Reason Leaders Make This Mistake

The reason so many managers give advice and answers so quickly is typically one of two reasons:

  • They don’t have time
  • They know the answer

When you are in a hurry and or you know the answer to a question, it’s far easier and more efficient to give the answer and move on. Micromanagers take this a step further. Not only do they tell their team members the answer, but they do it for them because no one can complete a task as well as they can. 

Micromanagers not only answer every question, but no one can complete a task as well as they can. 

Delivering the answer to a question is quick and effective. However, it rarely does anything to encourage a person’s development.

How to Become a More Effective Coach

Great leaders identify where team members are currently in their development and align their coaching appropriately. The goal is simple: help your people reach a stage of development that exceeds where they are today. 

The goal of coaching is simple: help people reach a stage of development that exceeds where they are today.

While there are different tactics, tools, and strategies you should engage in at each team member’s stage of development, there is one coaching tactic that is somewhat effective at all levels. It’s centered around asking great questions. This allows you to pull the information out of your people instead of the other way around.  

Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of The Coaching Habit, explained this well. He told me, “Leaders should stay curious a little bit longer and rush to advice-giving a little bit slower.” By taking this approach, you force team members out of their comfort zone and encourage them to be more self-reflective.  

Use open-ended questions, free of judgment. Here are some of my favorite examples to add to your arsenal:

  • What can I do to help you?
  • What result are you trying to achieve?
  • Can you walk me through your thought process and what you have tried up until this point?
  • What do you think we should do to create the best result for everyone?
  • What other approaches might you take next time?

Closing

Regardless if you are guilty of consistently telling others how to fix or solve the issues or challenges in front of them or not. It’s never a bad time to be reminded to ensure you don’t make the mistake in the future. As a mentor of mine taught me, “people need to be reminded more than they need to be taught.”

How do you do to be an effective coach to others? Tell me in the comments.

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

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?

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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 Great Leaders Focus on Actions Not Intentions

Business concept for growth success process

Most managers and executives don’t intend to fail at leadership. While failing might not mean a demotion or losing a job, it almost certainly includes a disengaged team, poor results, and a high voluntary turnover rate.  

Research suggests that between 50% and 70% of executives fail within 18 months of taking on a role, landing somewhere between “failing spectacularly” or “quietly struggling.”

But not even the most narcissistic professionals set out to fail. Most leaders start with great intentions, but don’t back up those intentions with quality leadership actions.  

Good intentions without quality actions are meaningless in leadership.

Intentions Aren’t Enough in Leadership.

Anyone who has been married for any length of time has used the line “that wasn’t my intention” in an argument or disagreement. Which in turn is met with, “that doesn’t matter.” Maybe I am projecting my shortcomings there, but either way, intentions by themselves aren’t good enough in marriage, and they’re not good enough in leadership either.  

An intention is a person’s design, an aim, or a plan. It comes from the Latin word intention, which means “stretching, purpose.’  

It turns out we all have a set of intentions that we would like to achieve as a leader, but its action on that aim separates managers from leaders. Pablo Picasso famously said, “Action is the foundational key to all success.” Not only is Picasso right, but team members and colleagues don’t want to hear about your intentions; they want to experience your actions.  

Team members don’t want to hear about a leader’s intentions, they want to experience quality actions. 

I wrote in Building the Best about a pattern I have observed in many great leaders that lead to their a growth mindset in life and the development of their leadership skills. It’s what I call iAOL; an acronym that stands for intentions, action, outcome, learning. As you can see below, many leaders start with good intentions, but don’t follow through with quality actions. Intentions alone will never lead to learning and development.

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Following up and demonstrating leadership actions regularly isn’t easy. It’s tough because leadership by definition, is all about elevating other people, and the people you lead aren’t perfect and neither are you. 

Here are the four most popular areas where leaders start with good intentions but don’t follow up with quality actions. As you read through them, evaluate whether you have good intentions in these areas or you are backing up those intentions up with quality leadership actions.

Effective Communication

No leader sets out to be a poor communicator, but it’s an all too normal reality. The vast majority of professionals are in a consistent state of miscommunication with their boss or the organization. While this seems like an obvious misstep, team members fill the silence with their own story when leaders don’t communicate effectively.

Instead of allowing extended periods of silence, communicate what you know about the current situation or, at a minimum, the actions you are taking to figure it out.  

Aligned Expectations

Having clearly defined standards and expectations of behavior is at the center of every successful team. Unfortunately, most leaders are in constant disappointment because of the wide gap between their expectations and reality.  

Many leaders are in constant disappointment because of the wide gap between their expectations and reality.  

Instead of having misaligned standards and expectations, remove the invisible barrier. Set the expectations clearly, then do everything in your power to help your team meet and exceed them.  

Continuous Growth and Development

Teams see better results if the people on them are getting better every day. The way this happens is by leaders in a constant state of learning. Karl Popper famously said, “true ignorance is not the absence of knowledge but the refusal to acquire it.” In today’s modern internet, information is more readily available than at any time in history.   

That presentation of information is accompanied by the opportunity to comprehend it. Sometimes we can comprehend the information on our own, and other times we need a teacher, instructor, or expert to help us. Part of your job as a leader is to coach your team to deeper levels of understanding and wisdom.  

Instead of just hoping your people grow and develop, ensure you don’t leave them on an island on their own. Instead, invest in their development and coach them for growth daily.  

Honesty and Integrity

Last but certainly not least, is the mack daddy of them all. Being honest and leading with integrity has become the exception instead of the rule, and that’s beyond sad.

Being honest and leading with integrity has become the exception instead of the rule, and that’s beyond sad.

No one sets out to lie or consistently participate in acts of omission, but once it starts, it’s like an avalanche. Pretty soon, you do it so often it becomes second nature. Nothing will cause a leader to fail more than covering up the truth or lying. When the truth inevitably does come out, it will disintegrate trust, and without trust, you can’t lead.  

Closing

As someone who has failed as a leader, I can tell you first hand it wasn’t fun for me and I know it wasn’t fun for my team. The quicker you grasp the idea that “your intentions don’t make you a leader, your actions do,” the better your odds of success.

Do you agree?

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

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

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.

7 Simple Lessons to Be a Better Leader Right Now

In search of great idea

One of the most impressive things about all great leaders is their relentless pursuit of wisdom. They do this through a learning cycle of knowledge, comprehension, and application that goes on their entire lives. 

What’s fascinating about leadership is many timeless principles remain the same, while at the same time, leaders need to change to remain successful in modern times. This is precisely why great leaders are grounded in principles but always keep an open mind and a learning mindset.

Great leaders are grounded in principles but always keep an open mind and a learning mindset.  

Whether you are the CEO of a company, managing a team, or just trying to lead your family better, these lessons will change your perspective on leadership or remind you what you already know. 

Lesson 1: Being a Leader Means It’s No Longer About You

Recent statistics show 40% of new managers fail within the first 24 months of taking their job. One of the primary reasons is managers believe and act like their promotion is about them. The truth is, the only day your title matters is the day you receive it. After that, all that matters is how you bring out the best in others.  

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“When you were made a leader you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.” Jack Welch

Lesson 2: Leadership Isn’t about Power, but Excellence

Many people in leadership positions are ambitious. Which by itself isn’t a bad thing. However, ambition for power is bad, ambition for excellence is good. Your job is to channel your ambition into being an excellent leader focused on putting others’ needs ahead of your own and raising the bar on effort and performance. 

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“Leadership is not about control but service. It’s not about power but empowerment.” – Dr. Myles Munroe

Lesson 3: A Leader’s Actions Matter More Than the Position

Most people with a title consider themselves a leader, but it couldn’t be further from the truth in reality. If it weren’t for the paycheck that hit their team’s account every two weeks, their team wouldn’t do or listen to a thing they said. The reason for this isn’t the title one has, but their actions daily.  

Your actions will always matter more than your words, especially when it comes to leadership. 

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“Leadership is an action, not a position.” – Donald McGannon

Lesson 4: Leaders are Dealers of Hope and Courage

There are moments in time where the stakes are higher than usual for a team or organization. In military terms, this would be in a time of war, and business terms would be navigating a Global Pandemic. It’s times like this where uncertainty, fear, and worry consumes people.  

However, great leaders recognize this and know their job is to be a dealer of hope and courage to their people. To help them reject fear and step into courage. The reason is simple, leaders who don’t encourage will eventually be surrounded by a discouraged team.  

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“The role of a leader is to define reality and give hope.” Napoleon

Lesson 5: Leaders Take the Blame and Give the Credit.

The late great Kobe Bryant said, “Leadership is responsibility.” Bryant was right, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s tempting to blame others when things go wrong, and easy to take credit for a team’s success when things go right. But just because it’s tempting and easy doesn’t mean it’s right. If you are in a leadership position, taking responsibility when things go wrong and giving credit when things go right is required. 

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“When things go wrong, take all the blame. When things go right, give away all the credit.” – Dave Cancel

Lesson 6: Leaders Choose Positivity over Negativity

The current business world makes it hard to be optimistic. I don’t know if it’s the amount of negative information we receive, the speed at which judgments are cast, the sheer amount of people doing work they hate, or some combination of the three. If you are anything like me, you have struggled to maintain optimism during difficult times.

But the best leaders don’t give in to this kind of thinking. They don’t lower themselves or their mind to negative thinking. Instead, they train themselves and those around them to choose positivity over negativity.  

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“Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.” – Jon Gordon

Lesson 7: Leaders Coach, They Don’t Judge

Conventional thinking has leaders believing their job is to be judge and jury over people and decision making. While there is no doubt part of a leader’s job is to make decisions, the correct thought process is for leaders to think of themselves as a coach, instead of a judge.  

There is enough judgment in this world, and having it passed onto us by a boss isn’t what we need. What’s needed is someone to help coach us and develop the skills required to be successful.  If you want to sharpen your coaching skills, register for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop.

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“A leader is a coach, not a judge.” – Dr. William Edwards Deming

Closing

Living out all seven of these lessons each day as a leader is difficult. But knowing you are in relentless pursuit of wisdom and understanding like so many great leaders who walked before you should be proof that you’re on the right path. 

Which lessons is your favorite, or what would you add? Let me know in the comments. 

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.

5 Timeless Leadership Lessons from the Life of Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh, the retired CEO of Zappos.com, has died after being injured in a housefire at the age of 46.

Megan Fazio, a spokesperson for Hsieh’s, confirmed on Friday that he died peacefully on Friday, November 27th, surrounded by family. The cause of death is still under investigation. 

Zappos current CEO, Kedar Deshpande, released a statement saying,

“The world has lost a tremendous visionary and an incredible human being. We recognize that not only have we lost our inspiring former leader, but many of you have also lost a mentor and a friend. Tony played such an integral part in helping create the thriving Zappos business we have today, along with his passion for helping to support and drive our company culture.

Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, as his mantra was of “Delivering Happiness” to others. His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos, and we will continue to honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he was so passionate about.”

Personally, I was saddened to hear about the news of Tony Hsieh’s passing. People say books hit you at just the right time, and in 2010 his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose did just that. It opened my eyes to the higher calling of leadership and the power of culture in business. It had so many gems in it:

“Money alone isn’t enough to bring happiness . . . happiness [is] when you’re actually truly ok with losing everything you have.” – Tony Hsieh

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.” Tony Hsieh

“Happiness is really just about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness (number and depth of your relationships), and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself).”- Tony Hsieh

“We must never lose our sense of urgency in making improvements. We must never settle for  “good enough,” because good is the enemy of great.” – Tony Hsieh

“When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.” – Tony Hseih

A Powerful Lesson in Leadership

Hsieh had retired as the CEO of Zappos in August 2020 after running the business for 20+ years, which included being sold for $1.2B to Amazon in 2009. He spent a decade revitalizing the downtown area of Las Vegas for tech companies and people to live called “The Downtown Project.” His positive impact went far beyond the walls of Zappos and “The Downtown Project.” He often spoke about leadership, culture, and customer service to audiences far and wide. 

While I didn’t know Tony personally, his passing provides us a powerful lesson in leadership we too often forget.   

Leadership is Temporary, its Impact is Lasting.

Just think about it. Every single job in the world, including the one you have right now, will eventually be held by someone else. Look no further than the President of the United States, The Pope, or Zappos’s CEO. 

It’s a humbling thought; these positions and titles that we work so hard to earn are only temporary. However, the impact you have on other people is lasting and can never be taken away. Your leadership position is temporary but your impact as a leader is lasting.

The hard truth is, the only day a title matters is on the first day, after that it’s how you do it.  

The only day a title matters is on the first day, after that it’s how you do it.  

Closing

While there is no doubt Hsieh had his share of failures during his 46 years on earth, he positively impacted other people will last for decades if not generations.  

The best part, you get the opportunity to choose if you will make your temporary leadership position have the kind of impact on your circle of influence as Tony’s did in his life.

Now is the Time to Lead Your Best. Don’t wait on your company to provide another leadership development program Join the Ultimate Leadership Academy. Make 2021 your best leadership year ever with proven courses and weekly leadership lessons.

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 50k 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.