Why Small Courageous Acts Are Required to Lead

Courage is the most important leadership skill you can have. Without it, you can’t lead. Those who fail to develop a courageous muscle through actions big or small aren’t inspiring and aren’t worth following. 

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 every skill a leader needs to possess will meet its testing point at courage. 

However, 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 saving a company going up in flames. Right behind heroic acts, courage is often thought of as an attribute that only a few extraordinary leaders possess because they are born with it. 

While these are widely popular views of courage, it is a far cry from how it’s leveraged by leaders daily. Most courageous acts are small, but they are never insignificant.  

Most courageous acts are small, but they are never insignificant.

Small courageous acts stacked upon each other add up. It’s having a crucial conversation, even when it’s inconvenient. It’s doing the right thing, especially when it’s not easy. It’s trying again right after failing.

I define courage in Building the Best as the “ability to do something that frightens you.” It comes from the Latin word cor, meaning heart. Courage comes from the heart.  In other words, acting from your heart and doing things that frighten you is a sign of leadership.  

What Happens When You’re Courageous

When you have yet to make many courageous decisions in your life or career, it’s tempting to believe you are just not a fearless leader. Instead, reject this negative thinking with all your might. 

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.  Courage is a skill that anyone can develop.

In coaching leaders with different experience levels and industries, one thing always happens when leaders are courageous. They create clarity in the future. 

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. Ironically, 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 later. However, it should provide confidence to know that when you choose courage, you are on the path toward clarity. 

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 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. Dr. Susan David a leading expert on the topics of Toxic Positivity and emotions, 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.”

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.” 

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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 Reducing Burnout Is About Great Leadership

Nothing makes burnout worse than acting like it’s not happening. Unfortunately, many organizations are oblivious or don’t seem to care that their employees are struggling. Conversely, front-line leaders are experiencing team members at their breaking point and are unsure how to help their team and themselves. 

Take Paige, an experienced Regional Vice President, as an example. For two decades, her teams experienced high engagement, consistent growth, and low voluntary turnover. Then the combination of the Covid-19 Pandemic, constant pressure from her management team for double-digit growth, and a shaky economy had her team working around the clock with no end in sight. At first, she acted like it was no big deal, expecting it to be a short season of hard work. But no relief came; eight quarters later, the problem is more significant than ever. What started like a rock making a small crack in a windshield has now grown into long cracks moving in all different directions.

For the first time in her career, she had double-digit voluntary turnover, open positions with no candidates to fill them, and stress levels that caused a short stay in the hospital. 

In a recent coaching session, she asked a simple question, “John, how do I make things easier?” My answer was simple, “Instead of wanting things to be easy, prepare for them to be hard.” I continued, “There is nothing easy about leadership, which is why most people don’t do it. However, your leadership is needed most in uncertain and difficult times.”  

Instead of wanting things to be easy, prepare for them to be hard.

Burnout is a Real Problem

Before we go any further, let’s clarify what burnout is. The Mayo Clinic describes it as a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. 

In a survey of over 1000 respondents by Deloitte, 77% say they have experienced burnout at their current job. 91% say that unmanageable stress or frustration impacts the quality of their work, and 83% say burnout can negatively impact personal relationships.

Achieving anything meaningful requires a relentless work ethic and a willingness to consistently do what the ordinary person does occasionally. However, burnout goes beyond this kind of effort. Burnout isn’t a badge of honor; it’s the start of your life unwinding.  

Burnout isn’t a badge of honor; it’s the start of your life unwinding.

What starts as a bit of stress can quickly become health problems, severed personal relationships, and the pursuit of a meaningless life. So admitting you or your team is burned out isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength. 

Top Causes of Burnout

Research by McKinsey Health Institute found toxic workplace behavior is the single largest predictor of negative employee outcomes, including burnout symptoms. Here are some examples of toxic workplace behavior:

  • Unrelenting Leadership Communication – Managers and executives who communicate at night and on weekends expecting immediate responses
  • Unrealistic Expectations – Unsustainable activity or performance levels.
  • Consistent Micromanagement – Inability for professionals to be empowered to do their best work.
  • Lack of Community and Relationships – Sustained periods of loneliness or lack of support.
  • Sole Focus of Monetary Gain – Primary objective is profit above all else. 

If you didn’t notice, leadership is the common denominator in all the top causes of burnout.  

Why Solving Burnout is Essential

No one desires stress, anxiety, depression, or the like. However, eliminating work or retiring isn’t the answer to burnout. The late great psychiatrist Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, said, “People can find meaning in one of three places; work, love, and courage.” Former CEO of Best Buy Hubert Joly wrote in his book The Heart of Business, “Work, love, and courage often converge at work because doing something significant often involves caring for others and overcoming adversity.”

Work isn’t the enemy. Not only does it provide financial means, but it can create meaning, purpose, and community. 

Simple Ways to Unleash Change

There is no silver bullet or a one size fits all approach to unleashing the kind of change necessary to solve burnout in your team or organization. However, here are a few of my favorites:

1. Focus on a Deeper Purpose

People work harder and overcome adversity much easier when they know their effort is for a meaningful cause. Study after study shows that people who are connected to a meaningful purpose behind their work are more engaged. The best leaders recognize that even a tiny dose of meaning makes a significant difference in reducing burnout.  

Even a tiny dose of meaning makes a significant difference in reducing burnout.

It doesn’t matter what you do. There is some more profound purpose behind the work you or your team does, and it’s your job to be connected to it. 

2. Enable Personal Growth

Evidence suggests that personal growth, development programs, and learning opportunities effectively tackle burnout and engage and retain employees. However, new research by KPMG suggests the vast majority of CEOs (91%) are expecting a recession within the next year, with about a third anticipating it to be mild and short. This means layoffs and budget cuts around training development are likely.

However, companies and specifically Human Resource or Learning & Development Executives, that commit to investing in their employees will make meaningful contributions to people and business metrics. 

Companies committed to investing in employees will make meaningful contributions to people and business metrics. 

Want to empower your employees to achieve their goals and ignite their personal growth? Check out the new Catalyst for Growth Program.  

3. Hold Yourself or Managers Accountable

Almost all roads of burnout lead to executive management teams and managers in the organization. However, many organizations measure their leaders based on one thing, and that’s results. So I would like to suggest an alternative approach, one that looks at both results and culture. You can see the impact of effective leadership in more ways than one.  

The best organizations hold managers accountable for results and the culture they create.

Which would you rather have; 

Manager 1: Delivers double-digit revenue growth yearly but has an 80% turnover rate and a highly dysfunctional team.

Manager 2: Consistently delivers single-digit revenue growth, but has low turnover, develops talent, and a highly engaged team.

Your answer to this question should show you a lot about how you are holding managers accountable.

Closing

It’s time to bring burnout from the shadows into the light because nothing is worse than acting like burnout isn’t happening. Focusing on a deeper purpose, enabling personal growth, and holding managers accountable won’t solve the problem, but they will reduce it. When it comes to burnout, helping even one professional reconnect and find meaning at work is worth it. 

Take the Free Leadership Skill Quiz – You know how most professionals are confused about why they aren’t progressing in their career? It turns out they are too focused on their technical skills instead of their leadership skills. Enter the SkillsLoft LeaderSkill Quiz. Discover Your leadership skill level in 5 minutes or less.

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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.

3 Reasons Employees Quit and How to Fix It

It used to be that employees just wanted a good job with a steady paycheck. Many would sacrifice their passions and tolerate an average job. However, thanks to a strong employment run and the rapid advancement of the gig economy, the veil of scarcity job thinking has turned into abundant job thinking by many professionals.  

The power of employment is now in the hands of talented professionals, and the best companies recognize it. Whether you call it the “Great Resignation” or “Quit Quitting,” there is no doubt this is the time period of the professional. Research by McKinsey suggests that 40% of employees are considering quitting their jobs in the next 3 to 6 months. Most professionals who have left or are thinking about it aren’t walking away for a small pay raise. Instead, they are focused on moving towards something better. They move toward leaders and companies who care about them and intersect with their passions and purpose.  

Professionals are moving toward leaders who care about them and companies that intersect with their passions and purpose.  

Why People Quit

Employees quit jobs for many different reasons. Many people believe, that “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” While this isn’t always the case, one of the primary reasons people leave is because of a bad boss. I shared some insights in a recent video here

 McKinsey’s research of why people quit highlights what I call “The Big Three.”
  1. Lack of Career Development / Advancement
  2. Inadequate Compensation
  3. Uncaring / Uninspiring Leaders
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None of these by themselves are shocking or insightful. However, in my work coaching leaders and helping build organizational culture, people often leave when these three interact. You can think of it this way; people are much more likely to quit when they have an uncaring/uninspiring leader and are inadequately compensated. Or they lack career development/advancement and have an uncaring /uninspiring leader.  

Employees leave when two or more reasons they would quit interact with each other. 

How the Best Organizations and Leaders are Adapting

While no company or leader is perfect, the best organizations know employee retention is a great business practice. On average, employee turnover costs organizations between 1x-2x a year’s salary once they have been in the organization for over three years. A Google study found that the average employee that turns over within one year costs about $50,000. The cost of turnover is expensive, and retention is essential.  

However, in the current talent market, retaining high performers and great team players deserves a dedicated strategy corporately and implemented by each manager. Because the best leaders build systems as if their employees will stay forever, even though they know it isn’t true. 

Build retention strategies as if employees will stay forever.  

Adapt Retention Strategies Quickly

As a leadership coach and consultant, I have the privilege of sitting in the front row as companies bare the truth about their recruiting and retention techniques and strategies. More often than not, companies focus more on recruiting than retention. While recruiting talented people is an essential element of leadership, the best leaders focus more on retention than recruiting because fulfilled employees do a lot of recruiting because they are raving fans of the company.

The best leaders focus more on retention than recruiting.

The best retention strategies revolve around four key elements:

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  1. Purposeful Culture – Provide meaningful work and make people feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves.
  2. Training and Development – Invest in managers’ development so they can lead more effectively. Provide learning opportunities for all employees to create a learning culture. 
  3. Ample Compensation – Compensation that exceeds the average pay by industry average and exceeds personal needs. 
  4. Empowerment and Flexibility – Create an environment that allows employees to take ownership of their work, decision making, and schedule. 

Closing

The “how-to” strategies to improve retention around creating a purposeful culture, providing training and development opportunities, giving ample compensation, and sharing empowerment and flexibility are endless. If you want to know if you’re doing a good job, look for these as proof:

  • Leadership development programs
  • Best-in-class technology tools
  • Core values designed and discussed
  • Culture of coaching and mentoring

I hope that instead of blaming, complaining, and acting as if people are disposable, you will do your part to make a difference in people right where you are. Use the opportunities in front of you to “bloom where you are planted” because that’s exactly what the best leaders do. 

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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 to Leverage Clarity to Dramatically Improve Your Communication

Wooden toy Blocks with the text: clarity

Communication is essential in every aspect of life that deals with relationships. However, when it comes to leadership, a failure to communicate consistently is the beginning of the end. However, just because it’s critical doesn’t mean most leaders are good at it.  

In research from the SkillsLoft assessments, clarity is the most common leadership skill plaguing high-performing and low-performing leaders. When leaders struggle to communicate with clarity, it creates confusion.

Leaders who struggle to communicate with clarity create confusion.

What is Clarity and Why Do Leaders Struggle?

For clarity (see what I did there), let’s get on the same page about what it means in the context of leadership. Clarity is the ability to be clear, concise, and impactful when communicating verbally or in writing. Leaders tend to struggle with clarity for one of three reasons:

  1. False Assumptions – Leaders live so much in their heads that they assume people know, and often they don’t.  
  2. Premature Thoughts – In our fast-paced business environment, it’s almost encouraged to say or write something before it is well thought out or complete.  
  3. Incomplete Information – There is a growing sense to communicate regardless of whether managers have all the information or not.  

Of the three, false assumptions are the most important to unpack and solve. “Clarity is not only kind, it’s essential. Clarity brings oxygen into the room, so it isn’t filled with worry, doubt, blame, and fear,” said Jason Barger, author of the new book Breathing Oxygen, on the latest episode of The John Eades Podcast. His words are wise because, in the absence of clear communication, team members will fill the gaps with their own incorrect stories.

In the absence of clear communication, team members fill the gaps with their own incorrect stories. 

Too often, leaders make assumptions that they have communicated with clarity. In one of my favorite books of all time, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, he wrote, “Assumptions set us up for suffering.”

Assumptions in Communication Set Everyone Up for Suffering

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Since each leader might be transparent in their communication one day and struggle with it the next, small changes often lead to big gains. For these small changes to take effect, they must be made prior to communicating instead of after. 

Small changes in communication can lead to big gains in comprehension and execution.

A straightforward strategy I coach leaders to leverage is to ask themselves one of three questions before communicating. These questions take less than one minute and

  • Is what I am about to say or write helpful? 
  • What action do I desire others to take?
  • Is this making the waters clearer or murkier?

While these three questions are simple, it doesn’t mean they are easy to answer. However, if you get in the habit of asking yourself one of these three questions before hitting send on an email or text, I promise you will improve your clarity. 

Here is the tricky part, this is much easier to do with written communication. Verbal communication is much more difficult. Often you are speaking off the cuff or after an emotional response, thus making it exponentially more difficult. 

A tiny strategy you can use is to ask the person or people you are communicating with a simple question when you are finished speaking:

  • “What was your main takeaway from what I said?”  

While this technique might make you feel a little bit like an elementary school teacher, it dramatically reduces the likelihood of assumptions taking place. 

Closing

Being more clear in your communication won’t be easy. The challenge to you this week is to get in the habit of asking yourself one simple question before communicating. I promise others will thank you. 

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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 Beliefs You Must Embrace to Be a Successful Leader

Leaders embrace a different set of beliefs than managers. As much as CEOs and Human Resource Executives want all of their managers to think and act like leaders, it happens so rarely.  

While leaders possess a plethora of skills, capabilities, and competencies, there is often something missing from managers that are required to lead; the right beliefs.

A belief is a reinforced pattern in your brain.

This definition is important because it shows that we aren’t born with beliefs; they’re developed when things are experienced and reinforced until they become patterns in our brains. When it comes to leadership and life, our beliefs are fundamental because our beliefs become our behavior.

Beliefs become behaviors

Take a 25 MPH speed limit in a school zone as an example. Most drivers will slow down and drive the speed limit through the school zone because they believe speed will keep kids safe. Thus their belief becomes their new behavior. This is the good news. The bad news is that most of our beliefs might be wrong.  

Research from the book The Four Agreements found that 95% of the beliefs we store in our minds are lies. Many people have beliefs about themselves or situations that aren’t true, and this holds them back from practicing the right kind of behavior. 

Leadership Beliefs to You Must Embrace

Based on our research of thousands of leaders, we’ve found that the best leaders carry a few common beliefs, regardless of their roles, circumstances, or situation. 

1. People Can Change and Improve

There is this common misconception that people can’t change. We have all heard the quote, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and it couldn’t be more wrong. People change all the time, and it’s required to be successful.  

Leaders assume that people cannot change when they try to force changes on others instead of empowering those people to unleash it.

Too many leaders force change instead of looking for ways to unleash it. 

Of course, change requires a willingness to be coachable and to put in consistent effort. Often, people rely too much on excuses and hold themselves back from making the changes necessary to thrive.

Reject the thoughts of putting your people in a box. So many leaders make the mistake of passing judgment on who a team member is or what they can accomplish. Be the kind of leader who challenges others’ thinking and coaches them to become a better version of themselves.  

2. Good Things Will Happen 

Jon Gordon, famously said, “Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.” Tony Robbins backed him up:

“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited about what could go right.”

As easy as that is to say, believing good things will happen and choosing positivity is difficult. The reason is simple; research from the late Trevor Moawad found that negativity is 4-7 times more powerful than positivity. When you say something negative, it’s 40-70 times more likely to end with a negative result than if you didn’t say anything.

The great news is that you can change your beliefs. Start with the daily habit called the Rule of Three Positives. The rule is simple; each day, write down three positive things you did or experienced. 

3. Failure is Not Final; Failure is Feedback

Achieving business success isn’t easy, regardless of your industry. Great leaders not only know this, but they embrace it. A breakthrough isn’t going to happen without some failure along the way. 

I wrote about Callaway Golf CEO Chip Brewer’s story in Building the Best. He told his team early in their transformational journey, “I do not care how we have to do it and how many things we have to fail on, we aren’t going to launch products that aren’t demonstratively superior and pleasingly different.”

Brewer believed failure was not final; failure is feedback. It’s not if you or your team members will fail or make mistakes, it’s when. Carry the belief that “failure is not final, failure is feedback” with you moving forward. 

4. Responsibility Lies Where You Have Control

The best leaders take extreme ownership. However, they don’t take this kind of responsibility for everything, only the things they can control. If I only had one belief that I could transfer to every leader in the world, it would be this:

Be ruthlessly responsible for the things you can control. 

There are simple things every person has control over; things such as attitude, effort, and mindset are good examples. Too often, we forget this simple truth and try to control things like the decisions of others, markets changing, or adversity. 

One of the most common characteristics of the highest performing teams is when each team member embraces this belief as well.  

5. Patience is a Virtue

Patience is hard for many people, and it’s become even harder in the world of “what have you done for me lately.” 

The word patience means the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. The keywords here are “accept or tolerate delay.” This doesn’t mean you shy away from aggressive goals, but that you’re willing to accept or tolerate delay because you know you’re playing the long game.  

This mindset allows you to make decisions that are in the long-term best interest instead of the short-term.  

Closing

While all leaders who have had success might not have the same beliefs, there is a good chance many carry these five with them daily. Since beliefs are a reinforced pattern in your brain, you can embrace these beliefs. They aren’t only meant for the select few. 

What beliefs do you carry that help you be an effective leader that isn’t on the list?

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

Free Leadership Focus Tool There is nothing easy about staying focused. So we put together a quick tool to see how focused you are. 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 Leadership Impacts Organizational Culture

Wooden toy Blocks with the text: culture

Getting leaders to care about culture because it’s is a battle worth fighting. 

Organizational Culture, by definition, is the shared values and beliefs that guide thinking and behavior. If your mind just shifted by that definition, you are not alone. Most professionals think about the office building, ping pong tables, or cool perks that come with the job.  

Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Drucker didn’t mean the strategy wasn’t necessary, but he did know that when a group of people are aligned with their values and beliefs, their habits and behaviors would be a more promising route to sustained success. 

Most employees want to be a part of an elite culture, but organizational leaders lack the knowledge and ability to make it happen. Instead, they pawn off the responsibility of culture to a company committee, HR team, or worse, ignore it altogether.  

If only more leaders grasped the leadership principle from Building the Best:

Culture starts with leaders, and their people prove it.  

Said differently, leaders create the culture which ultimately becomes the result. Embracing the responsibility that you both shape and impact the culture of your organization, team, or family is one of the most critical mindset shifts that happen in any leader’s journey. The reason is simple, when leaders prioritize culture, team members will gladly give the best version of themselves daily. 

If leaders prioritize culture, team members will gladly give the best version of themselves daily.

The Four Elements That Make Up Any Team’s Culture

Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, lead a small team, or guide a family, four consistent elements make up any team’s culture. 

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Safety

Before people can perform at their best, they must first feel safe and protected. How does the current environment make your people feel? First, are the working conditions physically safe? Second, do team members feel psychologically safe to share ideas and feeling without fear of judgement or repercussions?

Unity

Inclusivity and people feeling like they are a part of something bigger than themselves help feed productivity and innovation. Does each person on your team feel like they are integral to your ultimate success? At the center of unity is mutual respect amongst team members and a feeling of belonging. 

Positivity

Beliefs drive people’s behaviors, and behaviors drive results. If your team’s beliefs are optimistic, the chances of a good things happening in the future are drastically higher than the alternative. Positivity is driven from the top-down, and it’s contagious. The late Colin Powell said it well in his book, It Worked for Me, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” The best leaders know that achieving higher success levels is impossible without optimism and belief. 

Energy

Energy keeps your team going and impacts the speed at which people perform. High energy yields high performance. You can always tell the energy of a team by what they’re doing midday. Have they settled into complacency, or are they revving their engines to power throughout the day?

It’s called an elite culture when all four of these elements are achieved simultaneously at high levels. Leaving the development of your team or organizational culture to chance will lead to thinking moving in a direction you may not like because culture is being shaped every day, whether you like it or not. If you do not mold and guide it, your team will end up disengaged, voluntary turnover will increase, and a lackluster attitude will develop. 

What Holds Leaders Back from Focusing on Culture?

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

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

Research from Quantum Workplace shows 65% of employees say their company culture has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the workplace has changed, culture has too—for better or for worse. One of the downsides of remote work is the challenge of creating and sustaining the workplace culture. It’s difficult to build momentum and energy without being in the same room. However, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The ramification of leaders not focusing on culture, whether remotely or in-person, is steep. Disengaged employees are 3.8 times more likely to cite organizational culture as a reason for leaving than engaged counterparts. 

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

How to Create an Elite Culture

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

1. Start with Core Values

It is a lot easier to create an elite culture when the core values of the team or organization have definition and are mutually agreed upon. Core values are a group’s fundamental beliefs and guiding principles. Here is a step-by-step guide that’s useful from BetterUp. 

It’s easy for an organization to say they have core values, but I look for proof beyond a few words written on walls or on an “about us” page. A good barometer is when leaders not only live them out consistently, but celebrate those who choose to live them out daily. 

Defining core values isn’t nearly as important as exercising them.

If you have core values, put them to the test. Ask your team the following:

  1. Can you define our core values?
  2. Can you tell me a time recently when I lived them out?

If you haven’t looked at your core values or talked about the previously defined values of your organization or team in a while, don’t do another thing before you do. 

2. Create a Culture Award

Most organizations have awards for top performers and top salespeople. However, just because you might be a great individual contributor doesn’t mean you help improve the culture. To further embed an elite culture into the fabric of your people, create a culture award.  

Take James Franklin, the head football coach at Penn State University, as an example. Hired in 2014, one of the first things Franklin did was establish four core values for his new team. His entire coaching staff and team members were measured against these values. They were plastered on walls, shirts, and in team binders. Franklin knew it was not the words themselves that were important, but rather the living out of those values.  

To help embed the values into the culture, he knew he had to reward, recognize and talk about them in a public setting. Each week during the season, Franklin gathered the entire team and gave out an award to one player in front of the entire team who best lived out the core values. It didn’t take long for the behavior on the team to shift. Players, hungry for their peers’ respect and recognition, wanted to win the culture award. They made choices to live out the core values in and outside their football duties. 

The moral of the story is to create a culture award on your team or organization for the member who best lives out the culture on an ongoing basis to sustain excellence. The best ones are names after a former colleague who embodied the values so it can live on long after you’re gone. 

3. Coach and Give Feedback Often

There is nothing easy about sustaining culture and energy. One of the best ways is to lean into people who are having challenges. Instead of passing judgment on team members who struggle to perform and contribute to the culture, get curious and start coaching. 

Instead of passing judgment on team members who struggle to perform, get curious and start coaching.

Bob Nardelli said, “without a coach, people will never reach their maximum capability,” and I couldn’t agree more. To help others achieve higher levels of excellence, check out Coaching for Excellence

Closing

Each organization and its leaders will go about creating an elite culture in slightly different ways. Regardless if you establish core values and principles or some alternative method. The key is that you must care about your culture and prioritize it daily. It’s absolutely a battle worth fighting.

The only question remaining is what are you doing to mold and shape your culture in a positive direction?

Coaching for Excellence Ready to take your coaching skills to the next level? Register for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop

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

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

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, 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 Perseverance is a Skill Needed for Great Leadership

An easel with a red arrow avoiding an obstacle. Deviation from the route. Inevitability and inabilit

Success is never about one moment of genius, it’s often built on a shameless refusal to quit. That’s true in many things, leadership included.

Not sure you agree? Take one of my favorite short stories I teach to leaders as an example.

Two frogs fell into a bucket of milk. Both tried to jump to freedom, but the sides of the bucket were steep, and the surface of the liquid had little foundation. 

Seeing little chance of escape, the first frog soon despaired and stopped jumping. After a short while, he sunk to the bottom of the bucket and drowned.

The second frog also saw no likelihood of success, but he never stopped trying. Even though each jump seemed to reach the same inadequate height, he kept on struggling and persevering. Eventually, his persistent efforts churned a little milk into butter. He managed to leap out of the bucket from the now more rigid surface of the milk.

The second frog’s shameless refusal to quit and perseverance was the key to his success. 

What is Persistence?

Persistence is defined in the SkillsLoft assessment as doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. In other words, it’s a shameless refusal to quit. 

Your success is dependent upon perseverance, not brilliance.

There is a compelling body of research that has explored the factors that underpin successful performance that is best explained in a simple equation: 

Ability x Persistence = Performance. 

The best leaders focus on persistence because they can’t control the talent or natural ability they were given.

Talent by itself isn’t enough, persistence alone is also not enough. What’s required is both to perform at a high level over time. Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

If you want to persevere more in leadership or your professional journey, here are ways to do it:

1. Embrace the Challenge

If you were to ask most people whether they want challenges or tests in their life, they would undoubtedly say no. But not only are challenges and tests unavoidable, but they are also necessary. The reason is simple, it’s often the challenge that changes us. 

It’s often the challenge that changes us.

I shared some ideas from a recent keynote here:

2. Remember Failure is Feedback

Leadership is hard, and so is life. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it or give up, because failure is not final. As I wrote in Building the Best, Failure is a part of leadership, which means failure must become feedback. When you make mistakes, please don’t beat yourself up, learn from them. If leadership were easy, everyone would be doing it. 

Failure is not final, failure is feedback.

One of the best methods of learning from your failures or experiencing the mistakes of others is to keep what I call a Personal Leadership Guide or “PLG” The idea behind the “PLG” is to have a folder on your favorite note-taking app or a notebook and anytime you experience something you want to remember about successful leadership you write it down. Then at the end of each year, you pull out the 5 to 7 most important lessons from that year and review it.  

Then you rinse and repeat.

3. Act With Urgency, But Remain Patient

The essential part of perseverance is continuing to take the next step forward despite the difficulty. I have learned that good leaders start with a sense of urgency but allow that urgency to turn into complacency. They quit taking steps forward because they lose patience. The best leaders think and act differently. They have a growth mindset, act urgently, yet remain exceptionally patient. 

The best leaders have a growth mindset, act urgently, yet remain exceptionally patient. 

Even though most people can agree with this because they have heard “patience is a virtue their whole life, most people don’t live it out.  

I ask leaders I coach each week the same question I want you to ask yourself today; “did you act urgently this week yet remain exceptionally patient?”

Closing

Perseverance and the shameless refusal to quit is an essential leadership skill. It’s often what separates those that achieve success for themselves and their team. 

Whether the skill of perseverance comes easy to you are not, the best part is we can develop and get better. I hope the next time you want to quit or give up, you will first think about the story of the frogs. Do you want to be the kind of leader who gives us and dies or the kind of frog that turns milk into butter?

The choice is yours, and your team counts on you to make the right decision. 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 65k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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

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

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

Why Bad Leaders Focus on Perfection

Jigsaw teamwork concept macro shot

There is this common belief that you have to be perfect in order to be excellent. While it’s accurate great performances like a presentation, recital, or sales pitch can often look perfect, they never are. Regardless of the size, there are always incremental ways to improve.

However, most people act and think like they are falling short because they aren’t perfect.  

Take my 10-year-old son, John Ellis, as an example. His third-grade class was assigned a book writing project culminating in a publishing party where each student read their book in front of students, teachers, and parents. Then, for weeks leading up to the party, he wasn’t sleeping right. After multiple attempts to get to the root of his sleeping issues, he finally came clean the night before the big event, “I just want it to be perfect.” As the tears started to come down his face, I quickly realized it wasn’t the project causing the tears and sleepless nights; it was the thought of perfection. 

I will tell you the hard truth that I had to tell a crying 10-year-old; perfection isn’t possible, and if achieving perfection is your only measure of success, you will miss the point of what you’re doing altogether. 

Perfection isn’t possible, and if achieving perfection is the only measure of success, you will miss the point of what you’re doing altogether. 

Unfortunately, the mindset of wanting and needing things to be perfect doesn’t stop with kids; it is an epidemic among leaders and professionals. 

What is Perfection?

Perfection is defined as the action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible. While the definition isn’t all that scary, no one currently living is faultless or even close to it. The word perfection comes from the Latin word perficere, meaning “to complete,” which has nothing to do with being faultless. 

Perfection is cruel because it seems attainable, but in reality, it’s impossible. It’s even more impossible over long periods of time versus small moments in time. 

The reality is that perfection doesn’t help you; it hurts you. It creates unrealistic expectations that further prevent you from performing at your best. Instead of focusing on perfection, pivot to opportunities. 

The reason is that a perfection mindset is outcome-focused, yet an opportunity mindset is process-focused. That’s important because the best leaders and performers are processed-focused instead of outcome-focused.  

The best leaders are processed-focused instead of outcome-focused.

The truth is the bigger the stage, the bigger the opportunity to demonstrate your work. 

Striving to Get Better Versus Demanding Perfection

Most managers and leaders get perfection wrong by not understanding the difference between striving to get better versus demanding perfection. This is a massive problem because striving relentlessly to get better and demanding perfection are two different things.  

Striving relentlessly to get better creates a scenario for consistently elevating the standard of what is possible. Conversely, demanding perfection causes anxiety, depression, and people who never meet their potential. If that weren’t bad enough, it causes team members to burn out and quit both themselves and their jobs.

So whether you are a team leader or simply trying to perform at a higher level, I want you to write down the following somewhere you can see it throughout the next week. 

You have to be willing to be imperfect even to get close to perfection.  

Said differently, you have to be willing to be imperfect to get better. You have to be ready to struggle, fail, learn, and overcome to perform at your best. 

Closing

Becoming the leader or professional who constantly strives to get better versus demanding perfection won’t be easy. No one wants to make mistakes, errors, or fail at something they care about. But if we have learned anything over the last few years, it’s that we can change and adapt. We can reject the cultural narrative that everything is perfect and instead choose progress.

Since you are reading this, I know you are the kind of professional to choose excellence instead of perfection. You are the kind of leader to coach your people to strive to get better versus demanding perfection.  

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 65k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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

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

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

How the Best Leaders 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.

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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

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

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, 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 Empower Not Delegate as a Leader

guidance

Have you ever wondered what separates leaders from managers? The list is long, and it includes things like inspiration instead of motivation and visionary instead of temporary. However, one significant difference is under your control and, more important than ever today, empowering rather than delegating.  

A common piece of advice from executives trying to help less experienced managers is, “you have to delegate more.” While the suggestion of taking things off of your plate and putting them on someone else’s makes sense on the surface, the intention behind the ask makes the difference.  

If you take nothing else from this column, I want you to take this:

When leaders delegate, it’s about them. When leaders empower, it’s about others. 

Empower vs. Delegate

One of the most significant mistakes leaders make is confusing delegation and empowerment. So let’s get on the same page about the difference between them.  

Harvard Business Review defines delegation this way. Delegation refers to the transfer of responsibility for specific tasks from one person to another. From a management perspective, delegation occurs when a manager assigns specific tasks to their employees.

According to Oxford Dictionary, Empowerment is defined as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights” It enables others to be responsible for and take ownership over something. 

In Building the Best, I defined leadership as inspiring, empowering, and serving in order to elevate others. Empowering others to make decisions is an essential part of successful leadership today.  

A Mindset Shift is Required

A great example of the difference between delegating and empowering arose during one of my recent coaching calls with a rising star named Kara. Kara’s clinic was performing well, but she was getting burned out because she did everything. When asked what would help her, she replied, “I could delegate our supply buying process to one of my team members.”

While it was a great idea, she was thinking about delegation instead of empowerment. So I challenged her to change her thinking. “Instead of simply asking a team member to start ordering supplies, what if you empowered them to improve the supply buying process?”

Immediately Kara’s shifted her mindset from delegation to empowerment. This was her response as she roleplayed the conversation with her team member, “I have been thinking about how we can improve our supply buying process. Since you are so detail-oriented and a great negotiator, would you be open to taking ownership of our supply buying process for the next three months to see how it goes?”

Empowering team members transfers belief and ownership.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the difference in how the empowerment approach transfers belief and ownership versus delegating a potentially dull task.

Why Empowerment is Essential Today

Since the invention of the assembly line, delegating tasks to employees has made sense. However, thanks to remote work due to Covid-19, employees want something different and demand flexibility.  

On a recent episode of the Work-Life Podcast with Adam Grant, when describing the need for companies to rethink flexibility at work, he said, “managers are constantly creating constraints and limiting opportunities. What’s required is more flexibility while still meeting organizational objectives.” 

Today’s workplace requires more flexibility while still meeting organizational objectives.

As obvious as this may sound, its execution is ridiculously challenging. However, the payoff is a more engaged, innovative, and committed team. 

How Leaders Can Empower Others

Now that it’s clear the best leaders empower instead of delegate, how can you do it more effectively? Here are a few ideas to explore:

  1. Build a Bond of Mutual Trust 

Empowerment requires high levels of trust. Specifically, trust that’s bound together from every corner of the organization. Trust is simply consistency over time. This means trust is earned through a two-way street paved by consistent action. 

Trust is earned through a two-way street paved by consistent action. 

A street paved with leaders giving others a chance to earn flexibility so they can be empowered to do their best work, then team members willing to be patient and prove they are trustworthy.  

2. Focus on Mutual Commitments 

There is a big difference between being interested and being committed. The easiest way to have confidence that empowering others is the next move is to have a group of people committed to the mission, each other, and the effort required to succeed. 

One way to ensure you have this level of mutual commitment is for each team member to write or say, “My commitment is…” As simple as this may sound, our words are our bond. People are more likely to follow through if they verbally commit to themselves and someone else about their plan and intentions. 

People are more likely to follow through if they verbally commit to themselves and someone else about their plan and intentions. 

3. Share Common Values and Purpose

Money is easily the most popular incentivizing tool organizations use to retain and recruit employees. While pay is significant, it’s not the most important. People give their best effort when on a team that shares values and purpose. 

People give their best effort on a team that shares values and purpose. 

A consistent and systematic approach to aligning core values and communicating the deeper purpose behind the work is imperative. There is nothing worse than defining and talking about core values, yet leaders are not demonstrating them. Leaders are the primary driver of core values, so they must embody them correctly. 

Closing

If I told you it’s easy to empower others, I would be lying. Most people, myself included, have a difficult time giving up control. However, if you want to act and behave like the best leaders, empowering others is precisely what you need to do.  

If behaving like the best leaders isn’t enough, consider the business metrics you will positively impact, such as reduced turnover, increased revenue, and improved productivity. 

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz Join over 55k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

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

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

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, 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.