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.

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. 

Effective Leadership Communication Workshop Start Communicating more confidently and effectively as a leader. Sign up for the next Effective Leadership Communication Workshop Friday, February 25th at 12 PM EST.

John’s New Book John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed copy when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

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.

5 Mistakes You’re Making When Leading Your Team

Shaming colleague for mistake

You’ve got the title; you’ve got the direct reports; you’ve got the desire to be a leader and not a manager; yet, when it comes to getting results, your team keeps falling short.

The voluntary turnover is high, the engagement is low, and you end up doing most of the work (or, worse, micromanaging the work) to get the numbers to look acceptable. 

It’s time to stop hoping and start leading. While each company and situation is slightly different, managers make some fairly common mistakes when leading their team. At the center of many of these mistakes is the belief that your instincts are enough and that leadership should be easy. 

Many leadership mistakes stem from the false belief that your instincts are enough and that leadership should be easy.

In Building the Best, I highlight research from Leadership Quarterly. They found that 24% of our leadership ability is genetics, and 76% of that ability is learned or developed. 

It’s true that instincts or DNA is a proven aspect of leadership. However, genetics by themselves won’t mold you into the best leader you can be. Often it requires overcoming simple mistakes through hard work. Mistakes by themselves aren’t bad; it’s repeated errors that keep us from being the best leader we can be. If you take nothing else away today, let it be this:

Great leaders aren't afraid to make mistakes, because they always learn from them.

Here are a few common mistakes I have made myself and those I have seen coaching and teaching leaders.

Mistake #1: You Care More About Your Title Than Your People

Do you remember how it felt when you got that promotion that was accompanied by a Manager, Supervisor, or Executive title? Chances are, you felt pride, a sense of accomplishment, and a bit of excitement. 

While there is nothing wrong with having a new title, there is a good chance it’s hurting your ability to lead effectively. Titles are dangerous for those who hold them because they create a distraction from the purpose of leadership; elevating others.

There is a substantial difference between the title of "manager" and the actions of a leader.

There’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. Many of the primary roles of a manager can be automated and replaced by technology; but, there has never been a more critical time in our history to be a leader.  

How to Overcome It: The only time your title matters is on the first day.  After that, it’s how you use it. Turn your attention to the primary job of your position and leadership- elevating others. Constantly remind yourself how to do this by serving others instead of yourself. A great way to remember this is what I call the “PTS Method; “Prepare to Serve.” Anytime you change environments or Zoom meetings, remind yourself, “prepare to serve.”

Mistake #2 You Take Credit and Shift Blame

Taking credit and shifting blame is a mistake made by many leaders to jockey for hierarchical positions. The best leaders are quick to take the blame when things go wrong, and equally as fast to give credit to their team when things go right. 

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

How to Overcome It: 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.” Get in the habit of recognizing team members daily for their effort and positive attitude. You will be amazed at how your team responds when you give credit and take the blame. It’s almost always with better effort and increased responsibility. 

Mistake #3 You Execute Without Input (or buy-in)

I get it, work is coming at your fast, and we don’t always have to as leaders to be molders of consensus. There are undoubtedly times when sole decision-making and executing with optimal speed are required. However, try to avoid superseding your team to save time in these situations.  This kind of mistake is demoralizing and causes an immediate reaction of resistance from team members. 

How to Overcome It: Invite experienced team members into the decision-making process. Ask for their opinion or, better yet, empower them to make the final decision. Provide clear directions and a timeline, and then let them do their job!  

Mistake #4 You Assume You’re an Effective Communicator

Most managers assume they are effective communicators, but in reality the opposite is true. They aren’t clear, concise, and conclusive when they communicate, and they struggle to tell stories that inspire. 

There has never been a more critical time with hybrid work and multiple communication methods to stop making this excuse and intentionally work on your communication skills. I tell participants in Effective Leadership Communication.

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

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

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

Writing these statements that start with “don’t” exudes a manager trying to control, not inspire. Since inspiration is a key to elevating others, breathing life into team members will help change behavior with an internal trigger instead of an external motivator. Do your best to remove the word “don’t” from your communication. See what I did there? “Do your best to… instead of “Don’t use don’t….” Once inspires you and one is demotivating. 

Mistake #5 You Think You Can Do it All On Your Own

Joe Burrow joined the Cincinnati Bengals as the #1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is now taking his team to their first Super Bowl (the pinnacle of the sport) for the first time in 33 years. While watching the Bengals underdog victory against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship, an essential leadership lesson emerged:

You might be like Joe Burrow was to the Cincinnati Bengals and be the leader that changed everything in your organization. You might be supremely talented, have incredible skills, and work 120 hours a week, but you can’t do everything alone. It’s time to stop making this mistake and to empower your people.

How to Overcome It: Don’t isolate yourself. Matthew Kelly wrote, “When we isolate ourselves, we don’t cut ourselves off from the problems, we cut ourselves off from the solutions.” Secondly, ask for help from your team or get a professional coach to challenge and support you. Remember, one leader can change everything, but one leader can’t do everything. Said differently, be the leader, not the hero. 

Be the leader, not the hero.

Closing

I don’t know anyone who likes making mistakes; but, it requires significant mental energy and effort to keep from repeating them. 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 do your best not to make them again.

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.

Effective Leadership Communication Start Communicating more confidently and effectively as a leader. Sign up for the next Effective Leadership Communication Workshop.

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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.

Why the Best Leaders Always Stay on Mission

Mission, Vision and Core Value blocks

There are many things that leaders must have wisdom in to create a meaningful impact in the workplace.  Authenticity has proven to be a precious commodity, coaching unlocks others’ potential, and communication allows meaningful connection with team members. 

But among these many attributes, the value of being on mission and staying on the mission seems to be consistently overlooked.  

The value of being on and staying on the mission is constantly overlooked by bad leaders.

Part of it is due to the common misconceptions about what being a mission-driven leader means. In reality, however, being mission-driven is one quality that no leader should overlook.  

Unfortunately, many leaders aren’t interested in being mission-driven because it feels “soft” or even “dumb.” The most common response I get from these leaders is, “This mission stuff is fluffy. We are here to make money.” Others flat out say, “we don’t need it.” So while I can understand why people would say these things, they could not be more wrong.  

What’s Being and Staying on Mission?

The word mission is traditionally defined in leadership as an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction; a calling or vocation. While the definition makes sense and would be hard to argue that it’s not essential in the world of leadership, some great leaders take it further. 

On a recent episode of the 3 Things podcast, Host and CEO of Red Ventures, Ric Elias, asked CEO of Movement Mortgage, Casey Crawful, “What advice would you give to someone to have a purposeful and joyful life?” Crawford’s answer spoke to me.

“Go on a mission in life, and run hard after doing something meaningful and impactful that you can look back on be proud about.” He continued, “If you do meaningful work with people you love, it’s been a formula that has brought a lot of joy to my life.”  

“Go on a mission in life and run hard after doing things meaningful and impactful” – Casey Crawford

If you look beyond Crawford’s wise words, no military operation is set in motion without a clear mission. For example, Seal Team Six, which killed Osama Bin Laden, was put in harm’s way to carry out a specific mission: take out the world’s most dangerous man. 

You can look at both of these examples in many ways, but what I want you to remember is this:

Mission Makes Meaning

In other words, when you are on mission, you have meaning in your work. The best leaders know having meaning behind your work is a key ingredient to success and purposeful achievement. 

How to Be Mission Driven

I come from the school of thought that we can have a personal mission, a team mission, and a company mission. While all three are independently essential, I get fired up most about a team on a mission. 

Take Sarah, a team manager in a mortgage company, as an example. Her group was responsible for preparing final loan documents for closing appointments for all parties to sign before the transfer of the deed. It’s tedious and stressful work without a lot of genuine excitement. 

Sarah saw an opportunity to create a deeper connection to the purpose of her team’s work every day. She asked the companies loan officers who received her team’s final documents to send pictures of clients executing the final paperwork at closing. 

Soon after, a photograph of a single mother with her young daughter arrived. Both beamed with pride as the mother signed the paperwork solidifying the purchase of their very first home. Photographs like this one continued to roll in. Sarah’s team better understood their mission of helping families become homeowners as they did. 

If you lead a team, do not go another year without being clear on why your does what it does and its mission. It’s easy for professionals to get lost in the monotony of their work without even considering how their work truly impacts lives.

It’s easy for professionals to get lost in the monotony of their work without even considering how their work truly impacts lives.

Creating or reinforcing a team mission statement immediately raises the ceiling of what’s possible and improves your odds of having highly engaged employees. If you need help, try this formula from Building the Best:

We do X in order to achieve Y for Z. 

For the mortgage team responsible for preparing final loan documents, the mission could be something like this: “We rapidly compile and complete closing documents for families so they can be “home” as soon as possible.”

Closing

Whether you have previously considered yourself mission-driven or not, now is the time to remember never to stray far from the mission. Leaders who are mission-driven will not only be more successful long-term versus those who aren’t, but it’s a requirement in today’s leadership landscape. 

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.

John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

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 the Best Leaders Reduce Turnover in Key Employees

Inbound Marketing, Lead Magnet, Customer Attraction and Retention, B2B Concept

There is this common belief that every high-performing employee is looking for a different job. It’s almost as if a cloud of panic and worry has set in about the “great resignation.” It’s gotten so bad that the #1 concern of CEOs has become “hiring enough of the right people.”

While it’s undoubtedly true the quit rate for professionals is at its highest point since the U.S. Bureau of Labor started tracking the statistic in 2000, it doesn’t mean every employee is on the brink of quitting. 

In fact, if organizations put as much effort into retention as they do in recruiting they would be in a much better position. This is why the best organizations are winning the war for talent by focusing on retention over recruiting.  

The best organizations are winning the war for talent by focusing on retention over recruiting.

In a recent episode of the At the Table Podcast, Pat Lencioni said it well, “It’s never been more important to have a healthy organization and good culture because, for the shortage of people, the good ones are going to stay at the right places.” Not only is Lencioni right, but he also exposes the truth about how essential outstanding leadership is to retention.  

Great leaders put more effort into retention than they do in recruiting.

Prioritizing Retention Improves Recruiting

Recruiting talented people to join a team or organization will always be critical to long-term success. However, something phenomenal happens when leaders prioritize retention over recruiting. I refer to it as the “Retainment Cycle.” Here is how it works:

Great Culture + Engaged Employees + Optimum Results = Attracts Talent

No alt text provided for this image

Are you looking for ways to prioritize retention with your employees? Here are some great places to start. 

1. Make Retention Everyone’s Responsibility 

It’s tempting to believe that retention is only a manager’s responsibility, but that wouldn’t be true. While front-line managers play the biggest role in the retention of an employee, retention is everyone’s responsibility. I shared some ideas in a recent interview here:

2. 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. 

3. Coach and Train Like Crazy

People stay longer when they feel invested in and cared for. As Sir Richard Branson famously said, “train them well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

One way to train and care for employees is to have managers who act as a coach. A coach, by definition, trains, and instructs. In the Coaching for Excellence, I define coaching this way:

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

Organizations that create a coaching culture outperform their competitors and maintain an upward trend in human capital development. 

Closing

Making retention everyone’s responsibility, sharing common values & purpose, and coaching like crazy are just a few of the critical things leaders can do to priorities retention over recruiting. Other best practices include:

  • Engagement surveys
  • Training Programs
  • Executive Communication
  • Mentorship Programs
  • Rewards and Recognitions Programs

The key is to find what works best for your organization and go all-in on executing it relentlessly every day.  

Coaching for Excellence Workshop: Ready to improve your coaching skills? Register for the Workshop

John’s New Book. John is finishing a brand new fable story about leadership and looking for volunteers to read or listen to the first four chapters and provide feedback.  By doing so, you will be entered to win a free signed it’s when it’s released.  If you are open to help, sign up here.

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

Simple Things Great Leaders Care About Everyday

Wooden miniature at the start point of puzzle maze wood block. Leadership concept.

Ask a group full of professionals what they want out of a manager, and chances are you’ll hear “someone that cares about me” at least half of the time. While it seems like an obvious and simple desire, the sad reality is it’s a rarity.  

According to Gallup, managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, yet only 36% of U.S employees are engaged in their work and workplace.  

While employee engagement is undoubtedly a complex topic, engagement improves when managers genuinely caring about the people they lead.  

Employee engagement improves when managers genuinely care about the people they lead. 

Webster defines caring as “to look after and provide for the needs of.” It doesn’t take skill to care. All that’s required is to have a heart for people and the courage to do what’s in their best interest, even when it’s not easy.

Do’s and Do Not’s

Megan Witherspoon had a viral post on LinkedIn got me thinking, effective leaders do and don’t care about many things; what are they? Based on my personal experience, studying over 60,000 managers and coaching leaders at every level here is my list. Let me know in the comments what you would add or subtract: 

Effective leaders DO care about:

  • Their people and helping them reach their potential
  • Their organization and team culture 
  • Each team members attitude, including their own
  • Each team members effort, including their own
  • Respect and trust between team members
  • Proving the best tools and environment to help achieve success
  • How people are leading themselves
  • How team members are growing and developing
  • The achievements and results of their team 
  • Empowering people to make decisions
  • The core values and character of people
  • The mental, physical, and financial health of their team members
  • Getting the truth on the table
  • Communicating clear standards and expectations

Effective leaders DON’T care about:

  • Who gets the credit
  • Where work is done
  • How work is done
  • Pleasing everyone
  • Always being right
  • Changing their mind

Does a Long List Mean Leadership is Hard?

Often when lists are long, it means the job, role, or task is difficult. Leadership is no different. However, just because leadership is hard doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, especially if you start the complex topic of being a successful leader through the correct lens. I defined a leader in Building the Best this way, 

“A leader is someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others.”

Instead of thinking about leadership as unattainable or something only meant for certain people with unique talents, start thinking that it’s for you. The most essential element of leadership isn’t talent; it’s choosing to lead right from where you are.

“The most essential element of leadership isn’t talent, it’s choosing to lead right from where you are.”

Leading from where you are starts with a decision to embrace two primary things:

  • Responsibility
  • Ownership

When you can get in the headspace that you are responsible and are willing to take ownership of things in your sphere of influence, you are leading right from where you are. It’s my hope you will not only embrace this challenge but you will invite it into your career. Because if there is one thing I know for certain, we need more people choosing to take responsibility and ownership to lead right where they are.

What did I miss out on? Tell me in the comments

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

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