Why Coaching is a Skill That’s Essential for Leaders

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Success as a leader is never achieved through your efforts alone.  

Too often, managers promoted because of their previous achievements as individual contributors forget this critical lesson. 

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

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

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

As easy as this is to write, its application is complex. Most managers default to typical management activities instead of coaching. Ray Smith said it well, “to create a high-performance team we must replace typical management activities like supervising, checking, monitoring, and controlling with new behaviors like coaching and communication.” Not only is Ray Smith correct, he exposes a drastic shift in that managers must make in today’s workplace around their core responsibilities.

Core Responsibilities of Every Manager

Managers have many responsibilities regardless of industry or company. However, if you boil it down, there are two core responsibilities every manager on the planet must focus on:

  1. Recruiting
  2. Coaching

Instead of going deep on the recruiting piece today, let’s keep our focus on coaching. One of the reasons managers don’t coach their people is because the outcomes of their effort aren’t guaranteed. They can spend countless hours teaching, challenging, and asking great questions, and the team member’s behavior doesn’t change. Since other people’s behavior is out of their control, they retreat to focusing on things they can control, like setting expectations and hiring different people. While expectations and getting the right people on the bus are essential to sustained performance, refusing to act as a coach is an enormous miss. 

The managers who consciously choose to act like a coach are doing the right thing for their team members. Because when a professional is fortunate enough to have a manager who acts as a coach, it dramatically increases the chances of reaching their potential. 

When you are fortunate enough to have a manager who acts as a coach, it dramatically increases the chances of reaching your potential.

If you are ready to take your coaching skills to the next level, here’s a playbook to assist you.

1. Choose the Right Moments

Timing is everything in coaching because every moment isn’t a coaching moment. So many managers who struggle to coach their team treat every moment like a coaching moment.

As painful as this is to write, I am guilty of overcoaching my team. But, thanks to a courageous team member, she brought overcoaching to my attention, allowing me to make changes.  

Do your best to choose moments like one-on-one’s, performance reviews, or training sessions to provide coaching in the right moments. 

2. Focus on the Individual 

Coaching might appear like a group activity, but it’s about the individual. While there are scenarios like a basketball coach where group coaching is essential, the focus should be on each person more often than not. 

One of the things I have learned in my leadership coaching practice is how essential it is for managers to identify where team members are currently in their development and align their coaching appropriately. The reason is that the goal is simple, to help each team member reach a stage of development that exceeds where they are today. 

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

3. Go Beyond Work

Coaching in the areas you are comfortable with isn’t all that difficult. What’s remarkable is when managers coach their people beyond their current role or responsibililty. While it may seem a little odd to coach your people beyond their current role, the best coaches don’t only help improve performance, they help improve lives.” 

The best coaches help improves lives, not just performance.

As I wrote in Building the Best, the simplest way to implement this type of coaching is to ask your people about their goals, dreams, and aspirations inside and outside work.

Coaching people beyond their role isn’t easy, and it often doesn’t show up in immediate results. This means most managers will ignore it because they believe it’s less important than the other things they do. Instead of taking on this mindset, embrace the challenge of understanding your people beyond the job and relish the opportunity to help them make it happen. 

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.

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 Recognition is More Important Than Ever

Human figurine has equal weight against a group of people. Authoritative and important

Think back to a time when you received authentic appreciation or recognition from a boss or colleague. Chances are you felt pride, joy, and fulfillment about yourself and the place you chose to work.

Beyond positive feelings, recognition does something powerful in your brain. Without any additional effort, you will remember and attempt to replicate what caused the praise to happen in the first place. In other words, recognition for your prior effort influences your future behavior.

Recognition for prior effort influences future behavior. 

However, most managers and leaders don’t recognize both the short-term benefit or long-term impact recognition has on their team members. Because of this, they aren’t doing enough of it. A study by Glassdoor found that 80% of employees would be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss, and 70% said they’d feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly. If that weren’t important enough, 63% of employees who feel recognized are unlikely to look for another job.

Recognition is the Secret Ingredient to Inspire

Author Fred Reichheld, in his book Winning on Purpose said, “Giving praise and recognition is the secret ingredient great leaders use to inspire their team because it provides the essential fuel to win on purpose.”

Authentic recognition improves productivity, performance, and engagement while at the same time reducing voluntary turnover. In other words, 

Recognition Fuels Short Term Engagement and Fuels Long Term Performance

Since giving praise and recognition isn’t a strong suit for most leaders, there is something you can use called the 3 x 3 Praise Model from my book Building the Best to help. The first three parts of the model share what to do when giving praise. You can see the model below or download a copy here for free.

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1. Be definitive. 

Clarify what the team member did to deserve the recognition. Instead of just focusing on the result of their work, focus on the behavior that produced it. 

Great recognition focuses on the behavior that produced the outcome, not the result itself.

2. Discuss the impact of their behavior. 

Highlight the impact their behavior had on the team, organization, or themselves. This is critical and often forgotten or assumed. People need to know the work they do helps fulfill the mission and purpose of the team.  

People need to know the work they do helps fulfill the mission and purpose of the team. 

Spell out what good things happened or could happen because of their extra effort. 

3. Show Genuine appreciation. 

Tell them how much it meant to you and how much you appreciate what they did for the team. People can see right through a pile of inauthentic words. Take time, write or say real meaningful words.  

Closing

I am more convinced than ever that no leader can have a fully engaged team without providing praise and recognition. If that wasn’t enough, in this crazy talent war, where voluntary turnover is at an all-time high, leaders must make a concerted effort to provide five times the amount of recognition than feedback.

Since your leadership is temporary, stop waiting to give recognition, do it today.

Coaching for Excellence Join over 700 leaders and learn the proven playbook to be a more effective coach to team members or customers. Sign up for the next workshop here.

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 Help Underperforming Employees

variation

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out some people perform better than others. Not only do high-performing professionals produce better business outcomes, but they tend to be more engaged and help their team or organization be successful. 

Unfortunately, most professionals aren’t reaching their full potential. Research of over 14,500 employees found approximately 85% were not working at 100% of their potential. If that weren’t bad enough, 16% said they were using less than 50% of their potential. 

As scary as these statistics are, feelings of doubt, worry, emptiness, and hopelessness set in when we underperform for long periods. We start to believe we aren’t good enough or worthy enough of success, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  

When people underperform for long periods, they start to believe they aren’t worthy of success, which couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Many possible factors can cause us to underperform. These are just a few: 

  • Lack of talent
  • Bad coaching or being uncoachable
  • Limited work ethic or self-discipline
  • Scarce resources
  • Bad or unfortunate luck 

Since some of these factors are outside of our control, it’s important to lean into the one thing that can help any underperforming team member. A leader who cares and embraces the responsibility of helping other people reach their full potential. 

Often, the only thing holding someone back from reaching their full potential is a leader who cares about them. 

If you are leading an underperforming team member or want to take your current team to higher performance levels, here’s what you can do.

1. Reinvest in the Relationship

People work harder and push themselves to new performance levels when there is a bond of mutual trust with their boss.

Researchers at the University of Berkley studied what motivates productivity in professionals. When people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive. But what’s even more astonishing is that when people felt valued and cared for, their productivity and effectiveness experienced a 43% increase. Make time for one-on-one meetings with team members to find out what’s important to them, what goals they want to achieve, and what current challenges they are facing in their life.  

2. Clarify The Truth

One of the most significant mistakes leaders make is providing a lack of clarity around how their team members are currently performing. If I have learned anything from coaching managers and executives over the last ten years it’s this: great leadership clarifies.

Great Leadership Clarifies

Clarifying performance doesn’t mean solely focusing on the outcomes, a person or team achieves. Instead, the best leaders focus on the leading performance indicators instead of lagging indicators. They observe and coach things like effort, attitude, and skill development because they know these are the things that ultimately produce consistent outcomes. 

3. Elevate the Standards

Anytime performance isn’t where you need or want it; it’s time to elevate the standard. A standard is simply defining what good looks like. In Building the Best, I wrote;

Good leaders define what good looks like; Great leaders define what great looks like. 

I shared some ideas for this in a recent keynote:

4. Accelerate with Accountability

Many words make people uncomfortable; “accountability” is one of those words. Accountability is simply the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.

My mentor always told me, “What you tolerate, you encourage.” It is your obligation to hold yourself and others accountable to the standards. Otherwise, you’re encouraging sub-standard behavior. To do this effectively, have the courage and a proven model to have direct dialogues with your people when standards aren’t met. 

5. Give Ample Time 

One of the fastest ways to improve performance isn’t by addition but by reduction. If you have given ample time, effort, and coaching to help improve a team member’s performance and nothing seems to change, it’s time to move on.  

Do your best to find a different situation, role, or leader to help support their future development. The hard truth is that no leader is the perfect fit for everyone, which is ok.  

Closing

While there is no perfect or full-proof strategy to turn around an underperforming team member, I hope these ideas help you. 

There is nothing easy about helping turn around an underperforming team member. However, helping someone meet their full potential is a worthwhile endeavor. The benefits to their life and career are unquantifiable. 

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 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.

How to Ask for Help the Right Way as a Leader

He needs help.

Do you remember how it felt to ask for help from someone else when what you were asking seemed like part of your job? Whether you did it well or not, chances are you felt weak, nervous, and a bit embarrassed.  

While these are natural human emotions, figuring out how to ask for help is a key to your success as a leader. The good news is that asking for help isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. It demonstrates to others you are humble, vulnerable, and trust others to do something meaningful.  

Asking for help as a leader isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. It demonstrates humility, vulnerablity, and trust in others. 

When a manager is unwilling or unable to ask for help from others, it increases the tension in a team and lowers the potential for what the group can achieve.  

Take Carol, a first-time manager, as an example. In her first three months in her new role, she did many things well, including building trust-based relationships and developing a high level of competence in the business and industry. After 90 days, her management team began to raise the bar on results and revenue performance expectations.  

However, instead of asking her team for help with ideas and execution, she did the opposite. Carol attempted to do everything on her own because she felt it was ultimately her responsibility. While her initial efforts positively moved the results needle, the business saw significant dips in performance shortly after.

Her regional manager saw what was happening and suggested Carol enroll in one of the company’s leadership development programs to assist in her development. One of the first steps of the program was a 360° leadership style assessment. In the digital assessment, her team provided feedback that helped unlock the answer to the problem, “Carol doesn’t have to do it all on her own and take the blame for everything. We are here to help. She just has to ask.”

All Carol was missing in her approach was this simple leadership lesson that we all need to be reminded of:

Asking team members for help exercises empowerment. 

Ask For Help or Ask For a Favor?

Help in the context of leadership is defined as providing someone with something that is useful or necessary in achieving an end result. This definition is critical because it exposes an essential distinction between asking for help and asking for a favor.  

Asking for help is about performance, asking for a favor is about convenience.  

The best leaders know to ask for help on things that directly impact performance. This means asking for assistance in completing critical tasks, coming up with innovative ideas, or giving ownership over something important.  

Asking for a favor in things of convenience are things like getting a coffee, getting something off of the copy machine, or sending out a meeting invitation. While there is nothing inherently wrong with asking for a favor, they don’t have the same positive effect as asking for help with things that directly impact performance. 

When leaders ask for help around things related to performance, it creates an empowered team. When leaders ask for favors around things of convenience, it just exercises authority. 

How to Ask for Help

Even though we now know asking for help around performance is essential because it demonstrates humility, vulnerability and builds trust, it can still be challenging to do. So here are a few tips for making the ask:

1.Frame it as they are the “Batman” not “Robin.”

Rather than acting as if you are “Batman” and you need “Robin” for a quick assist, reframe the request as they are “Batman.” It might sound like, “I am struggling to solve a specific problem, and I have seen you solve difficult problems before. Would you be willing to help me?”

2. Be Specific

Most leaders make a mistake when asking for help in not being specific about what they need help with. The more precise you can be about what outcome needs to be achieved and by when, the more urgency and focus it will create in your team members. 

3. Make it Conclusive

People are more likely to help when they know “why” their help is so important. An example might be, “Our team’s quarterly bonus depends on achieving XYZ, and I couldn’t think of a better person to help us get there.”  

Closing

Asking for help isn’t easy, but it’s a leadership superpower. I hope that you will begin to look at asking for help as a strength instead of a weakness. Because when you find the courage to invite your team into the improved performance process, excellent outcomes are right around the corner. 

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 Great Leaders Unleash the Best in Others

leadership

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

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

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

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

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

Why Most Managers Don’t Do It

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

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

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

The things you believe determine how you behave. 

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

1. You Can’t Do it For Them.

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

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

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

2. Discover What They are Trying to Achieve

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

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

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

3. Challenge Their Growth

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

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

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

Essential Reminder

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

“Connect before you correct.”

4. Be an Uber Coach

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

In our Coaching for Excellence workshops, I teach leaders to embrace the mindset of an “Uber Coach.” Much like an uber driver, leaders must be willing and able to coach team members anyplace and anytime when needed or required.  

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

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

Closing

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

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

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.