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.

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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.

3 Ways to Be a More Authentic Leader

Leadership

When coming up with a list of essential leadership skills, it’s not uncommon to see words like “coaching” or “visionary” come up. While such skills are undoubtedly necessary, another skill has emerged as essential in modern leadership; authenticity.

Like many words and skills today, its true meaning has been hijacked. The word authentic is traditionally defined as “real or genuine; not copied or false.” When used in the context of leadership, I describe it as, “how a leader demonstrates and shares their genuine values, stories, and desires.” If the definition wasn’t clear enough, I want you to remember this leadership truth about authenticity:

Authentic leaders forge strong relationships and inspire others to bring their human self to work.

Are Today’s Leaders Authentic?

We have new leaders emerge every generation, but one truth endures; we become the leaders we watch, hear, and experience. Unfortunately, many current leaders who were exposed to inauthentic leadership are now leading the same way. They withhold the truth, act like they have it all figured out, and leverage people to serve their needs. While I believe people can change and remain hopeful those leading this way would take a different approach, those are challenging habits to break. 

Luckily, many of today’s leaders appear to be fed up with being fake and are committed to being authentically human in their approach. 

The best leaders aren’t fake and are committed to being authentically human in their approach. 

Whatever your leadership journey has looked like so far, here are a few ideas for how to be more authentic as a leader:

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1. Share Personal Stories

There is a long list of things you can do to be an authentic leader, but sharing personal stories is at the top of the list.  

I asked Kara Goldin, founder of Hint and author of Undaunted, “Why is being an authentic leader so critical in today’s environment?” on the Follow My Lead Podcast. Her response was fantastic. “The best leaders are authentic and willing to share their story and struggles. The reason is people understand through stories who you are and what you are trying to achieve.”

Not only is Goldin correct, when leaders share their personal stories and struggles, it reveals their humanity to others. It fosters trust and makes leaders relatable.  

There is a fine line between sharing personal stories and oversharing information that makes people uncomfortable. The questions I coach leaders to answer before sharing a story are these: 

  1. “Is this going to help your people know you or relate to your perspective better?” 
  2. Does this story demonstrate empathy for their situation?”  

If the answer is yes to either of those questions, all it takes is the courage to share it. 

2. Tell the Truth

All too often, when there are things leaders must say to people, they avoid the topic or sugarcoat it so much that the truth never comes out. Authentic leaders refuse to fall into this trap and lean on telling the truth, even when it’s hard. The truth needs no crutches. I like to think of opinions versus reality this way. 

Opinions are overrated, and truths are underrated. 

Now that you know that telling the truth is an essential element of being an authentic leader, the secret is how you tell the truth. If you share the facts empathetically, it enhances the potential that someone is open to doing something different. However, if you speak condescending or come from a place of superiority, you will almost certainly get the inverse of your intended effect, 

3. Inspire With Hope

The reality of a situation isn’t always what we want to hear. This is why the most authentic leaders always paint a picture of hope if people decide to do things differently.  

“The most authentic leaders always paint a picture of hope.”

Napoleon famously said, “a leader’s role is to define reality, then give hope.” The longer I have studied great leaders, the more I recognize that they are constantly looking for opportunities to give hope. The world we live and work in is hard and constantly changing. Having a leader in a relentless pursuit of a better future is inspiring. 

Closing

There is nothing worse than a leader who believes they are tricking their people into thinking they are someone they are not. While it might last for a while, the truth always comes out. If you find yourself in a similar situation right now, I urge you to start the journey now of being a more authentic leader. 

Developing the skill of authenticity is a requirement to be a great leader. However, it isn’t easy and often takes decades to master it. Start small and focus on sharing personal stories, telling the truth, and inspiring with hope. 

The better you get at these three things, the more likely your people will look at you as someone authentic.  

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

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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.

How to Help Managers Who Lack Leadership in Your Organization

No one wants to work at an organization lacking leadership, especially for a long time.  Despite not wanting to be in this situation, most people will stay regardless. Whether it’s the golden handcuffs or convincing our brains that things will change; something keeps us in less than ideal leadership situations.  

recent study found that 77% of organizations report that leadership is lacking, confirming that most professionals previously settled for average leadership. Luckily, that is starting to change. 

Take Jess, a former accounting manager at a global technology company, as an example. For two years, she worked under a fantastic leader who worked hard to elevate those on his team.  When he left for a big promotion at a different company, Jess got a new manager.

It didn’t take long to figure out that her new manager had a lot of industry experience but wasn’t a leader.  She barked orders, put her own needs ahead of the team, and blamed others when things didn’t go well.  

After multiple unsuccessful attempts from Jess and others to help her new manager change, she decided to take recruiters’ calls.  In just a few weeks, she accepted a new position at a different company for nearly an identical salary.  Not only was Jess’ decision proof that modern professionals aren’t tolerating bad leadership anymore, but it also reminds us of a critical truth about organizational leadership. 

Every organization has managers, not every organization has leaders

Being a manager is a position, but being a leader is a decision.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Since being a leader is a decision, it probably has you asking an essential question about the topic, are leaders born or made?  I shared some ideas in a recent interview:

To summarize, leaders are both born and made, but they are primarily made through hard work by individuals and their organizations, encouraging their growth and development. If an organization is going to reach its potential, it rests on the leadership of its people. 

If an organization is going to reach its potential, it rests on the leadership of its people.

Not only do the best organization understand this, they know it’s not about just hiring great leaders but building them.  Here are a few ideas to empower your managers to be high performing leaders:

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1. Promote People With a Heart for Leadership

The most common retention technique organizations use is to promote people to managerial positions. Most do this without considering one’s heart for leadership or the new skills needed to be developed to be successful in their new role.

If more organizations would promote people with a heart for leadership, engagement would skyrocket.  

The simplest and most effective way to empower managers to be high-performing leaders is to promote the right people to leadership positions.  I wish there were a silver bullet to evaluate one’s heart for leadership, but unfortunately, there is not. Before promoting someone or giving them direct reports, a simple technique is to evaluate any previous behavior where they have proactively served others.  

2. Provide Them a Common Definition of Leadership

Having had the opportunity to work with hundreds of Executives and HR leaders to help develop their managers into leaders, most companies haven’t defined what it means to be a leader in their particular organization.  

They spend countless hours defining their mission, vision, and values (which is essential), but they stop at explaining what it means to be a leader.  When I talk about this with leadership teams, the most common excuse I get is, “we have so many experienced leaders at the organization; we don’t need to define it.  

It’s never too late to define something meaningful because the future hasn’t yet happened. 

To this I say, it’s never too late to define something meaningful because the future hasn’t yet happened. Maybe there is an unwritten definition about what it means to be a leader in your organization; but, I would prefer having it defined and communicated to increase the odds that future leaders buy into it.

3. Supply Them the Mirror for Self-Awareness

Improving in any skill, leadership included, requires a level of self-awareness that opens the heart and mind to do some things differently. A common practice for officers in the Marines is to put together what they refer to as an “Iron Council.” 

This group consists of six direct reports and peers of an officer.  A few times a year, the Iron Council meets with their officer in a group setting to provide feedback about his or her performance. This isn’t meant to air petty grievances but rather to provide a constructive place to improve.  

Something unique happens after these Iron Council meetings.  While feedback can be tough to hear, officers finds themselves on a mission to grow and get better.  This is essential because you can’t change what you don’t know. 

You can’t change what you don’t know

If you are a leader or you help develop leaders in your organization, be sure you have tools like 360 leadership assessment to supply the mirror for self-awareness. 

4. Give Them the Digital Tools to Lead

No one likes people who make excuses, but leading a fully remote or hybrid team is challenging.  While most leaders have gotten used to remote work because of the pandemic it doesn’t mean leadership is easier.  My experience has been that the sooner you give managers the tools to lead, the slower the excuses become. 

The sooner you have the tools, the slower the excuses become

While no tool is a silver bullet, tools like Peoplebox exist for these reasons.

5. Provide Them Coaching and Development

This one might come across as self-serving because of my industry, but the best athletes in the world have coaches, shouldn’t your leaders? 

Developing leadership skills is challenging. So providing team members a safe place to mold and grow their skills is essential. Since there isn’t only one perfect method to help leaders grow and develop, each organization has to come up with a sustainable and scalable way to make it happen in their organization.  

Closing

It would be fantastic if “empowering managers to be leaders” were as easy as turning on a light switch. But when you think about all the work, effort, and dedication it took and continues to take for that light switch to turn on the lights, it proves there is nothing easy about it.  

If you are have taken it upon yourself to become a better leader, thank you. If you are in Human resources or HR and have dedicated your career to helping other professionals develop, thank you. If you are a professional coach who helps other people see their blind spots, thank you. If you are a leader who works relentlessly to help your people grow and develop, thank you.

Coaching for Excellence Workshop Ready to improve your coaching skills? Learn More About the Virtual 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 namLinkedIn’sLinkedIn’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 Communicate Like a Great Leader

communication

Leadership, like life, is a journey and not a destination.  

Now I must emphasize one point before you start reading this column that will attempt to make you a better leader. Writing and doing are two different things. Yes, I have spent the last 10+ years of my career studying what the best and worst leaders do, then transferring those lessons to myself and others, but I have struggled mightily to apply many of these lessons daily. Instead of crushing my soul and believing I am not meant to be a great leader, it’s convicted me to constantly look at the journey of becoming a better leader rather than just arriving as one.  

I have learned that the closer you get to being a truly authentic leader, the less you feel like one.  

The closer you get to being a truly authentic leader, the less your feel like one. 

In many things, ignorance can be bliss, but not in leadership. There is nothing worse than a manager who isn’t self-aware of their shortcomings as a leader. It’s caused more professionals to leave a company or a profession altogether than any other factor. Don’t believe me? A recent study found a staggering 79% of employees will quit after receiving inadequate appreciation from their managers.

Many Leadership Skills Matter

There are many talents and skills leaders must develop and demonstrate to be effective over time. Our research indicates building trust, having empathy, establishing a vision, giving recognition, and coaching others are essential. However, communicating effectively is at the top of the list. 

It could be as simple as writing an email, giving a presentation, sending a text, or turning on your listening ears. Regardless of the type of communication, the key is that you’re effective at it. I like to think of it as the essential rule of leadership. “If you struggle with communication, you will never reach your potential as a leader.”  

If you struggle with communication, you will never reach your potential as a leader.

As I wrote in Building the Best, the key to successful leadership today is elevating others. So the problem with not reaching your potential as a leader is you won’t be helping others achieve theirs.  

The Big Communication Mistake

There are a lot of gifted orators with silver tongues and unmistakable mannerisms. At the same time, many professionals clam at the thought of delivering a presentation. Regardless of the camp you are in, or somewhere in between, there is one communication mistake anyone is susceptible to make, and that is demanding and downloading, not inspiring.  

Too many leaders demand and download instead of inspire when communicating.

This doesn’t mean every email or conversation must have your audience ready to run through a wall, but it does mean you have to be more concerned with the audience than the person doing the communicating. The word inspire means “to breathe life into.” You can’t breathe life into someone or get someone else to take any action they wouldn’t otherwise take if you don’t get past their mind and into their heart.  

Communication improves when leaders get to the employees’ hearts, not just their minds.

I was reminded of this truth in a conversation with a talented therapist named Kimberly Mengel. She said, “the heart is the wellspring of life.” It’s stuck with me for some time now because I have repeatedly seen when leaders fail in their communication, they never get to their people’s hearts.  

How to Improve Your Communication

There are all kinds of tactics and strategies to become a more effective communicator. Instead of going into the depths of storytelling or the three C’s of successful communication, I want you to turn your attention to two things; how much you speak and being more transparent.  

1.How Much You Speak – Being an exceptional listener is key to being a great communicator. Not only is this true, but Simon Sinek took it a step further in a keynote some years ago, when he spoke about “being the last to speak.” You can watch the short clip here

As brilliant as this idea is, I know it’s not always possible. Instead, turn your attention to “how much you speak.” Your goal as a leader shouldn’t be to tell people what to do. It should be to help them determine what to do and what can be done to implement it. This means speaking less and asking better questions.

2. Be More Transparent – All too often, when there are things leaders must say to people, they avoid the topic or sugarcoat it in a way the truth never comes out. Instead, I want you to opt for more transparency in your communication. The reason is transparency implies openness and accountability. 

I asked Robert Quesnel, a seasoned executive and phenomenal leader at American Family Insurance, why leaders aren’t transparent, and what he said moved me. “Many leaders aren’t transparent because they are insecure narcissists and lack confidence in themselves.” Not only is Quesnel right, but too many leaders hide behind the shield their title provides instead of being transparent and telling the truth. 

Too many leaders hide behind the shield their title provides instead of being transparent and telling the truth.

Closing

The best part of communication is you get endless opportunities every day to work on improving. I hope some of these ideas inspire you to evaluate how much you speak and how transparent you are in and effort to apply them on your leadership journey.

Tell me in the comments Do you agree and what tactics or strategies do you or others leaders leverage to be effective communicators?

Effective Leadership Communication Ready to improve your communication skills? Register for the virtual 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 copy 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.

How to Handle Frustration Like the Best Leaders

Frustrated business woman sitting at the table in office.

We have all been there at one point or another; there is probably something right now that is frustrating you. It may not be, I am joining “the great resignation” club bad, but it is still a consistent struggle with someone or something at work.  

Maybe it’s a team member who isn’t giving their best effort. Perhaps it’s your boss who micromanages every move. Whatever the case, it started as a minor inconvenience, and now it nags at you daily.  

It turns out, your capacity to overcome frustrations is a sign that you are an effective leader. Early research by LearnLoft indicates that the ability to handle adversity is one of the most overlooked traits of successful leaders. 

The ability to overcome adversity like frustration is a good predictor of effective leadership.

What is Frustration and its Causes?

Frustration is defined as the feeling of being upset or annoyed. There are two states of frustration that professionals can find themselves in.

  1. Consistent State
  2. Momentary State

When someone is in a consistent state of frustration, they get negative and pessimistic, which never allows them to live up to their potential. 

Momentary frustration happens to all of us, but it isn’t always a bad thing since it can be a helpful indicator of problems. As a result, frustration can act as a motivator to change. However, when that momentary frustration turns to anger, depression, elevated levels of stress, and resentment, it becomes destructive. 

Now that we know, frustration is a feeling that can be destructive, it’s essential to recognize some common sources of frustration in the workplace:

  1. Communication Issues – When two or more people don’t have consistent communication that is clear, concise, and conclusive, it’s a recipe for frustration for one or both parties. (Want to be a more effective communicator? Check out the Effective Communication for Leaders Workshop)
  2. Lack of Meaningful Change – When things stay the same, or there isn’t a viable path to improvement, it causes people to get annoyed or even upset. If employees start to say, “It’s always going to be this way, nothing is going to change here,” it’s a bad spot to be.
  3. Limited Opportunities for Career Advancement – When team members feel there is nowhere to go beyond their current role, it causes frustration. This is particularly challenging in organizations with less than 100 employees.
  4. Process or Technology Problems – Inefficient and manual process that can be automated or improved is a bain in many professionals existence. “This is so manual and repetitive; there has to be a better way to do this.” 

How the Best Leaders Handle Frustration Like a Professional

If you want to stop being frustrated, you aren’t going to hope your way there. You have to start acting differently. The idea of hoping things change is a terrible strategy. As the late Rick Page used to say, “hope is not a strategy.”  

The best leaders know, hope isn’t a strategy.

A solid and consistent strategy followed by action is the best way to overcome frustration. The best part is, anyone can adopt new methods and then develop their skills to help them be successful at it.  

Overcoming frustration requires you to take action.

Now that you’re aware that action is the key, here are some things you can do about frustration to model the best leaders.

1. Add the Truth

When you notice a team member is showing signs of frustration, don’t hope it goes away. It’s time to add the truth to conversations. While it might seem like an obvious strategy, the majority of people would rather avoid the truth for fear of what they might hear or what might happen. As a mentor wisely told me, “Our ability to sense truth is amazing, and the truth needs no crutches.”

The best leaders embrace talking about the truth because they know the best path to remove frustrations is to add the truth. 

The best way to remove frustration is to add the truth.  

There are a few ways to get to the truth; first, ask yourself or team members to communicate the source of their frustration. Second, listen or seek to understand what might be causing it.  

2. Acknowledge the Root Cause and Develop Solutions

Rarely will our first pass at communicating the root cause of our frustration come out clearly. It’s worth the mental bandwidth to get to the source by asking that hard question of “why.” A strategy I go through with some of my executive coaching clients is called the “Two-Level Why” All I do is ask executives to take their feelings of frustration two levels lower than they start.  

Here is a simple example:

No alt text provided for this image

It’s a short and straightforward example, but if you get in the habit of leveraging the “two-level why” with yourself or your team, you will get to the root cause of the frustration more often and get to solutions. 

3. Perseverance Over Perfection

Knowing we are human and emotions are part of what makes us great, it’s impossible to remove frustration altogether. So what’s required is to persevere instead of expecting perfection.  

If you are expecting perfection, you will constantly be frustrated.  

One of my favorite strategies for this is a simple, practical resolution to say to yourself. It goes like this: “I will not be frustrated anymore by things others do or do not do, but rather I will take ownership over things in my control and be proactive in finding ways to reconcile them.”

A simple affirmation like this gives you the power to overcome frustration versus blaming others.  

Closing

Frustration and adversity are guarantees in life. Your ability to overcome them and create the best outcomes for all those involved is vital in determining your success.  

Take an honest look at the things that are frustrating you right now. Are you doing all you can adding the truth, getting to the root cause, and persevering without expecting perfection? If the answer isn’t what you want it to be, now is the time to act before the frustration gets to a point where you join the “great resignation” club.

Effective Communication for Leaders: Ready to improve your communication skills? Register for the virtual workshop.

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.

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

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

How to Handle Fear Like the Best Leaders

courage

Do you remember how it felt when you had to make your first big professional decision? Whether it was to fire someone or make a significant purchasing decision, chances are, you felt fearful, nervous, and a bit skeptical.

While these are natural human emotions, figuring out how to consistently overcome them is a key to your progress. The reason is simple; your mind is more powerful than you think it is. It often is the difference between success and failure.  

Take Martha, an experienced salesperson at a software company, for example. She was outstanding in her role and had been a high performer for over five years. However, she yearned for more influence and impact on others in her career. So much so, she kept a leadership notebook of lessons she wanted to practice or avoid when she got her opportunity to lead.  

When a sales director position opened up in the firm, she immediately got excited and dreamed of what she would do in the role. But when the email went out about applying for the job, she didn’t respond right away. Instead, she doubted whether she was ready and if she was good enough to lead other people. She allowed her fear not to pursue the job, and one of her colleagues with less experience ended up as her boss.  

Now, there is no way to tell if Matha would have gotten the job over her colleague, but her mind, not her skills, eliminated her from a job she wanted. She allowed fear to win over courage. All her leadership notebook was missing was a simple lesson:

Rejecting fear and choosing courage dictates your future.

What is Fear?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined. According to Arash Javanbakht and Lisa Saab, in their article in the Smithsonian, What Happens in the Brain When We Feel Fear, “Fear reaction starts in the brain and spreads through the body to make adjustments for the best defense or flight reaction. The fear response starts in a region of the brain called the amygdala. This almond-shaped set of nuclei in the temporal lobe of the brain is dedicated to detecting the emotional salience of the stimuli – how much something stands out to us.”

When your amygdala activates through seeing or experiencing a feeling, it naturally triggers a fear response. Ryan Holiday, the author of Courage is Calling, wrote, “No human is without fear. What’s required is the ability to rise above it in the moments that matter.”

Holiday is correct; the most remarkable leaders on the planet have an amygdala in their brain, just like you and me. However, they recognize the battle against fear is permanent, and they have to overcome it constantly. 

The battle against fear is permanent. Choosing courage to overcome fear is temporary.

Why the Best Leaders Choose Courage

Regardless of how experienced you are, no one is immune to feelings of doubt and fear. However, the best leaders don’t allow it to stop them. Roy T. Bennet said it well, “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart!”

Leaders today, unlike previous generations, have been thrust into a hyper uncertain work environment which causes higher levels of fear and anxiety. They have to overcome uncertainty in their minds and help their team members do the same as well. 

Uncertainty for leaders is when they face unmeasurable and unpredictable risks, often caused by things outside their control. However, if leaders had all the data and there was no uncertainly, not only would they not be required, there would be no decisions, there would just be foregone conclusions. 

In a keynote to global leaders, I told them, “uncertainty is why leadership is needed.”

“Uncertainty is why leadership is needed.”

The best leaders embrace uncertainty and choose courage because they would rather be part of the solution, not a bystander. They would rather be the “man in man in the arena” rather than sitting on the sidelines, allowing others to make a positive difference.  

The only way for this to happen is for leaders to reject fear and choose courage. I defined courage in Building the Best as “Being frightened and deciding to do it anyway.” The root of the word courage is cor- the Latin word for heart. Getting to people’s hearts is precisely where the best leaders start to separate themselves from others. 

Don’t Stop at Yourself, Help Others

Not only are the best leaders able to choose courage for themselves, but they can also inspire others to do the same by getting to their hearts. They breathe life into their team members by encouraging, challenging, and empowering them. All in an effort to help them learn and grow

Even though leaders know this isn’t easy, great leaders embrace failure and don’t accept fear as a decision on their team.  

Great leaders don’t accept fear as a decision they expect courage.  

Closing

It would be common thinking to believe the best leaders reject fear and choose courage naturally. This wouldn’t be true. Fear will always make itself felt because that’s how our brains are naturally wired.  

Rejecting fear and choosing courage is a decision, and it’s learned. It makes me reflect on some wise words about parenting. A mentor told me, “John, your job isn’t to keep your kids safe. Your job is to make them courageous.”

Whether you are leading kids or team members at work, people feel more engaged and alive when they make courageous decisions and it’s often someone else that helps us make them.

Just think back to Martha; if she had a leader or a coach who helped her overcome her fear and choose courage, where might she be today in her professional career?

Effective Communication for Leaders: Ready to improve your communication skills? Register for the virtual workshop.

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.

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

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

Why Great Leaders Know Teamwork is a Key to Their Success

Conceptual for brainstorming and teamwork

Golf is one of the last sports you would expect to glean leadership lessons. It’s primarily an individual sport, with the exception of one week every other year during the Ryder Cup. If you aren’t familiar, the tournament is filled with spirited competition and drama as 24 of the world’s greatest players from the USA and Europe compete in a team competition.

Whether you are a golf fan or not, a unique leadership challenge that both teams’ captains face has similarities to what many organizational leaders encounter.  

They work to get individuals to act and behave like a team to produce the best outcome for the group.

The ability for leaders to do this successfully isn’t easy and is a skill that very few do consistently well. However, teamwork is the remedy, and it’s achieved when each individual buys into the group’s greater good over their self-interest. 

Take Amy, a sales manager in a technology company, as an example. I started working with her as a coach when she was hired to take over a group of 15 sales reps. At the time, only 20% of the team was hitting their quota, collectively they hadn’t hit their sales target in five years, and the engagement was an abysmal 57%. 

As excited as she was about her first ample leadership opportunity, the uphill challenge didn’t scare her because management jobs rarely open up when things are going well. She jumped right in, got to know her team members personally, made some tough decisions about letting a few reps go, and brought in some fresh faces, then got to work in developing teamwork.

She invested time, energy, and money to bring the reps together in person once a quarter and created weekly meetings where each person was an active participant. During those crucial interactions, she manufactured human connection, gained buy-in, and built the belief that the team could collectively achieve a big goal.  

Little by little, the results started to come together, and by the end of her second year on the job, 80% of the reps hit their quota, the group exceeded their sales target by 40%, and the engagement rate jumped 84%.  

Amy understood the key to her leadership success was getting each individual to buy into the group’s greater good over their own self-interest.

“Great teams are made up of individuals that buy into the group’s greater good over their self-interest.”

Focus on Teamwork

When team members are authentic, collaborate, and challenge each other, the results are almost always superior to working alone. Teamwork is when people bring their authentic selves and skills together to produce excellent outcomes for the group. 

Teamwork is when people bring their authentic selves and skills together to produce excellent outcomes for the group. 

Looking back at the most significant achievements in sports or business, you will always find great teamwork was behind it. There is a plethora of research that supports the essential nature of teamwork. 

If you want to improve teamwork, here are a few ideas to get individuals to work as a team.  

1. Get Obsessive Buy-In Towards a Shared Goal

A team, by definition, means to come together as a team to achieve a common goal. Success won’t follow if leaders don’t define a common goal that team members care about achieving.  

If leaders don’t define a shared goal that team members care about achieving, success won’t follow.  

The keyword here is “shared.” While it will be tempting to stand at the top of the mountain and scream a big, hairy, audacious goal to your team, if they aren’t bought into, help define what’s possible, and determine what it would take to achieve it, they won’t give their best effort. 

In the example of the Ryder Cup, the ultimate shared goal is simple, take home the Ryder Cup Trophy at the end of the tournament. However, every team competing since 1927 has had that goal. The key as a Ryder Cup captain or as a team leader at work, is getting obsessive buy-in from each individual about achieving the goal.  

2. Manufacture Human Connection

Teamwork can’t be achieved without people getting to know each other and working well together. Too often, leaders assume and take for granted the quality of relationships between members of their team. Here is the hard truth. Just because members of the same team are in meetings together, doesn’t mean they know or care about each other.  

Just because team members are in meetings together, doesn’t mean they know or care about each other.  

Conflict and diverse thinking are essential elements of teamwork. Because of this, developing relationships built on the foundation of trust and respect is a requirement. While it might be uncomfortable at first, part of a leader’s job is to manufacture human connection and create a sense of belonging between team members. There are all kinds of strategies for this, but my favorite from our leadership workshops is the hero, highlight, hardship exercise. 

3. Inspire Personal Growth That Benefits the Team

When people are growing, they are much more likely to buy into the leader that is helping them do it. So often, we think about growth in terms of a company, but rarely do we think about it in terms of people.

Personal growth is the foundation of motivation. It’s hard to motivate team members who aren’t growing. Personal growth is the foundation of any successful professional. 

It’s hard to motivate team members who aren’t growing. Personal growth is the foundation of any successful professional.  

Leaders have a unique advantage of creating healthy competition between team members to fuel personal growth and development. In the case of the Ryder Cup, successful captains have created pods of smaller team members in the build-up of the competition to fuel personal growth and performance. 

Closing

There is nothing easy about leadership and getting individuals to work as a team. As many stories there are about sales managers like Amy, there are more stories of managers who have the opposite outcomes.  

Since you are thinking, reading, and looking for specific ideas to apply in your leadership approach should provide you confidence that you are on the right track. 

What did I leave out? 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.

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

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

How to Solve Problems to Be An Effective Leader

Businessmen solving problems

How important is it that you are a problem solver? Why do some people tend to have better critical thinking skills than others? These are the types of questions you may ask yourself or even read an article about, but understandably don’t ask your boss. Because admitting you aren’t excellent at identifying solutions to complex or straightforward problems might be a yellow flag in your career.

According to research, you would be accurate because problem-solving and critical thinking is in the top 10 most vital professional skills in 2021. If that wasn’t enough, your value to a company or team often reflects the number of problems you help solve. 

The good news is that problem-solving and critical thinking skills can be developed and refined with the right mindset and work. Because they aren’t about being brilliant, they are about being logical, relentless, and consistent. 

Problem-solving isn’t about being brilliant; it’s about being logical, relentless, and consistent. 

Your willingness to be proactive in problem-solving is more important than solving one big problem. Whether this is a skill that comes easier to you or not, getting good at running towards issues instead of avoiding them is a secret to your success. 

Experts agree, “There are a lot of people who can identify the problem, but I frequently see the people who have made it to the highest levels of organizations, are the ones with those critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” says Spencer Bethmann, a director in HR & Talent Management at KPMG.

How to Solve Problems Like the Best Leaders

Each person is responsible for developing their problem-solving skills. If you want to improve, here are a few standard suggestions:

  1. Identify the Problem
  2. Research Possible Solutions
  3. Test the Best Solutions
  4. Modify Based on Results

Just getting in the routine of executing these steps at a higher level will make you a better critical thinker and problem solver on your own, but the best leaders on the planet go beyond this. They know the key to their leadership success isn’t being the only problem solver; they need a team full of people who embrace the responsibility of thinking critically. 

It reminds me of a powerful idea David Marquet shared with me in an interview on the Following My Lead Podcast, “great leadership is all about making decisions where the information is.”

Great leaders know the secret to a team’s success is for every team member to solve problems where the information is. 

How Do You Get Others to Embrace This Thinking?

When leaders are great problem solvers, team members begin to rely on them to solve every problem naturally. If you are in this camp, be humble and embrace the skills you have developed, but don’t settle. If you are the only person solving problems, you won’t go far as a leader.  

If you are the only person solving problems, you won’t go far as a leader.  

It’s your job to embrace problem-solving through systems and collaboration. Then to talk about the shared responsibility of every team member to problem solve, and never settle for anything less.  

Keys to Creating Proactive Problem Solvers

Great leaders use all kinds of strategies and techniques to get team members in a problem-solving mentality. Horst Schulze, the famous customer service and hotel executive, allowed employees at the Ritz Carlton a budget of up to $2,000 to solve problems and delight customers without approval when they deemed necessary.  

Since each companies budgets are different, the common threads for leaders to focus on are:

  • Culture 
  • Coaching

I defined culture in Building the Best as “the shared values and beliefs that guide thinking and behavior.” When solving problems is a core value, and it’s rewarded and recognized when team members live it out; it becomes engrained in your culture. Once this happens in a company, not only does each team know it, they hold each other accountable. If you are interested in company culture, you can register for the free webinar here.

Since not everyone has fully developed their problem-solving skills, coaching is essential to help them thrive. There are great ideas in a previous column, however, there is one particular coaching question that you should add to your repertoire when a team member presents a problem. Here it is:

“What have you done or attempted up until this point to solve it?”

This coaching question demonstrates to team members that you care about what they have attempted. You reinforce the essential nature of their critical thinking before suggesting or collaborating on a possible solution. 

There are certainly exceptions to every rule, like a genuine emergency. Outside of these situations, the better you get at asking questions to challenge people to solve a problem, the better off your team will be in the long run. 

Closing

Unfortunately, there are many professionals out there who believe they are effective problem solvers, but in reality, they are relatively average. If you are curious about yourself, answer this question, “do people know you for your problem-solving skills?”  

If you are a team leader, I want you to ask a slightly different question, “do people know your team members as proactive problem solvers?” If you don’t know the answer to either question, you are just blending in with every other professional. 

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

Simple 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.

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

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