Most Managers Make This Significant Mistake When Coaching Others

Make a mistake

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

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

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

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

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

The Worst Mistake Leaders Make When Coaching Their People

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

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

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

The Reason Leaders Make This Mistake

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

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

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

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

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

How to Become a More Effective Coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing

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

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

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

10 Leadership Tips for Managers Who Want to Be Great in Their Job

Mislead, word in 3D wooden alphabet letters with mis crossed out leaving the word lead.

It’s often the small things that make the biggest difference.  

What manager doesn’t want to be excellent in their job? To not just get consistent results, but to have team members fully engaged, developing, and living out the organization’s mission.  

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that most managers aren’t very good. My in-the-field research, gained by training managers to become leaders the last several years, suggests that 50% of managers should turn in their title and go back to being individual contributors. The list of reasons is long but boiled down; it’s their inability or unwillingness to inspire, empower, and serve their team members. 

Most managers aren’t leaders because they are unwilling to inspire, empower, and serve their team.  

However, a significant group of managers enjoy their role and aspire to become the best leader they can be but struggle to make the leap. Often, there is too much focus on doing big or significant things like giving a big speech, solving a huge problem, or making changes to the team. But the truth is, rarely is it one big thing that causes one to be perceived as a leader. It’s often the small things done repeatedly well that make the biggest difference.  

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains

Take, for instance, David Brailsford, the British Cycling coach who made famous the theory of marginal gains. If you are unfamiliar with either Brailsford or Marginal gains, here is the summarized version.

Coach Brailsford took over a British Cycling team that was abysmal and had been for 100 years. Instead of changing everything about the team, he adopted a different strategy known as the aggregation of marginal gains or the 1% rule. The idea was simple; if you broke down everything you could think of that it takes to be a successful rider, then improved by 1% every day, you would get a significant increase in the long run.  

The cycling team took on the manta of 1% better, and day after day, they focused on getting a little better, and eventually, it added up on the scoreboard. In the 2012 London Olympics, they won 8 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze, and in Rio, in 2016, they won 6 gold, 4 silver, and 1 bronze. An enormous improvement from a team that has just won 2 bronze total since 1984.  

In other words, the aggregation of marginal gains works whether you are talking about sport or leadership. So, with that in mind, I listed 10 tips for managers to get 1% better to become the leader they can ultimately be.  

1. Do One Thing Every Day to Build Trust-Based Relationships

Your ability to lead and not just manage a team starts with good, quality, professional relationships built on the bond of mutual trust. George Macdonald famously said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” To do this, you must consistently share your competence, care, and character for people to trust you. The key here is consistency, Reid Hoffmann, a founder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock, provides a simple formula for quickly understanding trust.

Consistency + Time = Trust

2. Take Leadership Outside the Business Conversation

In a hybrid or remote work environment, most interactions between managers and their team focus on business and results. While results are essential, understanding that part of a leader’s job is to elevate others inside and outside work. As Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, “my job is to serve my player’s hearts, not just their talents.”  

Create opportunities to take your leadership outside the business conversation by asking one of my favorite questions: “Is there someone whom you admire or aspire to be like because of the kind of person they are inside and outside of work?”

3. Put 1-on-1’s on the Calendar

Spontaneous 1-on-1 meetings with team members are great but not super realistic as the daily hustle and bustle take over. Sure, the idea of scheduling dedicated time to help support the growth and development of people doesn’t sound super realistic, but it can help keep people on track. If this is an area of improvement for you or the managers in your organization, check out Peoplebox

4. Let Other People Solve Problems

Maybe you’re a bit of a control freak. Maybe you are an elite problem-solver, which helped you get to your position today. Those things by themselves are great, but if you are the only person who can solve your team’s problems, you won’t go far or fast. There is an old African proverb that all leaders must remember, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

Find at least one opportunity each week to challenge team members to solve a problem independently or develop a list of possible solutions to solve it collaboratively. When you do this, you will have shared responsibility and be moving together as a team of people pulling their weight. 

5. Tell a Story a Day

If you want to inspire people like the best leaders in the world, you might want to think about telling a story every day. Storytelling allows you to reach both the emotional and the rational parts of an employee’s mind. Unfortunately, many managers forget how important storytelling is and stick solely to facts and figures, which turns their team members’ brains to negative or neutral. 

Managers speak primarily in facts and figures; leaders talk in stories.

6. Embrace Taking Blame

Taking the blame for something that you didn’t physically do can be challenging. However, that’s exactly what the best leaders do because they know this essential lesson:

Leaders are responsible for the people, and those people are responsible for the results.  

Your job is to be responsible for your people, and when a mistake happens (which it will), don’t throw them under the bus; fall on the sword for them. You will be amazed at how hard team members will work to make it up to you, knowing that the mistake should have fallen on them. 

7. Don’t Forget to Give Credit

If it’s hard for you to take the blame, that means it’s even harder to give credit. Dave Cancel, the founder of Drift, said, “My best advice for leaders: when things go wrong, take all the blame. When things go right, give away all the credit.”

Following up and following through on this leadership truth is hard and takes practice. From the time we are in school, we are taught to raise the trophy high above our heads, not above others.

8. Say Something When Effort Isn’t There

When it comes to getting better as a leader, we tend to focus on changing the behavior of others. But the reality is, we should be focused on looking at our behavior first. An example of this is our courage and skill to have difficult conversations.

When something isn’t right, like a lack of effort or a bad attitude, it’s your obligation to determine what is going on. Find the courage to say something, and get to the root of what may be causing the issue. 

9. “Thank You” a Day Keeps the “My Boss is an Ass” Away

There is nothing wrong with being a leader who elevates the standard of what’s required to help produce positive results. However, if you refuse to say “thank you” or “great job,” it will eventually wear your people out. Instead of being called a “leader,” you will be called “ass” behind your back.  

Challenge yourself to give praise or recognition on a more consistent cadence and rhythm than you are today. 

10. Invest In Your People

Being invested in feels good. It shows that either through money or time that someone cares about you. The best companies in the world and the best leaders in the world understand that investing in people is a worthwhile investment. Or you could say it this way, a company that doesn’t invest in managers doesn’t value leadership. 

A company that doesn’t invest in managers doesn’t value leadership.

If you don’t control the company budget for the investment in people, look for smaller opportunities to invest in your people with learning opportunities. You could start a book club, run an internal training session, or simply pass around a leadership column (hint…hint)

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop. https://bit.ly/3goZLv2

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

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

How to Handle Working for a Bad Manager

Retro office interior workspace and robot manager.

Unrealistic expectations cause problems and are exposed in a multitude of situations. Sometimes they are related to ourselves and thinking we should never make a mistake. Other times, they are connected to someone else that we interact with, like a boss or manager. 

We all have unrealistic expectations, but this doesn’t mean they are good for you. Quite the opposite, they can ruin a relationship, cause disengagement at work, and stop us from achieving attainable goals. 

“Unrealistic expectations are the seeds of resentment.” 

These are the wise words a coach and mentor told me as I wrestled with feelings of frustration with a former boss. While I struggled to understand his remarks at the time, it’s clear now that when we or anyone else falls short of our unrealistic expectations, we draw false conclusions, feed ourselves lies, and start the process of adverse outcomes becoming a reality.  

Take Larry, an experienced salesperson, as an example. He joined a company in startup mode and reported to Tom, a young and energetic first-time VP of Sales. Larry held the unrealistic expectation that “Tom should never be late to a virtual meeting.” He viewed tardiness as a sign of disrespect to him and anyone else attending a meeting.  

While Tom didn’t intend to be late for meetings with Larry, it was impossible for him to always be on time due to situations outside of his control. He reported to a long-winded CEO, had twelve salespeople with various experience levels, and was responsible for helping his young kids navigate virtual school at home. 

When Tom joined calls late, Larry concluded that Tom wasn’t a good leader because he lacked great time management skills. Instead of getting curious and uncovering the reasons for Tom’s tardiness, Larry allowed his disappointment to affect his effort. This eventually snowballed into an unfortunate split from the company that was eventually purchased by a competitor, causing Larry to miss out on a significant payday. 

What are Unrealistic Expectations?

An expectation is a belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. Unrealistic expectations assume a level of control that we don’t actually have in a situation. This is not to say that having expectations or standards of behavior is a bad thing. The keyword here is unrealistic.  

The gap between unrealistic expectations and reality lies in disappointment. If disappointment isn’t dealt with, it will hurt instead of helping your future outcomes. 

If disappointment, the gap between expectations and reality, isn’t dealt with, it will hurt instead of helping your future outcomes.

As someone who cares about achieving goals, properly dealing with feelings of disappointment is something, you should care about. While the strategies for best navigating dissatisfaction are long, it’s essential to be aware and have the courage to confront it. 

Why Most Employees Have Unrealistic Expectation of Their Boss

Most people are hard on themselves and even harder on their managers at work. The reason is simple, we desire people in leadership positions to be better and make fewer mistakes than we do. While it’s true that experience and wisdom lend leaders to make effective decisions and perform at a high level, no one is perfect.  

Just because someone has a title doesn’t make them perfect. Give leaders the grace you should give yourself.  

If this Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, employees need people in their corner who can empathize with their situation and act accordingly; leaders included.  

How to Relinquish Unrealistic Expectation of Your Manager

One of the keys to your engagement and performance is relinquishing unrealistic expectations of your manager. Here are a few ways to do that:

1. Focus on Growth Mode

There are so many bad managers because being an effective leader is hard. Having said that, there is a big difference between having solid boundaries for how a boss/manager should treat you and being patient with them when they are actively working on improving. If a manager constantly berates or treats you like you are beneath them, it is safe to assume that there is a need for immediate change.  However, there is more to flesh out than meets the eye in a situation like Larry and Tom’s.  

One way of relinquishing unrealistic expectations for a manager is to evaluate if they are in growth mode. The reason is simple;

“One mark of a leader getting better is their willingness to seek feedback and act differently because of it.”

If you were new to a job or role, you would want others to be patient as you developed the skills required to succeed. Now is the time to do the same for others. To determine if your boss is deserving of this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are they reading books, listening to podcasts, or attending workshops to grow their knowledge and develop their skills?
  • Do they ask for feedback from you or anyone else about what they can do better?
  • Have they completed a 360° assessment in the past 12 months?
  • Are they leading their best in the corporate environment and culture you both are in?

2. Use the Heart to Heart Technique

This technique isn’t for the faint of heart (pun intended). The heart-to-heart technique is a scheduled meeting with your manager designed and practiced before it takes place. It’s a courageous conversation laying evidence and feelings about what you need from your manager to be engaged and perform at your best. 

While this technique doesn’t always go as planned or have the desired outcome, you should feel good about opening the lines of communication and giving the situation a chance to improve. 

Closing

Unrealistic expectations about your manager are unhelpful expectations. They set both parties up for disappointment. Now is the time to reevaluate, better communicate, and have higher levels of empathy for everyone in the workplace, your boss included. 

Coaching for Excellence: The development of your coaching skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop. https://bit.ly/3goZLv2

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz: Join over 65k 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 the Best Leaders Embrace the Uncomfortable

angry businessman yelling and working with documents and cardboard laptop in box

Doing hard things isn’t easy.  

Most people avoid challenging things altogether. Others choose to start, but when they figure out the difficulty of what’s ahead of them, they decide to take the path of least resistance. 

Take Mike, a former front-line manager in a manufacturing facility as an example. After seven years of honing his skills as an engineer in the plant, he applied for an open management position in another organization. It seemed like the next logical step in his career progression and there was a significant jump in pay. To his surprise, he was awarded the job.  

Even though he started with good intentions, he quickly began to dislike his new role for one big reason; the people that reported to him. As he described it to me in a coaching session, “Outside of a few team members, employees weren’t passionate, motivated, or very skilled. If that weren’t enough, they complained and made excuses instead of taking responsibility.” He paused, then continued, “I was young and inexperienced as a manager, so instead of coaching, developing, and hiring new people, I put my head down and did the jobs of as many people as I could, working 60+ hours a week.”

In less than two years, Mike resigned from his management job and went back to his old engineering position at his previous company. Even though each person’s situation is slightly different, Mike’s story reminds us of an authentic leadership truth:

There are so many bad managers because being a good leader is hard.  

Leadership is Hard, But You Can Be Successful At It

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, “someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.”

Instead of thinking about a leadership position as unattainable or something that is 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. After that decision is made, success will require you to navigate two primary issues:

  1. Time
  2. Effort

Overcoming Time and Giving Maximum Effort. 

Leadership is not an action to be carried out one time and then forgotten. There will be moments of leadership in one’s journey where one courageous act will demonstrate leadership. These moments should be celebrated and then replicated as much as possible over the course of your daily life.

Do not imagine that leadership is an action to be carried out one time and then forgotten

Once you choose to inspire, empower, and serve to elevate others for the long term, you will be on a path to successful leadership. At some point on this journey, you will realize that only hard work allows you to be a great leader. Here are two action items to carry in your leadership toolbox that will allow you to succeed along the way: 

1. Invest in Your Development Daily

Karl Popper famously said, “True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.” Don’t wait for the next corporate leadership training initiative or pass on opportunities to pick up a book. We are in the golden age of education. Research indicates that we create as much information every day as the world did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. To put this in perspective, blog writers post 1,400 blogs, and YouTube users upload 72 hours of content a minute. That doesn’t even begin to touch content added to platforms like LinkedIn, TikTok, and Podcasts. The amount of valuable and invaluable is limitless. 

“True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.” – Karl Popper

Your job is to invest in your development daily, and put the right content in your brain. No excuses because no one can do it for you. 

2. Get Good at Thinking of Others

When you first look at a group picture on Facebook or Instagram with yourself in it, who is the first person you look for? Nearly 100% of the time, it’s yourself. We are hardwired to think of ourselves and our self-interest first, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can train yourself to think of others first and put others’ needs ahead of your own.  

I don’t pretend this is easy, but to lead effectively, you have to get good at thinking of others. If this is an area where you struggle, start small. Look for small opportunities daily to put someone else’s needs before your own, and you will find it’s often more rewarding than the alternative. 

Closing

Being a leader is hard and, at times, uncomfortable. This is precisely why you should run towards it instead of away from it. Living a life of significance and creating a career with a positive impact isn’t found in easy or comfortable things.  

You will never be a perfect leader because leadership is a journey and not a destination. You will fail more than you succeed: but, what’s most important is you understand that being a successful leader is hard, but you should pursue it anyways. Through investing in your development and getting good at thinking of others, you will be on the correct path. 

Do you agree? 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.

Drive Better Results and Retention: Exciting news! LearnLoft has partnered with Peoplebox to help provide HR Leaders and Executives an all-in-one engagement and performance platform. Learn More 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 Successfully Lead a Hybrid Team

work from home

A lot goes into a companies’ successful transition into hybrid work. Everything from software and tools to modified office space leases to creating corporate policies around the future workplace, just to name a few. 

Research is suggesting hybrid work is not only the future; it’s what most employees want. In one survey, only 12% of U.S. respondents said they wanted to go back into the office full-time, and nearly half of those would even take a pay cut to be able to work from home.

According to new data from LinkedIn’s Glint Unit, the majority of workers (56%) prefer a hybrid working model, allowing them to shuffle between working from home and the office. Comparatively, 31 % prefer to be fully remote, and 13% prefer to be onsite.  

Not Everyone Agrees

James Gorman, the Morgan Stanley CEO, has doubled down on his stance against working from home by saying, “I fundamentally believe the way you and I develop our career is by being mentored and by watching and experiencing the professional skills of those who came before us, You can’t do that by sitting at home by yourself, there’s a limit to Zoom technology.”

Gorman isn’t wrong, and many CEOs agree with him and have planned a total return to the office. 

While there isn’t one correct answer for every company, only time will tell if organizations that demand a return to an office will experience the “great resignation” as research and experts have predicted. In a survey conducted by Apple employees in June, 36.7% of respondents said they were worried they’d have to leave Apple due to the lack of flexibility.

Note: Having had the opportunity to train and coach leaders in all different industries, I don’t see the “great resignation” happening because of hybrid work policies, if it happens it will be because people are being overworked.

It’s essential to note that hybrid work isn’t an option in many industries, to begin with. Manufacturing, construction, or warehouse workers need to be onsite to complete the job, as do most healthcare workers. It’s been estimated that remote work is an option for less than half of the U.S. workforce.  

However, for those industries where work can be done remotely, managers and executives should be trying to enhance flexibility for team members to maintain job satisfaction and long-term retention. To go a step further, what is most important is for managers to choose leadership because that’s what’s required in the hybrid world of work. Because choosing to lead is as important as leadership itself.

Choosing to lead is as important as leadership itself.

Unfortunately, we have too many people in positions of authority who aren’t choosing leadership. 

Hybrid work brings complexities to managers that have rarely been experienced. While it’s far from easy to lead a team when everyone is in the same situation, there will undoubtedly be times where half a team is in person, and the other half is remote. Thus causing a more complex and challenging environment to accomplish goals, collaborate effectively, and develop people.  As Brian Tracy famously said:

“Flexibility in times of great change is a vital quality of leadership.”

Since hybrid work is what most employees want and it’s likely here to stay in some form or fashion for years to come. If you are going to choose to lead and not just manage your hybrid team, here are a few best practices to help you:

1. Drop the Judgement and Embrace Empathy

Everyone’s situation and how they work best won’t be the same. To pass judgment on employees for being lazy because they don’t want to return to the office full time is awful leadership. Some people have fallen in love with not sitting in the car for 2+ hours a day, grabbing a quick home workout during a break, or interacting with their family more. Reject the temptation to judge employees who are highly successful working remotely who prefer to keep scheduling flexibility.  

To pass judgment on employees for being lazy because they don’t want to return to the office full time is awful leadership.

Instead, embrace empathy. Put yourself in your teammate’s shoes and act differently because of it. Suppose traffic and commute are a problem, schedule critical meetings mid-day to allow team members to come into the office after rush hour. If culture and teamwork are an issue, schedule an offsite at a destination hotel to reconnect the team and strengthen relationships. The point is to know your people and devise a strategy that allows them to maintain the flexibility that they have come to love. 

2. Clarify Hybrid Work Standards

A standard is defining what good looks like. From all of our research in studying what the best leaders do in Building the Best, it’s clear:

Managers define what good looks like; leaders define what great looks like. 

It will be tempting to lower the standards since the team will be in and out of the office. I urge you to reject this temptation and instead maintain or even raise the standard. 

An example of an excellent hybrid work standards includes; a standing weekly team meeting where everyone is an active participant, a bi-weekly one-on-one meeting with every team member to focus on growth and development, and a biannual in-person meeting to focus on skill development, strategy, and alignment.  

3. Coach for Development 

Since so much work is about outcomes, leaders need to make a dedicated effort to coach and develop their people. The word coach comes from “carriage,” which means to take someone from where they are today to where they want to go. In Coaching for Excellence, I define it this way:

“Coaching is helping improve current and future performance to reach higher levels of excellence.”

Doing this effectively as a manager of a hybrid team is challenging. If you are going to coach your people for development, being present in your interactions is essential. Reject the temptation to multitask and instead lock in and focus on how you can help them develop.  

You can download the 8 Coaching Questions Download for free here.

4. Leverage Hybrid Tools That Promote Leadership

There is an old saying, “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” Trying to lead a hybrid team without technology tools to lead the team is a recipe for disaster. Thanks to an exciting partnership between LearnLoft and Peoplebox.ai, you or the leaders in your organization can now leverage the best hybrid leadership tools on the market at the best price.

Measure manager effectiveness, provide one-on-one, and OKR tools in one place. All you have to do is schedule a demo today.

Closing

Regardless of your organization’s new future work policy. You are capable of leading your hybrid team in this new world of work. Embrace the discomfort of your environment and elevate your people to higher levels of performance.

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

Successful Teams Have Leaders Who Do These 4 Things

Team work

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out some groups of people perform better than others. Not only do high-performing teams produce better business outcomes, but their team members are engaged, feel like they belong, and contribute towards the team’s success. 

There have been many great studies about what makes a team successful. Including Google’s two-year study that found there were five characteristics of enhanced teams, with the most important being psychological safety. While psychological safety is essential, there is another common thread of all high-performing teams, a shared goal.

A team, by definition, is a group of individuals working together to achieve a goal. While the explanation is simple, almost everyone has been a part of a group that wasn’t working to achieve a shared goal. This is precisely where many managers fail. They assume that because of their position, they lead a team, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.  

Just because you manage a group of people doesn’t mean you lead a team. 

What Leaders Do To Build a Successful Team

Leaders think and act differently than managers. They realize a group of people can work well together without a shared goal, but the likelihood of sustaining success or staying together when adversity hits are very low. 

I have found coaching so many effective leaders that they are not only obsessive about gaining buy-in towards a shared goal, but they do a few other things to build a successful team. If you want to emulate them, here are a few things to remember. 

They Aren’t the Only Leader.

Conventional wisdom says the person at the top of the hierarchical org chart is the only leader, but that would be wrong. For any team to reach heights they never thought possible; it needs leaders at every level.

For any team to reach heights they never thought possible, it needs leaders at every level.

While this can be difficult to institutionalize, it starts with changing your mindset that you are the only leader. Once your heart and mind are in the right place, you have to teach others what it means to be a leader and why it’s so important they lead right where they are. 

In Building the Best, I defined leadership this way: “Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others.”

There are two keywords here; elevate others. Every single member of your team, regardless of their role or title, can elevate others. It often just takes a leader like you, who invests in the leadership development of others to help make this a reality.

Their Team Meetings Are Essential 

A recent estimate suggests that employees endure a staggering 55 million meetings a day in the United States. This tremendous time investment typically yields only modest returns. Add to the fact that the new remote and hybrid world of work is our new reality; the time leaders dedicate to coming together virtually or in-person must be time well spent. If done well, team meetings can be the backbone to build trust, develop teamwork, and mold culture. 

The time leaders dedicate to their team coming together virtually, or in-person must be time well spent.  

You can have quality and productive meetings by narrowing your focus on the purpose of each meeting and making sure each person is an active participant. While this can be difficult, there might be nothing more important in your business than having meetings that matter.

They Embrace the Journey

Leading a team today is more complicated than ever because of the constant pressure to create positive results immediately. While the best leaders care about the results, they lean into the journey instead of the immediate outcomes. 

No team’s journey is the same, but every team will experience adversity and failure. The leaders who keep their view on the long term instead of the short term will set their team up for success.  

You can do this by getting your team to buy into the journey and embracing the process. As I wrote in a previous column, “focus on the gain, instead of the gap.”

They Create a Culture of Accountability.

In many ways, the most challenging element of leadership is being a leader of consequence and holding people accountable. Accountability is a word that has been used so much that its meaning has been lost. The actual definition is, “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.”

As I teach in our Leveraging Accountability workshops, the best leaders don’t look at accountability as optional; they embrace the obligation because they know it’s a key to a team’s success. You can make accountability an obligation by praising people when standards are exceeded, acknowledging people when standards are met, and giving direct feedback if your people fall short of those standards. 

As that culture of accountability spreads, members of your team will hold each other accountable, and that’s precisely when you know your team has arrived. 

Closing:

There is nothing easy about bringing together people from different places, with different strengths, and with different experiences to work together to achieve a common goal. However, I believe you are in your position for a reason and are just the person to make it happen. 

The only question is, “are you willing to do the hard work necessary to make it a reality?”

What are other strategies you use or have observed other leaders leverage to create effective teams? 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.

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

3 Common Mistakes Leaders Make (and How to Avoid Them)

The wooden block fell out of order

No one likes to make mistakes, but it’s a part of being human.

When it comes to leadership, one significant mistake can cause you to fail. 

Take Jordan, a division President as an example. In one of his big hiring decisions, he was down to two external candidates. Everyone in the company preferred Ron over Ellen because of his deep industry experience. But in the interview process, Jordan saw significant character issues that he thought would cause problems down the road. Instead of trusting his judgment, he hired Ron anyway. Sure enough, within two years, Ron cost the company millions of dollars in a lawsuit because of a flawed character decision. If that wasn’t enough, Jordan lost his job because of Ron’s actions.  

Since then, Jordan has bounced back and gone on to be the CEO of a high-growth company, but he refuses to make the same mistake again. He spends a significant amount of time refining the organization’s hiring system and evaluating core values alignment before signing anyone on the dotted line.  

In studying so many great leaders and coaching leaders like Jordan, I have learned an essential lesson:

All leaders make mistakes, the best leaders learn from them and refuse to make them again.  

Mistakes Come in All Sizes

A mistake is defined as an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong. As previously noted, leaders can fail because of significant errors, but more often than not, it’s repeating the same small mistakes over and over again that cause an unengaged team. With this in mind, here are some less obvious mistakes I see that you will want to avoid to be a more effective leader. 

1. Focusing on the Gap, Not the Gain

There is a good chance you wouldn’t be in a leadership position if you didn’t have a vision for a better place tomorrow than where you are today. Because of this, it’s tempting to focus on the gap between where you are concerning that vision versus how far you have come. 

In a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Pete Burak described it so well, “Many millennial leaders make the mistake of not trusting the process and measuring the gain and not the gap.” Not only is Burak right, but every leader regardless of age, can make this mistake. You can watch the clip here.

2. Losing Sight of a Deeper Purpose

It will always be easier as a manager to focus on the outcome of hitting metrics. While targets such as revenue are crucial for any business, it’s a mistake to only focus on them and lose sight of a deeper purpose.  

For some people, “purpose” feels like a righteous or elitist word. But being able to persevere through tough times or challenge your team to new heights often requires a more profound purpose or cause. Dr. Miles Munroe said, “you must believe, deep inside of you, that you were born to do more than survive, make a living, and die. You were created with a gift inside of you; your job is to find that gift and serve it to the world.”

The best leaders not only know this, but they lean into it. They spend the time, energy, and effort to determine their deeper purpose and connect their team to a cause beyond just making money.  

3. Taking Credit for Sucess and Shifting Blame for Failure

Taking credit and shifting blame is a mistake many leaders in big organizations have made to jockey for hierarchical positions. However, it’s not an error you want to repeat. Great leaders take more responsibility for mistakes and less responsibility for success. 

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

By leading this way, team members will recognize what you are doing and give more effort in the future to elevate the job you are doing. Everyone will make mistakes when they are doing challenging work, so embrace leadership’s responsibility and stop blaming your team. As Jack Welch famously said,

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

Closing

I don’t know anyone who likes making mistakes, but if you aren’t going to repeat them it required significant mental energy and effort. If you recognize you are making some of these mistakes in the way you lead, don’t beat yourself up. A mentor reminded me recently, “a mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker. A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end.”

Brush off your mistakes, learn from them, and try not to make them again.

Do you agree? What are simple mistakes you see managers make?

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

Why Great Leaders Focus on Actions Not Intentions

Business concept for growth success process

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

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

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

Good intentions without quality actions are meaningless in leadership.

Intentions Aren’t Enough in Leadership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Effective Communication

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

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

Aligned Expectations

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

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

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

Continuous Growth and Development

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

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

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

Honesty and Integrity

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

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

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

Closing

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

Do you agree?

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

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

The Simple Rule You Should Adopt Before Firing an Employee

Boss firing a male subordinate

If you have chosen a position that comes with the responsibility of leading people, you have wrestled with this question, “Is this person the right fit?” There are times when that examination is silent in your mind, or it’s a full-fledged conversation with someone else for counsel.  

Unfortunately, the hard decisions around talent management are just part of the territory of leadership. Anyone involved in the talent management life cycle knows the three essential components; hiring, retaining and firing. 

Many phenomenal leaders have adopted the talent mantra “hire slow, fire fast,” and for good reason. Getting the right people on the team is the most critical decision any leader makes.  

Getting the right people on the team is the most critical decision any leader makes

When teams have the right people, leading is not only easier, it’s more enjoyable. But even the best leaders who spend a substantial amount of time vetting potential candidates for skill and culture fit make mistakes.  

Other managers are hired or promoted into their role and they assume responsibility for team members they didn’t choose or hire. This means their first two to four weeks are heavily focused on identifying whether they have the right team on the bus.  

For any manager that finds themselves in one of these positions or has recently asked the question, “Is this person the right fit?” It’s time to adopt the “45 Day Rule.”  

The “45 Day Rule”

Time and feelings are funny things when paired together. In one moment, we can be sure of something, and just a few days later, we can feel the opposite way. Because of this, the “fire fast” mantra is a little too hasty for my liking.  

Instead, I coach leaders to leverage the “45 Day Rule.” Here is how it works. Once you question whether someone is the right fit or in the right role, you set a date on your calendar 45 business days in the future. Then, on or before that date, a decision is made about their future employment.

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This approach provides the timeline and freedom to coach them up or move them out. 

Within the “45 Day Rule,” commit to doing three key things:

1. Communicate the Truth 

I have written before, “all improvement starts with the truth.” When it comes to talent-related decisions, communicating the truth is no different. Talented professionals deserve the truth when it comes to their future.

Now, there are different ways to communicate the thought or belief that this person might not be in the proper role. But, regardless of what you say, it should always start with something like this: “I care about you as a person, which means I care about your performance.”

Opening up your conversation this way demonstrates that you are sharing the truth with them because you want them to be successful and are not judging them as a person but how they are performing.

2. Coach Them Daily

It’s far common for managers who have mentally made up their minds that someone isn’t an excellent fit to ignore them to help justify their upcoming decision. I can’t stand this approach because it’s the easy way out.  

There is no denying that fact some people won’t work out. However, we owe it to ourselves and to them to do what’s in our power to help them succeed. One of those things is coaching.  

The development of team members should always be a priority, and coaching them should be a daily habit. However, when a team member is within the “45 Day Rule”, turning up the coaching dial is required.  

The development of team members should always be a priority, and coaching them should be a daily habit. 

Seek out opportunities to help develop their skills and be conscious of asking great coaching questions instead of just giving them answers.  Learn to be an effective coach in less than 1 hour with the Coaching for Excellence Program.

3. Provide Quality Feedback

Coaching and feedback are different things trying to achieve a similar result and both are important during the “45 Day Rule.”

Here are some general differences between coaching and feedback:

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There is a simple and effective way that researchers call “Magical feedback” that I described in Building the Best.

The Exception to the Rule

With any rule, there is always an exception. If the person whom you would add to the “45 Day Rule” is; an energy vampire, hurts your culture, is a terrible personality fit, or has shown no desire to develop the skills required to do the job, there is no need to wait.  

The sooner you decide someone is a bad cultural fit, the less time and energy both parties waste.  

Closing

Deciding to retain someone or removing them to help them find a better fit someone where else isn’t easy. But you are in your role for a reason and that’s to make decisions like this. So have courage and use the “45 Day Rule” to help you make the best decision possible. 

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

What Great Leaders Understand About Employee Motivation

Motivation, solution, success key

One of your team members is disengaged at work. What do you do as a leader?

Do you let it slide because of the Pandemic? Do you say something immediately, or do you wait a few weeks? Do you give them time off in hopes they rekindle the fire? 

The answer to these questions all relates to truly understanding motivation, but probably not in the way you’re thinking.

Most leaders think of motivation as something people should have all the time. In reality, motivation is someone’s willingness to do something that fluctuates over time. Researchers define motivation as a reason for actions, willingness, and goals. The word is derived from the word motive or a need that requires satisfaction.

As simple as this definition is, the layers of complexity behind being and staying motivated are more complicated than most people realize. Organizational leaders need to be aware of this because part of their job is related to helping others be and stay motivated. Dwight D. Eisenhower said it well: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done, because he wants to do it.”  

Leadership requires getting to someone’s heart, management requires exerting authority. 

Even though there are sentiments of coercion in Eisenhower’s definition, the statement holds truth. Because leadership requires getting to someone’s heart, while management only requires leveraging authority.   

What Bad Leaders Get Wrong About Motivation

One of the surprising things about motivation is that each person can be motivated by different things. Those motivations can also shift as needs are met, or as situations change. James Clear provides some great ideas about the Science of Motivation here.

However, bad leaders fail to recognize this. Bad leaders move forward under the assumption that their team is motivated by the same goals, failing to recognize their differences. 

Bad leaders assume that others are motivated by the same things they are motivated by.  

In the for-profit business world, this often manifests itself in the carrot that is money. Now before you go thinking I will bash financial returns as a lousy motivator, stop yourself. Finances are one of the common motivators for professionals, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, money is not the only one. Part of your job as a leader is to understand what I call a “Prime Motivation” for each team member. Some of the other “Prime Motivators” outside of financial rewards include: Praise from Others, Being Challenged or Solving Tough Problems, Being Heard or Known, Helping Others’ Have Success.

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How to Properly Help Motivate Team Members

As a leader, you are responsible for energizing your team and helping them become motivated to be at their best. The good news is that boosting your employees’ enthusiasm isn’t necessarily as hard — or time-consuming — as you might expect. 

1. Connect Them to a Deeper Cause

What I have found in my work helping leaders from different industries is we are most inspired by our impact on other people. We will work harder and longer and better—and feel happier about the work we are doing—when we know that someone else is benefiting from our efforts.

So the fastest and most effective path to helping motivate people on a daily basis is by connecting them to the deeper cause behind their work. Even the most repetitive jobs and tasks, when tied to a deeper cause, can be incredibly motivating and rewarding.  

If you have never done this exercise before or if your primary target has solely been a revenue number at the end of the year, I would ask yourself this simple question:

How do you help improve the lives of others who are positively impacted by your team’s effort?

The answer to this question gets to the root of the deeper cause behind your team’s work.

2. Provide a Maximizing Mantra

Mantras may only be a few words long, but they can have a powerful motivating impact. After studying great leaders in different industries, it’s clear they tap into their power to help motivate their team. I refer to these in Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success as “Maximizing Mantras.” A maximizing mantra provides energy to the team even before you achieve the results. With just a few words, you create the inspirational drive that helps inspire future successes.

One of the most recent (and well-known) maximizing mantras was college football coach P.J. Fleck’s “Row the Boat,” which helped bring the previously overlooked Western Michigan football team into the limelight with a winning record and a spot in the 2017 Cotton Bowl. The mantra has come to define the coach and his teams, even after moving to a new job at the University of Minnesota.

In an interview with MLive, Fleck explained that the mantra referred to three parts: the oar, which provided the energy, the boat, which represented the sacrifices that team members, administration, and fans were willing to make for the program, and finally, the compass, which symbolized the direction the team wanted to go. Combining all these ideas into a single phrase served as a powerful motivator for the team.

When you find short, simple phrases that encapsulate big ideas, you can quickly inspire your team to work harder and with more intensity than they’ve ever had before.

3. Encourage Them to Pursue Things Outside of the Workplace.

The most controversial way to motivate a team member is to encourage them to pursue ambitions and goals outside of work that is in alignment with their prime motivator. We are in a brand new era of work, where in most industries outside of the manufacturing space, work can be completed anywhere and anytime.  

Instead of acting like the job someone is doing as a part of your team or organization is the only thing on the planet, take the opposite mindset. Encourage them to pursue fitness goals, side hustles, or family passions. Things like running a marathon, starting an eCommerce business, or coaching a kids soccer team.  

Not only will your people appreciate the fact that you are with the times, but they will also develop confidence and skills by pursuing passions outside of work that will help them do their job more efficiently and effectively. 

Closing

These ideas and strategies are just the tip of the iceberg as it relates to motivation. The fact you are thinking about and are concerned about adequately motivating yourself and others in ways beyond cracking the whip or just throwing more money at the problem places you far ahead of the competition.  

Energizing and motivating your team isn’t something that consistently happens in strategy meetings or a brief virtual encounter on Zoom or Slack. It’s best done in arranged one-on-one coaching sessions dedicated to understanding each person and their goals on a deeper level. By taking a little time out of your schedule to use these unique motivational tactics, you can give your team the drive they need to succeed.

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