5 Things Modern Employees Need to Be Fully Engaged


Modern employees have needs—a lot of them. The typical needs revolve around fair compensation, exciting work, and being a part of a team. 

Meeting these basic needs as a leader is essential to have engaged, productive, and positive team members over time. However, it’s meeting a team member’s advanced needs where the difference between a manager and a leader begins to emerge.

Managers meet their team’s basic needs, leaders meet their team’s advanced needs.

Difference Between a Want, Need, and an Advanced Need

It’s common to use the words want and need interchangeably. Just for the sake of clarity, there is a slight distinction between the two. 

Want: have a desire to possess or do something; wish for

Need: require something because it’s essential or very important rather than just desirable.

The difference between an employee’s basic needs and their advanced needs is slightly more complicated. Most people are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; when it comes to employees, the basic needs are essential and fall within Maslow’s “deficiency needs” (physiological, safety, belonging, esteem). Maslow’s top-level, known as “growth needs,” by definition, growth needs do not stem from the lack of something, but rather the desire to grow as a person. This is precisely where most of the advanced needs employees desire now live.   

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Since this pandemic has changed many of us in ways we couldn’t imagine, the advanced needs of employees have evolved. Here are five things modern employees need, whether they know it or not, that all leaders must know.  

1. They “Need” a Flexible Schedule

The jury is still out on what companies will do with the work from home model post-pandemic. Companies like Ford and others have adopted permanent work from home policies. The future of work is almost certainly a hybrid model.  

Regardless of your company’s WFH policy moving forward, professionals have had a taste of flexibility, and they loved it. Whether it be having family dinner at 5:30, workouts during breaks in the calendar, working from a tropical desk, or avoiding rush hour traffic, flexibility is now essential. I would go as far as to say, companies and bosses that offer no flexibility will be forced to overpay for talented team members.  

“The best leaders will embrace calendar flexibility to attract and retain top talent.”

While there are industries and situations where being in the same room has enormous advantages and will always be required, leaders who embrace flexibility will attract and retain top talent.  

2. They “Need” Development Opportunities

A lightbulb has turned on for many professionals thanks to the ease of access to educational content. We no longer need to wait for the next company-wide training event to grow and develop our skills. It turns out that having a growth mindset is one of the essential things professionals need to adopt. 

The best leaders provide development opportunities to encourage their people to have a growth mindset. Things like workshops, seminars, conferences, books, and lunch & learns are great ways to help employees scratch their development needs. 

3. They “Need” to Be Empowered to Make Decisions

No one likes to be micromanaged, but most managers ignore this because they don’t believe they are the micromanaging type. Indeed defines micromanagement as; a management style that involves the close supervision of an employee by their manager.  

Too many managers second guess every decision their people make in fear of losing control or the belief that no one can do the work as well as they can. Micromanagement is a hurdle every manager can and must overcome because employees have an advanced need to be empowered to make decisions.  

In his new book Winning the War in Your Mind, Craig Groeschel said, “The strength of your organization is not a reflection of what you control, it’s who you empower.”

Not only is Groeschel correct but he should have you asking yourself the question, “Can you let go and allow your people to do their best work?

4. They “Need” You to Behave Like a Coach

You might think I am a broken record, writing about managers behaving and acting like a coach, but I will not stop until it starts to become a reality. It is the most crucial skill for a manager to develop today.  (See if the next Coaching for Excellence workshop is for you.)

Coaching is the most crucial skill for managers to develop in the modern workforce. 

We love to believe people are self-made, but that has never been true. It’s often the coaching of someone else that helps us become the best version of ourselves and grow our self-belief. Since most professionals or HR budgets don’t set aside a budget for an external coach, this responsibility falls squarely on the manager’s shoulder.  

If you aren’t comfortable with playing the role of a coach, at a minimum, equip yourself with a couple of great coaching questions:

  • What do you think we should do to create the best result for everyone?
  • If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to? (Out of the Michael Bungay Stanier Playbook)

5. They “Need” You to Share the Truth

This one might have caught you by surprise, but in order to grow, people need the truth. Unfortunately, too many managers and executives avoid sharing the truth with people in fear of how they might react or them leaving altogether.

Take Brent the CEO of a small business as an example. During a coaching conversation, he said something that caught me by surprise. “John, I just can’t fire this person on my team. She has been there too long and has added value over the years. Having said that, she doesn’t put in the maximum effort anymore and brings a lot of negativity into the office.” Without beating him up, I just asked him a simple question, “If someone had information about you that was true that would help you improve, would you want them to share it with you?” Without hesitation, he said “yes.”  

Part of your job as a leader is to share the truth with people and that requires courage. I wrote about courage here, but I define it in Building the Best as, “Being frightened and deciding to do it anyway.” Choose courage and share the truth with your team.

In the comments below, tell me what you think. What advanced employee needs are you experiencing yourself or have observed with your people?

Leveraging Accountability in Leadership: The development of your accountability skills will make a tremendous difference in helping you lead your best in 2021. Join me for the next Leveraging Accountability in Leadership Workshop.  

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

How Leaders Create a Thriving Culture While Working Remote

Corporate culture and discipline illustrated by office subjects in strict order

Culture has always mattered. It impacts performance, engagement, retention, and employee satisfaction. However, culture has never been more critical than it is right now. 

The idea of “culture” has been misused and misrepresented, so let’s level set on what “culture” really means. “Culture” comes from the Latin word “colere,” meaning “to cultivate.” I define company culture in Building the Best as, “The shared beliefs and values that guide thinking and behavior.” 

A leader’s job is to ensure their culture promotes effective thinking and positive behavior regardless of the circumstances. 

John Eades

Right now, a vast majority of companies and teams are working remotely. The list of companies who have made announcements of a fully remote workforce for the rest of the year is long and includes huge tech giants like Zillow, Apple, Google, Dropbox, and Twitter.  

With culture being the shared values and beliefs that guide thinking and behavior, staying remote makes the continued alignment even more challenging. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • Distance between team members
  • Limited opportunities for effective communication
  • Distracting priorities
  • Conflicting attention

Like most challenges, the payoff of success is great. If you want to build and develop a thriving culture while leading a remote team, lean into these four strategies:

Safety First

Before anyone can perform at their best while working remotely, they first need to feel safe and protected. Since Covid-19 puts a wrench right into physical safety that previously existed, we are going to focus on safety in two critical areas: 

  1. Job Security
  2. Psychological Safety 

First, while no job is 100% secure, it’s tough to create a thriving culture if people are worried about their job. At best, you can define the reality of the current economic impact on the business to provide transparency and candor. Second, employees need to feel psychologically safe enough to share ideas and feelings without fear of any repercussions.

Unity Even While Physically Apart

Feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself feeds productivity and innovation. The hardest part of remote work is the natural siloes, loneliness, and general separation it creates. While Zoom and other technologies help the cause, it’s not the same as sitting shoulder to shoulder with someone and rolling up your sleeves together. 

While there is no magic pill, nothing creates unity like achievement or working through a conflict. All the virtual coffee breaks or virtual happy hours in the world put together won’t help a team come together like a team coming together to achieve a common goal or overcoming a struggle.  (Pro Tip…Use a tool like Peoplebox to define OKR’s and measure them with a remote team)

Your job as a leader is to create clear short-term team goals and make every team member aware of their role in helping achieve that objective.  

John Eades

Positive Beliefs and Reinforced Values

Beliefs drive your actions, and actions drive results. If your team’s beliefs are optimistic and positive, good things will continue to happen. Positivity is inspired from the top-down, and it’s contagious. One of my favorite ways to do this with a remote team is to make a video like this:

Once you have the positive beliefs reinforced on a day in and day out basis, remind yourself and the team often about your shared values (the fundamental beliefs you hold to be true). If you haven’t reminded your remote team of your values, set up a culture meeting next week to reinforce them. If you don’t have your shared values defined, that meeting is a great time to do so. 

Elevate the Energy

Energy keeps your team going and impacts the intensity and speed at which people perform. High energy yields high performance.  

Since you have probably already been on three or more video calls today, you have seen your people’s body language and facial expressions. Were they excited and ready to attack the problems they are responsible for solving or were they lethargic?

Leaders set the team’s energy and are responsible for elevating energy when it drops. 

John Eades

Use strategies like a Maximizing mantra or a reward the team would care about to help elevate the energy.  


Building and strengthening culture is part of your job as a leader. Since remote work is here and here to stay, it’s time to get serious by evaluating the safety, unity, positivity, and energy that exists today. 

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. 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 and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why You Should Be a Leader Even Though It’s Hard

Top view on plastic fork and spoons on black background

Do you remember how it felt the last time you were forced to let someone go? Chances are, you felt terrible and didn’t sleep well for days.  

While these feelings make you an empathetic leader with a good heart, they could unfortunately cause you to run away from leadership before you reach peak impact.

Take Jessica, an exceptional regional manager in a fast-growth company, for example. For years she embraced her role and poured into the people she had the opportunity to lead.  While she was far from perfect, her growth and development as a leader are one that any young leader would want to mimic.

Everything was going well until she and her new boss couldn’t find common ground and Covid-19 hit the business.  At first, Jessica hung in there.  She worked hard to build a stronger relationship with her new manager, and did all she could to shelter her team from the growing dissension.  But Covid-19 added pressure she didn’t feel she could handle.  Reluctantly, she asked for a demotion; moving from her leadership position back to an individual contributor role.  

While the move made logical sense, it was unfortunate for the people who grew so much under her leadership. 

Leadership is hard

There is no denying that leadership is hard.  The pressure of performance, making tough decisions, and guiding other people are just a few of the obstacles that leaders will come across. But the hardest part of leadership is this:

Leaders are required to take full responsibility for things they have little control over.

Most people avoid leadership, not because they can’t develop the skills to lead, but because it’s easier to stand outside the fire. Those that do embrace leadership in their career or in their families, often fail.  But the best leaders don’t give up because they know failure isn’t final; failure is feedback. 

If you have chosen to be a leader, now isn’t the time to give up. Your people need you more than ever. If you find yourself at a breaking point like Marie, and you don’t want to give up, here’s what you can do.

Focus on Your #1 Job as Leader

I know you think your job is to execute the tasks and devise a strategy for your team. While you absolutely have to do those requirements well, your primary role of being in a position of leadership is to elevate others.  

I define leadership in Building the Best as “someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve others to produce an improved state over an extended period of time.”

But simply knowing this definition isn’t enough — the real difference lies in living it out, because actions speak louder than words. I have yet to encounter a strong leader who isn’t keenly aware of how important their actions are, as far as setting an example to the people they lead. Many are borderline fanatical about the decisions they make, and the positions they put themselves in.

Lead Right Where You Are

When leaders start to feel overwhelmed, it’s because he or she is doing too much.  They have loaded their schedule and responsibilities with so many things they can’t keep up with all of it.  

Instead of trying to boil the ocean or solve every problem, make your leadership circle of influence smaller.  When a good leader is stuck inside an unhealthy company culture they can’t fix the entire company as one person. Instead, they start with changing the environment for their own team to make it the best it can be. 

Reconnect Yourself to the Cause

It’s easy for leaders to get lost in the monotony of their everyday work, failing to consider how the work impacts people at a deeper level.  Tony Robbins famously said, “activity without purpose is the drain of your life.”  

Having a deeper purpose and cause behind your work can be tough for some leaders.  If this is an area where you struggle, remember that leadership has a built-in cause; serving other people.  Speaker and author Damon West, told me on a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, “Every one of us has the ability to be a servant leader.”

Ponder the Positives (regardless of how small)

While work can and absolutely should be a place that helps create positive energy for people, it is easy to lose sight of that during difficult times. A powerful, evidence-based line of research called Positive Psychology, shows why pondering the positives instead of the negatives is a good idea.  

Chris Peterson described Positive Psychology this way; “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. It’s a focus on what’s right with us rather than what’s wrong.” Jon Gordon, followed that up, “being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.”

Choosing to be positive and looking for the good in things regardless of how small, is a competitive advantage and in your realm of control.  


If you have been forced to let someone go or your team has been negatively impacted by Covid-19, don’t give up. Your leadership is needed more than ever.

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 40k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

Download the Leading Remote Teams Toolkit for Here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making victual training easy and effective. 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 Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Lead Like Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. Jordan’s life and career are on full display in ESPN’s 10-part series called The Last Dance. The series provides a window into Jordan’s leadership skills. 

If you aren’t familiar with Jordan’s story, he was selected as the 3rd pick in the 1984 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. During his first six years in the league, Jordan had incredible individual results. He led the league in scoring four times and was named the league MVP.  But something was missing. It was after a crushing defeat by the Detroit Pistons in the 1990 playoffs for the third straight year, Jordan had a leadership transformation that we all need to learn from:

“I decided to turn my energy towards my teammates and helping them excel.”  

After his mindset shift, the results started to happen. The Jordan-led Bulls won six championships over the next eight years to cement him as the best basketball player to ever live.  

Here is where it gets interesting. Jordan’s style of leadership when turning his attention to his teammates was rather questionable.  During the 7th episode of The Last Dance, Jordan summarized his leadership style by saying, “Winning has a price. Leadership has a price.”  He continued, “I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged.”  

He often used demeaning language and challenged guys in a way that put them down. Because he was the best player in the world and he backed up his talk on the court, this alpha dog, demanding way of leading, worked well for him. 

After studying thousands of leaders, I am more convinced than ever that there isn’t one way to lead other people effectively, and Jordan’s leadership style proves this. However, all great leaders figure out that they can’t do it alone, and for them to be successful they have to get the best out of others.

Trying to lead precisely like Michael Jordan would be a bad idea for most people. There are only so many greatest of all time in their field. Having said that, there are some leadership lessons to learn from Jordan and The Last Dance.  

Conflict isn’t all bad, but how you do it matters

Many professionals view conflict as a negative. It couldn’t be further from the truth when channeled correctly. Steve Kerr, a former teammate of Jordan’s, replayed a story where the two of them got into a heated conflict in practice that started with Kerr punching Jordan in the chest. Jordan retaliating by hitting Kerr in the face. It wasn’t a good look, or it didn’t have any positives. But after the apologies were given later, the conflict brought the two teammates closer together and created a strong bond of mutual respect and trust that would help them in the future. 

How Jordan engaged in conflict with his teammates could be ridiculed, it was his willingness work though it that helped them be successful. All leaders must embrace and have the courage to engage in healthy conflict. In Building the Best, I wrote at length about the concept of “Direct Dialogues.”  

A meaningful direct dialogue requires the use of a three-part formula that has helped me and countless other leaders work through conflict with their people successfully:

Standards + Evidence + Courage = Direct Dialogue

Turn negatives into positives

In July of 1993, Jordan’s father Jeffrey, was murdered in North Carolina. The event caused him to question his career and all that went along with it. In a strange series of events, Jordan unexpectantly retired from basketball during his prime to play Major League Baseball. The experiment, which lasted a year and a half, taught him a lot of himself and basketball.

When speaking about the unexpected death of his father and best friend, Jordan spoke about one of his more famous quotes, “My dad always taught me to turn a negative situation into a positive situation, and that’s what I decided to do.”

While your negatives might be better or worse than someone else’s, no one is immune to negative things happening in their life or career. Look no further than the coronavirus. The key is to turn negatives into positives, and that starts with your mindset.

Lead from the front lines

There is nothing worse than a leader barking orders to do something they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves. Not only did Jordan believe this, but he was also adamant about leading from the front and not asking teammates to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself. During an emotional moment in The Last Dance, he said, “If you can ask my teammates they would tell you, ‘he never asked me to do something that he didn’t do himself.’”

After the Bulls lost to the Detroit Pistons in 1990, the team began working out the very next day in preparation to beat their hated rival the next season. Not only was this Jordan’s idea, but he was the first in the gym and the last to leave.  

Regardless of your leadership style, show your team you are willing to be on the front lines with them through your work ethic. People will work much harder for someone who doesn’t lead from the ivory tower but instead puts in the work with them.  


Regardless of how you feel about Michael Jordan as a player or a leader, there is a lot to learn from him. His commitment to excellence, his competitive drive, and his understanding that team success can’t be achieved alone is worthy of your attention.  

Steve Kerr, the current head coach of the Golden State Warriors, shared a phenomenal lesson he learned from Jordan on Inside the Headset with Eric Dungy, “Never be afraid of the moment.” Regardless of where you are in your leadership journey, “never be afraid of the moment” and step into being the leader, you are meant to be. 

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. 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 and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Great Leaders are Positive In Adverse Situations

The current business world makes it hard to be optimistic. I don’t know if it’s the amount of negative information we receive, the speed in which judgments are cast, the sheer amount of people doing work they hate, or some combination of the three. 

I’ve struggled to maintain optimism during difficult times especially when a team is underperforming, and I know from coaching professionals, it’s a common challenge for many. 

Take Chris, a director in a medium-size consulting company, for example. He was promoted to lead and turn around an underperforming division. He worked long hours, built strong relationships with his team members, and had shifted the strategy to align with the current environment. With all that work behind him, the second half of the year was only slightly better than the first half. His boss was putting pressure on him to drive better results. Chris was at his breaking point, and he knew his team was starting to take notice.  

Instead of making a rash decision, we addressed his negative self-talk and assumptions that he wasn’t good enough for the job. We channeled his thinking towards what he and his team could control, rather than spiraling down the doubt rabbit-hole.

I shared a recent study from Boston University School of Medicine which linked optimism and prolonged life. Chris was shocked to find out that men and women who demonstrate optimism had, on average, an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan and 50-70 percent greater odds of reaching the age of 85, compared to the least optimistic people. 

As he was starting to turn the corner about his choice to remain optimistic, I shared one of my favorite quotes from Jon Gordon the author of The Power of Positive Leadership

“Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.”

He made up his mind and chose optimism. Here are some of the strategies Chris and I have implemented to help you remain optimistic as well:  

Use the Rule of 3 Positives

Choosing to be optimistic requires a daily discipline of looking for positives each and every day. For example, yesterday was a challenging day for me. Not only did I receive some bad news on the home front, but we lost a deal, and another got delayed. Needless to say, I left work a little beat down. But instead of allowing the negative energy to take hold, I used the Rule of 3 Positives.

The rule is simple. Each day, write down three positive things you did or experienced. Here is my actual list of Rule of 3 Positives from yesterday:

  1. I chose to come home early to support my family instead of going to a work event I wanted to go to
  2. I shared an idea with my barber to help grow her struggling business
  3. I helped a coaching client work through a difficult problem with a team member

These were all choices I made in my day that were positive. While they aren’t massive accomplishments, they were small and positive. By celebrating and reminding myself of them, I was able to reject the negativity of the day and focus on the positive. Chris has adopted the Rule of 3 Positives as well and makes a practice during his commute home to list three things he chose to do that were positive. The trick Chris and I have experienced is, if you can’t write down three things you did that were positive, you have work to do the next day!

Promote and encourage what creates positive energy with your team  

While work can and absolutely should be a place that helps create positive energy for people, it is easy to lose sight during difficult times. Find ways to promote other areas of life that typically create positive energy like healthy eating, physical fitness, faith, and building quality personal relationships. 

Chris has rededicated himself to his health journey by eating better and going to the gym on a regular basis. His confidence has skyrocketed and the working out has helped him alleviate the stress and pressure of the job.

Remove people that cause negativity

Regardless of how well a team member performs, an individual’s value must also be measured by the positivity they bring to the team. There’s a famous saying, “Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch.” Each person plays a part in the ongoing development of a team’s culture. One drop of negativity will spread like wildfire.

Chris ended up finding a different job in the company for a member of his team that was constantly talking about the seeming lack of results the team was experiencing. After their removal, the team started focusing on the small wins they were making, which catapulted them to more wins.

Fast forward a year, and Chris and his team are thriving. Being relentlessly positive in the face of challenges is a true competitive advantage. Stay positive and believe good things will happen.

What lessons did I miss?

What are some other ways you remain positive for yourself or your team?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.