Caring Yet Demanding: How Great Leaders Succeed

The temptation for leaders to lower the bar has officially arrived. The combination of the “great resignation” and a two-year run of an employee-driven market has caused many leaders to have an easy-going mentality. While it’s essential to care profoundly and treat people with dignity and respect, lowering the standard required for success will hurt everyone involved.  

Take Gabrielle, a sales manager, at a large technology company, as an example. She had been in leadership for 10+ years and her teams consistently performed at elite levels. However, due to higher than normal turnover and a fear she was demanding too much of team members, she lowered the bar on expectations. Specifically, she began tolerating lower activity levels, below average work, less than outstanding effort, and bad attitudes. 

It didn’t take but a few months for the results of her changes to show up on the scoreboard. Instead of being at the top of the sales team rankings, they had moved to the bottom. In Gabrielle’s attempt to appease her team, unfortunately, she demonstrated a key leadership principle from Building the Best:

The instant you lower the standard, the instant performance begins to erode.

You and I are just as susceptible to act or behave like Gabrielle. However, to be a great leader, demanding excellence while demonstrating the highest level of care is a part of the job. In my work studying, interviewing, and coaching leaders, it’s evident that people need help and assistance from others to perform at their best consistently. 

The best leaders demand excellence while demonstrating the highest level of care

Before we get off track, let’s get on the same page about what it means to be demanding yet intensely caring as a leader. Demanding is best defined as ‘to meet high standards.’ It comes from the Latin Word Demandare, which means to “hand over or entrust.” Being demanding with care isn’t a negative; it’s to help others meet high standards by entrusting them and encouraging them. However, most leaders demand excellence from others, but they forget an essential element. 

Relationships Always Matter in Leadership

At LearnLoft, we researched extensively how the best leaders elevated others by using high levels of love and discipline in their leadership style. If team members don’t feel cared for before a leader demands, it will have an inverse effect. The reason is simple:

Leaders must connect before they correct.

Or said differently, rules before relationships lead to rebellion. Not understanding or believing these two simple leadership principles cause many leaders to fail and are the reason research shows 65% of employees would give up a salary increase if they could fire their boss. 

I covered some specific strategies for quickly and effectively building relationships and connecting with others in a recent episode of the John Eades Podcast, titled, “Connection Isn’t Just Nice, It’s Necessary.”

Demand with Care vs. Demand with Neglect

Even using the word demanding as a leader is extreme in today’s work culture. With so many employees struggling with burnout, stress, and anxiety, how demanding a leader is at a given time is a critical decision to make. The mental and physical health of people must always outweigh any short-term achievement that comes because a leader is demanding.

The mental and physical health of people must always outweigh any short-term achievement that comes because a leader is demanding

Mental and physical health removed, all demanding seems a cause, not for joy but pain; later, when paired with care, it provides great fruit.  

Below is a visual example of those leaders who demand with care vs. demand with neglect

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How to Demand with Care

There is a fine line between confidence and complacency. No one is immune to being complacent or giving less than optimum effort. The best leaders recognize this in themselves and others which is why they demand with care. 

One of the best and often overlooked strategies is to pair communication with an expression of care. An example of this would be coaching a team member hard but giving a handshake or a pat on the back before they leave. Another example in a virtual environment would be pairing tough feedback with, “I am telling you this because I believe in you, and I know you can do it better.” 

The “5 Love Language” Advanced Care Strategy

An advanced leadership strategy I teach leaders is knowing a team member’s “love language” in a non-romantic way. This allows you to express your intense care for team members in alignment with how they most recognize it. If you’re unfamiliar with Gary Chapman’s five love languages here, they are: 

  • Words of Affirmation – Encourage, Affirm, or Appreciate
  • Physical Touch – Use Handshakes, Fist Bumps, or High Fives
  • Receiving Gifts – Thoughtful gifts or gestures
  • Quality Time – One-on-one time or uninterrupted attention
  • Acts of Service – Alleviate their workload or help complete a task

Closing

One of the most potent questions any leader can ask is, “how would others describe you?” While there is no correct or perfect answer to this question, if there isn’t a strong consideration for the words “caring” and “demanding,” there is some work to be done. 

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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 the Best Leaders Help Underperforming Employees

variation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Reinvest in the Relationship

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

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

2. Clarify The Truth

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

Great Leadership Clarifies

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

3. Elevate the Standards

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

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

I shared some ideas for this in a recent keynote:

4. Accelerate with Accountability

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

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

5. Give Ample Time 

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

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

Closing

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

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

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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 the Best Leaders Navigate Office Politics

Business competition

For everyone in the United States, November 3rd was Election Day. It’s was day when we got the opportunity to exercise our right to vote for our country’s leaders. Many care deeply about this particular election (myself included). 

While talking about politics can get most people’s blood boiling, there’s another type of politics that deserve your attention — organizational politics or “office politics.”

Before you shrug off the idea or claim you don’t get involved in “office politics,” let’s define what the term means. Politics are the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups or other forms of power relations between individuals.  

There isn’t an organization in the world that doesn’t make decisions in groups or navigates power balance.  What I have learned in working with leaders in different sizes and types of organizations is that the best leaders not only recognize the politics in their organization, they are active participants in it. 

Great leaders are active participants in organizational politics.

Great leaders do this because they recognize that if they want to make positive change, have influence, and be a part of the solution, they must be active participants and not passive bystanders.

Don’t Ignore It; Learn it.

One of the most popular things I hear from people, “I ignore the politics in my organization; it’s not worth my time.”  I can absolutely understand this comment if their organization has more people jockeying for position than working to advance the company forward. However, this isn’t typical and even in organizations like this, ignoring politics isn’t the answer; learning it is.  After studying leaders who navigate office politics well, here are some best practices you can implement to ensure you aren’t ignoring your organizational politics.

1. Rely on Relationships

One of the biggest mistakes any politician makes is thinking they can do it all by themselves.  Many professionals make the same mistake.  Instead of relying on strong relationships, they “go rogue” and are blindsided when their initiatives are struck down or thrown out. Mark Sheilds said it well, “There is always strength in numbers. The more individuals and organizations that you can rally around your cause, the better.”

Start early and never stop building strong relationships you can rely on.  As I wrote in Building the Best“Without strong relationships, you can’t lead.”  Build strong trust-filled relationships at every organizational level by being reliable, consistent, and helping others get what they want.  

If you are curious about the strength of a relationship in your organization, ask yourself this question, “Have I given my time or demonstrated my intentions through actions to this person?”  If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes!” it’s time to make a change with them. 

2. Build a Resume of Accomplishments for Influence

John Maxwell declared, “Leadership is influence.”  That’s not all leadership is, but I know you can’t lead without it.  Influence, by definition, is the power to have an important effect on someone or something.  The best way to gain influence is to build a resume based on actions and accomplishments.  

Too often, people assume that influence comes from how long you have been somewhere. While this might have been true in previous generations, it’s becoming less and less important today.  

Great modern leaders care more about your actions than your age.

The fastest path to influence is accomplishing meaningful things with others. When you play an integral part on a team that takes action, solves problems, and gets results, your influence skyrockets.  

3. Understand the Decision Making Process

Decision making is choosing between two or more courses of action. Some decisions are based on reason and others on intuition. Each organization has a decision-making process woven into the fabric of their culture. I have come to define them in two ways:

Centralized Authority:  These organizations make decisions in a slow, pragmatic, and hierarchical way. Centralized Authority decision making is common in highly regulated industries with significant financial or safety-related ramifications in most decisions.  

Dispersed Authority: These organizations make decisions in a quick, decisive, and shared way.  It’s common for team members to be empowered to “make decisions where the information is.”  This is common in entrepreneurial cultures or in technology companies where innovation rules the day. 

There are always exceptions to every rule, but in most situations, the better model is dispersed authority.  You might not be able to change the decision-making process in your organization, but you should be able to answer these questions:  

Who are the key people?  

What are those people’s priorities? 

What do they value most?  

Once you can answer these questions, you can align your initiatives and influence to get things accomplished.

4. Be Patient

I learned early in my career, “patience is a virtue.”  This week Gary Vaynerchuk said, “patience is the core ingredient of success for most people.”  Most people don’t have patience, and instead expect to build relationships, have influence, and make decisions in days, not years.  

The leaders who navigate office politics the best are the ones who are patient and do the right thing day in and day out.  So do your best to stay patient while being an active participant in your office politics.  

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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 to Lead a High Performing Team

Innovation and creative idea concept

Traditionally, people were promoted into leadership positions because they were viewed as a top individual contributor, a type-A extrovert, and/or a supremely confident professional. This results from what’s called a “promote to retain” strategy implemented by many organizations. 

While retaining top talent is vitally important, it’s also critical for organizations to promote people into positions of leadership that can drive performance and make a positive impact on the people they get the opportunity to lead.

There is one predictor of leaders like this regardless if they were a top individual contributor or not, and it’s not where organizations have previously focused. Leaders who have a servant’s heart sustain positive business results and achieve high employee engagement scores.  

After studying so many leaders with a servant’s heart in all different industries, roles, and backgrounds, it turns out they are doing many things right to have a high performing team. It’s what I refer to as “The Great 8 to Lead Your Best.” These are a list of things which by themselves are important, but they tend to compound and build upon each other. Here they are with a brief description of each to help you leverage them with your team as well.

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Leadership Methodology

Over the last 30 years, methodologies have skyrocketed in popularity because they provide a backbone and structure to do any difficult job. From sales to research to project management and now leadership.  

Many of the best modern leaders we have studied either knowingly or unknowingly use a servant leadership methodology and use high levels of love and discipline in the way they lead. Robert Greenleaf said it well, “Servant leadership always empathizes, always accepts the person, but sometimes refuses to accept some of the person’s effort or performance as good enough.”

Relationships

The key to leadership is relationships because, without strong relationships, you can’t lead. High performing teams have bonds of mutual trust and respect. Where most leaders struggle is in understanding their responsibility to earn those two things. Long gone are the days of a title commanding respect. In today’s workplaces, a title should only be a reminder of your responsibility to your people.

While this seems obvious, many leaders skip relationship building and jump right into accountability to drive performance. This is a massive mistake because 

Rules without relationships lead to rebellion. 

Instead of assuming the relationships with your team members are strong, make time with each team member to ask this powerful question: “How are you and your family coping during the pandemic?”

Communication

Effective communication is at the heart of effective leadership. James Humes famously said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Leaders of high-performing teams not only leverage the proper amount of communication but also are clear, concise, and conclusive. 

Effective leaders are great communicators.

The best modern leaders are constantly looking to improve how they communicate by evaluating their verbal, written, and body language.  

Shared Purpose

People in organizations don’t get burned out because of their work; they get burned out because they forget WHY they do the work they do. Because of this, leaders of high-performing teams are constantly reminding their teams of the deeper purpose behind the work they do.  

One of the biggest mistakes managers make is believing it’s not their job to connect their team to a deeper purpose. Don’t fall into poor thinking. Embrace the responsibility that you are the connector of cause.  

Standards

For teams to keep getting better, leaders must raise the bar of what’s expected. The reason is that team members’ behaviors and habits are always going to default to the bar set. The best modern leaders embrace this by relying on standards. 

A standard is defined as “what good looks like.” If you want to leverage standards, don’t define what good looks like, but to go beyond that and define what great looks like.

Be crystal clear, concise, and focused. Limit yourself to as few standards as possible so they can be remembered and applied.

Execution

The teams that execute their strategy and plans to near perfection will always achieve more than teams who do not. George Patton famously said, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” As right as Patton is, it’s the leaders on a team who are responsible for removing barriers and putting people in the right positions to execute to the best of their abilities.  

Accountability 

Accountability is one of these words that has been hijacked. I define it in Building the Best as; the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them and disclose the results in a transparent manner. 

It is the obligation of leaders to account for their actions and the actions of their people.  

Leaders are obligated to care for all their people equally and to serve their hearts, not their talents. 

 If you want to model how the best modern leaders leverage accountability, get comfortable with having difficult dialogues, which I wrote about here.

Coaching

One way a leader separates themselves from being a manager in today’s modern business environment is by coaching their people. A coach, by definition, is one who trains and instructs. The late great John Whitmore took the formal definition even further, saying:

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential and helping them learn rather than teaching them.”

Leaders who coach have never been more critical than they are today. A strong, dedicated leader plays an integral role in elevating people to new heights, exactly how John Whitmore envisioned it.  

Closing

Every leader began somewhere. Regardless of whether you were promoted to a leadership position because of a “promote and retain strategy” or for some other reason, now is the time to embrace responsibility and develop servant’s heart. Once these are in place, work hard to understand, master, and apply “The Great 8 to Lead Your Best” on an ongoing basis.

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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.

Want to Be a Leader in the Future? Use This Time Wisely.

Stopwatch Clock Time Countdown Graphic Words

Right now, you’re stuck in time like no one has ever seen.

It is not news that we are currently living in a world of unprecedented challenges; one that is seemingly stuck at a point in time that most people want to get past. At best, we can work from our homes; at worst we are no longer employed or have a job that requires us to put ourselves in grave danger. 

Regardless of how the unexpected turn of events from the Coronavirus has impacted you or your career, it has most likely brought on feelings of hopelessness or doubt about the future. It’s an essential time to remember the wise words from Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning; “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

We don’t control the events; we control our response. 

Instead of giving in to the feelings of desperation and focusing on the monotony of these days on end, open your eyes to the opportunities that this pandemic may lend us. The best leaders use this time, to be successful in the future. It’s what I have started to refer to as “Grind Time.” Here are some ways the best leaders are using their grind time and so can you.

Reinvest in relationships

Relationships with other people are the lifeblood of our life on earth. Research shows that good relationships help people live longer. People in healthy long term relationships are 50% less likely to die earlier. For any relationship to add a lot of value to your life, career (yours or others’) it requires the investment of time.  

Scott Miller reminded me during an interview that, “relationship building requires an effectiveness, not an efficiency mindset.” In the last few weeks, this has come to life during hour-long family walks without my phone. I have been amazed at how effective this has been for my relationship with my wife and kids. The results of being fully present will improve the quality of your relationships to a degree that will shock you.

If you are leading a team at work, your people will absolutely remember how you made them feel in times of crisis. They will remember how much you cared about them and the time you gave them. 

Develop your skills

Your skills and your ability to perform them at high levels are at the center of performance. Webster defines a skill as; the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance. Clearly, there is a difference in acquiring knowledge and acquiring skills.

For example, you could know how to read music, but be unable to translate that knowledge into playing an instrument. You could understand the proper mechanics in hitting a golf ball, but your score after your very first round of golf might not reflect that.  

Now is the time to develop your skills. Tom Bilyeu said it so well during an interview with Patrick Bet-David on Valuetainment, “Money only monetizes once, but your skills can be monetized over and over and over.”

But don’t stop at developing your skills during this time. Help others develop their skills as well. Focus not only on the technical skills but, most importantly on leadership skills that are crucial for team members—things such as positivity, emotional intelligence, communication, and growth mindset.  

Focus attention on innovation

Innovation starts with the mindset of the leader. Innovation is defined as a new idea, creative thoughts, new imaginations in the form of device or method. I summarize it as “finding better solutions.” 

During a recent episode of the Pessimist Archive Podcast, host Jason Feifer mentioned that, “big companies are designed to be good at themselves. It stops inventing and starts refining. When the world begins to change, they end up defending the turn.” 

The best leaders are using the current decline or increase in available time to find better answers to problems, or seeking new and better ways of doing something. They aren’t limiting it to themselves; they are inspiring innovation with their people. One of the leaders I studied for Building the Best is having a “weekly innovation meeting” with his team over Zoom. During this time the team members brainstorm ideas for improving their processes, procedures, and offerings to clients.  

The ideas are not all good, but he has been amazed at the problems and improvements his team has come up with to help the company’s future.  

Closing

You have the power to change the course of your days from one of monotony and tedium to one of opportunity and development. Now is the time when you grind; reinvest in your relationships, focus on innovation, and develop your skills. Today is when you get to start anew.  

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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.

How to Fix An Underperforming Team in No Time

Joey was an experienced manager at a mid-sized company. When his team missed its mark in the first year, he made a myriad of excuses. The next year didn’t get any better, so he blamed people on his team and even threw a teammate under the bus to save his job. 

While Joey’s responses weren’t unlike most leaders of underperforming teams, the reason things weren’t getting better was that Joey hadn’t come to grips with a hard truth; The responsibility is the leaders.  

Sure there are many possible factors that can cause a team to underperform. These are just a few: lack of talent, talented people not meeting their potential, changes in the market, or a lack of resources. Still, ultimately, one person is responsible, the leader.  

As the late Kobe Bryant said, “Leadership is Responsibility.”  

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

Reinvest in your relationships

People work harder and push themselves to new levels of performance when they know their boss cares about them.  

Researchers at the University of Berkley studied what motivates productivity in professionals. When people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive. But what’s even more astonishing is that when people felt valued and cared for, their productivity and effectiveness experienced a 43% increase. While recognition is essential, there is an additional 20% jump in performance by showing your people you care for them. 

Make time for one-on-one meetings with team members to find out what’s important to them, what goals they want to achieve, and what current challenges they are facing in their life.  

Set higher standards

Anytime performance isn’t where you need or want it; it’s time to raise the standard. A standard is simply defining what good looks like. From all of our research in studying what the best leaders do in Building the Best, it’s clear;

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

Raise the bar on what expected to be a part of the team or organization. Start with the level of effort and commitment required moving forward. Ask yourself this question:

“What kind of behaviors and actions do we need from every member of our team to level up?” Then set standards based on what’s required.  

While this is simple to write, it’s difficult to put it into practice. For your people’s behavior to change, you have to be consistent in your message and in accountability, which leads us to the next point.

Accelerate with accountability

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

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

Remove the people who aren’t bought in

One of the fastest ways to improve performance isn’t by addition, but by reduction. If there are team members who aren’t bought in and they have been given multiple chances to get on board, it’s time to make a change.  

Not only does their continued participation hold others back, but there’s a good chance they are bringing negativity and doubt to the team. There is no bigger killer to performance than doubt and fear.  

Each of these strategies by themselves is challenging, but put together, they become even harder. Know this, you were not put in this position if you couldn’t rise to the occasion. If you believe in yourself, you will be surprised at what you are going to achieve as a 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

7 Wise Moves That Make the Relationships With Your Team Stronger

No one wants to go to work every day dreading the amount of time they are going to spend with his or her boss. At the same time, I don’t know any sane leader who looks forward to having bad relationships with team members. So the question then becomes, why are so many relationships between team members and their leader a major part of the reason people are unhappy at work?

The answer: Most leaders have the equation wrong.

The majority of leaders believe team members are responsible for the relationship with their leader. This belief puts the ownership of worthiness, trust, ability, respect, and work ethic on the shoulders of others.

The correct equation is:

Leaders are responsible for the relationship with each individual their team member.

In this drastically different approach, leaders know they are ultimately the ones responsible for building relationships based on trust, respect, work ethic, forgiveness, and accountability. These leaders model the behaviors they want to see, communicate well with their team, and allow their team members to choose to meet or exceed standards set. This doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t a two-way street, but it means the leader takes ownership and responsibility in it.

Knowing ownership and responsibility of work relationships starts with leaders, here are 7 wise moves you can leverage to strengthen those relationships:

Remove your ego

Ryan Holiday the author of Ego is The Enemy defines ego as “An unhealthy belief in our own importance. The Need to be better than, more than, recognized for far past any reasonable utility.” If this is you, your people won’t want to follow or work hard for you. It’s that simple. 

Cy Wakeman the author of No Ego said, “Ego puts a filter on the world that corrupts your relationship with reality.” If you can remove ego from the equation, you’ll remove barriers in your relationships with your team.

Focus on trust with each team member

When I ask, “Who is responsible for the bond of mutual trust between leader and team members?” in our Building the Best Leadership workshops, the overwhelming answer is “team members.”While I appreciate their courage to answer, they’re wrong.

Trust is built between the leader and team member by the actions and behavior of the leader, not the other way around. General Robert Calsen said on the Follow My Lead Podcast, “Trust is a built over time and it’s a byproduct of your competence and character.”

Focus on showing your people you are competent and you have high character and trust will blossom.

Be a good coach

One of the most important skills any leader can improve is their ability to coach people for growth. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t think of themselves as a coach but as a boss.

Michael Bungay Stanier says any leader could be a better coach just by, “staying curious a little bit longer and rushing to advice-giving a little bit slower.” While this is simple in theory it’s difficult in practice.

Start by getting in the habit of asking your people one of three questions when interacting:

  • Why did you do it this way?
  • How do you think we should do it?
  • How might you do it next time?

Put your phone away when interacting

No one likes to see someone else pick up their phone or check their phone in the middle of a conversation. When this happens, it makes us feel much less important than whatever is happening on the phone. 

If you are serious about having better relationships with your team members you can’t let your phone dictate your day. Get in a habit of taking your phone off the desk and out of sight during any conversation with a team member.

Embrace and leverage empathy

It’s easy for leaders to get in the habit of assuming every professional on their team is in the same place in their life’s journey. This is never the case. Just because a 40-year old and 30-year-old are doing the same job, they aren’t in the same place on their journey. 

Embrace and leverage empathy to put yourself in their shoes so you can act and make decisions differently. The whole point here is to think about the challenges each individual person might be facing so you can align with where they are in life.

Model what you want to see

If you only remember one thing, remember this. People watch everything a leader does whether the leader likes it or not. So the quickest way to improve the relationship with others is to model the behaviors you want to see so the level of mutual respect is higher. 

Be fanatical about the example you model because it’s what actions and behaviors you will get from your team.

Ask for feedback about how you’re doing

The number one competency-deficient area we have found in the Elevate Others 360° Assessment is asking for feedback. People want to feel like they are being heard and asking for feedback not only a great way to do this but it also helps the leader improve their self-awareness.

The action of asking for feedback in person, over email, or for a 360° assessment, will create a moment of vulnerability in front of your team that will instantly improve the relationship. One caveat, you must be humble when accepting feedback so you can change your habits and behaviors.

Join the Next Ultimate Leadership Academy Want to become a better leader? Apply to participate in the next Ultimate Leadership Academy. A virtual training program that includes, the EO 360° Assessment, live webinars, and one-on-one coaching. Learn more here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. 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 author the upcoming book 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.