How Leaders Develop Better Employees

Employees stand in a row at the briefing

No one makes it alone. In business, in life, in reaching personal or professional growth, our journeys are filled with other people. Their influence, wisdom, and coaching can drive us towards accomplishing our goals. While the impact of anyone’s encouragement can propel you towards success, there is one person whose support makes a professional impact, unlike any other: Leader support.

Those professionals whose current or previous bosses have gone above and beyond to support their people’s growth and development have an enormous advantage over those who have not. In our preliminary research, employees who have a leader who prioritizes and supports their development get promoted 18% more often than those who do not. 

 Why Don’t Some Leaders Make Growth and Development a Priority?

Tom Peters famously said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” Many managers and bosses have read, seen, or even agreed with his quote; but, their people aren’t developing beyond their role or the skills required to do the job. There are three reasons for this:

  1. Bandwidth Availability – There are only 24 hours in a day, and many leaders have so many responsibilities that their bandwidth runs out.
  2. Scarcity Thinking – Instead of having an abundance mindset around talent and people, some leaders have scarce thinking. They hold people back for fear of losing them. 
  3. Ego Driven – Unfortunately, some managers and executives think of themselves first. They use people as cogs in their wheel, stepping stones to get where they are trying to go.  

When leaders believe something is important, they prioritize, when it’s not, they rationalize. – John Eades

Personal and Skill Development Changes Lives

For the first 25 years of my life, I didn’t take my development seriously. I did enough to maintain an acceptable GPA and received the obligatory high school and college degrees, but my own personal development was never a priority. Everything changed when I went to work for a sales performance improvement company (now Richardson Sales Performance), and I reported to a VP of Sales that obsessed over employee development. The combination of seeing how great professional education could be immediately applied and having a boss that made reading mandatory changed my life. 

At first, I thought that my experience of growth under a dedicated leader was personal and unique. But after teaching, speaking, coaching, and watching others, I realized that it was universal. Growth under supportive leadership can and is experienced by everyone who embraces personal development because they start thinking like this:

Instead of thinking small, they think big

Instead of making excuses, they make results.

Instead of rejecting coaching, they embrace coaching.

Instead of believing success is for others, they believe it’s for them.

Instead of having bad habits, they form good ones.

Instead of being pessimistic, they become optimistic. 

Instead of struggling in their career, they thrive in it.

Last week, Brendan Burchard hosted a virtual influencer summit. In it, he shared a two-word lesson that should be a mantra for all leaders. He said, “Change Lives.” If every leader had the mindset of “changing lives” and asking themselves at the end of every day, “did I change someone’s life today?” we would be in a better place. 

How to Support Employee Growth and Development

You lead a team, and you wonder if you are doing enough to help support employee development. Start with this fundamental principle: “your example and the support you provide matter.”  If you want to improve how you support your employee’s growth and development, give some of these a try.

1. Ask Them Their Dreams and Ambitions

The best way to support team members’ development is to know where they want to go. Their dreams and aspirations might not be the same as yours; focus on helping them get where they are trying to go versus where you want them to go.  

The book Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly introduced a simple idea: the key to motivation for employees was not necessarily the promise of a bigger paycheck or a title, but rather the fulfillment of a personal dream. Many companies, like Lipper Components, have adopted programs to help educate, equip, and empower employees to live more intentional and engaged lives through personal coaching and connection.  

Since dreams and ambitions change as time progresses, make sure at least once a year you ask the question, “Is there a professional goal either inside or outside the organization you aspire to reach or grow into?”

2. Encourage Them to Do Things Where Failure is Likely

As I wrote in Building the Best, “Encouragement is rocket fuel for confidence, and confidence fuels perseverance during adverse times.” Achieving or completing anything that someone hasn’t previously accomplished requires courage, risk-taking, and behavior change. Part of a leader’s job is to be an encouraging voice in people’s heads, so they try things where failure is likely.  

Failure is not final, failure is feedback. 

Use words like: 

“You will,” “You can,” and “Don’t quit; you are on the cusp of making it.”

While these might sound corny, they are essential words to hear from someone else, especially your boss. 

3. Have Them Teach or Present to Others

Waiting too long to give an employee more free rein can result in them feeling bored or losing faith in their abilities. If we ask them to make too many decisions too early, we may increase the risk of failure and dampen their sense of competence. To help you gauge each employees’ readiness, I shared four distinct stages of development on a recent episode of “The Modern Manager” with Mamie Kanfer Stewart.

  1. Model. The best leaders first model how to do the expected behavior or task. If you don’t know how to demonstrate the skill, find someone to teach it who does.
  2. Observe. Have your employee demonstrate the skill, task, or behavior for you while you observe them. Don’t be scared to embrace “the uncomfortable pause.” Instead of offering advice or solving the problem, first, ask your employees questions when they are stuck. Then give them the space to come up with their own solutions.
  3. Report Back. Give your employee encouragement to go do it on their own and report back how it went.
  4. Teach. When your employee can teach or present to others, they have fully integrated the instructions and mastered the skill.

Closing

Supporting your employee’s development by asking about their dreams, encouraging them to do tough things, and having them teach what they have learned to others isn’t easy. It requires you to think of yourself as a coach and have endless patience. Often the effort put into personal development doesn’t yield immediate results.  

This means most managers and bosses ignore this massive responsibility because they think it’s less important than other things they do. Instead of embracing this mindset, relish the opportunity to support your people and change their lives.

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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.

The Top 3 Leadership Skills You Must Master Right Now

Have you ever wondered what separates average managers from good leaders? It’s not raw, natural talent. No, its something much more straightforward, and the answer lies in two simple words you and everyone else has control over, work and effort.

There is a fundamental truth around leadership from all of my research and interviews that’s important both you and I not only understand but believe in our core. 

You become the leader you construct

Only you have control over your development as a leader, and you have to take ownership of it.

To ensure we are on the same page, we must level set on what I mean by leadership. I define it in Building the Best as: “Inspiring, empowering, and serving in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.”

Leading like this requires the combination of a series of skills working together. The list isn’t short but here are a few of them:

  • Personability
  • Positivity
  • Empathy
  • Trust (relationship-building)
  • Recognition
  • Coaching
  • Listening
  • Vulnerability
  • Accountability
  • Vision
  • Mindset
  • Decisiveness

Many individual skills in leadership are essential for you to develop. But much like the game of golf, some skills are more important than the others. If you are going to go from an average manager to a good leader, these are the ones you need to work on mastering first. 

1.Develop Trust

The ability to lead a team starts with good, quality, professional relationships, built on the bond of mutual trust. All effective leaders consistently share their competence and the care they have for their people in order for trust to grow.  

The simplest and most effective way to understand precisely how trust is built comes from Reid Hoffman: Trust = Consistency + Time

When you break down the simple formula, it makes so much sense. Regardless of how long you have been leading other people, we can all relate to building trust with someone in our lives. Trust is the foundation every relationship is built upon, and it’s created by consistency over time. This means you have to do what you say you are going to do, day in and day out. 

Pro Tip- All leaders are challenged to overcome different biases to have better trust-filled relationships across their team. However, our instinct as human beings is to gravitate toward and trust people who look, act, and behave like us. If you want better trust-filled relationships, look beyond commonalities.  

2. Reward, Recognize and Appreciate

One of the most critical skills for leaders to develop today is giving praise. Praise encompasses rewarding, recognizing, and showing authentic appreciation for people both in what they produce and who they are.  

It’s important to note that appreciation is different from recognition. Recognition is about the results someone produces.

Tom Peters famously said, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Peters is correct, but recognition is based on a person’s performance. (which is essential and you should reward how they do it) Appreciation is much bigger; it’s about who someone is versus what they produce. It means, “recognizing the value of.” 

There was a study done at the University of Berkley about what motivates productivity. What they found was astonishing. When people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive versus when they didn’t. But when people felt valued and cared for, they were 43% more productive and effective versus than people who didn’t. That’s a 20% improvement when people know they’re appreciated.  

It’s your job as a leader to master the skills related to praise. Not only when to give it, but how to do it, so it means something to person on the receiving end.

3. Accountability Through Conversations

Many words make most people uncomfortable, and accountability is one of those words. Before understanding exactly what accountability was and why it was so crucial for leaders to understand, I felt the same way. Accountability 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. The keyword here is an obligation.  

”Great leaders understand it’s their obligation to have uncomfortable conversations.”  

Much like praise, part of your job as a leader is to master the art of having direct dialogues with people that help them improve and motivate them towards movement. A great question to ask yourself, “Do I have a go-to conversation model I know like the back of my hand?”

Next week, I am going to cover the following three most important skills; coaching, listening, and curiosity.

Tell me what you think in the comments

What are the best ways you construct the skills of Relationship Building, Praise, and Accountability in yourself? The best answer receives a free copy of Building the Best.

Elevate the Way You Lead: Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill. It was named the #1 Best New Management Books to Read by Book Authority. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead others.

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.

Leadership Skills FAQ

What are the top three leadership skills?

1. Develop trust
2. Praise and recognition
3. Accountability through conversations

How do you demonstrate leadership skills?

5 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership Skills at Work
1. Your actions will always outweigh your words
2. Schedule regualar one-on-one sessions with your team members
3. Listen to others
4. Be positive and optimistic
4. Hold yourself and others accountable

What defines a leader?

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

How can I be a leader?

Focus all of your efforts on elevating others. You have to constantly be looking for ways to help others be successful.

How the Best Leaders Create More Leaders

“I am the leader, get in line behind me.” 

This is a dumb rule that spread like wildfire and developed an inaccurate representation of leadership to six-year-olds across the country.

I started my own leadership journey thinking I was playing line leader. It caused me to fail miserably, but then I realized the Tom Peter quote was true, “the best leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.” I am sure if Peters had created six-year-old line leaders, he would have had the leader in the back making sure everyone was courageous enough to go into music class.

Now, I work daily to help other leaders do the same, and I’ve learned one very important lesson for creating more leaders successfully:

You can’t get caught up in the outcome 

Each person chooses to apply what they learn or not. In other words, all you can do is lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Adopting this mindset allows ownership to lay with the person who ultimately has to choose and live out their own leadership journey. No longer will you feel the need to force or control the outcome.

The very best leaders embody these characteristics that in turn, help them effectively create more leaders: 

They are good leaders themselves

No one wants to learn from someone who doesn’t live out what it means to be a leader. I define leadership as someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.  

When I asked Dustin Kaehr on the Follow My Lead Podcast what the most important characteristic for a leader to embody today he said, “There are many things, but humility is at the top.”

You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. It means you aren’t just teaching them why it’s important to have humility, but you’re also showing your team how to be a humble leader on a daily basis.

They are persistent and consistent on their leadership journey

Becoming a leader takes time and it doesn’t have an end date on it. Just because you get to some level of proficiency as a leader, you will always be learning new and trying new things to continue your development.

A mentor of mine told me, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be taught.” It’s true. Building up other leaders requires a love of learning and professional development. Be an example for your people.

They are constantly teaching and coaching

Elevating others to become their best takes a lot of work and patience. A random lesson here or there isn’t going to get the job done. You have to have your teaching and coaching hat on all the time because any given moment could expose an opportunity to teach an important lesson or use a question to coach someone to come up with answers themselves. 

They admit they don’t have all the answers

There will be moments where you learn something you have been teaching is proven wrong. In moments like this, reject your natural tendencies and say the words so many people struggle to say, “I was wrong, here is a better way to do it.”

There is no doubt the best leaders are learners, which means it’s completely okay if you don’t have all the answers. 

They give away ownership and responsibility

Power is a funny thing for leaders because often with the title comes a power they have never had. Unfortunately some like the sensation so much they hold onto and take advantage of it. Abraham Lincoln famously said, “nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”  

The best leaders give away the power and responsibility to others so they can take ownership of their decision making and behaviors. This is easy to write but difficult to put into practice.  

Whether you are currently embodying these five characteristics or not, don’t beat yourself up. One of the most important things you can do as a professional is helping others become a leader, so take this as a sign it’s time to make some changes. 

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn professionals 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.