Strategies to prepare for future of work & leadership with John Eades of LearnLoft


John Eades, is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders.

John is also an author, a motivational speaker, and and a leadership development expert. He was named a 2017 LinkedIn Top Voice in Management & Workplace and writing and content has reached over 7 million leaders.

In this edition of #ExpertSpeak section, we spoke with John about how the ongoing global crisis will impact the future of work and leadership. Here’s an overview of what we discussed:

  • Is remote work the future of work?
  • What does this shift mean for the leaders of today?
  • Importance of one on one meetings in these tough times
  • How can today’s workforce be prepared to be leaders of a tomorrow that is very different from what was anticipated?

1Do you see the future of work as remote work?

John: It’s a great question. I think the future is a blended approach, of both working from home as well as working remotely.

But here is where it gets interesting. How productive are these teams going to be when some people are working from the office and others are working remotely and thats where leadership becomes so important.

Because the only way teams perform well is if they are working well together. So, how can leaders leverage the technology that they have in front of them, no matter where people are working to continue to perform at the highest level and that’s where the challenge will really be.   

2Leading a remote team is different than leading an in-office team. What does the shift mean, specifically for the leaders?

John: Yeah, it’s not that difficult to manage a remote team. You just simply do what you were previously doing you get their weekly updates on their performance and maybe you have a team meeting or maybe you don’t.

You can manage a remote team, but the hard part is – ‘how do you lead them’.

Now it’s important we understand what it means when I say, “Lead”.

We define leadership as, someone whose actions inspire, empower and serve in order to elevate others.

So those words are chosen very carefully. Inspire means to breathe life into somebody. Now just think of managing a remote team versus leading one.

You can go manage a remote team and suck the life right out of your team or you can lead them, breathe life into ‘em, get more out of them than they think there is possible.

That’s leadership, that is the act of inspiring and that’s why only few end up leading because they default to the management stuff off what have you done, when is it due those kinds of things.

The second is to empower.

Empowerment is all about helping people make decisions where the information is. Giving people ownership of their decision making.

Remote workforce is this in some way, right? It’s easy to micromanage and make decisions for people when they are remote but the best leaders of teams will empower their teams to make decisions.

And the last keyword is to serve.

You know can we flip that pyramid upside down from the leadership perspective and look at ourselves as we work for them not they work for us.

When you inspire, and when you empower and when you serve, you’ll be on your way to elevating people. That’s the key to successful leadership today.

And here’s why I say, that few lead remote teams because that kind of leadership is really hard when you are in person, its even harder when you’re remote.

So, that means that leaders are going to have to do things differently if they want to breathe life into their team and empower them to make the decisions and to serve them the best they can.  

3How can leaders use technology & interpersonal tools like one on one meetings to lead remote teams?

John: It’s a great question. If you’re going to go lead a remote team effectively, technology will have to be leveraged.

You know, whether it is video technology like Zoom or other tools like Peoplebox, which can help you get to know your team better, to stay on track, are a great example of tools that leaders can leverage.

But at the end of the day, if you’re need some of the standards that we think that are important for someone leading a remote team. One on one meeting is a great example of that, right! 

Do you have scheduled time on a calendar with each team member for a one on one meeting each week? If you have a large team, it has to be every other week.

But it can’t just be haphazard, I mean the daily check-ins are great but can we get time on the calendar to make sure we’re understanding how people are doing, we know what’s important to them, we know that we’re working on the right things and helping them advance both the team and their career?

I mean those are examples of tangible things that leaders do and managers don’t.

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4How can leaders maximise the potential of one on one meeting?

John: Well, I think, if teams are going to be successful with remote work, it is going to come down to the manager.

It’s gonna come down to the manager being effective on how they lead their teams and one on one meeting is an important part of that.

So, if you’re talking about what are these key things that I’m going to go do in my one on one’s that are essential, it really does start with understanding that you are the key and the second thing is it’s got to be on your calendar every single week.

I mean, in our research, you know, only 60 – 65% of managers even have scheduled team meetings, and much less scheduled one on one meetings!

So, if the team meeting is on the calendar every single week no matter if, and’s or but’s, it is a 100% of managers having a weekly team meeting.

And then a 100% of managers need to having scheduled one on one times with their teams. If you have a big team, as I mentioned, it can be every other week but the point is if we are going to be working remotely, these things have to be on the calendar to make sure that teams are effective and they’re working on the right things.

5How should leaders look at communication when they are working remotely?

John: It’s a good question. Communication in general, everything relies on it. Everything breaks down when communication breaks down from relationships to marriages to best friends, I mean the moment that we stop communicating is when it starts to break down. So, let’s start right there.

No matter if you’re leading a remote team or an in person team, leadership is a one on one game and relationships are at the centre of it. So, you can’t communicate enough as a leader of a remote team.

You can’t communicate enough as a leader of a remote team, because people need even more than they are getting when they are in the office.

When they are remote, people are going to start spinning the stories in their head if they don’t hear anything.

So over communication; if you’re gonna have to pick one between over communicate and under communicate.

Successful communication is about three C’s. Can your communication be Clear, Concise and most importantly Conclusive.  

Now, I’ll explain these three things.

Is it clear what I’m asking people to do, do I get that email or do I get that slack net message and do I know who is responsible for it and what it is.

Then, can I make it concise, can I make it as short as possible as it can be with the most important information in it.

Then come, can I make it conclusive. Because communication is all about the person receiving the communication not the person delivering it.

So, can I make sure that person knows what the pain or gain is, if this is done or not done in the message. So again, can I make it clear, can I make it concise and can I make it conclusive.

And if our messages as a leader start hitting that lens of clear, concise and conclusive, our communication will improve.

I want to add one thing, this is so important.

So often we getting into this efficiency versus an effectiveness mindset and most of the time when we are leading our remote team we get into this, how effective can we make it. But just keep in mind that relationships and building them takes time.

So we don’t want to rush the development of that relationship. Don’t lose sight of that relationship building component in communication because the stronger the relationship is the better the output is going to be. 

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6How can today’s workforce be prepared to be leaders of a tomorrow that is very different from what was anticipated?

John: The biggest place this is gonna impact is the mindset that many leaders that never thought that they could get there are going to now get there. I’ll explain.

There are many leaders, myself included that just didn’t think that we could be as productive or people could work remotely or from home to the same level as we can work if we’re all in the same office.

I mean, there’s always been this kind of how many hours are you in the office and that dictates how hard you work.

And there’s certainly some great truth to the success of teams and people for how hard they work, there’s no shortcut to hard work.

But where this is changing is that many leaders used to assume that you had to be in the office and if you weren’t in the office, you weren’t working.

So what this pandemic is going to do. It’s going to change their mindsets to realise that, one, they can be very productive not in their office and two, so can their teams.

And so, while the future is certainly some blend of working remotely and working the office and getting together, I think the biggest change is in the mindset of leaders that never thought this is possible because they’re seeing themselves being productive not being in the office.

I think that’s one of the big changes and like most things it starts with the mindset shift and that hopefully will help the future or remote work and how people work moving forward. 

7What would be your top three tips to leaders to lead successfully in these difficult times?

John: The first is, remember that you are the connector of cause. When we get into remote work, it becomes very easy to forget why we do what we do and why it’s so important.

So, while it will be easy for you and your team to focus on the tasks and the outcomes that we need, don’t forget to continue to remind yourself of why your team exist and why it does what it does.

Don’t assume that your people are going to remember that, so you can connect your team to a mission or a cause that is deeper than just the pay check that they receive every two weeks.

That is still going to be your responsibility from a leadership perspective and it might be more important when you are remote and you’re not with each other all the time. So that’s tip number one.

The second tip, is to ensure that you have clear standards for your remote team. Our standard is, defining what good looks like.

And in our work we found that the best leaders don’t define what good looks like, they define what great looks like.

So ensure that you’re defining what great looks like for your team. Define that standard for them so that’s clear. What does your team meeting standard look like, what does your one on one meeting standard look like, define what great looks like for your team.

It will help you and your team perform better. So that’s number two.

And then number three, which we talked about a little bit before, make your communication more clear, concise and conclusive.

You will not successfully lead a remote team if you’re not an effective communicator.

So, continue to work on those skills the best you can. Just keep that growth mindset and keep your learner hat on to say, how do I continue to get better from a communication perspective for my remote team. 

So that’s how I would summarise them: No1: Remember that you are the connector of Cause, No2: Be really clear about defining what great looks like for your team, those standards and No3: Become a great communicator using clear, concise and conclusive language and it will help you lead your remote teams more effectively. 

Let me close with this, I very much believe that people are right where they are supposed to be and so if you find yourself leading a remote team and you’re uncomfortable, you’re right where you’re supposed to be.

You can adapt, you can change, you can be successful in this role.

This is not only for certain people, you’re right where you’re supposed to be and you give everything that you can to be successful right where you are and that’s all you can do.

And so I would encourage any one listening today or watching today that, you’re right where you’re supposed to be and work really hard to be as good as you can be right now. 

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Strategies to prepare for future of work & leadership with John Eades of LearnLoft