4 Clues That Your Leadership Approach Is Why Results Are Poor

Workers staring at computer screens
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Few things in life or business work out as planned, especially in the life of a leader. Whether you are new to leading a team or simply new to leading, it pays to be on the lookout for these 4 indicators that you might need to rethink your approach. 

1. The Results Are Falling Short of Expectations

In business, results are the ultimate measuring stick, and if your team is consistently falling short of targets, it’s time to admit there’s a problem and start looking for a solution. However, before you rush to shake things up, it is important to look closely at your behaviors. 


  • Resist the rush to judgment. Consistently subpar results are an indicator of a problem or, more likely, a confluence of problems. 
  • Avoid blaming factors outside your control. It’s tempting to point fingers at the new product your competitor just launched or the problems with suppliers or quality your firm is having. However, you need to resist the temptation to point. It’s time look at the team around you and importantly at the leader of the team staring back at you in the mirror. 
  • Explore the symptoms outlined in the balance of this article and cultivate an informed perspective on the root causes and needed changes. 
  • Remember, you are the leader of your team. When the team succeeds it is because they did their job. When they fail, it’s your fault. 

2. The Flow of New Ideas is Weak to Non-Existent 

When ideas to solve problems or innovate to improve operations aren’t flowing, there’s usually a leadership factor involved. The leader is responsible for forming and framing the working environment, and when the people in that environment go quiet on offering ideas, it’s time to change your approach. 


  • Perhaps you’ve fallen into the trap of telling instead of asking. Resist the urge to issue orders and instead of describing what to do, ask people what they would like to do. 
  • Explore whether you are intimidating people or, worse yet, inciting fear in the workplace. If your behaviors in the past have involved punishing or chastising individuals who tried new things, you should expect the culture to go quiet on you. You need to model patience and showcase support for people experimenting and failing with new approaches. Position every failure as a lesson learned and encourage people to keep looking for solutions. 

3. Your Team Seems Distant and Standoffish

If you perceive you are getting the cold shoulder, you are probably right. This situation is particularly common for leaders new to a team.


  • You are likely navigating a trust issue with your team members, particularly if you are just getting started working with them. Often, leaders do a little dance with trust, suggesting or telegraphing by actions and words that people have to work hard to earn their trust.
  • To strengthen the team chemistry faster, quit putting people on “trust trial” and instead, offer your trust to them immediately. People will understand your positive gesture and good employees will move mountains to not let you down. If someone does let you down or betray your trust, well, that’s another issue. However, it is worth the risk. Trust first! 

4. Your Team is Just Going Through The Motions

No leader wants to admit that her team is just going through the motions, but it happens. And while it is tempting to look at the people or overall workplace factors as the root causes, you control the energy switch for your team. 


  • If people are not excited about their work or, if they do not clearly see how their efforts connect to the larger corporate mission and key goals, work seems just like…well, work. It is incumbent upon you as the leader to bring a sense of mission and purpose to the challenges your team faces. 
  • Conduct regular business updates with your team. Make certain they understand the overall company or group performance and strive to tie-in the team’s results to the bigger picture results. If your firm uses a scorecard or tracks key metrics, teach your team how to understand those tools and share the latest results with them. 
  • Invite your executive or executives from other groups to visit with the team and share insights about the firm’s strategies and key initiatives. 
  • Encourage your team members to identify opportunities to strengthen their support of their internal or external customers and go to bat to gain approval for new projects or initiatives. Let your team members serve as active project participants. 
  • Celebrate more. Often we are so focused on our daily firefighting that we forget to acknowledge the victories—small and large. Find opportunities to celebrate accomplishments and milestones and become your team’s biggest cheerleader. 

5 Key Actions to Help Strengthen Your Team's Performance:

There’s always an explanation for poor results. While there may be external factors, chances are, there are leadership, resource, and process issues at work creating the challenges. Now that you’ve looked at some factors under your direct control, it’s time to get the team involved in helping diagnose the cause and develop the cure. 

  1. Be transparent with your team about the poor results. They deserve to understand that things are not working and that management is looking for improvements. 
  2. Resist the rush to frame your view to the problem. Ask the team to explore the areas where performance is weak and offer their analyses. Listen more than you talk. 
  3. Once the team develops a hypothesis on root causes, encourage them to detail their ideas for potential solutions. Help them prioritize the ideas. 
  4. Provide ownership of the ideas for improvement to your team members. Ask them to own the implementation and on-going monitoring and tuning of their ideas. This sense of ownership for improving their overall performance will address many of the issues identified throughout this article. 
  5. Celebrate the victories and place your team members in the spotlight with senior management. Remember, when things go right, it is because of them, not you. 

The Bottom-Line

It’s frustrating when things are not running right with your team. As the leader, you control many of the variables that impact morale, teamwork, innovation, problem-solving and performance. Before you rush to blame factors outside your control, pause and take a step back and look carefully at your behaviors. You will be surprised how small changes in your approach will yield significant results.