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By Keith Barnwell


“As we look into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others” – Bill Gates

We often hear it said that “people join companies and leave their bosses”. Sadly, in my business as a leadership coach, I see it all the time. People start off in a new role feeling motivated to do their very best and convinced they can succeed. Unfortunately, all it takes are some bad behaviours from those in charge to quickly stifle enthusiasm and leave them feeling confused, lost and totally demotivated.

Take a look at some of the most common mistakes below and tips for how you can avoid them:

Instructions without explanations ~ People need a higher purpose to deliver their best. Without an understanding of the bigger picture, people may not appreciate the significance of their contribution and will soon lose their passion.

Remedy ~ Clearly articulate your wider vision and the value of their role in achieving success.


Micromanagement ~ This implies a lack of trust and confidence in the ability of the people that you manage.   Employees that don’t feel trusted or empowered may feel a lack of ownership of their work. Personal accountability is vital to performance management and can also be a tremendous source of pride and job satisfaction.

Remedy ~ Give them clear instruction, then step back and let them do their job. Treat them the way you’d like your manager to treat you!

Distrust ~ Opportunities promised but not delivered; credit not being given where due. No one likes working for an unethical leader, and you’ll find that the better employees soon find alternate employment.

Remedy ~ Demonstrate positive ethical values in everything you do; remember, it’s your actions that matter, not your words.

Moving Targets ~ Employees that work hard to achieve performance objectives that unexpectedly shift will soon become frustrated and lose their motivation.

Remedy ~ Keep your word. Things change, but you have to be prepared to explain why and always be fair.  

Ambiguous or unattainable goals ~ Setting goals that stretch people can encourage them to achieve more, but if you set unrealistic goals, you may create an environment of distrust and apathy.

Remedy ~ Set ambitious but achievable goals and agree how success will be measured.

Favouritism ~ Can be divisive and is often as unpleasant for the favourite as well as the rest of the team. There may be members of your team that you prefer to others, but it is counter-productive to play favourites.

Remedy ~ Remain objective and make an effort to treat everyone in the team equally. Look for and help develop positive attributes in the other team members that may be overlooked.  

Disloyalty ~ Your team will follow your example, so if you regularly complain and question the authority of those above you, don’t be surprised when your team does the same to you!  The best way to create a culture of loyalty and trust is to lead by example, and good leaders should always demonstrate loyalty.

Remedy ~ If you aren’t happy about a decision or policy, deal with it appropriately. Take it up directly with your manager, and never complain to those who look to you for leadership.

Under appreciation ~ Employees who don’t feel appreciated for their efforts will quickly lose their enthusiasm and move on to a place where they feel valued.  Take a look at the excellent Dan Ariely TED presentation to see what I mean

Remedy ~ “Thank you”, “Well done”, “Good work”. Say it often, be specific, and be sincere!

One-way communication ~ It can be boring and frustrating to constantly receive information or instructions from management without the opportunity to engage in discussion or give feedback. This happens all too often in big business today and the result is a disengaged workforce.

Remedy ~ Ask for feedback, have open discussions as much as possible. Be as open to accepting feedback as you are to giving it!

Change without buy-in ~ Constant change is fairly commonplace in most businesses these days, but change that is imposed without proper communication and engagement can be a painful experience for everyone.

Remedy ~ Take the time to explain the need for change, what is involved and be prepared to ask for feedback and discuss regularly.

Poor delegation ~ Delegation plays an important part in helping your team members to develop and grow; it shows your trust and belief in them. However, delegation without the proper support and authority can damage one’s confidence.

Remedy ~ Take the time to get to know your people; their strengths and areas for development.  Delegate appropriately and take the effort to help them develop confidently and effectively.

Remember: There are major costs associated with staff turnover. Whilst it is easy to blame ‘the culture’ or ‘the company’ it may be worth considering if your actions and behaviours might be contributing to the problem, or even the cause!

Thank you for reading and please share this post with others who you think may find it helpful.

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This is an extract from the LeaderFocus App for the iPad available on iTunes.  To learn more and to download the LeaderFocus App click on the icon.  Keith Barnwell is a leadership development specialist and executive coach at It’s All About Leadership