3 Leadership Mistakes that Hurt Performance and Growth

There are 3 leadership mistakes that hurt organizational performance and growth. Time and again, these mistakes show up as I share insights with leaders about creating business excellence or achieving long-term sustainability. You can identify some from responses such as; “We are focusing on technical skills this year.” Fair enough; after all, who doesn’t want to develop technical skill and become an industry, expert? Trouble is, focusing on technical skill can only take an organization so far.

Technical skill is the last thing you want to focus on to succeed at the top. Instead, creating an environment that enables people with a sense of meaning and satisfaction to maximize their potential is possibly everything you will need to succeed.


The 3 leadership mistakes that hurt organizational performances and growth are…


1. Inappropriate performance management and review

Performance review is a powerful tool used to manage employees’ personal and professional development. It helps leaders to check on how much clarity employees have on their goals, and whether any interventions were necessary. For some reasons, many organizations manage performance reviews as an “event” that occurs once in 360 days. By doing so, they allow mistakes to go unnoticed from days 1 to 359. Day 360, therefore, becomes the day when judgment is read and sentences passed on their employees.

The traditional 360-day performance appraisal system is one of the leadership mistakes that has been criticized for its high operational cost. The inability to cater for employees’ personal and professional development is its major drawback.

As I coach high-producing executives and entrepreneurs to maximize performance, I discovered contrary to public opinions that creating result is not the primary assignment of leadership. The primary role of leadership is developing other leaders. This is what high-producers do that helps them to multiply result, and one of the most effective ways they do that is by having an on-going conversation with their teams. This role brings to the fore, the ability of leaders in giving and receiving feedback on an on-going basis.


Suggestions for improving performance management and review

If you want to improve your organization’s performance, ensure that your managers and leaders understand the dynamics of setting goals. The biggest challenge I see leaders struggle with about performance review is the inability to communicate clear expectations to employees. Many take it for granted that employees know what to do; that’s not right. As soon as goals are set and timelines agreed, leaders need to communicate them relentlessly until the goals are achieved. While goal setting helps in creating expectations, consistent communication reminds employees about their part in achieving the goal.

Also, for goals to be effective, they must not be set in isolation of the employees. A study shows that goals motivate employees if they are clear, has employees’ input, and align with both the leaders’ and employees’ highest priorities. The goals setting process needs to consider input from employees on what they can accomplish when they can accomplish them, and how the successful outcomes will be measured.

Performance management review can be more effective if they hold regularly on a weekly or monthly basis, and upon a set of clear expectations. Doing so will drive engagement between leaders and their employees, and enhance motivation to meet the expectations.


2. Lack of a Corporate Coaching Culture

At the close of a Monday morning review meeting, Emeka stormed out of the room emphasizing: “I’ve told them what they should do more than 100 times, and they still don’t get it. I’ve sent them to training and taught them how to be creative, yet… They have to figure out how to improve their performances; else I’ll no longer tolerate them.”

If you lead a team that you tell what to do, you’d possibly feel similar frustrations as Emeka. Not coaching employees to maximize potential is one of the leadership mistakes that needs an urgent intervention. One point leaders need to understand is that people fail to performance not because they are less qualified or inexperience. Nearly 90% of employees in corporate organizations are qualified for the jobs they’re hired for. Many employees become less productive when there is a disconnect between them and their core potential. In my experience of coaching business leaders and entrepreneurs to maximize performance, leaders who ask questions and allow their staff to figure out ‘how to resolve their issues’ always produce better results than those who simply tell their staff what to do.


Suggestions for coaching in the workplace

Coaching provides the basis for quality conversations and feedback about how well employees are performing. It also helps leaders to learn about the challenges hindering employees in performing their tasks. Managers who understand the concept of coaching facilitate the process to help employees identify their mistakes and fix them on time.

But there is a problem here. Because it takes a process to switch from ‘telling’ to ‘coaching,’ leaders need to develop relevant coaching skills to be efficient. The need became obvious in one of my meetings with the ‘Head of Learning’ of a popular bank in Nigeria. Like Emeka, the leader was frustrations that his employees resist his coaching questions. “How can you coach when your employees are not willing to answer your questions?” he asked. “Even when you decide to not tell them what to do, you are forced to do so because you don’t know what questions to ask,” he added.

There are two obvious reasons why employees can resist coaching questions. First, if senior management fails to approve corporate coaching as a performance improvement framework in the organization. Second, if line-managers do not have the requisite coaching competence. In either case, leaders will have difficulty coaching their employees.

Corporate coaching requires senior management’s approval to implement coaching for building trust, creating engagement, and improving performance in an organization. It also requires frontline managers to learn how to coach employees to produce better results. Only when these steps are can leaders ask the right questions, listen to employees, acknowledge their successes, and be able to address their fears.


3. Inability to set goals and establish accountability

Leaders who understand how to maximize productivity agree that leadership success begins with setting goals and establishing accountability. Goal setting is one strategy that leaders leverage to maximize results, as well as develop accountability with employees.

Accountability is crucial for high-performance because it transfers responsibility of taking action and achieving goals to employees. Not setting goals and establishing accountability is one of the leadership mistakes that hinder high-performance . When leaders fail to set goals and establish accountability, they invariably take responsibility for everything, including chasing non-performing employees. With accountability in place, employees take responsibility and challenge one another to perform. They do so because they have a clear understanding of the goals to achieve, the actions to take, and when to achieve it by.


Suggestions for setting goals and establishing accountability

Whether you want to achieve a sales target or produce a management report on time, setting goals and developing accountability can make a huge difference. When setting goals, be specific about what you want exactly, when you want it by, and how to measure it. Find out where you are on the goal presently, and determine the resources you will need to achieve the new goal. Clarify the key actions to take, and the relevant team charters, including the accepted behaviours within the team. Be sure to provide reasonable resources for taking action and achieving the goal.  Once done, it’s time to hold weekly conversations with the team to be sure that things are going on track.

To develop accountability with your team, think about how your engagement could help to improve their results. I say that because many leaders often think of accountability as an opportunity to exercise authority or avenge past insubordinations. When holding accountable, focus on what you can do to facilitate the person’s future development. It’s not a time to find fault, judge, or criticize. Instead, help them to uncover what’s stopping them from taking action, and develop new action plans to overcome them.


In Conclusion

The primary responsibility of high-producing leaders is developing other leaders, whom they can leverage to accelerate performance and result. Accomplishing that usually involves three important strategies:

  • Develop a simple approach to managing people’s performance,
  • Coach consistently, and
  • Set goals and establish accountability.

Many of the leadership mistakes that hurt organizational growth stem around the 3 leadership mistakes above. Not taking time to implement them can be costly.



At CGC, we can help to redesign your performance management strategy so you can create results that will pay off long into the future:

  • See how our Executive Coaching approach can help senior leaders and executives in your organization to think differently, challenge their status quo, and produce superior results.
  • Explore our Corporate Coaching Framework to help your front-line managers to develop core-coaching competencies and transform from “managing” into “coaching.”
  • Bring our Leading High-Performance Teams masterclass into your organization to help your managers build an engaging work environment.
  • Help your employees to embrace conscious leadership by participating in our Developing Leadership Capability masterclass to understand what high-performance leaders do that make people follow them willingly.

Author: Nkem Mpamah
Everything I do is helping my clients to think differently, challenge their status quo, and help them produce superior results. I leverage Executive Coaching, and Leadership and Strategic Advisory tools and framework to accomplish that. Why not leave your thoughts for me in the "comment box" below, so I can learn from you, and be able to tailor more invaluable insights to meet your needs? Thank you.

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