Leaders are interested in getting results.  Whether they work with large teams spread out throughout the globe, or lead a small team in a local business, Leaders understand that they have to get results and need to get results through others.  A Leader is the single most powerful influencer on the kind of results achieved.

A Leader can galvanize people to cause amazing results as well as a Leader can single-handedly sabotage performance.  Let’s look at the ways Leaders can unknowingly sabotage performance.

How does the Leader deal with dysfunctional performers?

People are motivated by different things.  Some want to work their way to the top, make more money, some like to work for a cause, others because they like the spot light.  But whatever the reason, most people want to do a good job.

However, one person’s dysfunctional behavior can derail the others.  Types of dysfunctional behavior are when someone:

  • Undermines others
  • Doesn’t pull their weight and leaves their work for others
  • Resists new ideas and change
  • Is just not equipped to do the job
  • Unprofessional behavior:  blows up, makes inappropriate remarks, etc.

When a Leader ignores these destructive behaviors team performance suffers. The longer the behavior is allowed to continue, the deeper the impact.

The Vice President of a team we worked with was complaining of team burnout.  She was responsible for a team of twelve.  A confidential team survey revealed that one of her Leaders exhibited unprofessional behavior.  Not only did she gossip about others, she also bullied her direct report.  This behavior impacted everyone.  People didn’t discuss real problems because they feared she would ridicule them behind their back.  Her staff member feared asking questions and tried to have limited contact.

At first the VP did not take this behavior seriously.  She felt there were more important items to focus on.  As time went on, the team stopped working together.   Performance continued to suffer.  As time went on a few people requested transfers to other departments.  The VP finally took action to address the person’s dysfunctional behavior.

Once the dysfunctional behavior was dealt with it took time for performance to improve.  The Leader had to demonstrate that she would not tolerate the dysfunctional behavior.  The Leader learned to take action and address any behaviors that could sabotage the team’s performance.

 Does the Leader Squash Creativity?

Many great ideas come directly from staff and line employees.  New processes, products, ways of looking at data, can all come from within.


However, the Leader’s behavior can suck the life out of a team when they:

  • Criticize failures & don’t tout successes
  • Micro-manage and are overly controlling
  • Don’t empower others
  • Take credit for other’s idea

Rather than try new approaches or make suggestions, too often team members will spend a lot of energy to stay below the radar when Leaders exhibit one or all of the qualities above.  There’s nothing more damaging to employee spirit when a Leader publicly criticizes someone that tries something new, but it didn’t work.

Leader’s need to celebrate initiative.  There’s time for analysis to see what worked and what didn’t work.  But initiative and creativity must always be recognized, otherwise your team is destined to maintain the status quo!

Does the Leader work in a vacuum?

Leaders need to be visible and communicate with their teams.  Frequently we see where leaders stay in their office and send out requests through emails, voicemails and text.  However, Leaders that work in a vacuum sabotage performance when they don’t share:

  • Vision and future direction
  • Priorities
  • New products, services, and company changes
  • Team contributions and company results

Frequently we are engaged to conduct an Organizational or Team Climate Survey.  Frequently employees rate communication from their Leaders very low.  Employees are unclear of their company’s vision, and often hear about new products and company changes from the news and internet.

Poor communication directly leads to poor performance.  It’s up to a Leader to be a conduit between the top of the organization on down.  As well as provide information from their team to the top.  When employees are informed they can see how their work fits in.  Communication is a real multiplier of performance.

Does the Leader have Self-Awareness?

How does lack of Self-Leadership sabotageAwareness sabotage performance?  First let’s get a definition of Self-Awareness according to Webster’s dictionary:

“the state or condition of being aware: having knowledge; consciousness:”

A Leader that is self-aware has a strong understanding of themselves.  They know their strengths and limitations and will put their energies into things that utilize their strengths.  A skillful Leader, has the sense and confidence to surround themselves by others that possess different strengths.  Leader’s sabotage team performance when they are:

  • Unclear of their own strengths and weaknesses
  • Fearful of others that have strengths they don’t have
  • Unaware that they are bringing no diversity to their team
  • Too busy or short-sighted to develop themselves and others

A study conducted by Korn/Ferry of 6,977 professionals at 486 publicly traded companies revealed how their leaders assessed their Leadership characteristics.  This self-assessment was designed to uncover “blind spots” the leaders’ had in their Leadership characteristics.  The frequency of such blind spots was then gauged against the Rate of Return (ROR) of those companies’ stock. The analysis demonstrated that, on average:


  • Poorly performing companies’ leaders had 20% more blind spots than those working at financially strong companies.
  • Poor-performing companies’ leaders were 79% more likely to have low overall self-awareness than those at firms with robust ROR.


Stock performance was tracked over thirty months, from July 2010 through January 2013. During that period the companies with the greater percentage of self-aware employees consistently outperformed those with a lower percentage. *

Self-awareness is not about fixing what is wrong with someone.  Rather self-awareness means the individual has key awareness of their strengths, understands and looks to improve on their strengths and any areas that may get in the way of having breakthrough performance.  Self-awareness also expands to how others perceive you, and how you interact with others.

We always include multi-science assessments in our coaching as well as conduct 360 Degree Feedback Surveys.  The 360 Degree Feedback Surveys provide how others perceive you, whereas the assessments provide unbiased information and reveal who you are. When we are brought in to deal with an individual that is having problems getting their team to perform, we consistently find a low level of self-awareness.  The good news is that when Individuals are open to coaching team performance improves as the individual’s self-awareness improves.  By merely shining a light on a person they can begin to take better actions.

Having Breakthrough Performance

Take a look at your team’s performance.  Are you consistently achieving breakthrough results?  If not, seek out feedback from someone you respect and trust.  Do a self-check by asking:

  • Can I say with 100% confidence that I am not exhibiting any of the sabotaging behaviors discussed?
  • Are there times when I work in a vacuum?  Do I need to be more visible?  Communicate more?
  • Do I take time to reflect on my abilities?  What can I strengthen that will make a difference in my performance?
  • Am I committed to I helping others having breakthrough performance?

Start in one area, and take on one new action.  Continue to assess your actions, measure results, and continue taking on new actions.  You’ll be on your way to Breakthrough Performance.


Korn/Ferry Institute:  A Better Return on Self-Awareness, by David Zes and Dana Landis, August 2013