Leaders Cause Problems

Leaders Set Up Teams for Failure



Musical conductors are aware that the results they get are a direct reflection of what the ensemble is seeing. The first line of correction is to change language, conducting style, or technique, or try a different tack.

In my keynote presentations, I often include the following demonstration of team dysfunction (see video clip below).


Here’s a clip from one of my keynote presentations:

Team Dysfunction Video from Hugh Ballou on Vimeo.

I asked for people to come forward for this exercise. They stood on both sides of a tent pole. I then gave them the following directions:

  • Touch the pole from the bottom with your index finger
  • Always maintain contact with the pole
  • Never touch the pole from the top
  • Lower the pole to the ground

As I pointed out in the video, I created the problem when I set up the exercise. I did not give the teams time to plan the exercise. I did not give them time to prepare. I gave an ending point and didn’t give them time to think about creating the systems and process to get to the defined result.

This is an example of how we, as leaders, create problems for those attempting to work in or on the organizations we lead.

Providing the end result is the first duty of the leader. Describe the vision. Define the goals. Then, give the team an opportunity to create an action plan to accomplish the goals. The goals will then lead toward fulfillment of the vision.

Mike Myatt, in his article in Forbes, suggests that Businesses don’t fail – Leaders do. He addresses many factors. I am dealing with a single factor of leadership failure – the implementation failure. I find that many organizations have good talent, are properly capitalized, and have a great strategy, but fail in the implementation of the plan. The musical conductor has all these factors in place. The performance can be excellent or mediocre. It’s the leadership that makes the difference.

Here are some ways that leaders cause problems:

  • Creating Anxiety – the anxious leader spreads anxiety within the team by being anxious about the timing, the outcome, etc.
    • Solution – manage your own anxiety by planning for results and presenting the team with a format for creating the best results – they create the action plan, they own the plan, and they share accountability with each other.
  • Creating Confusion – by not having a written vision and goals, it is  likely that people won’t grasp the idea.
    • Solution – always have a fully articulated and well-thought-out vision statement that defines the future in the present tense. The companion to that is a set of S. M. A. R. T. goals in the present tense. Both should be written and distributed in advance of any planning session.
  • Micromanaging – delegating, and then not letting the team function as delegated.
    • Solution – delegate tasks and responsibilities (much of this happens as the team creates the action plan), along with a timeline for execution and an identified champion for each action item.
  • Not Following Up – delegation is not giving assignments and hoping that results happen.
    • Solution – delegate items to create enough time for follow-up. Follow-up is not micromanagement; it is a time for coaching and support, as well as cheerleading.
  • Withholding Needed Information – not providing the data necessary to make the best decisions.
    • Solution – providing support comes in several forms – mentoring, encouraging, and information sharing. Be sure that each person has the information needed, or access to needed information, before it’s necessary.
  • Giving Unclear or Conflicting Directions – by not thinking through the process and the instructions, the leader creates conflict in the very directions, in language, sequence, or missing information.
    • Solution – as noted in the video above, I told the teams to focus on touching the pole from the bottom, therefore, the pole went up instead of down. If properly directed, the team would be aware of the overall objective, as well as the sequence for moving forward with the task or project.

These things happen mostly because leaders do not effectively plan their work or their day. The effective leader spends more time planning and structuring processes.

Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

(c) 2013 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.

Hugh Ballou (Author)