Are You Making This Lethal Leadership Mistake?

What do you want from your team? You want the team to excel at their job. You want the team to destroy sales records. You want them to be all-stars.

There’s a problem. You may be making this lethal leadership mistake.

Image by Zach Klein

Image by Zach Klein

What is this lethal leadership mistake, you ask. It’s a mistake I’ve seen destroy many great companies and yet leaders continue to make the same mistake over and over again.

This mistake is failing to value each individual team member.

The Lethal Leadership Mistake

When you fail to value each team member, they begin to notice. Team members begin to feel left out and unappreciated.

What this leads to is a sense that their hard work isn’t enough.

Why might they think this? Look at the way you speak to team members. Do you:

  • Criticize their performance?
  • Fail to recognize their pursuit of excellence?
  • Take away incentives to perform well?

These are but three actions that show you don’t value a team member. And they catch on quick. Just look in any retail store. You’re almost certain to run across team members who feel their value is overlooked.

Why You Must Show Team Members They Have Value

Many leaders fail to see the reason to show they value their team. They don’t realize the hard work each team member puts forth for the good of the company.

Team members often give up time with family, skip special events, and even work holidays. They’re at the company office or retail store working hard to not only make money for themselves but to make money for you.

As they’re working, they frequently interact with the company’s customers, effectively becoming the face of the company.

Think about the receptionist. She’s the first person a customer contacting the company has. Does she give off a pleasant attitude or is it rude and abrasive? Her attitude can direct the rest of the interactions this customer has with the company.

Or what about the salesman on the sales floor? His willingness or unwillingness to help a customer impacts the way a customer will think about the store.

Do you see where I’m going here? If an team member is unhappy and feels they lack value to their leader, they can heavily influence the way a customer feels. They can make or break the company.

This is why you MUST value your employees.

What You Can Do To Show Your Team They Are Valued

There’s multiple ways you can show your team you value them. I’ve shared ways you can express the value you feel for your team in the past. Here’s a few reminders:

  • Create an environment of growth: When you encourage your team to grow, you show them that you care. You want to see the team members become more knowledgeable and to advance within the company.
  • Engage with employees: Sit down and have a conversation or share a lunch with your team members. Get to know them and their dreams. Show them you’re interested.
  • Arrive on time: If you’ve planned meetings with your team members, show up on time. Even early. When you do, you show your team you value their time.

As leaders, we must be willing to show our team members we value them. Otherwise we’re making a lethal leadership mistake.

Value your team and they’ll value you. They’ll work hard. They’ll speak well about the company. They’ll dedicate themselves to the company.

Question: Have you found yourself not valuing a team member? How did you course correct? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Excellent post. Several years ago I was promoted to Plant Manager. I discovered very quickly the people were miserable and unmotivated. After talking to several people the main issue was they felt undervalued. Too make a long story short I didn’t have meetings to talk about what I was going to do. I displayed a genuine concern for them by working with them on the floor and listening their concerns and suggestions. I quickly found that when I valued them as human beings and not just employees, we were able to accomplish some great things as a team in my 10 years as leader.

    • It’s amazing how much feeling value can motivate an employee, huh? People are looking for something to believe in and someone to believe in them. Keep doing what you’re doing Bernard.

  • Playing favorites….learned the hard way. When you have a favorite everyone else is the step child.

    • Oh, that’s good too Jim! People can see when you’re playing favorites and their reactions and treatment of the favorite tend to be negative. How are you avoiding playing favorites now?

  • When I was a youth leader their was several times when I was in charge of the youth group evening or an event (leading the leaders and youth). Everyone being volunteers I quickly learned the importance of caring and valuing the people on the team. I tried to overly share my appreciation for them and the work they did. Great post Joe!

    • Volunteers are critical to any organization that utilizes them. You found that out in youth ministry. Sounds like you did a great job of encouraging them with your appreciation. Good job Dan!

  • It’s easy to take your team for granted, along with all the hard work they do. I try to catch them doing something right – and make a big deal out of that. I’d add praise in public and correct in private to your list & make sure your team knows what value their work adds to the organization (internal or external customers). Great post!

    • Awesome Tom. Sounds like you’re on the right track. Thanks for adding your two suggestions to the list.

  • I don’t have enough of a team to have this problem, but sometimes I’m too critical with my daughter. I do my best to keep that in check.

    • Dan, I think this is another post that can be put to use anywhere in our lives. Like you mentioned, you can use it to work at being not so critical of your daughter. I need to keep it in mind when dealing with my wife.

      Keep working at it with your daughter. Don’t give up even when you mess up. It’ll be worth it in the end.

  • David

    Great post and good points. An effective leader recognizes the value of his/her team members no matter where they are in the “pecking order” of things. I could say more but I think my comments on your 04/15/13 post are, by and large, relevant in response to this post as well.

  • lorraine reguly

    Ever watch an episode of Undercover Boss? The thing that employees love the most is to be recognized! A little bit of praise goes a long way!

    This can be applied to children, as well. Praise them ALWAYS. Clap your hands, and tell them “good job” from day one. This will help their self-esteem greatly!

    • I have. It’s a great show that seems to snap “leaders” back into reality.

      • lorraine reguly

        Yes, it certainly does. Looking at things from different perspectives is really important, as this show clearly demonstrates.

        Sorry it took me so long to reply. I am still learning how to use disqus and its system… 🙂

        • No problem Lorraine. Learning new systems takes time. Just play with Disqus and you’ll find it’s a wonderful tool for commenters!

          • lorraine reguly

            I just verified my email address, and I guess now I WILL learn how to use it properly. I forgot I had this account, actually.

    • Have you read “Love Works” by Joel Manby? He was on Undercover Boss. His book is an excellent read for taking leadership to the next level – especially when it comes to valuing our team members.

      • lorraine reguly

        No, I haven’t, but I love the show!

  • Joe,

    A long time ago I was in this situation. I was a very young leader and inexperienced. I valued the efforts of my team but rarely expresses it and it showed. One day a team member confronted me and I was able to change my ways. Since then I walk around trying to find the good as oppossed to the bad. I look for positives in every situation. I still point out deficiencies and needed corrections. However, I place have found a drop of encouragement and positive reinforcement are greater that a pound of straight negativity.

    In the military when the “Boss” comes around you are always concerned he will find mistakes and the one string left hanging on your uniform. In fact, he might find one or two areas that need improvement. However, what about the 20 things they did right.

    It is really a matter of attitude. Get your attitude squared away and you will value your team members,

    • TJ, it sounds like that experience changed your outlook on leadership! Keep working at noticing the good rather than the bad. They say you get more of what you notice and point out.

  • Matt McWilliams’ Thank You Revolution has been huge in helping me to express value to my team members. Every Thursday, I’m sure to write at least one personal Thank You note to someone in my office. It’s been unbelievable to see the results.

    • That’s really cool Jon. It’s great you’ve been able to set up a day to do this as it makes it an easy process to repeat.

      • Just today, I had someone thank me for a thank you note I sent to him last week. Gratitude has an amazing impact…and it’s contagious.