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The Weakest Link

leadership leading change neuroscience

As every successful business leader knows, people are not the greatest asset of a company; the right people are.  And the right people do not need to be tightly managed or fired up.

"The only way to deliver to your people who are performing, is to unburden them of those who are not willing to perform." 

Derek Mair 

Of the many Leader/Owners I have asked to critique their own business or team, the majority point out how much more they could do, if only they had more capable and enthusiastic employees who were also invested in the growth of the business with pride and a sense of responsibility and self-motivation. While it is true that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it is also true that we generally get the kind of people that we market for and expect. 

Sometimes I've heard leader/owners argue that their people are not dedicated or professional enough, but the same owners refuses to provide them with adequate training or compensation. I've heard others say that if their employees would just be more productive and make fewer mistakes, revenues and profits could increase – but these same leaders/owners have no adequate measurements and plans in place to systemise or maximise efficiency. Others I've met want to control everything and won't delegate important tasks to anyone else because they can do it better, quicker, etc… And then they wonder why their best people cannot assume a greater leadership role and shoulder more responsibility.

The fact is that that many leaders are the weakest link in the chain without even realising it, and certainly with no intent.

Let’s start here... If you were to start a new business or grow a new team tomorrow, how many of your current team would you rehire? 

If there are some that you would not re-hire, I want you to think deeply on why you are tolerating that in your current business.

If your team is not performing, consider its your Leadership that needs to improve. If they are not the right people for the job, you hired them, therefore it’s still your leadership that needs to improve along with your hiring system.

The fact is that 'businesses do not work'; people work, therefore if you want your business to work well there is nothing more important than hiring and developing the right people in the right positions. Review our Top 10 Hiring and Interview Tips

Do your team members take ownership of the roles and responsibilities that 'you' have defined through contracts, handbooks, job descriptions, procedures, core values, and do they hold themselves accountable to these? 

Do you hold them accountable if they don’t hold themselves accountable? 

Imagine if you can your favourite sports team where the players (team members) did not know their positions, were not taught how to play the game properly and are not continually developed to improve. Do you think that team (YOUR TEAM) can succeed?

To improve, getting clarity must be your number one priority…

Clarity around your vision, purpose and values and have them so well defined that every team member understands the culture of the organisation they are part of or are joining.  Share with them how you would like them to grow in their role so that they can make decisions, for the better of the business, based on the guidelines that you have established… This will free up your time.

Clarity around what you want them to do and what it means to be successful: You need to know what activities you want the team member to accomplish as well as a strong definition of what it means for them to be successful. Set expectations that are aligned with the business needs and continually challenge them. You need to align them and teach them to practice personal leadership taking ownership for defined responsibilities and holding themselves and each other accountable: Find out more about our ‘Team Alignment Workshop'

Clarity around the fact that as you re-define your culture it will not be for everyone. Be prepared that not everyone will take the journey with you because not everyone can or should take that journey. Some will not be able to handle that they can no longer get away with an attitude that is incongruent with the redefined culture. Some will realise they can no longer fulfil their own agenda in the new environment, and some will not want to change, grow, or step out their comfort zone. You need to expect this while always giving people measured and tracked opportunity to adapt. Some may leave of their own vocation, however if others cannot change to the new expected norm, then you need to exchange them, kindly thanking them for their past contributions and move on.

Clarity around what this will mean for you: As your team take over some of the roles and responsibilities in your business or process, your time will be freed up and you will be tempted to micromanage. RESIST IT! Micromanaging people will drive off the team members you need and keep the ones that will wait for you to make all decisions, (increasing your time in the business).

Clarity around your leadership. Studies have shown that trust and confidence in leadership is the single most reliable predictor of employee satisfaction in an organisation. Regardless of the leadership style every successful leader must exhibit the qualities of passion and responsibility and take a vested personal interest in those who look to them for guidance, growth, decisions, and development…

Clarity around how to hold people accountable. For many leader/owners the topic of Accountability is difficult to understand, why it's important, and how to create a culture of accountability. Being accountable can be challenging, so do not let yourself feel discouraged if you need some improvement. You are not alone. Everyone needs to spend some time focusing on accountability, though it must always start with you holding you accountable to lead by example and propagate your team’s culture...

Leadership shapes culture, and if you want to create a culture of accountability, your behaviours provide emotional permission for everyone else within your company to behave the same. If you want people to take ownership, then you must be seen to take ownership. If you want people to take responsibility, then you must be seen to take responsibility. If you make commitments, then you must be seen to honour those commitments. If you don't, then how can you expect other people to?

As a leader Accountability comes with the job description, which means you are accountable for your company failures, as well as its successes.  Failure of the leader(s) to be accountable for failures and directing the team to figure out how to prevent it happening again, will continually diminish the level of accountability that already exists within the team.

If you choose to let one person away with not holding them accountable in an assertive manner, meaning you assert the company values in a way that does not violate the individual, then it opens the door for others to practice selective accountability.

Top reasons team members practice selective accountability, (not holding themselves accountable):

  • They don't know why what they are doing is important, which you are accountable for because you didn't explain it.
  • They are doing it out of compliance because they have been told to. If there is no commitment, then the culture is not right, which you are accountable for.
  • They are not the right fit with your culture, which you are accountable for because you hired them.
  • They do not feel a sense of Connection or Variety through being trusted with the Autonomy to perform and creatively get involved in improving things, they have no voice and are rarely heard, therefore they feel their actual job is just to do be a robot and do as they are told.
  • They do not feel a sense of Certainty and Importance through growing their skills, self-knowledge, self-awareness and mindset in meaningful ways that Enrich all aspects of their life, therefore feel they are just a replaceable cog in your machine.
  • They do not feel a sense of Significance or that they are Contributing to something greater than turning up to get a wage, therefore feel undervalued and underappreciated with little purpose and simply choose to leave their passion at home.

What’s important is that Accountability is done in the right spirit. That it is seen to be fair and equitable, that is done in an empathic but assertive way. It’s about every team member doing their job and hence resulting in a team that outperforms the sum of it’s parts. Only when everyone on the team has clarity can you achieve as a High Performance Team. When it really works well, it’s often not the leader holding people accountable, it’s the team members holding themselves and one another accountable… That’s when the real magic happens.

So, what happens when you don’t hold people accountable in an assertive manner… You become the weakest link in the eyes of your employees... Follow the chain and recognise if you are the weak link:



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