4 Mistakes You May Make as a Leader that Kill Team Motivation

I believe that you can lead in two different ways – by dictatorship or by influence.

Dictatorship mentality restricts organic growth and utilizes a fear-based approach to force results. This leadership method takes a lot more resources and takes away individual instincts, creating a cutthroat environment which may lead to high turnover rates and below average results.

Influence is based on creating a culture that empowers the individual to take ownership of their efforts and duties organically through a winning culture that is positive and supportive while tying productivity to measured results. This allows each person to grow individually based on their own makeup and increases loyalty. I write more extensively about this in my book “Life Above and Beyond the Rim”.

The best example of this is when I was running my design build company and had a manager running the millworks division. This manager was to take pressure off of me so that I could focus on running the company and getting new business in order to continue growth. However, when I reviewed the data it turned out we were spending more, tight on deadlines, and we weren’t as efficient as we once were. I seemed overworked because I constantly had to redo or re instruct to get us all back to the level I expect from my brand. This manager eventually broke company guidelines and I had to let him go.

I took over and had to reorganize and create a system to produce the desired results for the company and the client. Drawing from my days of playing with the world champion Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, I implemented a culture that would do the work for me. Through this concept I cut the fat and reduced the in-house employees to only the core necessary, which actually produced better results.

I gave each person ownership over their own department and created a checklist that they had to sign off on before it moved on to the next department. This made them accountable to themselves because they had to put their name on it. From there, I positively acknowledged each and put a high emphasis on the finished product and feedback from the client. This made them feel like they were part of a winning team and that they all mattered. Within six months we doubled production, increased efficiency and accelerated profits. Everyone was happy, and best of all I had more time to focus on the duties that kept the company running.

Because this is a common issue throughout all industries, I often speak and coach on this to owners, CEOs, managers and group leaders. Many will seek to hire the best talent in the marketplace only to micromanage and restrict them to 20% of their potential. One of the reasons this happens is the “Thief from Within,” mentioned in Chapter 5 of my book. For more information like this and free training, visit joecourtneyonline.com.

Above all, I believe that as a team leader, it’s your job to rally the troops – you set the tone for productivity, capability and also motivation. A great leader knows how to motivate a team to success, but sometimes their actions have the opposite effect. Without knowing it, a leader can kill an entire team’s motivation with one simple mistake.

The trick to avoiding this scenario is to one, be self-aware; and two, understand what the common mistakes are before you make them. To help prevent any situation like this on your own teams, here are four mistakes to be aware of.

Unknowingly Berating Subordinates

In business, there is always room for criticism – however, how you coach this criticism makes a world of difference. For instance, say a team member makes a very critical error, causing the rest of the team to have to work an extra day on a project, putting it behind schedule. This is definitely worthy of criticism, or even being removed from the project in extreme scenarios, but figuratively beating someone over the head with their mistake can create a bad team environment.

In other cases, a leader has a very high standard that team members don’t match, which can lead to undue criticism. In either situation, the answer is to offer criticism that is constructive and valuable – discuss mistakes once and drop them unless they crop up again.

Not Being Open Enough

Leaders are often tasked with taking care of the information of the project, then they disperse it to the other team members. If a leader has information or a particular picture in their head for what they want a completed project to look like, it’s their job to communicate their idea to the team – it is not the team’s job to read the mind of a leader.

A motivated team is a team that knows there is an open flow of communication between everyone involved, and that includes the leader of the team more than anyone. If you want a team to complete work in a way that you like, it’s your job to give them the information they need to succeed.

Refraining From Compliments

One of the most basic methods of boosting motivation on a team is cheering on its members. As a leader, you have the authority to give out praise, and your praise in particular means more to them than their peers.

In a similar way, not providing team members with praise can kill their motivation. Team members appreciate being told that they are doing a good job, and this helps keep them on a path to productivity. Refraining from giving these compliments gives them the impression you don’t like what they’re doing, effectively de-motivating them.

Not Offering Direction When Needed

Being a leader isn’t just about a fancy title – it’s about responsibility and having the capability to direct others. Being a leader is like being the captain of a ship while the other team members are the crew. You steer the boat; everyone else helps to make it all happen.

A leader that doesn’t steer the ship in the right direction leaves everyone adrift at sea. This laissez-fair style of leadership leaves all of the responsibility on the heads of the team members, which can overwhelm them and kill their faith in their leader.

Leadership requires responsibility, and being a responsible leader inspires motivation. When a leader leads effectively, team members work effectively – and this is how success becomes inevitable instead of just a possibility.

I understand what it takes to be a leader. If you want to learn more about my leadership methods, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a chat about leadership and other business success topics.


Here’s an extra  video with 3 business and life success tips from my journey with the Chicago Bulls. https://youtu.be/Vv3iGfF7zHs