How Poor Leadership Performance
Impacts Employee Motivation

If you’ve ever worked for someone with poor leadership performance and skills, you certainly understand how inconsistency, negativity and unpredictability can diminish your sense of job motivation and company loyalty.

“I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship,” said a bright young professional who recently attended my Leading for Loyalty workshop. She proceeded to discuss examples of her manager’s inconsistent and unprofessional behavior. Clearly she was intelligent and capable, someone I would identify as a high potential person for her organization. Unfortunately, she was actively seeking a new employment situation.

Working in the field of employee loyalty provides me with regular opportunities to encounter individuals just like this woman. Young and progressive, with promising careers ahead of them — and very dissatisfied in their current job.

It is a mistake to underestimate the effect of the leadership performance on the employee’s working experience. In most cases, the quality of relationship with an employee’s immediate manager is the most powerful determinant of job satisfaction. Work for someone who is professional, positive and respectful, and you are more likely to adopt a similar approach and to enjoy your work. Sadly, the reverse is equally true.

This correlation between leadership performance, leadership strength and happy employees is more easily identified with younger workers who are most likely to equate their experience with your company with the quality of their leaders.

The consequences of poor leadership cost your organization directly and indirectly. Poor productivity aside, the greatest cost of unhappy employees can be measured in terms of negative impact on co-workers, lost opportunity costs and time and money spent to improve staff morale.

So what is an organization to do? There are three key things that every organization can do to improve leadership performance:

Invest In Training

It seems like a “no-brainer” that a trainer would recommend training, however, all too often we promote or move people into leadership roles without providing adequate preparation or development. Equip front-line leaders with the essential communication, feedback, and relationship building skills that are essential for success. Most struggling leaders are struggling because they are unskilled in these vital leadership techniques. Training leaders to communicate clear expectations, to provide relevant feedback and to foster strong relationships is the single best investment you can make toward improving employee loyalty.

Establish Coaching Mechanisms

Coaches help a leader to define priorities, to develop strategies for improvement and to take action. Senior leaders and Human Resource professionals provide this service internally, or you can hire an outside coach to support your leaders. In the “busyness” of the business, it is easy to slip into operational mode and not pay attention to strategy, planning and action. Coaching ensures that the leader stays focused on what is important and uses progressive techniques in dealings with staff.

Incent and Reward Positive Leadership Behaviors

Reinforcement ensures behavior change. By making relationship building and feedback the base requirements of a leader's job, you are more likely to see improvements in this area. To carry it a step further, one of my clients has instituted a process to measure employees’ assessments of the leader’s strengths in this area. Employees are randomly asked to assess their leader at various points throughout the year and the compiled results are shared with the leader. Here’s the kicker — 40% of the leader’s bonus rides on the annual results of these assessments. As an industry leader and highly profitable company, this bonus can equate to thousands of dollars for an individual leader. This company clearly understands the benefits of strong leadership, positive leadership performance, and happy employees, and has decided to ensure measurable success in this area of their business.

There are many additional strategies to support and develop your leaders, but these simple ideas will enhance their ability to motivate and lead employees.

Content Editors or Webmasters: You may reprint this article providing you include the following “About the Author” information in its entirety. (Including a hyperlink to

Wendy Phaneuf is a professional speaker and author and a global expert in employee motivation and retention. Wendy is also the Founder of The Training Source and — a one-stop information source that helps leaders and their organizations enhance employee motivation and retention.

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