A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”
Margaret J. Wheately

Do you ever wonder if, sometimes, your staff is missing something?

Drive?       Determination?       A Brain?

They don’t do anything unless they’re told to do it.

They don’t try, try again and instead, give up at the slightest challenge or barrier.

They don’t apply logical reasoning, they don’t problem solve or otherwise THINK.

Lordy, what’s wrong with them?



Did you every consider it might be your fault?

Wowza, what a concept.


I was smacked in the face with this possibility today, albeit with my 7 year old son, Andrew.  He had a rough morning.

Who am I kidding?  We both had a rough morning and, if I’m honest with myself, I must take some responsibility for it.

Andrew exhibits the above behaviors and, while he’s only seven years old, his “problems” are the same as some of my adult and young adult employees.


They don’t do anything unless they are told to do it.  

This may be a result of what I like to call “dysfunctional leadership.”  When I consistently use an autocratic leadership style (high task, low relationship), regardless of if the situation relies upon or benefits from that type of style, the result is piece meal work from my staff.  Why would they move forward with the next task if I have consistently shown they need to wait for my direction?  Why would they take matters into their own hands if I have consistently communicated to them that Shelly does this and Harold does that?  Why would they ever take ownership in a full task if I have always controlled it?

What I need to do is fluctuate my leadership style depending upon the task, the ability of my employees and the desired outcome.  Living in one style all the time is inefficient and often detrimental to my team.  Only when I work towards democratic or laissez faire leadership (when appropriate to do so) will my staff begin to see the bigger picture, better understand and identify with their roles, and start to work holistically.


They don’t try, try again and instead, give up at the slightest challenge or barrier.

This may be a result of me being too harsh or over critical when mistakes are made. When I don’t empower my employees to be creative and think outside of the box, they won’t. When I condemn my staff for mistakes, or otherwise hold the error over their heads, I make it very difficult for them to risk another one. In other words, I am not making it easy for them to live outside their comfort zones.

What I need to do is encourage my staff to try new things and show them that it’s ok to goof up from time to time provided they learn from it. I need to show them that perseverance is to be celebrated, especially when it’s accompanied by tenacity and lightheartedness! Only when my staff know there is safety outside the comfort zone will they stretch themselves out of it.


They don’t apply logical reasoning, they don’t problem solve or otherwise THINK.

This may be a result of lack of mentoring.  Perhaps I’ve instructed more than I’ve guided. Perhaps I’ve jumped in and given answers too soon. Perhaps I’ve controlled both the conversation and the action a bit too much. If so, I haven’t helped develop my staff’s logical reasoning and, therefore, how can I blame them when they get stuck?

What I need to do is stop giving all the answers, stop being so impatient with them that I simply do things myself or tell them exactly what needs to be done.  I need to ask questions, I need to make suggestions and inquire about their thoughts on what comes next. I need to ask “why” and “what” and “how” and then wait long enough for the answers. Only when my staff are able to exercise their brains will their brains start working well for me.


So, there are my thoughts…they came to me because my dear little son had a rough morning and, as I was scolding him, I caught a glimpse of myself, figuratively and literally, in the mirror.

What about you?  What do you see when you look in the mirror?


AccountabilityCommunicationsEmployee EngagementEmployee RelationsEncouragementEngagementForgivenessLeadershipMentoringPerformance ManagementSkill DevelopmentTrustWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • November 13, 2014

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