Get Real: Are You Inspiring Or Hindering Your Team?

As a leader, it’s all too easy to complain and blame your employees when you’re dealing with shoddy work, missed deadlines or dysfunctional team behavior. After all, you can’t force them to do what’s right and show initiative. You can only do so much, right?

Before you continue on with such thoughts, think back to when you first met your team members. It’s extremely unlikely that any of them sauntered into the interview with a disgruntled attitude and tales of woe as they showcased a portfolio of careless work for you to assess. When you first hired them, I’m almost certain that they reported to work full of hope and enthusiasm to do their best and gain your respect. So what happened between then and now?

Somewhere along the line, they learned that it’s not worth it to be accountable at your organization. Their fondness and commitment to their job has vanished because they’ve lost faith in the system. In fact, they’ve lost faith in you. Somehow, you are not cutting it as the leader they need you to be. You are not inspiring them to perform.

As I reflect upon the unique needs of my former and current leadership coaching clients, one thread of commonality is shared. Each of them has issues with inspiring commitment from their team because they don’t have an effective system of accountability. In other words, there isn’t a trinity of defined expectations, performance measures and timely action or feedback based upon output. Said plainly, their teams are working with minimal boundaries, no concrete way to measure their effectiveness, and feedback that is either mostly negative or nonexistent.

Do you want to create passion and accountability in your team? It starts with your ability to “get real” and take appropriate action.

Get real with the role you played in getting your team to this point.

Once you are able to accept the fact that you set the tone for the temperament and output of your team, you are off to a good start. As a leader, your team’s behavior and level of functionality is a complete reflection of what you are demonstrating. If you have a team that refuses to work together or put sincere effort into improving, it’s time to look in the mirror. There is something you are showing them through your behaviors which is telling them that mediocrity is acceptable. We teach people how to treat us and how to behave when they are in our presence. How are you showing your team that it is ok to carry on with their poor behavior?

Get real with what you expect from your team.

Believe it or not, human beings prefer to have boundaries and clear expectations to meet. It provides a sense of security and empowerment. Your employees are no different. Don’t be afraid to sit down with your team for a frank conversation aimed at setting goals and standards as well as defining roles and responsibilities. By involving them in the conversation and getting their input, they will feel a genuine sense of pride and ownership as opposed to how they’d feel if you barked all of your thoughts at them. How are you involving your team in establishing clear goals and expectations so they can clearly see the impact of their efforts?

Get real with your true motives.

There is a reason why you have allowed your team to get to this point. What is it? Before you can guide your team down a path of rebuilding, you have to understand why you’ve played the role you have up until this point. This is crucial in ensuring it doesn’t happen again. Are you overly concerned with being liked by everyone on your team which has prevented you from setting boundaries? Are you so focused on needing to be right and establishing your role as the supreme leader that you squelch any meaningful involvement from your team? Whatever the reason, you can’t reprogram your mindset into a healthier perspective until you know the answer.

A highly functioning and committed team won’t suddenly appear overnight. Where do you need to focus inwardly to build a culture of ownership on your team? It’s not them, it’s you. Get real, face the deal, and then you can heal.

Elizabeth P. Cipolla, SPHR is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 15 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at or visit her company’s website at