Reflections
When Leaders Create Drag On Their Business

It’s bad enough when a leader isn’t substantially improving the performance of their people and teams. But what about leaders who are actually having a negative effect on their company’s performance? In an article I co-authored, How Extraordinary Leaders Double Profits , our research revealed that the top 10% of the Fortune 500 leaders we surveyed were bringing in more than double the net income created by the remaining 90%. The real shocker was that the bottom 10% in this group of leaders were actually losing money for their business--to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. How does that happen?

Often the culprit is the daily drip, drip, drip of operating income loss, fueled by seemingly mundane leadership decisions. These include:

-- Unclear or poorly defined strategies that cause confusion and lower productivity
-- Highly political environments where managing optics, heavy-handed bureaucracy, bottlenecks or the need to “cover your ass” impedes progress on important goals
-- Intense managerial pressure to increase revenue, “sell more,” and “be better,” combined with lack of coaching in how to achieve improved results leads to mediocre performance and disengaged employees  
--A myopic focus on short-term operational metrics stifles innovation and growth

Many of these problems stem from leaders who are pushing their employees too hard, being spread too thin, and ignoring how their messages are received. Too often, they don’t realize their behavior has a decidedly counterproductive impact.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to improve the performance of your team. If that isn’t happening, you’ve become very expensive overhead. Focus your efforts on aligning your teams with your strategic objectives, improving their capabilities to carry them out, and providing inspiration. For more on this idea, check out my latest article for Forbes, The Myth of Leaders Driving For Results.

A Slice of Life Balance
When you look at your calendar, is there any white space, or are you scheduled every hour of your day? It may seem counterintuitive, but protecting some “white space” during your day is critical for optimal productivity. Cramming in another meeting on your calendar may make you appear more productive, but it exacts a cost in terms of the caliber of your ideas.

French composer Claude DeBussy said, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between them.” You need moments throughout your day to allow creative, strategic, and even innovative ideas to bloom. It doesn’t take a set amount of time to have a new idea or come up with an innovative solution to a problem. But when you free up some mental shelf space, you’ll find that answers and ideas emerge organically.

“I look forward to Scott’s newsletter every month. When I was the commander of a 1400-person battalion in Korea, his words were always right what I needed at the moment. They are as applicable as ever today.”

Aimee DeJarnette
Colonel, U.S. Army