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5 Things Your Team Members Aren’t Telling You – and How to Be A Better Leader for Them

May 24, 2022

We all want to be a better leader, but it’s hard to picture what it’s like to experience our leadership – right? We try to communicate better, to have more team meetings, to ask our team members how they are doing, but at the end of the day we’re left wondering if it’s even enough.

Today on the Joy to Lead® Podcast we’re diving into the ways your team members wish you were stepping up in your leadership – things they wouldn’t say to your face (or, things they don’t have the words for).

We want to be a better leader, but is it enough? It’s one of our worst fears as leaders, that our team members are thinking something about us they aren’t saying. That our team members are wishing we would be a better leader – and we have no idea.

Honestly, sometimes it’s easier to ignore that thought and carry on as we have been, right? But leadership is not about sweeping things, especially our team members, under the rug just so we can stay where it’s easiest.

Let’s get some things out in the open, shall we?

What your team members aren’t telling you…

Here are a few things your team members are grappling with, that they wouldn’t dare tell you to your face:

1. They have no idea why they’re here.

What are the expectations of the role they’re filling? Where are they growing? How does their role move the business forward? Why does that matter? What’s the mission of the company, and how do they contribute? In what areas do you trust their leadership? Do they have any leadership? None of these things are clear to them.

2. They don’t feel like they have a voice.

They have ideas, vision, and new innovations to offer – but the culture you’ve built isn’t drawing them out. Our team members believe in the belief we vocalize to them. If you aren’t showing up as a coach, as a believer in their potential… they won’t feel safe, seen, or heard enough to speak up. You’ll build an echo chamber of a team, where everyone cheers on your ideas but you’re still feeling alone on your team.

3. Your poor hiring decisions are a burden to the entire team, not just you.

You set the bar at the level of your lowest performer. As leadership expert Chris Hallberg says, “Low bars provide low results. If you don’t expect much from your team, they won’t think twice about going the extra mile.”

When you keep a bad hire or a team member who just won’t step up, you’re telling the rest of your team, “this is the level of acceptable performance, no need to go any higher.” They’ll be on the hunt for another A-team.

4. Even though they’re asking you question after question, they don’t want you to answer them.

This one may take a minute to sink in, but here’s the gist – your team members resent the fact that they have to ask so many questions. Just because they’re asking tons of questions does not mean they crave your micromanagement.

You may be thinking, “But wait, they’re the ones asking me questions every second of the day. If I’m micromanaging, it’s because they just won’t step up!”

Listen, you haven’t hired someone who can’t think for themselves. Nope – you’ve trained them to follow your step-by-step processes and to meet your very specific standards. You’ve retained all autonomy and ability to innovate, meaning that you are the standard-bearer and the central cog in the wheel. They want to be trusted, but that’s not the culture you’ve instilled.

Don’t blame them for “not stepping up.” They want to, but they can’t.

5. They want to go deeper.

It’s not a badge of honor that your team is siloed, gets the job done, and logs off for the day without saying a word to each other. This is efficiency, but not a team.

In this kind of culture, there’s no room for collaboration, innovation, new ideas – you’re retaining that energetic output, draining yourself, and still wondering why your team isn’t stepping up. Get them out of their silos and let them lead you. If you don’t, your team members will stay surface level and will be on the hunt for a new role where they can find stability and security, and trust.

These are just a few of the things I see in every market research interview, every conversation I have with a new community member, and every time I hear a business owner frustrated with their team.

These are the roots we need to address and nurture, not run from! Your team craves your best leadership – let’s give it to them!

So how can you be a better leader?

The question remains – how can I be a better leader when there is so much I still need to work on? Here are a few steps to guide you forward:

  1. Have an open and honest conversation with your team. Tell them all the ways you want to grow as a leader this year and ask for specific feedback on how you can better support them, give them autonomy, help them collaborate, and provide the resources and clarity they need to get the job done without you (as much).
  2. Bolster your onboarding process and be on the lookout for these onboarding mistakes. Your onboarding process is not a one-day event – it’s a 90-day journey that should set clear expectations, support your team member in finding autonomy, and train their ability to make decisions with you.
  3. Have regular 1-on-1 coaching sessions. These are not check-ins or performance reviews, but are true coaching conversations where you as the leader are showing up as a mentor who sees and belives in your team member’s potential. Use the GROW model to structure these conversations and ask them how they want to remain accountable to the actions they decided to take.

Don’t lead alone!

Don’t build your team alone. Walk and learn alongside other women who are building their teams, too, in the Joy to Lead® Community.

Join an amazing community of leaders supporting, encouraging and cheering each other on in this wild and crazy journey of leadership. Each month we will have LIVE group coaching, regular co-working sessions, book discussions, and daily conversation and support as you navigate leadership.

I'm Kaylan, leadership educator, podcaster & speaker

What are you searching for?

Reading suggestions

Crafting a 90-Day Onboarding Plan

Job Postings that Attract Top Talent

Mapping Your Leadership Style