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20 October, 2015

How To Fix Leadership Problems

This week’s article is a guest post from Brisbane based Geoff Wade from Onirik, an Australian partner of ours.

What are the Most Common Symptoms of Leadership Problems?

I’m often asked by clients, “Our training programs aren’t making enough difference; how do I fix my leadership problems?”

After some analysis, we find the common symptoms of leadership problems they’re experiencing are average (or low) employee engagement, stagnant second or third quartile productivity, and high employee costs. Research from Ernst & Young identifies this issue extends well beyond my clients. They’ve found that Australian workers across all levels and sectors say they could be on average 21% more productive, every day.

The top two obstacles to increasing productivity they identified are ‘poor management’ and ‘lack of motivation’. It won’t come as a surprise to you then that employees cite their manager as a primary reason for leaving their organisation. Nor that Gallup states only 24% of Australian and New Zealand workers are engaged at work; which means 76% of employees are uninspired and lack motivation.

So how do you turn average managers into effective leaders? Well, two of the most common problems holding managers back are a lack of leadership process, and a lack of feedback on leadership performance.

Use Leadership Analytics to Fix Leadership Problems

Leadership development is a process, not a stand-alone, one-off training event. Research has shown 87% of classroom training is lost within 90 days, and it fails to transfer to new on-the-job behaviour1.

Leadership is mostly learned on the job, rather than in the classroom. However, in the absence of feedback from their direct reports, most managers assume they are doing well. Unfortunately, the evidence says otherwise.

Help your managers learn, by giving them feedback in the form of Leadership Analytics, on how well they are performing; and provide them with a framework for improvement. There are 3 pillars to Leadership Analytics:

  1. The Leadership Assessment: measures leadership behaviour every 6 months.
  2. The Improvement Plan: corrects weaknesses and reinforces strengths in leadership behaviour.
  3. The Follow-Through: holds managers accountable every month for taking action.

Fix Deficient Leadership Processes

Research from McKinsey indicates frontline managers at best-practice companies allocate far more time (in fact the majority of their time) to developing their direct reports than those at other companies do, resulting in up to 65% greater productivity. Given this, I suggest you define the key leadership processes you require of your managers in relation to motivating, coaching and developing their direct reports, and ensure this is where they allocate the bulk of their time.

I also suggest you set up frameworks for weekly execution meetings and daily observation of direct reports (or telephone contact) for your managers. And lastly, specify the coaching processes (for providing positive feedback, corrective feedback and confronting non-performance) you require from them. Give an average manager a set of world-class leadership processes to follow, get them to follow the processes, and they’ll deliver for you.


Australian workers say they could be 21% more productive every day. What is holding them back is poor management and lack of motivation. Thankfully these problems can be easily solved. Give your managers key leadership processes to follow, and use Leadership Analytics to give them feedback on their performance. When you have these in place, you’ll turn average managers into effective leaders, giving you the increases in employee engagement and productivity, as well as decreases in employee costs, you’re looking for.

1Rackham, Neil. SPIN Selling New York: McGraw-Hill. 1988.


You can find out more about Geoff Wade here.

To get our report “The #1 Most Costly Leadership Development Mistake Businesses Make, and What to do About It”, which shows how to make sure you get the increases in employee performance and engagement you’re wanting from your leadership development program, for more profit, click here.


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