Leading with Awareness: What Your Struggling Team Members Might Be Trying to Tell You

Leading with Awareness: What Your Struggling Team Members Might Be Trying to Tell You

John Eades 18/04/2024
Leading with Awareness: What Your Struggling Team Members Might Be Trying to Tell You

Whether you're a manager or director, a significant aspect of your role involves dedicating time and space to uplift others to overcome challenges.

As a leader, your workday often unfolds like a round of golf — you start with the best intentions, but after nine holes, you don't know how the round got away from you.

By lunchtime, you're juggling tasks, grappling with decisions, and striving to make progress on your team goals. You are so busy responding to Slack messages, reading emails, and going from meeting to meeting that you fail to recognize struggling team members.

In moments like these, it's essential to remember a fundamental leadership principle:

If you are too busy to lead, you are too busy.

As a manager, executive, or director, a key part of your role is having enough time and space to elevate others and help them get back on track. In these crucial moments, what you do can either lead to a birdie or a double bogey (my golf analogy is officially over.) As Ronald Reagan famously said,

"The greatest leader isn't necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets people to do the greatest things." - Ronald Reagan

Instead of having to figure it out on your own, here are some everyday things your struggling team members are most likely trying to tell you.


1. "I need more dedicated time."

One of my mentors always tells me, "Kids spell love T.I.M.E." While the lesson is powerful for being a parent, it's also important to remember as a leader. There is a reason why the best athletes in the world have coaches, which means a part of your time, energy, and or effort should be dedicated to helping your team members become a better version of themselves.

I wish there were a perfect time management formula that works for everyone, but that wouldn't be the case. However, Rory Vaden, MBA CSP CPAE teaches an essential principle around time management for leaders:

What can you do today that will create more time tomorrow?

Spending time coaching and developing team members is one of those activities that, if you do it well today, will create more time tomorrow.

2. "I'm struggling with my confidence."

A team member's low performance can almost always be traced back to a gap in confidence. Confidence means feeling sure of yourself and your abilities. Not in an arrogant way but in a realistic way. Coach Micheal Burt defines it as "The memory of success." It comes from the Latin word meaning "to trust." When team members struggle with their confidence, they don't trust themselves and their abilities.

It would be great if you had a magic wand and could impart confidence in them, but you can't. Confidence comes from within, and it's built through consistent daily repetition. So, instead of trying to give them confidence, be a source of belief in them when they don't have it for themselves.

Instead of trying to give a team member confidence, be a source of belief for them when they don't have it for themselves.

3. "I'm in the wrong role."

Sometimes, no matter how hard someone works or what they do, they just are in the wrong role. It could be a combination of their personality type or the kind of work required in a role doesn't light them up. Either way, it's a reality of professional life. Instead of judging them and assuming they aren't valuable, look for a different role on the team or in the organization.

Research suggests that 1 in 5 People are in the wrong role. There is nothing personal here; a vital responsibility of a leader is to ensure they have the right people on the team in the correct roles.

A vital responsibility of a leader is to ensure they have the right people on the team in the correct roles.

4. "I need better talent around me."

A Catholic Priest taught me a lesson I have never forgotten: "You can always have a preference for better character." It stood out because, so often, we settle for a lack of character in people.

The same is true when it comes to team members. For whatever reason, leaders tend to settle for mediocre team members. Sometimes, managers settle for team members who actively take their team further away from achieving their goals in fear of finding people to replace them.

Now is not the time to settle. Upgrade the talent on your team.

5. "I have too much on my plate, because you're not focused."

Burnout is real; unfortunately, leaders can be a significant source of burnout for team members. I am all for accomplishing objectives and having the urgency to achieve them. However, if leaders aren't focused on keeping the main thing the main thing and have too many priorities, it will trickle down and cause burnout.

During an Organizational Excellence workshop last week with an Executive team, I was reminded of how easy it is for an organization to have too many priorities and what that does to employees' "to-do" lists. Be the kind of leader who sets high standards but stays focused.


No golfer likes to stand on the 10th tee and wish they could start over. Now is not the time for you to be at the end of your day or week and fail to realize you have struggling team members. Put your people first by keeping your eyes and ears open to what your people might be telling you.

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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