Expert advice on Business Leadership and tips on becoming a more effective Leader.

Leadership Lesson: Circle of Consequences

We tend to think of consequences with respect to the short term—the immediate impact of our performance (positive or negative). That’s the easy part of defining specific consequences. But it still leaves a lot to the

We need to help employees see the longer term, the downstream impact of their performances on team results, on the organization, on customers, on shareholders, and ultimately on themselves. When employees see how their actions help or hinder each of their various constituents, the personal consequences of their performances become evident. External performance is ultimately a reflection of internal commitment.

The personal impact on an employee might include opportunities for more (or fewer if the performance is substandard) promotions, development opportunities, exposure to executives, public recognition,
responsibilities, flexibility in the job, oversight of others, ownership of projects, and/or financial rewards. It is fair and appropriate to bring personal performance full circle back to these consequences.

Elaine Agather is head of J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s South Region. She is a beloved and direct leader who understands the big picture of consequences as it relates to her role as a leader. Agather states, “The team is bigger than any issue at hand. The leader has a personal accountability to the team to have tough conversations and to occasionally make tough decisions with individuals.”

Winning leaders such as Agather choose their team over personal discomfort. When we specifically explain the consequences of individual performance up front, we minimize the tough conversations we need to have later on.
Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. has authored 12 popular leadership books. His latest is, Stick with It: Mastering the Art of Adherence. Lee and co-author, Julie Davis-Colan, draw upon 25 years of corporate leadership, field research, executive consulting, and training with many of the world’s leading organizations. Learn more at