Can one person impact the dynamics of a team? Absolutely!
“Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” –Vince Lombardi
We only have to look at our work environments or sports teams for examples.
Recently, the Montreal Canadiens traded P.J. Subban for Shae Webber which shocked many fans. P.J. was a key part of the Montreal hockey team, very active in the community and a fan favourite. Why would they trade away a key resource? Some say the downturn in the teams performance on the ice wasn’t related to the loss of the goalie. Instead it was reflective of strained dynamics in the locker room. Webber brings a leadership component which is needed to ensure this decline in performance doesn’t happen again.
Another example is here in B.C. with our football team, the B.C. Lions. For the past two years we had two new head coaches and results were a complete reversal of prior performance. This year, former head coach and GM, Wally Buono returned to the sidelines and its like watching a different team. Reports are Buono treats every player the same- whether they are a rookie or a veteran. He also has the same expectations — come to practice and games prepared to work and give it their best effort.
Although these are sports examples, the same occurs in business. A negative nellie can ruin a motivated and productive team. A leader who lacks trust in their team can lose the respect of team members and morale will drop, leading to turnover, poor productivity, conflict and more.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” –Andrew Carnegie
Here are three ways you can ensure that one bad apple doesn’t ruin your team’s efforts.
- Create a positive culture with a strong vision, mission and purpose. If a team lacks focus or understanding of their role and what’s expected of them, they will flounder. Each member of a team needs to have a role and understand how their role is part of the whole. The team leader may not always be the manager or coach. Sometimes it will be a member of the team who will have the most impact on ensuring everyone stays on track. No matter who or why the team isn’t on track, we do know that a team that attracts the very best and deals with negative nellies before they do damage.
- Take action fast when ‘negative nellie’ shows up! If a team member is not embracing the roles and behaviours acceptable to the team, its important to step in and address it quickly. Feedback is one of the most effective ways to address negativity or a lack of engagement. A conversation with the team member is vital for them to recognize the impact of their behaviour or actions on the entire team, and to identify a solution to the issue. Sometimes the ‘negative nellie’ has to be removed from the team so that other members can achieve their best.
- Recognize differences and outcomes. Every team is made up of different personalities and people with different perspectives. It is this diversity that adds to the strength of the team, much like a mastermind. Together the team is stronger when all perspective are brought together to create a new solution. As a team lead, your role is to ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute. Some will prefer to be more visible than others. Recognize the contributions of each member (not just those who are more vocal or visible) and celebrate positive outcomes or positive learnings from mistakes.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” — Phil Jackson
Team dynamics are a key factor in achieving a successful outcome. Don’t let one person stop the team from pulling the whole team down! Whether you are the team lead or a team member, you have a role to play — be the difference maker!