I have been reading Teamwork 101 by John C. Maxwell. It’s an easy read and provides great insights into how to create exceptional teams. As I read the chapter on “How Does a Weak Player Impact the Team?” it brought to mind some of the people I’ve known and worked with over the years. Some of these were seen as weak links and really weren’t; while others were seen as strong links and yet were truly weak links. Why is this?
One person that comes to mind was an older employee who was very comfortable with their skills and their role on the team. Joe(*) was close to retirement and was not really interested in growing or developing new skills. However, he did have years of experience that were still relevant to the team’s objectives. Unfortunately upper management wanted employees who actively sought development and looked to grow. This led them to question Joe’s usefulness and discredit his achievements. Joe was extremely capable when given projects that played to his strengths and experience and was very good at sharing his knowledge with the newer employees. When his supervisor provided him with the right projects he was a true benefit to the team and when he was given things outside of his comfort zone he became a bit of a drag on the team.
In another case a team member was overly confident and was always ready to tell people what he could do. Upper management saw George(*) as highly successful and believed he was a great asset to the team. As such he was promoted to a supervisory level. He was very sure of what needed to be done in all cases; however he was not effective in communicating his vision to the team below him. This led to confusion and lack of direction for the team. As well, George was quick to criticize people for their errors and rarely praised good work. Additionally, he tended to play favorites and reward those he liked and ignore those who weren’t in his clique. The net result of George’s style was that morale was destroyed within the team and the best team members started to look elsewhere for opportunities. The overall performance of the team went down and everyone suffered over time.
As Maxwell points out often a weak link on one team would be a strong link on another team. It’s a matter of fit between the person and the team. As a leader it is important to step back and take a truly objective look at the team and each player to see if the fit is right. If it isn’t right then as the leader you must take action to correct it. In some cases match the tasks to the player so they provide the maximum benefit, as long as they don’t drag down the other members. In other cases, it may be time to cut ties and move a person out. To get peak team performance each link must be strong and work with the other links.
* Names changed