Category Archives: Team development

Toxic employee

How to deal with toxic team members

A 2015 study found that a ‘superstar’ employee (defined as the top 1% in productivity terms) adds about $5,000 per year to the bottom-line but a single toxic team member loses the business about $12,000 per year.

So one ‘bad apple’ costs you more than two superstars, especially when you include the potential spread of toxicity, lower morale, upset customers and even legal fees.

The research* was done by Dylan Minor (assistant professor at Harvard Business School) and Michael Housman (Chief Analytics Officer at Cornerstone OnDemand). They studied nearly 60,000 workers in 11 firms across various industries.

* Download PDF: Toxic Workers (Harvard Business School, 2015)

This article looks at the definition of a toxic employee, and suggests what you can do about it.

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flock of birds

Leading agile teams

Agility is a key theme in business at the moment. Last month, I wrote about How (and why) to be an agile organisation. This time, we look at the components of an effective agile team, and the role of the leader in enabling agile teams.

Agile teams come together to work on something special, and stay together for a reasonable period of time. They might go on to work on another problem, or develop the idea they’ve come up with. Don’t confuse this with scrum teams. As I explained in my recent article How to get a scrum team up and running, these get in, do the work and disband, so they only stay together for a short time.

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rugby scrum

How to get a ‘scrum team’ up and running

In the agile project management framework, a ‘scrum’ is where a cross-functional team comes together for a short time, to plan and build (iterating as they go) until the project is finished. The name is based on the rugby scrum where teammates huddle together to talk tactics and plan their moves, and connects to my recent article How to design an agile organisation.

The advice below refers to project management in its broadest sense – you could apply it to a traditional project, or when a team comes together to look at potential business opportunities or to take a deep dive into another topic.

It’s best used when a small team (say, up to seven people) works on a project full-time.  The scrum team would probably be in place for up to six months, so they can go in, blitz it, and get out. Any longer, and a more typical day-to-day operational team approach would apply.

“You can’t be agile when you’re knee-deep in mud.”
Martin Fowler

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Running your team meeting using virtual facilitation

When there’s a need to discuss important and complex issues, most people try to meet face to face. Especially with a global team, it’s a really important part of maintaining relationships and commitment to the team and your objectives.

Face-to-face meetings typically get better results, especially when you need to work on something complicated, build commitment to an outcome or to each other, or co-create something such as a vision or mission statement. This is because we’re social creatures – we’re human beings, not human doings! It’s much easier to pick up on each other’s cues and get into the flow when we’re face to face.

However, it’s not always practical for everyone to get together in the same place at the same time. Thanks to technological advances, it is now possible to use video for team meetings, with group conference calls as the next best thing. On those occasions, you might turn to virtual facilitation instead.

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Psychological safety and team effectiveness

Back in 2012, Google conducted some interesting research into team effectiveness. The initiative was named ‘Project Aristotle’ in honour of his famous quote: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts“. This article summarises Google’s findings, and explains some of the simple, clear and practical things you can do with your own teams.

Google’s researchers looked at academic research on team effectiveness, and studied 180 of their own teams. They concluded that understanding and influencing group norms is key to improving team performance – that is, rituals and rules about ‘how things are done in this team’. This was more important, they found, than who was on the team and the team mix (e.g. gender balance, personality type and skill-set).

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How improvisation helps with innovation and team effectiveness

Companies are becoming interested in using improvisation as a way to unleash creativity, and to help people become comfortable working in a more fluid environment. In this issue, we explore the main principles and show how you can apply them in the workplace. This links to last month’s article on managing disruptive change, because you can’t always plan, or depend on the past, to build your future.

“We can’t solve problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Albert Einstein 

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Introducing Appreciative Inquiry

Change can be difficult because it is often being done TO us rather than WITH us, which drains our energy. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a way to involve as many people as possible in the change process, collaboratively, and in a way that develops the future based on what is already working. This article explores the principles of AI and provides you with some practical tips.

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Leading global teams

When you lead a global team, you can’t have informal conversations in the corridor or over coffee. It’s therefore important to put time and effort into having clear goals and governance and to build good relationships and formal communication channels.

See below for some tips from my experience of working with global teams including two suggestions for further (short!) reading.

Many of my previous articles touch on this month’s topic in various ways, especially ‘The role of the leader‘, ‘Emotionally intelligent teams‘, ‘High performing leadership teams‘ and ‘How to build trust‘.

I hope you find these ideas useful and welcome your feedback.

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Emotionally intelligent teams

Last month, we looked at high performing leadership teams. Emotionally intelligent behaviours underpin successful teams – they are the glue that enables teams to consistently achieve their purpose. So, this month, we build on the six main behaviours displayed by emotionally intelligent teams.

As you’ll see, one of the points is about being open to feedback, so I welcome any comments you may have.

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