Leadership Lesson: Have a great team? How to paralyze it in 7 steps

Published in the Phoenix Business Journal on September 25, 2019

Ignorance. That is all it takes to lose a top-performing business team. Not understanding team composition, team dynamics, and team motivation. You won’t do it on purpose – but you can disenfranchise your team by carelessness. Good teams are difficult to build and keep, so why risk losing one, whether you built it or inherited it. 

Understand the qualities of great teams. Also learn what motivates a winning team. And absolutely learn what demotivates and demolishes the best of teams. 

Quick way to break up the team? Ignore the team and its members.

The Sears bomb

In the 1980’s, Sears was the largest retailer in the U.S. and had an obviously strong team. But the company began to spin in the winds of change. The team — its CEO, senior executives and board of directors — largely ignored several massive market shifts: low-price competitors and their superior marketing (Walmart), big-box stores with huge discounts (Costco), and online retailers that reshaped convenience and low-cost shopping (Amazon).

At its peak, Sears had over 3,000 stores. Today, a couple of hundred. Bankruptcy ensued, with a “leader” who allowed the company to die and then offered to buy the casket for a penny for his own gain.

In the end, this once-winning team lost its way amid this financial farce, even though Sears had an opportunity to become an amazon in a river of change.

Hurting the team

Start dismantling your team by being a bad leader. Here are some tips from LHH, who surveyed 1,800 people in order to characterize weak leaders: they focus on self, accuse others, indecision, demanding, play the micro manager, be seen as lazy, be inept, learn nothing new. That is just a start. Does the fact that over 50% of U.S. employees  are disengaged from their work help understand this?

Now, onto the 7 significant steps to avoid unless you want to break up your good team:

  • Do not hold meetings with individual team members – meet only with the team, sometimes the larger the better. Easier for things to get lost.
  • Avoid acknowledging good performers – just ignore them. Personal bonding is too close and your lack of leadership can be uncovered. Embarrassing.
  • Be a micromanager and do not trust your team and its members. Know where your people are and what they are doing at all times. Stop mutual trust.
  • Hold endless, meaningless meetings. No conclusions, no decisions, no actions, no delegation. Keep everything up in the air. Create confusion and doubt.
  • Never reward teams and its members for their accomplishments. Rather, punish people for not working longer hours and accomplishing even more.
  • Create an endless stream of rules and regulations. More than the organization can handle. This squelches creativity and motivation. 
  • Never ask the teams for their inputs. Simply tell them what you want, and then hold them to it. 

If the team is not in disarray by now, there is a way to finish the job: Simply have no purpose, vision, mission, strategy, culture for the organization. Just meet the financial goals (that you dreamed up by yourself) or else.

The bottom line

Ignorance. This is the key to stifle good teams. Or avoid strong communications and interactions with your team. Sow confusion, doubt, and trust. Do all that, and soon, your good team will be a bad team. Or no team. 

Click here to read this article on the Phoenix Business Journal site.