The Team in Hell
(The Unproductive and Unhappy Team)

Introduction: Over the course of the next four blogs, the focus is on the different kinds of teams that you will encounter in the workplace. As you read through these scenarios, ask yourself what kind of team you are on and what you can do to make it better.

The Four Types of Teams (Part 1 of 4)

You’ve taken a job at a company’s incoming call center. Customers periodically have problems with their orders and you’re there to help solve them. You get your own cubicle and can stylize it with photos from home and other personal memorabilia. You’re told that you will be part of an eight-person team responsible for addressing customer concerns. So far, so good. Then, your supervisor says to wait for incoming calls and respond from a script with which you’ve been provided. You’re not to vary from that script. If a customer wants more information, you’re to refer the customer to your supervisor, who also mentions that there will be times when she is on the line to listen but you will not know she is there. The reason is to provide feedback for “training purposes.” 

This was the only job that you could get in a very tight job market and you’re thankful to have it. You had promised yourself to further your education in order to get a better  job, but life got in the way. Once you get back on your feet, you’re determined to get the training you need for a more professional job. Your supervisor was nice enough and showed you to your cubicle. She said that she would be available if you have any questions. You’ve been told that you will have a chance to meet the other team members once you “get settled.” You’re glad that in this position, you will be able to help people with their problems.

However, it has not taken long to realize why this particular job was available. You rarely see your supervisor and when you do, she always seems to be preoccupied. Members on your team change daily and it is hard to keep up with who is actually on your team. The call volume hasn’t been very high and you’ve enjoyed the conversations with customers. However, the feedback from your supervisor has indicated that you’re being too chatty with customers, too friendly, and taking too long on the call. In addition, you must inform your supervisor when you leave your cubicle for any reason and you’re expected to bring your lunch and eat in your cubicle. 

In addition to the high turnover of team members, you are warned not to talk with one another because “a customer might call” and you may miss it. Your initial gratefulness for the job soon turns to doubt and disappointment. At this time, however, you don’t have many other options, so you commit to staying…“sucking it up” and having a good attitude for the customers.

According to the research of 21,000 teams by business psychologist Robert Kaiser, every team ranks somewhere on the spectrum of vitality (team morale) and productivity. (See matrix above.) Surprisingly, based on this research, 23% of the 21,000 teams surveyed were similar to the profiled team, in which productivity was low and employees were unhappy. It’s a real head-scratcher why anyone would want to be on such a team!

Furthermore and per Glassdoor, as cited in “24/7 Wall St.,” employees at companies that have been rated the worst places to work have several things in common: they are typically paid poorly, overworked, have a poor work-life balance, experience a negative company culture, experience poor working conditions, have few opportunities to get ahead, and have low levels of respect for management. 

Among the reasons cited in the Glassdoor study are a tight job market with limited choices; employees lack education or opportunities to move to another job; they are living on the margins and needing a paycheck just to survive; and their overall life circumstances (for example, an uneducated single parent with few options). Finally, for some people, it is simply inertia that is the reason for staying. Despite things being bad, they have become acclimated to the low pay and poor working conditions and will stay until being forced to leave. Companies with these working conditions typically have high turnover and “burn through” employees quickly. 

The work environment described is characterized by low productivity and low vitality. Teams in such companies are characterized by low cohesion, poor morale, low (or poor quality) productivity, and little management support. Management behaviors include providing poorly defined goals, little accountability, a laissez-faire style, and poor (if any) communication.

THE TAKEAWAY: Low productivity and low vitality make for an unsuccessful team. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 4: The Country Club Team

The Happy Unproductive Team

A midsize hospital had been experiencing a three-fold increase in central line–associated bloodstream infections (CLBSIs). To help investigate emerging patterns, the CMO asked a physician-leader to chair the quality committee and review the relevant case files.

The committee’s goal was to identify and eradicate factors contributing to the ongoing CLBSI crisis. Time was of the essence because of the impact on patients and the vulnerable accreditation of the hospital.

Shortly after the committee formed, the CMO requested an initial report and was promised that a comprehensive summary would be delivered soon. Another two weeks passed, but there was still no report. Getting concerned, the CMO independently interviewed some of the committee members to determine why the report was late. All said that they enjoyed being on the team, they liked the chair, and they believed that the meeting discussions were very engaging.

Based on the findings from the interviews, the CMO could not ascertain why she had not yet received the report. She asked Myron Beard to consult with the team to better understand the team dynamics and learn what was causing the delay. The CLBSI crisis was worsening, so there was an even greater urgency for results.

After attending one meeting, we quickly identified the problem. The chair had a high focus on relationships. There was no established agenda, and the meeting began with a good deal of “catching up.” The chair invited everyone to participate, and it was clear that there was very little direction but much conversation.

The chair was more interested in creating a positive atmosphere than on getting results. To that end, no ideas were turned down, and all leads were considered good. This approach made the meeting seem more like a brainstorming session than a problem-solving venture.

This approach may have been appropriate in the first meeting, but six weeks into the process, considering every stray idea was a roadblock to success. The team was clearly a high-vitality, low-productivity team. It was operating like a country club.

We met with the physician-leader chair to review our observations. The chair acknowledged that wanting people to like her was a lifelong trait. She was reluctant to impose a structure or agenda that might cause conflict. She also recognized that, as a result of this approach, the team had wandered away from its charter and failed to come up with a solution to the urgent CLBSI crisis.

The CMO gave the chair the option of receiving coaching or allowing someone else to take over. The chair decided to step down instead of making the changes necessary to make the team a productive unit.

When a new physician-leader was selected, we consulted with her about how to give structure to team meetings and help the team become productive while not jeopardizing morale.

As a result, the new chair was able to focus the efforts of the group and provided the CMO with a comprehensive report within two weeks of stepping into the role. This was a good lesson for the CMO. Good morale is important, but not as important as getting results. After all, succeeding at an important task creates the best attitude and sense of satisfaction in the long run.

THE TAKEAWAY: While morale is important, overemphasizing your team’s happiness can cause a lack of results in the long term.

Taking Your Culture From Good to Great

I recently had a discussion with the CEO of a large East Coast hospital system. She was relatively new in the job and was lamenting that her prior organization, where she had been the COO, seemed to have operated much more effectively than the one she had taken over. 

As we began drilling down into the issues she was experiencing, she noted that employee morale was low and patient satisfaction was only average (as identified through surveys), and there seemed to be a general lack of concern from key employees that these were important issues. Additionally, she observed the creation of silos and a CYA mentality, in which a culture of blame existed, rather than one of mutual problem-solving. 

One example she provided was how nurses on one of the nursing stations were blaming housekeeping for the general untidiness of the area, but doing little on their watch to make things better. It was easier to blame than to problem-solve. This blame, and counter-blame, was unproductive, yet no one was taking responsibility or ownership to make the environment better for employees or for patients. Furthermore, she was alarmed that a few good employees had recently left the system for jobs elsewhere. It was clear to the new CEO that she was navigating through a depressed culture—a result of the absent accountability.  

Everyone wants to be associated with a winner, not a whiner. When differentiating between winners and whiners, the most important differentiator is also the simplest: accountability! 

When problems arise, and persist, it is common to hear employees say that “no one is being held accountable.” This is often perceived in a punitive sense, with the assumption that there must be someone to blame for problems not being solved. This attitude is one in which employees are always looking outward, rather than inward, for solutions. While the process of creating a culture of accountability can be arduous, the steps to be taken are easy to understand and are generally related to leadership. 

As we explored the creation of a culture of accountability with the CEO, we discussed the necessary steps that leaders must take to be successful. These are, in order: 

  1. Leaders must themselves have a clear understanding of the mission and goals of the organization. 
  2. Leaders must have the authority to create a culture of accountability in their department or organization. They must also have the support to make the changes necessary to transform the culture.
  3. Leaders must have the right people in the right positions. Changing a culture is not easy; not everyone has the courage, nor skill set, necessary to drive change.
  4. Leaders must clearly articulate their expectations and create an environment in which the goals of their department align with the goals of the organization. These expectations include standards related to the quality, quantity, and timeliness (QQT) that leaders expect, and include metrics for measuring success. 
  5. Leaders must identify owners of the goals and objectives.
  6. The goals must be communicated throughout the department or organization.
  7. Owners of goals must have a cadence of meetings for regular review of goal accomplishment, relative to expectations, and revise goals when necessary.
  8. Rewards and recognition must become part and parcel of the process.

In our discussions with the CEO, we noted that the most important aspect when creating a culture of accountability is to sustain the effort until it becomes institutionalized. Too many organizational initiatives begin with a bang and end with a whimper, as poet T.S. Eliot famously wrote. Finally, while accountability is often associated with some kind of punitive action, efforts to instill accountability in the culture are much more likely to be successful by having the right people in the right places, and rewarding behavior that approximates the desired results. The new CEO is currently in the process of implementing our recommendations. We are confident that she will be successful!

For information on how we can assist your team, contact us at:

From the Ashes: Bringing New Life to a Low-Performing Team

Situation: A newly appointed head of a large, dynamic organization was concerned with how effectively her team was performing. Through her onboarding process, she learned that not all of the members on her new team were satisfied with the team’s functioning. This was causing division within the team and the creation of dysfunctional silos in the organization. In order to have a more comprehensive and objective understanding of her team, she requested that all direct reports participate along with her in Beard Executive Consulting’s High-Performing Team webinar.

The DNA of Leadership Webinar Series: A solution for teams that are experiencing less-than-satisfactory results, Beard Executive Consulting offers 12 unique DNA of Leadership Webinars to solve the issues that organizations face on a daily basis. The Building High-Performing Teams webinar was the ideal solution for this particular team, providing an interactive way for them to reengage and gain essential characteristics required to thrive and survive. Through a case study, custom assessments, and personalized content, the 90-minute format gives leaders information and tools to develop behaviors that are targeted for the positions they hold.

The Process: Prior to the webinar, each team member and their new manager were given an online survey in which they could rate the team’s performance from their own perspective. In addition, team members were sent pre-reading to provide context for the webinar. The meeting was conducted in a live, online setting in order to optimally accommodate everyone’s busy schedules.

The Webinar: To enhance learning, a digital workbook was used during the webinar and the manager was provided with a leader’s manual to help guide implementation of changes post-webinar. The presentation identified two critical metrics that were found to be lower than others for this team, based on the overall survey results:

  • Productivity: The degree to which a team’s output is achieved in a quality manner that is timely and meets the expectations of the initiative.
  • Vitality: The degree to which team members experience cohesiveness and engagement, and have high morale.

This discovery meant that the team as a whole was functioning at a level that was far below both the training and backgrounds of individual team members, and required focused efforts in these areas in order to improve and become high-performing. The team then learned about the key components that were required for this level of change, and gained an understanding of the areas that required improvement.

New Life as a High-Performing Team: Based on the results of the webinar and guidance from Beard Executive Consulting, the new leader assembled a small subgroup of her team to create and implement a plan to ensure that the team would become more productive and would do so in a way that increased engagement and cohesiveness. A six-month follow-up survey found that the team had improved in both metrics and that team members had become much more involved with, and supportive of, each other. A positive side effect was that the new leader had gained the respect and admiration of those on her team.   

For information on how you can use this webinar to assist your team, contact us at:

Leadership Solutions for the COVID Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down: from high employment to fear of unemployment, from working face-to-face to working virtually, from a robust economy to a record number of bankruptcies. Stating the obvious, it has been the most disruptive event of a lifetime for the majority of those in the workforce. Who could have imagined that companies like Google would require all of their employees to work remotely until mid-2021, or that brick-and-mortar schools and universities would be teaching online! 

Appropriately, leaders have refocused their attention and efforts on short-term survival. Their energies are directed to priorities such as:

  • Reorganization
  • Continuing to do the same work (or more) with fewer resources
  • Managing teams virtually
  • Retaining key employees
  • Maintaining focus while engaging employees and controlling emotions
  • Creating a culture of accountability
  • Developing high-performing teams
  • Renegotiating with key clients without disruption of services
  • Ensuring the safety of employees

With the large number of priorities at hand, leadership development has never been more critical; without effective leadership, even the most valiant efforts will fall short. So how can companies provide support to their leadership teams in this unique environment, especially with so many other priorities looming? 

Prior to the shelter-at-home orders, we at Beard Executive Consulting were working with leadership teams—in person!—helping them navigate their leadership challenges and providing them with tools to become more effective leaders. In this new normal, as leaders are needing to rapidly assume new and vastly different responsibilities, these tools are more critical than ever to a company’s success.

This is why we have taken our training programs to a digital platform, enabling companies to provide their leaders with the help they need to effectively manage their work, and that of their teams, in real time, presented in a manner that conveniently fits into their schedules without further disruption.

We are here to help you through this trying time. High-impact content and interactive teaching provides leaders with the tools they need to navigate through this pandemic. Our webinar workshops cover a wide variety of topics and are highly interactive, enabling leaders to gain information and awareness to develop behaviors that are crucial in this environment. Programs include:

– Becoming a Versatile Leader

– Building High-Performing Teams

– Conducting Difficult Conversations

– Creating a Culture of Accountability

– Critical Thinking

– Effective Delegation

– Looking in the Mirror: Leadership Psychology 101

– Mentoring for Success

– Setting a Vision for Your Team

– Successful Negotiations

– The Art of Leadership: Shifting Your Paradigm

– The Business of Leadership

As President John F. Kennedy so eloquently stated, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Offering programs that bring leadership and learning together can elevate your organization to levels you might not have believed possible. Review each program in more depth by visiting DNA of Leadership Webinars or simply contact us for details or to schedule a program that works for your needs.