Three Kinds of Corporate Teams That Squash Productivity

If you have had the pleasure of being on a corporate team, then you know what that experience is like. It is an opportunity for all the individual strengths come together of complement one another for a common cause. And yet, many teams tend to struggle and cannot seem to work together at all as these different personalities clash.

“Great teams tend to happen by happenstance as people come together,” claims Linda Adams, who is coauthor of the book The Loyalist Team: How Trust, Candor, and Authenticity Create Great Organizations. “They start with expectations around how people will perform, engage, and get their work done. In teams where expectations around behavior aren’t clear, people are left to show up and decide how they want to engage with each other.”

Along with her contribution as a cofounder for The Trispective Group, which is a well-known management consulting firm from Denver, Adams and her associates have discovered that these corporate teams tend to be either loyalists or saboteurs, with there are different levels of each of these two groups. Some of them come together with a high sense of trust, while the other ones come together with strife and internal conflict already in place. “Teams find themselves in the saboteur space by accident,” said Adams. “To get to highest level, teams must do it with a lot of intentionality.”

Adams and her cowriters have identified four basic types of teams, what their traits are, and how they will influence the success of a company:

1. Saboteur Team

This corporate team is generally more focused on personal wins, and also the failure of those who get in their way of this personal objective. Team members usually have a “watch your back” frame of mind. Common behaviors from members on this type of team are blaming others, creating drama, and always pointing out the things that are going wrong with no reference at all to the things that are going right. This is by far the worst and most toxic type of team and generally ruins the desire of anyone wanting to be in future teams. It is better not to have teams if you are like this one.

2. Benign Saboteur Team

Members who are on this type of team are usually concerned with survival and self-preservation. They generally have fake sense of good will and harmony by having a “live and let live” frame of mind. Behaviors generally include holding back any kind of feedback which could help the team. They tend to stay within their own silos and deliver only the commitments that were clearly defined. They are also skeptical about any possibility for successful changes within the company. This type of team is not productive at all because no one feels empowered enough to take a risk and there is only artificial harmony which tend to ignore real issue. They only want to team to finish and end the project.

3. Situational Loyalist Team

Most members of this type of team are usually focused on moving things in a positive direction. There are a few pockets of trust, and team members are generally given the benefit of the doubt, but this team overall has many big weaknesses that prevent them showing high performance. This team will usually carefully word any feedback before releasing it publicly. Members on this team usually settle for just good enough and let their poor leader do most of the work.

BONUS ADDITION: Loyalist Team 

This type of team is the reason for having teams in the first place. Team members are very focused on the success of the organization. The team shares a bond and believes that they either win together or lose together. Team members feel empowered to change ideas and thoughts without judgement or the fear of punishment for being candid about negative information. Each team member brings their own unique skill and knowledge.

Changing Team Dynamics

The sad fact is that there are very few Loyalist Teams in the corporate world. Corporate executives tend to believe and pass off most of their teams as Loyalist Teams, but this is usually because they have been given false information.

Like it or not, the fact is that these teams are simply a reflection of the corporation’s leadership.  Too many corporate leaders pressure their upper managers to give them only good news, so they never get real picture. In this type of environment, no one wants to be on team which could actually improve their company because they see it as a risk. And they feel that serving on these teams are risky because their company leadership does not empower them.