The Truth About Teams

POSTED JULY 6, 2016 - by Dina Silver

Remember when you were in middle school and your teacher put you in a group of three or four to complete a report or presentation?  Unless things have changed markedly since my days at those scrawny desks, there was usually a natural leader, a couple of good soldiers and a slacker. The slackers were absolutely infuriating since they contributed little or nothing, put more pressure on the rest of the team who had to pick up their work, and walked at project’s end with the same good grade earned by their harder-working cohorts.

I clearly remember my own kids coming home and ranting furiously about the injustice of these situations, and I don’t think I had much good advice to offer.  What were their options, really?  Cooperate and do your best. Recognize that not everyone has the same confidence, capacity or diligence to excel.  Rise to the challenge and put your best work forward even though others are not.

The problem of being an achieving twelve-year-old on a cruddy team is not all that different from being a motivated thirty-something surrounded by a mix of excellent and not so excellent teammates. Your work depends on others and not all others are created equal. So what are your options?

1. Talk to the person/people and articulate the impact of their behavior on the team and on the team’s results.  Sometimes this has a surprisingly good outcome.  Often though this tactic yields a short-term bump and a then a slide back to where you were at the start.  To effectively talk to a peer about something as sensitive as this you must be able to speak clearly, honestly and humanely.  Emotional baggage that you bring to the conversation backfires and the loser is… you!

2. Talk to your manager.  Risky choice since you may look like a grown-up tattler who is pointing fingers instead of solving problems.  If the problem person is really a disaster for the team, it can be more effective to gather the team together to talk to the manager en masse. 

3. Work around the problem by doing other people’s work for them.  This is what usually happens and it is an unappetizing choice indeed since you are now doing your work and someone else’s and you’ve successfully trained a poor performer to keep on doing poor work. 

4. If you are the manager, then you must provide clear and unapologetic feedback to poor performers. Find out their perspective about what is occurring and:

a. Match them to work better suited to their abilities

b. Provide training if that is what is at the core of the problem

c. Move them to a different team

d. Move them out of your organization

Managers who let high performing teams suffer with untalented and/or unmotivated members do so at great peril. Your high performers may get so fed up they start to look elsewhere; the team may become so frustrated that the overall level of performance declines; morale absolutely suffers and the work-around to compensate for slackers creates burnout and disappointment.

So take action-- cut the Gordian Knot and liberate your high performers to do what they are yearning to do—their work, really well.



Previous Posts


Previous Posts

Digging for Worms

POSTED JUNE 1, 2016 - Dina Silver


I have been re-reading Jim Collins’ wonderful book Good to Great about what enables some companies to consistently outperform their competitors and develop into great organizations. He’s got a number of compelling insights into leadership and strategy—I heartily recommend the book, but I was particularly taken with the chapter on confronting hard, unpleasant truths.

It is neither easy nor pleasant to acknowledge when your organization is facing a thorny and scary problem.  READ MORE >

Biography is NOT Destiny

POSTED MAY 4, 2016 - Dina Silver


You are not your past. The past occurred, it has happened.  Some of it -- both the good stuff and the bad -- was out of your control and due to circumstances of birth and genetics.  Some of it you may have caused or influenced. Your past may have been luxurious and loving and you assume the world will sumptuously roll out in front of you like the red carpet at the Oscars.  Your past may have been challenging, full of privation and emotional trauma and you believe your future story will look a lot like past chapters, regardless of your efforts.

 Neither is true, and if we simply look around, we know this is so. We see people who have ‘everything’ squander their lives, plow through fortunes, and take bitterness and entitlement to excruciating new levels.  And we see people overcome the most wretched beginnings create lives of meaning, contribution, love and abundance. READ MORE >

Stop Making Sense: Leverage Your Intuition

POSTED APRIL 6, 2016 - by Dina Silver


While our analytic brains are trained and developed, challenged and grown daily, our gut reactions are often considered suspect.   We receive information all the time that is neither analytic nor objectively provable, and even in the face of our strong hunches, many of us regard this information as irrelevant, distracting, even useless. We operate on a kind of “prove it or lose it” basis in which we often overvalue data and undervalue intuition because our hunches can’t be substantiated, proven or convincingly argued.

Intuition is a natural gift and we all have it though for so many of us the muscle is somewhat atrophied. When we are operating synchronously with our mind and our gut, we navigate through our lives from our truest centers and make better decisions for ourselves and for our organizations. READ MORE >

The High Impact of High Touch

POSTED MARCH 2, 2016 - by Dina Silver

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I saw a gorgeous rocking chair in a lovely little shop in Oregon a few weeks ago.  Super comfortable, spectacular and detailed woodwork and naturally, pricey enough. The artist who makes these chairs works to order.  I couldn’t resist.  I placed an order and put my deposit down.

I expected to get notification in a couple of months that my chair was ready and would be crated and shipped and that would be that.  Instead, the artist, Kelly Hawk, emailed me, introduced himself and began sending me photos of my chair in progress– the wood for the headrest, the slats, the choices of wood that he recommended and beautiful details of how the chair will look. READ MORE >

Pay It Forward

POSTED FEBRUARY 3, 2016 - by Dina Silver


You never know when you may change a person’s life for the good.  Most of us actively hope that we have a positive influence on the people we know-- we try to behave with integrity and kindness.  But if you really want to ramp up the odds that you have enormous impact, your actions must be intentional and selfless.

Sometimes people take intentional actions that are heroic. You may have heard, for example, of these amazing kidney transplant stories where one person gives a healthy kidney to a needy stranger and then a friend or family member of that recipient donates to another needy and unrelated patient.  These virtuous circles have exceptional impact—the lives of multiple individual’s lives are saved and their ‘debt’ is re-payed by family or friends who pay it forward by giving a kidney to another needy person.

This is a big gift!  And not all of us will choose to take an action of such enormity.  But there are still loads of other ways for each of us to create joy, change lives, grow the careers of others, or lend a hand to someone who needs some help. Mainly we need to adopt a mindset of service to others and let go of worrying about how we will benefit from our efforts. READ MORE >


POSTED JANUARY 6, 2016 - by Dina Silver

The good news was I got to have a fantastic evening out with my 18 year old son who was home for a couple of weeks appreciating a stocked fridge and on-site laundry that did not require coins.  The bad news was the evening ended with an appendectomy—mine.  You just never know what’s around the corner.

As it turned out, I was lucky—my appendix had not yet ruptured so the surgery was straightforward and frankly, pretty easy.  I imagined the recovery would be tough—imagining my anguish moving from sitting to standing or lying down.  I would have liked to milk the sympathy for a solid week and let worried family and friends hover and tote and do for me, but the truth was, I really wasn’t in much pain at all.  I had to recalibrate:  my preconceptions of a tough recovery from abdominal surgery didn’t match the truth of my experience—I was home the next day and out to dinner the next night.  And asleep by 8:30pm. READ MORE >

Let Me Entertain You

POSTED DECEMBER 2, 2015 - by Dina Silver


What makes a presentation a compelling, edge of your seat, tell everyone you know what you just experienced event?  Here’s a clue– it is definitely NOT data filled power point slides– those are particularly handy if you’re looking to induce sleep or give folks time to catch up on their emails.

So many of my executive coaching clients find themselves regularly in front of rooms large and small, so the question of what captivates an audience is often on my mind.  My little memory cue for presenters is:  Grab Them, Involve Them, Compel Them, Release Them. READ MORE >

The Future Is Now

POSTED NOVEMBER 4, 2015 - by Dina Silver


I sat with a group of colleagues last week and we spent a couple of hours exploring our thinking about global trends over the next five years as well as how the world of executive coaching will be different five years from now.  Both conversations were rich, and like all generative dialogues, the thinking was compelling, deep, far ranging and the ideas and their potential impacts are still chasing each other in my brain.

These are crucial conversation for all business leaders to explore with their teams.  I encourage you to make this a priority in the next month—you will be amazed at the impact of the dialogue.  Unless we speculate about where the world is heading and how shifting trends will impact our businesses, we will be blindsided and out-performed by competitors who saw the future coming and took action. READ MORE >

Supply The Light-- Not The Heat!  

 POSTED OCTOBER 7, 2015 - by Dina Silver


9 Simple Steps to Successfully Navigate Emotionally Charged Conversations

 A new client has had a complicated and often difficult relationship with her boss. On bad days when one speaks, the hair on the other's neck stands on end.  At the same time, both are talented, creative, responsible and devoted to their jobs.  If either left the company, it would be a great loss-- and neither wants to leave.  In fact, both want to create sanity and calm in their relationship together -- but they're stuck in a rut and need some help.

I was brought in to work with each of them individually and to bring them together in facilitated conversation as needed. The goal is to give them tools to shift the way they communicate with each other so that the good work they do can happen more easily and with lots less stress. READ MORE >