All Team Members Should Add Value

All Team Members Should Add Value

Not everyone on a team adds value. There….I said it. Sometimes, only twenty to thirty percent of team members contribute to productive team outcomes. The remaining individuals are simply bodies making up numbers. The problem is that this is a common occurrence in the workplace and, one that is pervasive.

There is hardly a team to be found, where the team leader doesn’t wish that he or she had more productive team members on board. Of course, wishing is never a useful strategy, especially if it’s the only strategy being employed. What is beyond belief, is the high level of tolerance on the part of some team leaders, for what should be regarded as an untenable situation.

Allowing this situational imbalance to continue is problematic for several reasons. There’s the unfairness to those individuals who are pulling both their weight, as well as the weight of their less productive teammates. Adverse interpersonal interactions become inevitable, when productive members become resentful of their uncensured colleagues. One of the most dangerous outcomes can be the reduction in overall productivity level of the team, precipitated by the high performers equilibrating their effort levels in line with the lower effort markers.


Not everyone on a team adds value.


This decline happens gradually and almost imperceptibly, when high performers take matters into their own hands, if team leads fail to take course correcting action. For the high performers, the payoff is that the feeling of being exploited dissipates, whilst for the low performers…well, nothing would have changed.

But what would have caused this situation to perpetuate itself in the first place? Well, some individuals become untouchables because of lineage or legacy relationships. Lineage because of familial bonds and legacy, because of possibly a long history of friendship, loyalty or indebtedness for acts of favour to those in authority.

Then there’s the case of lack of willingness to address the situation. Some leaders are really comfortable with dysfunction, some are stuck in their own style bias, whilst others are immobilized by fear at the mere thought of confronting the situation. The latter group comprises those leaders who are conflict averse and will not touch a situation that is fraught with people challenges, with a ten-foot pole. They prefer to hope and pray that the situation fixes itself.


The starting point to change is always addressing the issue.


Do you know that some leaders believe that performance imbalance is an immutable phenomenon and therefore, they resign themselves to living with it? Even in the midst of cascading fallout, inertia can remain their chosen holding pattern.

Some leaders just cannot be bothered to change the status quo. Too much trouble. Others live in hope that the low performers will simply quit. I wouldn’t hold out for this latter action, since errant team members often are quite happy with the arrangement. Do little, collect a salary, no pressure to step up their game.

Then there are those situations characterized by skill insufficiency, where leaders simply lack the know-how to either prevent or correct the imbalance. I’ve encountered team leaders who have given up trying after one or two unsuccessful attempts. The lack of skill precipitating an early shut-down of their efforts.


One preventative approach that I deployed in my early years as a team lead, was the creation of a “teamness charter” …


Going forward, I suspect that the employee populations that comprise the evolving multi-generational workforce, will be less and less willing to accept the lack of equity in team member contributions.

Of course, the starting point to change is always addressing the issue.

One preventative approach that I deployed in my early years as a team lead, was the creation of a “teamness charter” that outlined the rules of engagement to be upheld by all team members. I made sure to have “we will always pull our weight” as one of the rules. My role then became that of first adopter of all of the standards and chief enforcer to ensure that the rules were honoured by everyone.

In the instance where an imbalance exists, a “teamness charter” can be equally useful, given that it addresses the need for equanimity in maximizing team productivity. The difference here, compared to a preventative situation, is that the leader will need to begin enforcement immediately, since   errant team members exist.


The leader has to talk the talk and walk the walk, with urgency.


The efficacy of the “teamness charter” rests upon the commitment of the team lead to model the new rules, pull his or her own weight and hold violators accountable. This sends the signal that the charter will be deployed in an even-handed manner and without disproportionate application.

In other words, the leader has to talk the talk and walk the walk, with urgency. There is no room for timidity or tardiness.