Is your top talent making or breaking your team?

3 minute read

Is your top talent making or breaking your team?

When you create a team from your pool of leading talent, you expect it to work. You have good reason to predict higher revenues, innovative new directions, or solutions to nagging problems.

However, super-talented leadership teams often fail. In a Talent Quarterly article titled ‘Your top talent is destroying your teams’, Drs Gordy Curphy and Dianne Nilsen share some common reasons for why executive team derailments to light.

Brilliant and capable leaders rise to the top with a supportive company culture and good performance reviews. But this doesn’t translate to their success when operating in teams.

In this blog, we take a closer look at Gordy and Dianne’s commentary about the four categories of dysfunction executive teams tend to fall into, why these problems occur, and how to go about resolving them.

4 common problems faced by high-performing leadership teams

Some very distinct problems emerge when very talented senior employees are put together in teams. This is because leaders are usually rewarded for personal achievements, while their functional abilities in teams and attitudes toward teamwork are ignored.

Those problems, which Gordy and Dianne call out, are cloning, alpha-paralysis, artificial harmony, and myopia.

Cloning happens when leaders are groomed within one specific company culture, and when they rack up professional accomplishments in that setting alone. Everyone who rises to the top develops a similar worldview and leans on the same tactics. Teams full of such 'clones' are less innovative and less agile.

Alpha-paralysis is what happens when ‘alpha’ males and females, the very types who often become leaders, defer to each other to the point of never disagreeing or talking about contentious issues. The avoidance of conflict leaves the team stuck in neutral, while big problems grow unchecked in the background.

Artificial harmony arises when team members strictly police their own behaviour to keep up appearances of friendship and cordiality. That means that brewing inefficiencies and bad workplace conduct are ignored. Personal grievances are dealt with in underhanded, less-than-honest ways that end up damaging harmony and the integrity of the business.

Myopia is the tendency among team members to only see value in their individual work, and not that of the group as a whole. This comes from a history of being recognised and promoted solely on their own merit. They fall victim, naturally, to thinking their own ideas are the only correct ones.


How to repair your teams

These four problems constantly derail elite teams, to the frustration of executives everywhere. Fortunately, there are ways for resolve the problem at its roots, and ensuring high-performing teams stay on track.

  1. Avoid putting too much emphasis on cultural fit when hiring and grooming talent. The more similar your top employees are to each other, the less likely that original ideas — the kind that can shake up operations and processes in a good way — will spring forth when they work together. It’s key to ensure a diverse range of viewpoints is reflected.
  2. Apply your ‘talent management’ approach to entire teams, rather than individual employees. When you’re on a mission to optimise performance, make the effort to look at how teams behave, grow, and respond to pressures from within and without. By evaluating just team members themselves, you can’t see how feasible and productive your teams are, or what improvements are needed.
  3. Give feedback on teamwork as the mission progresses. The kind of people selected for high-performance teams are typically motivated by benchmarks. Providing those standards in team reviews might be just the spark needed for better cohesion and productivity.
  4. Give leaders the tools and frameworks they need to enhance their teams. This means providing support in the form of focused meetings, coaching for CEOs on conflict resolution and problem-solving, instruction to team members on behavioural norms and shared responsibilities, as well as whatever else will help build team integrity, create healthy interactions, and knock down obstacles to success.

These resolutions will both lay the groundwork for better teams from the start, and create teams that are able to self-diagnose and heal themselves as they move forward.

Managing high-performing teams well can require strategies that are not so obvious. New, challenging methods are usually needed to improve communication and collaboration among top talent.

These ideas and more will be discussed at Winsborough’s third-annual Future Trends Event 2018. At this conference, you’ll learn the revolutionary, science-backed techniques and skills needed to build the strongest, most successful teams of the modern era.

Get your tickets here.