Chapter 2

Toxic Teams

I was sitting at my desk, working away, when the phone rang. It was the CEO of a small financial organization.1 He'd called a week before to ask about our work on team effectiveness, and I'd sent him some material on our Team Inoculation® program. We designed this program to help get new teams off on the right foot. We affectionately refer to it as the flu shot for teams because it's meant to immunize teams against common dysfunctions.

He didn't waste any time getting to the point on this second call. “Thanks for sending the material on the flu shot,” he said. “I don't think that's going to cut it. Do you have a rabies shot ?”

I immediately imagined a team of executives sitting around the table frothing at the mouth. It wasn't quite that bad, but it was pretty horrible. Members of the team had stopped trusting one another and communicating all but the most necessary information.

Before the first session, we interviewed the CEO, the board chair, and the entire executive team. They painted a pretty bleak picture. The organization used to be listed as one of the nation's best employers. Now engagement had plummeted. The most recent internal survey asked employees to agree or disagree with the statement “Our organization has the leadership we need to be successful.” Not a single employee agreed. Not one!

No surprise that the business was in a downward spiral. Thanks to internal squabbles, the team couldn't deliver the tools the sales force needed to keep up ...

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