Team Accelerator Services Subscribe Blog Resources Start Here Login

Deep Dive Into The 3 Team Breakdown Areas


This is part two of a three-part series on the 3 team breakdowns I see in business today. You can read the first part here.

Okay, let's take a deep dive into the 3 team breakdowns, beginning with:

1) Team functioning that's killing their performance.

These are the teams who attend an annual ropes course and then wonder why they didn’t achieve their goals

These are the teams that think teambuilding is an annual event as opposed to building the team which is a daily priority.

Here’s how a typical bullshit team functions:

  • They think their purpose is the same purpose as that of the organization
  • Meetings feel like it’s more about “me” rather than “we”—it’s about individuals battling for their own self-interests rather than the team’s
  • They give somebody a seat at the table based solely on their rank or position
  • They try to include everybody because it’s the “nice” thing to do
  • It’s always the same people talking
  • People get emotional when things don’t go their way
  • Difficult conversations are avoided for fear of rocking the boat
  • How work should be done is more clear than why it’s important

The way this team functions is bullshit because it’s not a team. It’s a group of individuals sharing the same space.

Teams whose functioning is killing their performance feed each other shit sandwiches served on a bullshit bun filled with platitudes, empty promises, and fake agreements. (Click to Tweet)

They lack trust and transparency and, as a result, have ineffective (and unnecessary) meetings, and dance around decisions.

There’s no candor because members fear the repercussions of speaking up.

Without trust, how the team meets, communicates and makes decisions remains stale, never improves, and creates an emotional toll on each member because issues remain unresolved which means their plate gets stacked even higher.

At the core of every team is people. Yet companies continually get the “people problem” wrong. They spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on team building offsites that are dedicated to the concept of teamwork but fail to deliver on the strategy and tactics for making the team work.

They lack the “human factor” that makes teams great and instead rely upon outdated “ropes course” to somehow teach people how to work together indefinitely.

Unfortunately, teambuilding offsites are oftentimes a check in the box for leaders to demonstrate “they care” because they don’t know what else to do. Without ongoing support, offsites don’t equip people with the know-how of how to build and manage a team that endures.

Here are the financial costs of poorly functioning teams:

  • One Study by Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that companies in which front-line employees trusted their senior leaders had a 42 percent higher return on shareholder investment than organizations in which distrust was the norm


  • Research by the late Richard Hackman of Harvard University found that 60% of a team’s success can be traced back to the conditions that set the team up for success in the first place. Which means, if you don’t take the time to set the conditions for your team to function properly, you’re starting off at a 60% deficit.


  • 30% of meetings are said to be unproductive.


Think of it this way: What if your CFO threw away 30% of the quarterly budget before the quarter started? 


The point here is that time is just an important resource as capital, yet the complacency I see in teams today WRT their meetings is astounding because it comes at such a huge financial cost.

2) Worthless Conversations

Conversations become worthless when the environment doesn't feel safe to speak up, so people say what they think they should instead of what they know they should.

They play it safe for fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time or in front of the wrong person, and they worry because there’s no trust.

Worthless conversations happen when people tip-toe around giving feedback--they “sandwich” constructive criticism in between two layers of positive feedback in hopes of lessening the impact.

But what they’re really doing is being unintentionally fake out of fear of social judgment.

They also give feedback once a year because that’s company policy and avoid it at all costs for 11 other months of the year.

The problem with worthless conversations is that people hope issues will magically work themselves out but they never do--they become worse.

Worthless Conversations are a drain on emotions because the conversations that need to be had, don’t happen. People withhold their concerns, ideas or solutions because the environment isn’t psychologically safe to share them. As a result, solutions aren’t optimized and the quality of decisions suffer.

The cost of Worthless Conversations is staggering. An organization with 500 employees, for example, can expect to spend roughly $200,000 per employee on the time spent to conduct annual performance reviews alone.

One study by Atlassian found that people spend roughly 62 hours per month in meetings. If up to 50% of meetings are a waste of time then that means people waste 31 hours every month having worthless conversations in unproductive meetings, which is almost a full week of work! (and that’s being generous. One study found that the majority of meetings are unproductive, with executives considering more than 67% of meetings a failure[1]).


3) Wasting Away Talent

The byproduct of both team functioning that kills performance and worthless conversations are wasted talent--talent that exists but hasn’t been optimized yet. Why? Because the conditions don’t allow for it.


But the thing is, when you work with strong people, you make each other even better, and the team goes from bullshit to bulletproof.

Then again, social hand grenades have a similar effect. These are the people that nobody wants to be around. They’re toxic. They negatively impact talent and keep it subpar.

Here’s what Wasted Talent looks like:

  • Dead weight (people on the team who shouldn’t be there)
  • Having the right person but in the wrong place
  • Employees undermining each other
  • Social hand grenades (people who should stay at home and work alone)

Bottom line: Talent attracts talent. High performers attract high performers. People want to be around positive energy. They want to be around people who they like, know, and trust. 

Imagine this…

Candidates for the Bulletproof team leave the security of their six-figure job and give up their autonomy because they’re driven by the purpose of the Company and how they let their teams operate, they’re attracted to the elite brand that it represents and the sense of belonging that candidates don’t see being offered anywhere else.

If you’re part of the 10 or 15% of candidates who make it through, you’ll earn less than minimum wage, be away from your family nine months of the year, risk your life almost on a daily basis, and be exposed to hostile environments for months on end where you’ll earn an extra 100 bucks a month.

 And, there’s a waiting list to try out.

In fact, there are so many candidates who want to be part of this company that after they sign up, they need to wait a year before they actually depart.

This is the power of a bulletproof team, and it’s how the Navy SEAL Teams attract talent.

And then, there’s the bullshit team…

If you’re part of the Bullshit team you’ll have a competitive salary, two weeks of paid vacation a year, and a guaranteed position after you breeze through a couple 30min interviews.

The only thing is, turnover is high (20%). People tend to leave The Bullshit Team after a year or so in search of “something else” because the Bullshit Team doesn’t offer what they’re really looking for. The Bullshit Team doesn’t offer purpose, it doesn’t offer fit, and it doesn’t offer belonging because people there think “me before we” first and foremost.

The difference between The bullshit and bulletproof team is this: The bullshit team hopes they can acquire the right talent, whereas the bulletproof team knows they already have it, they just need to chip away the rough edges.

This is what you hear from bullshit Team members:

  • "We're done."
  • "We can't do this."
  • "I don't want to do this."
  • "We'll never be successful as long as John Doe is on this team."
  • "[That'll] never happen here."
  • "Why are we doing this? It doesn't make sense."

People are only willing to be bullshit for so long. At some point, everybody wants to feel bulletproof.

In terms of the financial costs of wasting talent, there are separation costs when employees leave, recruitment costs to fill a position, productivity costs the company spends while the position goes unfilled and while other employees spend time trying to pick up the slack, not to mention train the new (replacement), employee.

  • “Some studies (such as SHRM) predict that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs 6 to 9 months’ salary on average. For a manager making $40,000 a year, that's $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.”


  • The top reason employees cite leaving their job is lack of career development—they can’t contribute or grow like they want to so they find somewhere else where they can.


Teams mismanage talent because they:

A) don’t know how to function as a team


B) don’t have the conversations that need to be had—they’re worthless. Their purpose is unclear which makes it impossible for people to align with and unlock any hidden potential.

But don’t worry, there is a solution.

Stay tuned!


Stay connected with news and updates!

Every week I share news, articles and insights on mindset, leadership, and teams designed to help you grow as a person, as a team and as a company.


50% Complete

Are You Getting Better, Or Are You Getting By?

Join the hundreds of people who receive relative and practical advice every week on how to get better. Period.