Building a team can be one of the most challenging aspects of growing a firm. Fortunately, there’s a lot of resources around critical areas of culture, team building, and leadership. However, one of the areas commonly not discussed is which ‘types’ of team members can be toxic for your firm. In this post, we discuss 5 major ones to avoid (or coach back into the firm).
1. The ‘Yes’ (wo)man
When you hire a new team member, especially one that doesn’t have a lot of experience, it’s easy for them to say ‘yes’ or ‘got it’ to everything you ask them. This is because they don’t want to deliver bad news, or appear incapable of completing the work. The way to avoid the constant ‘yes’ is to rephrase how you ask for comprehension. For example, instead of saying a yes/no question such as ‘Do you have any questions?’ or ‘Understand?’, you could say ‘What questions do you have?’ or ‘just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, can you rephrase/restate the instructions back to me?’.
2. The Client Downer
This is a dangerous team member, because internally, they are likely very good at what they do. However, your business thrives on relationships, not just delivering work. Therefore, it’s important to get client satisfaction reports, as well as work 1-1 with your team to improve interpersonal communication and client engagement skills.
3. The ‘it’s not my job’
Especially for a small firm, the ‘it’s not my job’ attitude can be extremely toxic, as it’s likely required to wear a few different hats. Even for larger firms, you need your team to contribute to strategy and ongoing feedback on the firm, instead of just ‘clocking in, clocking out’.
4. The Lone Ranger
AKA, not the team player. This is the team member that does not like to work with others, can be rude, short-tempered, and closes themselves off to other team members (or even clients). This is both destructive for the team, as well as the client relationships.
5. The lynch leader
The ‘lynch’ leader is one that when somethings goes wrong, or they don’t agree with, instead of speaking to a partner or owner, they rally one (or more) team members to join in their frustration. Then turning a minor issue, into a larger issue, disrupting not only their own productivity, but those around them. Whereas the previous four were somewhat isolated to the individual (although can still affect the team), the lynch leader loves a good rally and will typically bring others to ‘their side’, even for minor issues.
In the end, building a team is an ongoing investment of time and resources (coaching, 1-1’s, and more). It’s rarely (if ever) easy to build a great team, but the rewards are obvious… you grow faster than you ever thought possible.
For more resources of team and culture building, we recommend the following interviews: