When the GeneBank (fictional company) board of directors demanded its new CEO double the global supplier of dairy and beef genetics’ revenue to $1 billion, the first thing he did was develop a new executive team.
This was a dramatic shift, and required new skills in acquisition, global marketing, data science, and logistics. The team would also have to lead a deeply skeptical, science-based organization into a future with much higher expectations.
The new team was goal driven, competitive, and ambitious. The organization felt as if it had received a huge shot of energy. Targets were increased, standards were raised, and individuals held accountable (and non-performers exited). The team was exciting to be around and made strong efforts to connect with each other and the wider organization
At the same time, three other behaviors emerged that caused frustration and resentment. Although driven and focused, the team didn’t listen well to the rest of the organization, spending its time in broadcast mode. Secondly, goals stacked on goals as they emerged from the long, tough meetings of the top team, and little attention paid to sequencing or resourcing. Finally, the team was distractible, and the strategy began to accumulate pet projects.
This case study is a perfect example of a team with strong shared derailers. Derailers, or dark-side personality characteristics, are traits that under normal circumstances could be considered strengths—being ambitious, competitive, or outgoing, for example. Under increased stress or pressure, however, those same qualities can turn into behaviors that strain relationships and cause interpersonal rifts that can hinder team performance.
If too many members of the team share the same derailers, they can become team derailers. In this case, the executive team had a distinctive, shared dark side risk of being colorful – the tendency to be dramatic, attention-seeking, and easily bored.
Understanding the team’s shared derailers will help you understand how conflict is likely to play out, and help you guard against team-killing behaviors. To learn more about managing shared derailers and how personality affects team performance, download our ebook, The Secret to Successful Teams: Conflict.