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Mayes Wilson & Associates

Talented Terrors: Do you have one on your team?

Sara Wilson, CPCC, ACC | 

Do you have one? A Talented Terror? You know, the staff member who is smart, capable AND wreaks havoc in your team? Most of us will experience this in our career–either as a boss or as a member of a team. I’ve worked with many leaders who become paralyzed when dealing with these types of staff and situations.

In my coaching of executives one thing I’ve noticed is they frequently don’t step back and consider the impact one individual has on the entire team’s performance, morale and even organizational culture.

It is a hard situation, and there may be background (home, personal, mental health) issues that are impacting a person’s behavior. I’m not a mental health professional nor do I have HR certifications or legal expertise in this area. I have coached and provided consulting to leaders who are navigating this difficult situation. It can take an inordinate amount of time and energy to “fix” these situations and the longer the situation is not addressed the more impact on you as a leader and your team.

Fear often reigns. The old saying “the devil you know is better that the devil you don’t” often seems to drive the lack of action by decision makers. This is based in fear of the unknown and in avoiding conflict.

5 approaches to addressing a Talented Terror

  1. Notice the situation: energy drain (“suck the air out of the room”) on the team; drains your energy; manipulates things behind the scenes; says one thing in private another in public; intentionally creates disagreements divisions in the team; “pits” people against each other; is easily and quickly offended.
  2. Shift your mindset from fear-based/ignoring the situation to getting curious. How might your behavior or the the team dynamic be supporting their behavior? (Example: are you promoting open dialogue at meetings, garnering everyone’s input and hearing ideas/concerns? Or are you stating decisions, pushing concerns and uncertainty behind the scenes?)
  3. Shift from a conflict mindset to being solution-oriented. Talk to the individual about the behavior and (jointly if possible ) come up with expectations to modify behavior.
  4. Create learning opportunities around constructive disagreement.
  5. Work with the team to identify elements of the team culture they want to foster, create or let go. (Don’t create a team culture mandate from the top-down!) Use the process to build a positive culture including how team members will hold each other accountable.

It’s important to note that healthy disagreement or disruption can be positive. I’m talking about something different (see #1 above).

Any one or a combination of these approaches can work. The bottom line is as a leader you need to address the situation and solve it for the team, the organization. If you don’t address the issue you will lose respect, team energy, and productivity. Don’t be fooled! People are paying attention and wondering why you as a leader (executive, committee chair, group leader) are not addressing the issue that is impacting everyone.

Managing people is hard. I’ve done it, I’ve tried to fix TT’s and create work-arounds so they had less contact and less impact on the team. In retrospect, I wasn’t leading. Leading takes COURAGE and we know that courage is facing fear and acting in spite of it.

If you need support or strategies to address an issue like this I’m here to help.

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