Team Trouble Spoils a Win


“In basketball, you can be the greatest individual player in the world and still lose every game,
because a team will always beat an individual.” ~ Bill Walton

I want to tell you a story about my friend Bob. He is an extremely talented basketball player who can perform well at any position on the team. Even coach. If you need to score, Bob almost always calls for the ball. He even calls for it when three other teammates are open and have a clearer shot to the basket. Bob loves the opportunity to add points to the board. Sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t want a teammate willing to not only put in his 100% but yours, too?

What if I told you the rest of the team is as talented as Bob and have a winning record? Is it still okay for Bob to jump in front of an open player, steal the ball and attempt a shot? Or point out a teammate’s weakness and tell him how to fix it in the middle of a layup? What if Bob gets upset because the other team members stop throwing the ball his direction, so he takes it and goes home? What about Bob, then?

Okay, so that was less of a story and more akin to an overloaded opener as referenced in #10 from a blog post about writing openers for blog posts.

Cue the segue …

We are all a part of a team. Or group. Or extended family. Even in the telecommuter-style careers emergent in today’s workforce, my unscientific analysis indicates that at some point in the course of occupational events it becomes necessary for one employee to work with another. Thus, the de facto definition of “teamwork.” And, if you’ve ever managed or worked with my friend Bob, you know neither a zone defense, man-to-man or full court press can protect the team when Bob makes the game all about him.

Here are a few things working with Bob has taught me:

Box Out, Not In

I try to widen my stance when Bob charges. If I tense up, odds are I get knocked over. Long ago I decided an open mind has a better chance of a positive outcome than a closed one. Or one that discounts Bob before he speaks. A key to this strategy is that it is a strategy. It is important to remain prepared for interactions with the team troublemaker.

Remember the Shot Clock

I’ve been burned more than once by the buzzer. Every project has a deadline. Every team has a productivity objective. And every employee has a point of no return. Once it’s clear that Bob is preventing team success, the sooner you sit him down and discuss ways to improve how he works within the group, the greater the chance Bob won’t have to find a new team. If you wait too long, you could lose non-Bob team members, too. #NotGood

Personal Foul

The best way to keep everyone out of foul trouble, is to have clear definitions on what is acceptable and non-acceptable behavior. Discuss these as a team. Bob isn’t the only one who needs to know what he can and cannot do before he hits the bench. Anyone affected by Bob’s outbursts needs to know when it’s okay to approach the ref after a personal, technical or flagrant foul has occurred.

Sports analogies aside, I am not the only one who may have friends like Bob in the workplace! Check out this great article by co-govie, Yolanda Smith. She gives us the top ten types of Bobs out there and simple ways to deal with them. And a quick search on GovLoop returned several more articles on team trouble-making dynamics worth a read.

P.S. In case you were wondering, no identification with actual persons with any variation of the name of Bob (living or deceased) is intended or should be inferred. #TeamsWork

Kathleen Vaught is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply