Study shows exactly how much unproductive people on your team undermine performance

In an online survey of 1,160 people, 90% said that when their teammates mess up, it costs the team in various ways: loss of morale, trust, and productivity.

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It only takes one or two team members to undermine results for the entire group when they mess up, research from leadership training experts Vitalsmarts shows . Overwhelmed and less-productive team members affect performance by as much as 24%.

In an online survey of 1,160 people, 90% said that when their teammates mess up, it costs the team in various ways – loss of morale, trust, productivity, work quality, client or customer service, etc.


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Teams are fragile, Justin Hale, master trainer from Vitalsmarts said. “I think that we absolutely found in our research that one or two people making some of these fumbles – whether it’s not writing something down, not capturing it, or working on stuff that is busy work, but not the most important work – that what starts to happen over time as the output of the team goes down, but also the trust in each other goes down.”

Hale shared some tips for getting the most out of team productivity adapted from Vitalsmarts training.

To ignore this advice, he says, means “more bad email and more crappy meetings and more email, more crappy email.”

  1. End with action.  At the end of every meeting, finish up “seven to 10 minutes early and say, ‘What is the next action we’re going to take? And who’s going to take it? And where are we going to follow up?'” Don’t settle for vague answers; make sure everyone has a next action and a plan for follow-up.
  2. Create a capture culture. Write things down. That way you won’t forget them,  and you’ll follow through, which will make your colleagues trust you more. Create a note any way that works for you –  “a Notes app, or whether you’re emailing yourself, or write it down on paper and pencil. Capture everything, and trust goes up.”
  3. Do the right stuff. “So how do you as a team, help each other to do more of the right things?” Define different types of work, and put boundaries around it. Don’t spend all your time working on the “surprises” that pop up. Be respectful around email – “help each other by putting at the top of every email the desired action they want.”
  4. Make it okay to say “no.” Create a culture where it’s okay to renegotiate tasks and projects, and where you can go to your boss if your plate is too full and ask to have your duties reallocated – without that being a sign of defeat.

It’s all about developing good habits, Hale said. “If people don’t have the habits, you’re going to get the fumbles,” he warned. “And it’s going to take a hit on your productivity by 20% or more.”


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Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.