logo image

ATD Blog

I’m Okay; You’re a Knave and a Fool


Wed Sep 28 2016

I’m Okay; You’re a Knave and a Fool

All managers struggle with problems that seem unbeatable. Will we ever be able to improve employee engagement, cut costs, grow profit, and improve quality? These organizational problems are really team problems, and team problems are primarily people problems. Here’s a checklist for sustaining a productive team. 

A Leader With a Vision

A leader who believes that bad teams can’t be fixed is absolutely right. The leader must lead. She must passionately believe that the team can work better together than alone. The team must see the leader striving (not always succeeding) to live the behaviors expected of the staff.


Behavior proves whether a leader truly trusts her staff. Does she spend time with the people who work there? Patrick Lencioni has a good list of blind spots in The Seven Temptations of a CEO. Does the leader:

  • Choose personal status over business results? 

  • Value popularity with the staff over accountability? 

  • Focus on minutiae instead of urgency? 

  • Prioritize harmony over constructive disagreement? 

  • Value the need to be always right over trust in the team? 

A Captivating Goal With Context

A leader must provoke passion for the work in each team member. This passion must be clearly tied to business goals. Some people are motivated by challenge, some by money, some by social good, and some by popularity. A good leader knows how to listen to people, strategically leverage the differences, and figure out how to get the right person in the right job at the right time. The most common leadership mistake is to assume that everyone is motivated the same way.

Individual Personal Mastery

Team members must learn to leverage their own strengths and ask for help with the weaknesses. Self-awareness built through compliant assessments is invaluable. Instead of differences creating conflict, team members view one another as partners. 

A Common, Simple Process

Be explicit. What you can’t see, you can’t manage. Create project management processes that clearly identify one task, one drop-dead date, and one responsible owner for all the work that needs to be done. Learn how to prioritize and say no to say yes. Work back from the strategy. Continually ask, “Why are we spending time on this instead of something else?” Push value, not perfection.

Great teams at great organizations begin with leaders and staff following an intentional journey to greatness. To begin developing your leadership journey, join me for an upcoming ATD Certificate in Strategic Leadership program.


You've Reached ATD Member-only Content

Become an ATD member to continue

Already a member?Sign In


Copyright © 2024 ATD

ASTD changed its name to ATD to meet the growing needs of a dynamic, global profession.

Terms of UsePrivacy NoticeCookie Policy