Shannon Susko Blog

As a CEO, what to do with team members who openly don’t get along

Shannon SuskoAug 20, 2015
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Ever lead a dream team that doesn’t get along?  Both in athletics and my work, I have experienced bringing together the best skilled people possible where a few of the team members didn’t get along. Normal or not? 

Actually, this happens more often than not.  In my first company we were on a roll and hiring non-stop.  As the CEO – my leadership team was growing. We were hiring on skill and experience and giving little consideration for “fit”.  We had leaders that openly didn’t get along. In these situations there is a lot of energy wasted.

When leadership team members openly don’t get along, it stifles a lot of things in your company but mainly your ability to grow.  The leadership team must be the most cohesive team in the company and lead by example.  I have led and been on many leadership teams where not everyone “luved” one another - but there was trust and respect for each other for their functional expertise which didn’t block the company from growing.  How did we accomplish this?

Here are 5 ACTIONS to consider if you have leaders who openly don’t get along:

  1. Assess Your Core Values: First and foremost, in every situation, you have to assess if the behaviours of the team members is acceptable and that they fit with your established Core Values.  If you do not have established Core Values – work with the leadership team to establish these. 
  2. Assess Behaviour: So you don’t have to “luv” your team member – it’s easier if you do – but you must respect each team member. With the established Core Values and the basic values of trust, respect, integrity, etc. - as a leader you must review the behaviour of the leaders involved. Sounds straightforward - but you not only will have to assess this - you will have to take action with all team members involved.
  3. Open Discussion: Most leaders shy away from an open, transparent, discussion around conflict issues with leadership team members and they try to resolve these on a one on one basis.  This then becomes a “he said she said” situation.  My best advice is to address this with the team as a chance to reinforce the acceptable behaviour of the team.  This discussion is not pointed, not attacking but a discussion as a group on the assessment of the leadership team’s behaviour and how to solve any issues together. This allows the team to openly discuss, recognize, and address the situation as a team.
  4. Bring Them Closer Together:  In one example in my first company – when I had two leaders that openly didn’t get along - I actually rearranged the seating in the office where the leaders were positioned next to one another and their teams.  This worked very well as the leaders talked more, could not hide from one another, and addressed issues that were happening.
  5. Remove Leader(s): As harsh as what this sounds, yes I have played on sports teams where top players were removed because they couldn’t get along and I’ve been on leadership teams where the same thing happened. If there are Core Values established, unfortunately, to be respectful and true to the rest of the team – if anyone does not have the Core Values or is not living the Core Values – you must let them go.  This is tough but warranted.  If your Core Values are truly engrained and alive in your organization you will be willing to fire the offender and/or take a financial loss.  Ouch.  This gets back to making sure there is “fit” with every leader and team member hired.   This action is huge for the credibility of you as a leader and your belief in the established culture.

Leaders who openly don’t get along stifle growth, waste energy and time. In my experience, to avoid this growth blocking situation, establish your Core Values with your leaders. Hire, fire and reward on these Core Values.  If these are the values you and your team believes in, be willing to take a financial hit or fire the offender(s) to ensure the culture remains intact. A leadership team functioning and behaving as a cohesive unit will be the foundation of your growth. Good luck on your scaling up journey.

In: Business

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