You feel that everyone on your team sucks

group discussion

Everyone on your team sucks. So many of them aren’t worth a damn, and you get the worst ones moved to your team while everybody else seems to get the rock stars. It’s like someone’s playing a trick on you. “What did I do to deserve this”, is the question you often ask yourself. With this team of misfits, you struggle to turn things around.  You’ve tried to get them moved, and even tried to get other people who have good reputations, but the result is that you’re stuck. Not only are you stuck, but you also end up doing much of the work for the team because they can’t get it done and they don’t follow instructions well. They come to you with problems all the time for you to fix, and you end up fixing the problems to get things done. You tell them what to do, and they just can’t seem to do it. What can you do to turn this around? How can you make this better without quitting your job, or getting fired because they can’t deliver?

focused work

They’re not worth a damn and I’m stuck with them

Your team isn’t delivering in the ways you need them to. Whether it’s making deadlines or producing quality work, they’re not cutting it. You’ve been in the role a short time, yet have members moved around against your will. The movement creates a lack of cohesion, which just adds to the mess. They all need too much help, instruction, and attention. There isn’t enough time in the day for you to walk them through each step of their job, and even when you do, it doesn’t help. It’s as if what you say goes in one ear and out the other. After a while it becomes easier for you just take care of tasks to get them out the door. This leads to you putting extra hours because your work also needs to be completed. You’re now a workaholic  of a different type, which still comes with impacts to your health and well-being. Things are spiraling out of control and you can’t figure out what to do.

What if the efforts you’re putting into telling them what to do is contributing to the problem? You’re giving the instructions of what to do, step by step and something is missing. How much effort have you put into discovering what is missing? You’re probably assuming your instructions are clear, but what are you doing to verify that’s true? What is your fact checking mechanism of yourself and your message? Something to recognize, is that fixing the problems for them, only teaches them that you’ll take care of things for them in crunch time. Telling them what to do, without checking for their understanding, will also perpetuate the cycle you’re experiencing. How is your method of telling them what to do and how to do it, teaching them? The results you’ve been getting thus far, speak for themselves.

Telling people what to do in a situation can be helpful to them, and it can also backfire. See, when you tell someone a step-by-step process and walk away, it leaves them with their interpretation of what was said.  When that interpretation is inaccurate, what do you think the result is? With that result, what is your predictable response?  If you can predict the result and your response, that’s an indication you may be in a vicious cycle. That cycle is logical of course yet doesn’t get you the results you’re after. Why? Because you’re telling more than you’re asking. Let me explain.

When you’re in instructional and telling mode, they’re listening and nodding their head, maybe even giving the verbal “uh huh, yeah” responses. You ask if they follow or understand and they confirm, so you go on your way feeling accomplished in your task. There’s a big assumption you made and didn’t realize it though. You assumed they did in fact understand but didn’t verify by having them restate or demonstrate their learning. Having them prove to you their understanding, is your way of fact checking of your assumptions. Anytime they show a lack of clarity with any part, you can ask more questions to better understand how they see things through their mode of thinking. Spending time seeing the world through their eyes will inform you of how they process information, how they learn best, and ultimately how to present information to them. That can shift the dynamics such that you’re both learning within a teaching moment.

Thinking from the perspective of you learning while teaching, what information would be useful for you to know? What are some standard questions you could ask to gain a deeper understanding of their thinking frameworks? What would they say they are skilled at? What skills do they want to improve upon? How might you support them in developing those skills through the daily tasks that need to be completed? Also consider what skills you’re working on developing through the process as well, as you can treat this as a learning opportunity for yourself as well.

working hard and not talking to anyone

Miracle worker

Over time your team continues to attract the under-performers and you have struggled to figure out why. When you’ve asked your boss, the answers are cryptic at best. You’ve been struggling to stay afloat, and the reward has been the opposite of what you expect. You ensure work gets done so you look good as the leader, yet miss the key points contributing to your cycle. One of those being that the work gets done under your watch. You’ve created the expectation of delivering, which reflects on your whole team. In your boss’s eyes you’re delivering the magic, especially with the team you’ve been given. In short, you’ve become known as the miracle worker.

You’ve proven that you can get things done. With some of the worst team members that no one else has had success with, you’ve been pulling it off. Sure, you’ve been carrying much of the load, but your boss and other outsiders don’t see that. To them you’re pulling off the impossible. The reality is that it’s true, and you’re doing it in an inefficient and unsustainable manner. Doing the bulk of the work for your team helps you all look great, but what are they learning through the process? With all your talents, what are you doing to effectively pass them on? This is where you can really shine and turn the lemons into lemonade. Everything you’re taking on yourself can be taught if you take the time to do so.

Earlier we looked at putting in the effort to learn how your team thinks and processes information. Putting that into practice is what will have you stand out from other leaders, especially having team members that others have written off. Passing on what you know and can do, not only makes your job easier but helps the team growth their abilities. From those new abilities can come the next wave or generation of leaders. Imagine having someone on your team that’s been labeled a lost cause, become a super star. How would that make you feel about your efforts then? You would be playing a key role in filling the pipeline for up-and-coming leadership. That would give you even more positive attention and the potential to feed whatever your career goals may be. How is this sounding to you? What are some things you could do differently to start creating this outcome? Who is it you want to be as a leader, given your current circumstances?


What we’ve identified is that you have an ability to get things done, with team members no one else wants. It comes with recognition, even though there’s pain a suffering as you deliver. The opportunity for you to realize and take advantage of, is how your team thinks and learns. How you can help them understand what you need them to know, using questions. The learning you will gain through the process sets you up to be a stronger leader and get your next promotion. The same will be possible for the members of your team, making you much more valuable for having overcome what others have seen as impossible. What will you do next, to make these possible outcomes a reality?

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