Jack Welch responds to a question on how a leader knows who is being “cut-throat” and who is doing their work. Toxic behaviors need to be handled promptly.
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Viewpoint on Toxic Behaviors
With toxic behaviors present in a group, there is very little chance that people will fully trust each other, speak openly, and work in a collaborative manner. Cut-throat behaviors such as taking credit for work that others have done, backstabbing, gossiping may happen behind a leader’s back so to speak, but the consequences are always visible in the way people talk and act. Toxic behaviors can be detected in the patterns of avoidance in the team’s interactions.
Whether it is in sports or in business, it’s commonly accepted that a “star team” will outperform a “team of stars”. How competent people work together to accomplish the tasks at hand accounts for as much, if not more, than the sum of their individual talents. The dilemma in organizations is that many working groups never succeed in tapping this higher level of synergy because they get embroiled in day-to-day work pressures and conflicting priorities.
Working with teams in trouble, we find that the real source of problems is rarely technical in nature even when signs seem to indicate that it is. The source of problems usually reveals itself after just a couple of hours, when project members clamor for better communication; problems invariably stem from people dynamics.
A major challenge to leaders is how to foster both high collegiality and a high level of accountability in the workplace. Leaders often experience the challenge as the difference between being a nice boss and a hard-driving one. On the receiving end of the equation, i.e. from the staff point of view, collegiality and accountability are also experienced as opposite extremes, the trade-off between a friendly supportive culture and a hard-nosed, results-oriented culture.
Neither approach, however, offers a complete answer to how to get things done; the positives and negatives of each approach can be readily identified (see matrix below.) So the truth lies elsewhere: in fact both are legitimate, and each approach deteriorates if not tempered by the other. The aim is therefore to manage both factors at the same time.