Are you a real team player who makes an effort to promote healthy and harmonious dynamics on your team? If so, great.  We need more people who are willing to invest in effective teams.  Before you get too complacent about your contribution, take a look at some of these ways that good intentions can have bad consequences.

  1. You cover for someone’s weaknesses
    • Honorable intention: He’s a good guy and nobody’s perfect!
    • Unintended result: The unexposed weakness threatens the future success of your team.
    • Instead: Get it in the open. Problem solve about how your teammate can address the issue.
  2. You “let one slide” when a teammate under-performs
    • Honorable intention: His bad day was consequence enough, why rub salt in the wound?
    • Unintended result: Accountability erodes and the chance to learn something is lost.
    • Instead: Be empathetic and talk through how things could be done differently in the future.
  3. You try to smooth things over when an argument starts
    • Honorable intention: Can’t we all just get along?
    • Unintended result: Without productive conflict, issues fester without being resolved.
    • Instead: Let the disagreement happen and help people really listen and hear each other.
  4. You make feedback really gentle
    • Honorable intention: No need for a sledgehammer! She’ll get the message, right?
    • Unintended result: It never lands or worse, you give the impression everything is fine.
    • Instead: Be direct. Be kind. Be clear.
  5. You take on more than your share of the workload
    • Honorable intention: They’re overloaded. I don’t want to burden someone else.
    • Unintended result: You burn out and resent them when they never had a say.
    • Instead: Discuss it and make the right decision based on workload, skills, and interest.
  6. You give the benefit of the doubt without checking
    • Honorable intention: I trust my teammate, she’s super smart. I’ll just assume that this is right.
    • Unintended result: Errors make everyone look bad. Avoidable risks get introduced.
    • Instead: Play the devil’s advocate. Help scrutinize the work to make sure that it’s air tight.
  7. You defer to the expert
    • Honorable intention: I’m out of my depth. He knows what he’s talking about.
    • Unintended result: Opportunities and threats are seen through a narrow lens.
    • Instead: Ask the naïve question. Add a novel perspective.
  8. You acquiesce to the majority
    • Honorable intention: Well, I guess majority rules.
    • Unintended result: An unpopular but important perspective gets shut out of decision making.
    • Instead: Make your point and stand your ground until the decision is made.

Often, you start out with great intentions and do harm without even realizing it.  Great teams endure discomfort and tension on the path to becoming great.  Rather than trying to reduce the discomfort, help your teammates work through it.  That’s a great team player.

Are there other things you would add to the list? What have you done with the best intentions that ended doing more harm than good?

Further Reading

Unconventional Wisdom on Constructive Feedback

The Case for More Conflict

New Year’s Resolution: Resolve to Add More Value on Your Team

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