Lucifer Effect

I’ve always had an interest in how to let the right team dynamic flourish. Ever since having practical exposure at Business School.

This featured the works of Belbin with his eight types of team player (now apparently nine; I was always Chairman then Plant) and the original Tuckman journey of forming, storming, norming, performing (also modified to introduce adjourning and transforming).

I recently got put on to the team creation works of Patrick Lencioni. With text straight from wikipedia;

“According to [Lencioni’s] book, the five dysfunctions [of a team] are:

  • Absence of trust—unwilling to be vulnerable within the group
  • Fear of conflict—seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate
  • Lack of commitment—feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization
  • Avoidance of accountability—ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior sets low standards
  • Inattention to results—focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success”

So with this fresh in my mind, the weekend saw the horror of the Americans reporting that a lone, allegedly ‘mentally unstable’ staff sergeant had massacred sixteen innocent Afghanis, including nine children.

Veteran English war journalist Robert Fox subsequently alerted me to the work of Philip Zimbardo. He cited his book, The Lucifer Effect, about why good people turn evil, in the context of why a team breaks down to so shockingly malfunction.

A key warning sign is apparently when people start to splinter off from what the ‘team’ is doing, to go their own way on personal side projects, all alone. People are supposedly much more likely to go ‘rogue’ when the team splits in this way. And of course, the results can be catastrophic.

This holds true in a Sales environment too. How many times have I seen a new product stumble because a key team member doesn’t engage? To the extent that they undermine all efforts? Or a customer is left dangling because one pivotal support person makes a choice for themselves, rather than the common good?

Getting salespeople aligned can be as tricky as herding cats. If you’re having that issue yourself, or with the conduct and impact of say a major account support team, then the first place to start is in marrying up personal and team desires. Then Lucifer is way less likely to hold sway.

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