Team Dynamics: Blurry Vision

team dynamicsSent: September 17, 8:00 a.m.

From: Chuck, Sales Team Manager

To: Tom, VP of Sales

Subject: Account Assignment


Hey man, we need to talk. I’ve been asked by the team to call a meeting with you to discuss how you’ve been assigning accounts across the sales team. People were pretty pissed. I guess most of the team has decided just to distribute their accounts how they want, and so they blew off your assignments completely. This really screwed up the CRM system, so they had IT write a script that changed all the assignments. Is that OK, or will that mess up the accounting system and how commissions get calculated? This is a mess, man. Not sure where it went off the rails, but it did.


From: Marcia

To: Tom, VP of Sales


I got shorted $1,200 on my commission check. Not cool.


From: Scott, Accounting Manager

To: Tom, VP of Sales


Somehow, we overpaid one of your sales associates by $1,200. How did this happen? Who is in charge of keeping track of whose accounts are assigned to whom? This is a complete mess on the back end.


From: Buyer, XYZ Company

To: Tom, VP of Sales


I’ve really enjoyed working with your company in the past. And I particularly enjoyed working with Marcia. But she let me know today that she’s been taken off of our account by her manager. We’ve been a great customer and spent a lot of money with your firm—why the change? She didn’t seem very happy about it.


Take a lesson from Tom, VP of sales and leader in chaos:

All for one, and one for all! It’s a super-democracy, and a self-governing team with no clear boundaries or rules can result in the top performers rising to the top. So, by all means, let them run the show. Salespeople are too squirrelly to manage anyway, so it makes your life easier, right?

When you leave your team to their own devices, they will certainly self-organize. A lack of clear job descriptions will mean that they simply create their own and do what makes them happy, and who doesn’t love that? A happy team means fewer negative GlassDoor reviews for you! In other good news for you, a self-organizing, un-managed team will develop their own company vision and mission, and who knows!? It might even be better than yours.

And, in the spirit of innovation, a lack of clarity about job roles and the definitions of duties will allow you to pit one against another, force people to compete for the same task or job and disrupt workflow. When individuals don’t meet their goals because of others rather than themselves, chaos ensues. It becomes a dog-eat-dog environment, and the top performers go for the land grab. This is especially successful in managing a sales organization—the more chaos the better!


Sounds a little like Lord of the Flies, doesn’t it? There is a reason that organizational design and management hierarchy have remained generally the same as long as they have. There is a reason modern experiments like “holacracies” don’t work or don’t last. Human beings need leadership, organization, and direction. In any organization, large or small, intentional organizational design with clear job descriptions, roles, and duties is key to peace and success.

According to Gallup, employees need four things to be satisfied: trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Without these, employees are unsure of their boundaries and will neither feel safe nor perform well. Stability says you will have guardrails in place to keep them in the right lane.

When going into battle, each soldier has a clear mission, set of duties, toolkit, and role that they play in the larger theater of war. If a group self-manages to the point of changing their roles or their toolkit, chaos ensues, and goals are not met. Such is the result of a workgroup that goes largely unmanaged or is expected to self-manage.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to make sure the job descriptions for each of your team members are clear, concise, and well-communicated to everyone. It is as important for employees to know their peers’ job descriptions and expectations as it is for them to know their own. You’ve had your employees study their own job descriptions, but have you required them to study and understand the JDs of others on their team? Only by doing so can you expect them all to fully understand how they fit together and form a highly functioning team. Innovation and initiative are great, but solid lines make these better, not worse.

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