When Bad Things Happen to Good Innovators

Updated: April 23, 2010

Survival is the first rule of entrepreneurial life, and when dealing with an unexpected calamity, nothing keeps a team in play more effectively than people working really well together. This may mean ranting together (not at each other) for a few minutes, perhaps also grieving together, and then—without delay—getting down to the business of refocusing and recovering. Histrionics, finger-pointing, or withdrawing instead of reaching out are not characteristic of good teamwork. They are characteristic of failure.

Good teams know that no one person can examine all the possibilities; that two heads are better than one; three better than two; one for all and all for one! Spending time and energy on leadership struggles, instead of pulling together, has run more than one ship aground. The strongest entrepreneurial teams incorporate and encourage different communication, action, and problem solving styles: one person thinking of the far-off future; another handling tasks of immediate urgency, perhaps a third person plotting a strategic alternative, and all ready to fire up and forge ahead.

Some great teams may seem to ‘just happen', but they can also be built—if you have the ability to predict how people will actually behave when working with other people to benefit their group, overcome a challenge, or achieve a common goal. The measurable qualities of teamwork are Role, Coherence (on a scale ranging from Diffuse to Coherent to Rigid), and Teaming Characteristics.

Any team members who are outside the acceptable range of Coherence (Diffuse or Rigid) will sap team synergy, exacerbate internal conflict, and limit productivity. In the midst of a crisis, that's bad news. The good news is it's possible to tip the scales in favor of survival. My favorite example is the entrepreneurial team that got rid of a rigid marketing person and a diffuse sales person, and saw their KPIs take off on a classic hockey-stick trajectory!

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