Bad Apples: When Team Members ‘Go Bad’

Image

Business school is often frustrating… Too much work, not enough time; too much theory, not enough action; too many chiefs, not enough Indians. I could go on.

One of the arenas that generates the most frustration is teamwork. Without exception, MBA team tasks force you to work with others from very different backgrounds, specialities and goals and there is no doubt that team work is intentionally designed to cause conflict in a controlled environment. It is often stressful, always challenging but oh-so-rewarding when you manage to navigate through difficult waters and achieve something you never thought possible.

That’s the theory, at least: the reality is much less predictable. In fairness, I have been very ‘lucky’ with my teammates in projects so far when I compare my experiences to some of the other horror stories I have heard. Without going into details, it only takes one bad apple to destablise a team, particularly when the team is newly formed and the members have not had to deal with this situation before.

However, having a bad apple in your team is not always the disaster it may seem at first. There are a number of reasons why that particular person may not ‘fit in’ with the group, such as previous experiences, different culture or simply having different ideas on what they want to get from business school. You can only really engage that person once you understand what is (or isn’t) motivating them.

While it’s certainly a challenge, if you can help to turn that person into an active and engaged team member the rewards are huge. It’s not easy, but the situation is realistic to the business environment. People like this exist in the real world, too, and if you can figure out a way to get diverse teams working harmoniously you are likely to be a step ahead of the competition in the job market.

As my Dean once said to me… where else are you going to be able to talk about such rich experiences with diverse colleagues? Where else are you going to learn how to get the best out of teams, no matter who you have working for you? It’s incredible what you learn at business school… hardly any of the really useful stuff comes from textbooks.

Graduates: Eleven Reasons Why I Will Never Hire You

board_interview.ce.03

There’s an interesting slideshare presentation doing the rounds on the internet at the moment. It’s slightly tongue-in-cheek, very funny but also has a very serious message: not all graduates are created equal.

The list of reasons is not exactly new material, such as not being prepared for interviews or failing to do even the basic research. But others are, well… a bit more surprising.

Take number 6, for example… “You don’t know what you want to do”. At times I have been guilty of this, but having hired a few people myself in the past the response is absolutely correct. Who in their right mind is going to hire you and invest time and money in your future if you can’t even convice yourself that you really want the job? Everything you do, from your resume to your follow-up note really has to hammer the point home if you are going to be the competition.

Similarly, no one want to hire a ‘jack of all trades’ candidate. So many times I see careers advice urging people to fill their gaps or work on their weaknesses, but what does this really achieve? No one can be great at everything. Wouldn’t it be smarter to really stand out for something and use this to differentiate yourself? Maximize your strenghts.

Another sage piece of advice is to do an internship, or two or three, particularly if you are looking to change career after you graduate from your MBA. This takes all the risk out for the employer (and yourself) and is a great way to build contacts for the future.

It’s a great article for graduates of any age and any experience. If you haven’t read it already, take 5 minutes to read it… it may just help you land your dream job: