Accelerating a Startup by Discovering and Rectifying Gaps, and Getting Rid of Problematic Behavior

Services Used: Gallup’s BP10 and TeamAcumen Framework (Global Builders’ Consortium)

This startup company had been working together for four years when we met with them as part of our involvement in a Gallup BP10 Research Project. They engaged us to help them develop their BP10 Talents, hoping to get further than they had previously in developing as a well-working team. They were in a new product category with new technology, so the founding members had lent their time and effort into building the company without receiving any remuneration. The products had just started going to market and they had yet to create market capture. The possibilities that this team wouldn’t make it were large as the founders fought a lot and didn’t have psychological safety with each other. Some of the members were very quiet, while other members of the team were loud and aggressive. Sometimes yelling matches erupted while the quieter members tried to placate the aggressive team members.

No one had any idea that they were derailing and demoralizing the team with their behaviors and allowing the unproductive behaviors to continue to weigh the team down. Because the technology to make their product was a very specialized form of engineering and one of the aggressive team members created the technology, the power dynamics were off for the entire leadership team: quieter members felt the placation was needed because they needed the technology. However, over the years, the leadership team knew it didn’t have the right people on the team to turn the company into a well-oiled machine. People were placed in roles that weren’t the right fit for them which led to problems with the people or the roles. And with the dysfunctional team behaviors, things always felt “off” – people didn’t want to come to work because they never knew if the aggressive behaviors would be waiting to greet them that day or not. They felt stuck.

We worked with this team for nine months, first with BP10 knowledge and then with the TeamingAcumen Framework. Later, we went back to assess the team in the TeamingAcumen Framework as opposed to its original scores to look for additional developmental progress.

For the BP10 workshops, we helped them understand who each person was (apart from their behaviors). For each member of the team, this was their first type of any kind of Strengths-based training, so we built in the neuroscience of the strengths environment to help them learn basic concepts better. Since the team was technology-based, they loved learning the neuroscience inside Strengths-based development.

During discussions in the first two months, there were no exhibiting bad behaviors while the team learned first about themselves, and then learned about each other. Because this team had relational problems, we did many activities to explore the goodness of their talents, but also explore the shadow sides of the talents as well – how they might react differently with separate stimuli. The team was very engaged in these sessions – on both good and shadow sides of their talents. More importantly, they could start to see how their reactions to the triggers of the talents may not have been apparent to them before.

At the beginning of our work, we had the team take the TeamingAcumen Framework Assessment. In Month 3, we worked through the Framework results. A number of Elements were far below the median score for the team, notably Interpersonal, Team Structure, and Psychological Safety. We started working through the problems on the team. As we dove into learning about Psychological Safety, the dysfunctional behaviors of team members came up – from the quiet members to the aggressive members, each person told everyone else how they felt when they were having problems. Things got a little heated sometimes, but then in other discussions, the team landed inside the sunlight of understanding – able to talk about the differences calmly with each other as well as discussing how each other’s behaviors impacted their own roles. At the end of Month 3, this team had vowed they would work better with each other, leveraging their own talents to lend to the services of completing the overall company’s objectives.

In the follow-up 6th-month checkup, we charted where the leadership team was after using the behavioral modifications we’d come up with in Month 3. The team rose from an initial Grand Mean of 4.08 to a 4.25, only 0.13 points away from the 75th percentile (Top Quartile). They’d  started to work within, and accelerate, their abilities.

Outcomes: The team identified role problems and is actively working on changing their executive team to fit their needs. Two members have left the leadership team and have been replaced with new members with skills better matched to their roles. They are effectively moving from Startup to a fully functioning Stage 2 company, having moved into a new building and are now actively growing their products line and co-creating with their partners. Their ability to discuss hard subjects without problematic behaviors overriding things have increased. All teammates are cognizant that to be true partners, they need to honor each other for what they bring to the team, as well as know that the team’s behavior balancing is respectfully done, and apologizing doesn’t mean you are weak, but you are strong. We will be working with them again for the next year with their entire 2nd Stage company team, many of whom have never heard of Strengths or TeamingAcumen.