Blink and Teams

I finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell today. It is a thought provoking book and worth reading but I found it some what unsatisfying. I am not sure why. He talks about how powerful first impressions can be but he also talks about how prejudices  or adrenaline levels can make snap judgments wrong.  It is definitely worth reading if only because it reinforces how powerful the mind can be.

I once had a boss tell me that I should trust my gut more often. He said I often over think things. His advice was good advice. I had lunch with a friend Friday and we were talking about how one of the advantages of getting older is that more and more you feel confident trusting your instincts.

I spent the rest of the day today  between doing laundry and cleaning the house  reading  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It was recommended to me by a friend at Intuit whose opinion I really respect. I started it and finished it today so you know it is an easy read.  I’ve always liked  team related books and I really enjoyed  this one. I think part of why I liked it is that  it resonated with  me and got me thinking about a still painful management failure I had many years ago. Most of the book is what the author calls a management fable and a key part of the fable is very similar to what happened to me.

I was leading a customer support team that included one very smart, very productive manager who was constantly undermining the team. He wouldn’t address issues he had with another team member head on. Instead he would  constantly criticize her behind her back. One of my weaknesses was that I tended to avoid conflict. I should have insisted that he commit to the success of the team. But I didn’t. Instead for months I tried to make us into a team in spite of him. I tried and tried for way too long. Eventually we were faced with a crisis. A significant update to our flagship product shipped with  a lot of bugs. Our team failed to rise to the occasion and eventually I was replaced. There were other contributing factors but I think if I had removed the divisive person months earlier we might have regrouped and overcome the problem. I learned a lot from my failure. I still don’t like conflict but I  don’t avoid it any more and if I ever have a divisive person on a team again and they don’t want to change I will not keep trying to make the impossible happen.  The first two dysfunctions in Lencioni’s team model are absence of trust and avoidance of conflict. I have the scars to prove that they are critical factors.

As I said the Lencioni book is a simple book. Another more complex book about teams that I really like is The Wisdom of  Teams by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith. It has been a while since I read it but I remember that it was very inspiring.