These Are the Worst People on Any Team

June 6, 2017, 12:00 AM UTC
J & C Sohns/Getty Images/Picture Press RM

The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “As a business leader, what’s your biggest pet peeve?” is written by Tara Carraro, executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer at Nestlé Waters North America.

I have one golden rule for any team: no prima donnas.

These are people who have a hard time seeing their role as part of a larger team and difficulty focusing on a common goal. More often than not, their overriding goal is their own career advancement or self-promotion.

Skill in moving up the career ladder is not necessarily what a company needs in their most important functions. Rather, teams and the companies they work for need the kind of players who recognize how to get the job done—no matter how big or small—with grace, humility, and care.

In fact, research from the Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley found that teams made up of high-powered, career-minded individuals actually perform worse on tasks related to creativity and collaboration than those with more neutral team players.

From my experience, there are a few key character traits we can all adopt, regardless of level, to help our teams be more successful:

Eliminate “that’s not my job” from your vocabulary

While it’s important to have clearly defined roles, in reality, we must flex and adapt to an ever-changing agenda. Whether it’s a new project, covering for another person on the team, or a last-minute request, we can all pitch in even if the task at hand doesn’t technically fall within our responsibility. As a team member, you are ultimately responsible for making sure the work gets done and are accountable for the team’s success.

Volunteer to do the thankless tasks

Raise your hand to do the less desirable jobs. Be someone who can simply roll up their sleeves and get to work on whatever needs to get done. Doing so demonstrates that no task is too small, and means you are more likely to get the chance to do the more fun or challenging work the next time.

When I was at the WWE, we organized a huge event in Las Vegas. Hundreds of gift bags had to be stuffed with very little time before the event started. The senior vice president sat down on the floor with the team to help get the job done. Just a few months ago, at a Nestlé Waters event, I threw on a pair of rubber gloves to add fruit to glasses for a Perrier toast when we realized we needed more people to finish the job in time.

Develop a “we” mentality

In my second job, after leading a successful communications program, I wrote a wrap-up memo capturing the results. My boss at the time rightfully asked me to change all the “I’s” to “we’s,” because we reached our accomplishments as a team. Even if you personally handled the lion’s share of the work, ultimately, you succeed and fail as a team.

You can instill these qualities in your team by practicing what you preach. Help others see the value in jumping in to do the mundane tasks. If you use “we” instead of “me,” they’ll pick up on that. Leading by example can be a powerful tool.

If someone you work with isn’t demonstrating these qualities, address it with them directly. The chances are that they don’t even realize their behavior isn’t helpful and will be thankful for the feedback.

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