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Horrible, No Good Bosses – The True Cost of Poor Leadership Blog #5: Helping Them Connect

6 min. read

Master of Project Academy’s 8-part series Horrible, No Good Bosses – The True Cost of Poor Leadership was created to address the most common ways poor leadership results in flat/declining revenues and increased expenses. In this series, we will explore the topics of Communication, Networking, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Discipline, Teamwork, Adaptability, Conflict Resolution, Empathy, Positivity, Decisiveness, and Persuasion.

In the previous three of our 8-Part Series Horrible, No Good Bosses – The True Cost of Poor Leadership, we discussed elements of intrinsic motivation and how employers can provide them. We narrowed our focus to four elements: Autonomy, Purpose, Growth, and Affiliation. Today we will focus our attention on Affiliation.

Toby’s Story

Toby just left a meeting wherein one of his project teams was arguing about everything: schedule, testing, upcoming milestones, etc. After 6 months in his current project management position, he is running three projects and all of them seem to be in some sort of crisis. Each of them is riddled with conflict and appears to be bound for quality, schedule, and budget issues. He doesn’t understand why this is happening. His organization uses a hybrid project methodology that uses a lot of predictive project management processes. He is well versed in all of these and has been managing each process in the ways he was trained.

On their first meeting together as a project team, Toby provided them with the Charter, the full list of Requirements, the detailed project schedule, and a thorough task list that included responsible parties. He meets weekly with the team to discuss assignments, status, risks, etc. Each week the number of late items increases and the conflicts amongst the team seem to increase as well.

A TechRepublic article does a great job of defining what happens in dysfunctional teams that includes decreases in individual effort, infighting, decreased productivity, increased errors, and project failures. ¹ Toby’s teams can easily be defined as dysfunctional and is either already experiencing, or is at risk to experience, each of those issues mentioned in the article.

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How to help your team to become a high-performing one?

With this limited amount of information, it’s impossible to ascertain all of the areas in which Toby could improve. Nonetheless, there are a few key things that can be determined, and they can be identified from the description of the team’s first meeting. It appears that Toby has missed out on opportunities to help his group of subject matter experts become a high-performing team. He did this by not allowing for time for the team to set their own rules of engagement, flesh out the requirements list, provide input into the schedule, and offer expertise as to who is the best resource to assign the work. All of these things would have helped the team to become more of an interdependent, cohesive unit.

We can use many words to describe this particular leadership goal: cohesion, interdependence, affiliation, connection, etc. Regardless of which word you use, our aim is the same: create an environment in which our employees can form the associations necessary to become high-performing teams.

Even if your teams are performing in ways that are acceptable, working with them to create this type of environment can take your team from average to exceptional performance. But, let’s face it, most teams are providing neither acceptable nor exceptional deliverables and there are true, measurable costs associated with teams who perform poorly. Poor project performance can cost an organization a ton of money. PMI interviewed 2,500 project leaders and executives to assess how project performance impacts an organization. From this, they estimate that for every $1 billion that is spent on projects in the United States, approximately $112 million was wasted. That equates to more than 11% of project budgets! ²

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How leaders can create enough room for improvement for their teams?

This is both bad news and good news. The bad news is apparent, but the good news is there is a lot of room for improvement that can be directly made by leaders. There are dozens of ways you can create these improvements, and one of those is helping your teams to connect. So, how do we do this?

  • Recognize the importance of connection. The first step as a leader is to understand how important it is for the team to connect with one another. Once you have acknowledged this, you can begin to create the best environments for your teams to create cohesion.
  • Schedule group gatherings. These can happen via Zoom if you have geographically dispersed or remote working teams. Set aside time for the team to get together in its entirety regularly. Encourage a “cameras on” rule for these meetings. Ensuring that your teams have ample opportunities to communicate helps a great deal in creating cohesion.
  • Don’t overschedule. All teams are working toward goals and deadlines that will create a sense of urgency, so this recommendation is not made lightly or designed to waste time. It is a necessary component of building the cohesion of the team. Providing the teams with time to get to know one another in ways that are not strictly related to the work at hand provides a fundamental foundational element of teamwork. This doesn’t have to mean scheduling team-building events outside of the workplace, though these can be helpful tools to utilize in encouraging your team to become a cohesive unit. Allowing the team to have a few minutes to catch up at the beginning of meetings and encouraging them to share and celebrate their personal achievements and milestones can go a long way toward team bonding.
  • Reward “team” over “individual.” This doesn’t mean to stop recognizing individual performance, but instead to spend more of the focus on recognizing and rewarding positive or exceptional team performance. When the team is excelling, make sure to notice and acknowledge this. Encourage everyone on the team, including yourself, to use “we” and “our” statements as opposed to “I” and “my.”
  • Create a Team Charter. Have the team set up their own rules for how the project will progress and how they will address conflict, risks, communication, decision-making, etc. This is a process, that we will review in more detail in a later Horrible Bosses Blog, “Rules of Engagement.”

For more information on providing your leaders with Master of Project Academy’s Leadership Program, where your leaders will get instructive and hands-on training through interactive exercises, case studies, templates, and techniques that can be customized to your organization’s specific needs, click HERE.


  1. The high (and often hidden) costs of project team dysfunction
  2. The True Cost of Poor Project Management

Sandra WorleyWritten by: Sandra Worley

Sandra Worley has over 25 years’ experience in project management and leadership positions and holds PMP, ScrumMaster, Scrum Product Owner, Six Sigma Green Belt and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certifications. Her project management experience spans many industries and disciplines, including IT software and hardware, as well as construction.