Do Brilliant Minds Breed Bad Teamwork?
by Kate Nasser |
A call came in from the Human Resources Director of a large prestigious law firm. The challenge?
Build more respect and teamwork between the most brilliant legal minds in the law practice and the support staff.
And not just any brilliant minds. These were the elite attorneys in cutting edge and high powered niches, all with double (some triple) degrees.
Support staff felt demoralized. Some had left. Turnover was on the rise. The HR director quipped in exasperation:
Do brilliant minds breed bad teamwork?!
Certainly everyone deserves to be treated with respect. HR and the attorney relations department addressed the few cases of actual verbal abuse. Yet the HR director wanted better daily interactions, teamwork, and morale throughout the organization.
She gave me examples of the interaction between the super educated brilliant attorneys and the support staff. I also spoke with support staff.
There was good news. The hurdles were from different levels of drive for achievement — not from a deeply rooted disrespect for support staff.
Now for the solution. The HR director noted that access to the attorneys’ time was very limited. So we first held workshops with the support staff to rebuild morale and build skill in supporting high achievers.
It was remarkable to see the support staff zealously embrace these basic beliefs of brilliant minds:
- Commitment turns intelligence into brilliance. “I am always learning — please do the same.”
- Facilitate and sustain my achievement or get out of the way.
- The organization expects me to hit the high bar. Please jump higher with me!
- Shine at what you do so I can continue to shine at what I do.
- Come at me with solutions to problems — not just the problem! Otherwise, get out of the way.
Support staff remarked that this picture was one of continuous striving and learning not a desire to demean. They had never perceived it that way.
From this awareness, we re-mapped how to speak and behave in support of these high achievers.
Some say it is unfair to ask the support staff to learn new support skills instead of asking high achieving attorneys to change their ways.
Yet, high achieving revenue producing professionals respond, “If you ask me to put the feelings of teamwork ahead of results, the organization will achieve less. Why can’t we all step it up and achieve more?”
Success lies in both. Put limits on the demeaning behaviors, like verbal abuse, and train support staff, as we did, to work from the high achiever’s view. It transformed attitudes, performance, respect, and teamwork!
So to answer the initial question — Do brilliant minds breed bad teamwork? No. But a difference in expectations, drive, and goals, does.
From professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on customer service, customer experience, teamwork, and leading change. She turns interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.