Can a Team be Less Than the Sum of its Parts?

Have you heard of the 20-60-20 rule? That is, 20% of people are go-getters, 60% are average or mediocre and the last 20% are slackers. Unless you have somehow managed to attract 100% of the people in your team from the top 20% group (which is unlikely) your team is made up of this 20-60-20 breakdown.

With that knowledge consider this: Teams are designed to move forward together, generally by consensus. Consensus is driven by majority vote. Based on the 20-60-20 breakdown the absolute best you are going to get is average output. In the worst case scenario a team will only move as fast as the slowest person. Which means you will get less than average output. These issues will frustrate your top performers and can cause them to disengage. So yes, a team can be less than the sum of its parts.

A few things you can do:

Know where each individual falls on the scale – Who are your top performers who are being slowed down? Who are your middle performers? Who is dragging the process to a halt?

The bottom 20% – Do they need training, coaching, to be moved to a team better suited to their skills or to be moved out the door? Make this decision quickly. Don’t avoid it or you will lose your top 20%.

The top 20% – Give them some autonomy. You know you will get great results; they have the ability to make good decisions, let them run with those ideas. Just make sure they don’t feel like you’re putting them out on an island to fend for themselves. And don’t burden them with your fears that they will take your job. Autonomy with appropriate support will result in amazing outcomes – for both of you.

The middle 60% – These people are your workhorses. No matter what you need done they are going to do it. Keep them challenged and focused. They will never turn into the driven, chomping-at-the-bit top performers but no business or team can succeed without them.

Fair does not mean equal – This is one of the toughest things for leaders. We treat everyone equally so we will be seen as fair. Reward according to performance. Not equally across the board or your over-performers and your hard workers will see no reason to continue putting in so much effort.

This idea can also be applied to the circle of friends you have, the vendors you use and the clients you serve. Be a top 20percenter and surround yourself with as many as possible!

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!
Doc Robyn

Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at to discuss her availability.

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