How to Handle a Lone Wolf on Your Team

How to Handle a Lone Wolf on Your Team
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A Common Challenge for New Managers
One of the challenges for new managers and one that is often not practically covered in training is how to deal with a lone wolf on your team – an employee who contributes only marginally to the team goals.

The Definition of a Lone Wolf
Lone wolves are not team players.  They focus on their own work, neglect team responsibilities, do not collaborate well with colleagues, rarely contribute at team meetings, and do not join the effort when the team is under a deadline and needs extra help.

The Problem with Lone Wolves
Whatever negative behavior a non-team player is guilty of, you can’t let it continue if being a team player is an essential part of your culture and strategy for success.  Why?  Because it’s catching.

How to Handle a Lone Wolf on Your Team – Step by Step
New manager training teaches new people supervisors that their success is measured by the effectiveness and performance of their team.  One bad player in the bunch can undermine the morale of the rest of the team and decrease their overall productivity.  If you have a lone wolf on your team, take these steps.

  1. Keep an Open Mind
    Until you’ve had a chance to explore the situation, beware of jumping to conclusions.  There are any number of explanations for the lone wolf behavior.
  1. Set Up a One-on-One
    You owe your employee a chance to explain what’s going on in a one-on-one meeting. Begin the conversation with a tone of friendly, supportive, and genuine concern.  You may uncover a distracting problem in their personal life, confusion over their role, a lack of confidence in their ability, a mismatch for their talents, or even a sense of isolation from the rest of the team.

    Your goal is to gain some insight into your employee’s behavior.  Try to learn more about them – their interests, their strengths, their career goals, and their motivators.

  2. Clarify the Team’s Goal and Roles
    Review what the team is trying to accomplish and why it exists. Is this a goal they can identify with, commit to, and actively support?  Do they feel the team is committed to the goal?   Do they have a clear idea of what they are expected to contribute to the goal?

    The purpose of this discussion is to make sure the employee is crystal clear on their goals, role, how they are expected to contribute, and the path the team is taking.

  3. Uncover a Possible Mismatch
    You may well discover that the employee is poorly assigned and that they (and the company) would be better served if they had a different role. When you understand their skill set, what they like to do, and where they could enthusiastically contribute, you can begin to explore better opportunities.

The Bottom Line
New managers are generally loath to work with an uncooperative member of their team.  But beware – you do so at your peril.  Take the steps now to address the situation.  You, your employee, and your team will be all the better for it.

To learn more about how to build a high performance team as a new manager, download 3 Must-Have Ingredients of High Performing Teams for New Managers

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