The Terrorist Matrix – who to fire when teams don’t work

Who to fire when teams don’t work – the Terrorist Matrix!

Team dynamics is a fascinating subject and many a book has been written about it. However I have found it difficult to put the theory in these books into practice. Then, about 10 years ago, I attended a lecture that led me to throw away the books and apply a new way of evaluating the effectiveness of teams and, more importantly, individual team members. If only I could remember the speaker’s name then I wouldn’t have to take all the credit in this blog….

You will find the following mind-numbingly simple, easy to apply and it will allow you to quickly identify why it is that some teams do not work.

Good attitude

Use the following matrix to identify which of the individuals would score high on attitude (read: team fit, culture fit, general attitude towards the team, the work and the company). Then divide this group in those who have all the skills required to do the job (you tend to ask these individuals to train newcomers) and those who still require further training.

High Attitude + High Skills = Players
High Attitude + Low Skills = Rising Stars








Bad attitude

You then identify those individuals whose attitude actually doesn’t fit well with the team or the company. They can be counter cultural, they can be those who always arrive late, don’t participate in meetings, those who don’t pull their weight, those who are always complaining, those who do it their way rather than the company’s way, etc. Please note, this is not about performance, I have found on a number of occasions that some of my best performers fell into this category!

Low Attitude + Low Skills = Corpses
Low Attitude + High Skills = Terrorists

The Corpses are mis-hires. People who didn’t tell the truth in the interview, who over-sold themselves. They are harmless, because they tend not to have influence over others, but they are a waste of time and do not make a contribution. Do not delay in making them available for other opportunities, in other words: terminate their employment immediately. These individuals tend to be found out within the first 4 weeks of their tenure. Act fast, do not give them a 2nd chance.

Beware The Terrorists

The Terrorists keep us awake at night, they could be your highest performer. How are you going to cope without them? How will you replace them? Can you change them? The answer is simple, you cannot change them. They are a rotten apple affecting the rest of the team. You will find that once their employment has been terminated, the rest of the team sighs a sigh of relief and will start to perform at a higher level. The issue here is that they tend not to affect the Players (high attitude + high skill), because these individuals know what they are doing. They affect the Rising Stars, your next generation of Players.

If you let that happen than you will eventually experience a wholesale shift in culture, you will end up with a dysfunctional or at least an unhappy team and you will experience an increase in staff turnover. Guess who you will lose first? Your Players.

Terrorists are exactly what the name suggests, eliminate them as soon as you can.

matrix 2







What I have found quite effective, is to share the theory and the matrix with the team and let them decide where they slot in. You may find that the border line Terrorist pulls their socks up and becomes a Player….although I have never experienced a border line Corpse becoming a Rising Star….

Good luck!

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