Handling Difficult Team Dynamics

In my training programs I am frequently asked about how to deal with dysfunctional behaviors and group dynamics. The following is a short list of the most common dynamics. They are normally presented to me as, “How do I deal with…….

  1. No participation
  2. Complacent with the status quo.
  3. Frustration with one or more people in a group by the majority of the group
  4. How to get work done when the leader is the problem?
  5. Dominated by the culture of the larger system
  6. How do you get a team motivated to try new strategies?
  7. Long negative history that gets in the way of doing business
  8. The team is not actually capable of the task before them
  9. Strongly held positions by individuals or cliques
  10. 10. Union-management power positions and strong histories
  11. Members of a team do the minimum due to low organizational accountability
  12. People believe that the solution to their issues lie outside their level of control
  13. People come to a team as representatives of their teams – they have little to contribute to the overall goals of the organization 

As you can see from this list, some of these dynamics have to deal with an individual, some are about whole team dynamics and some have their roots in the culture of the broader organization. Many people experience working with groups akin to herding cats. In an attempt to have a systematic approach to understanding and then responding to these concerns, Michael Grinder and I developed the Leadership Map of Effectiveness framework.


The Leadership Map of Effectiveness addresses the science component of the work. The art involves experience, intuition, gut feelings and judgment calls associated with each unique situation.

 The map lays out 4 areas of assessment that will enable leaders to select an effective approach to increase the level of functionality and effectiveness of their team.

  1. Functionality of the Group
  2. Management, Intervention and Facilitation to Increase Functionality
  3. Complexity of the Issue
  4. Facilitation Processes Matched to Functionality and Complexity

 Steve Zuieback and Michael Grinder convene a Master Class on strategies for Handling Difficult Group Dynamics. You can see more about these programs on the Training Page.

Links to Blogs and Resources on Handling Difficult Group Dynamics:

The following are a list of blog articles that I have written on this subject. Please feel free to check out these articles and resources. 


  • How to Move Teams to Higher Levels of Performance
  • The Performance Continuum
  • What do you do when the leader of your team is the problem?
  • How to work with dysfunctional team dynamics
  • How to Assist Your Leader to Become More Effective
  • How to Get at Underlying Values and Beliefs
  • The Decision Matrix
  • Change and Transition
  • When should I deal with a difficult person outside of a team meeting?
  • Barriers to Effective Communication Part 1 - "It's all about me."
  • When should I chart as a facilitator?
  • How to Deal with People Who Dominate Group Conversations