Letting conflicts fester
Bringing tensions out into the open and then resolving them is one of the team leader's most important jobs.
By Geoffrey Colvin, FORTUNE senior editor-at-large

(FORTUNE Magazine) - Col. Stas Preczewski, coach of the Army crew at West Point a few years ago, faced a baffling problem. Through extensive testing, he had developed objective criteria to rank his rowers. He then put the eight best - his dream team - in the varsity boat and the eight others in the junior varsity boat.

The problem: The JV beat the varsity two-thirds of the time. The situation, as explained in a Harvard Business School case, was that the varsity was full of resentment over who was contributing most, while the JV, feeling they had nothing to lose, supported one another happily.

Bad teams
Lessons from the business playbook
John Rigas, Timothy Rigas, Michael Rigas
The paterfamilias, John, and his sons borrowed huge sums for personal use. Adelphia went into bankruptcy in 2002 after disclosing billions in debt. Much of the Rigas clan ended up in court.
CEO Phil Condit (1996-2003) and his Boeing brain trust
Dogged by scandal, falling earnings, and the challenge of Airbus, America's premier airplane manufacturer just couldn't fly right.
Al Dunlap and anyone
"Chainsaw Al" liked to portray himself as a tough-minded savior of dying companies (Lily-Tulip, Scott Paper, Sunbeam). But the big-talking bully got tossed from Sunbeam and ended up as a symbol of capitalism at its worst.

One day Preczewski lined up the varsity crew in four pairs. He told them they were to wrestle - no punching - for 90 seconds. There were no clear winners: Each man was discovering that his opponent was just as strong and determined as he was. Preczewski then had them change opponents and wrestle again. By the third round they were choosing their own opponents - "One guy would point at another and say, 'You!'" Preczewski says. Finally, one of the rowers started laughing, and they all piled into a general brawl. Eventually someone said, "Coach, can we go row now?" From then on, the varsity boat flew.

You probably can't order members of an executive team to wrestle, tempting though it may be. But bringing tensions out into the open and then resolving them is one of the team leader's most important jobs.

Next pitfall: Hiding from the real issues

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Why dream teams fail:

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.