🏆 The Leader vs. the Bad Apple.

Why do certain groups add up to be greater than the sum of their parts while others add up to be less?

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🏆 The Leader vs. the Bad Apple.

In chapter one of his book, The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle discusses an experiment that really resonated with me.

It was called the Bad Apple Experiment.

Daniel Coyle began his book by asking the following question:

Why do certain groups add up to be greater than the sum of their parts while others add up to be less?

As a coach, these questions really intrigued me. This is what culture, leadership, and success are all about.

As coaches, this is what we strive to answer every season. This is one huge reason I am passionate about writing about Coaching, Leadership, Culture, and Teams.

What makes great teams great?

I believe that Culture WINS. I believe a strong culture must be in place for a team to win consistently.

How do a group's inner workings impact a team's culture?

This was studied in “The Bad Apple” experiment by Will Felps, who studied organizational behavior at the University of South Wales in Australia.

Nick wanted to study the three negative archetypes affecting a group or team: The JERK, the SLACKER, and the DOWNER.

So what did he do?

He found a guy they called “Nick” and put him on each team. His job was to sabotage the team on purpose.

In one case, he was the “Jerk,” in another, he was the “Slacker,” and in another group, he was the “Downer.” They wanted to see how Nick’s negative behavior could impact or sabotage the team.

So what happened?

As expected, Nick was good at being bad. In almost every group, over and over again, his behavior hurt the quality of the group’s performance by 30-40%.

This occurred no matter the negative role Nick portrayed.

When Nick was the “Downer,” everyone came to the meeting energized and excited to begin. Nick acts quiet and tired and eventually lays his head on the desk. Over time, the group members began to act this way, tired, quiet, and low energy.

This continued for ALL of the groups. No matter his negative role, Nick's behavior led to a tremendously negative impact on the team.

Except for one!

One group was different. So different that it upset Nick. Nick knew what he was doing. He was able to influence all other teams negatively. But not this group.

To Nick, this group was different. He was not able to get through to them. It frustrated Nick. He was so good at being bad!

But why? What happened?

Nick said it was because of one guy. One person, who they called Jonathon, with his quiet, steady voice and an easy smile.

But what did Jonathon do? He didn’t look like he did much differently. But to Nick, his subtle approach made all of the difference.

Nick would try to be a jerk, and Jonathon would lean in, use body language, a laugh, or a smile, and de-escalate or minimize the behavior.

Jonathon was a master “deflector,” a master “pivoter.” He did this over and over again. He never let Nick win.

The simple, subtle words kept people in the group thinking about the task. He did not let any negative behavior enter the room. He would deflect it with humor, a comment, or an actionable response.

Others followed. Negativey refused to be let in their group. Even Nick found himself second-guessing his negative behavior and wanting to be a positive member of the group.

This group performed with so much more success than the others.

They had chemistry. They had trust. They had a purpose.

They won.

I love this story because it tells us how one person can greatly impact a team, group, or organization.

Our attitude, our mindset, and our leadership matter A LOT.

Negative energy or negative behavior can quickly sabotage a team. And most often does unless held accountable or addressed.

However, the other side of the coin is also incredibly true.

Leadership Matters!

One person can have a tremendously positive influence on a group or team.

One person can be a leader who keeps the group or team moving forward.

Great team leaders neutralize any negative behavior or energy on a team. They do not let negative energy take over the team.

This story reminds us of the importance of purposefully developing our team leaders. It also reminds us of the importance of holding teammates accountable and addressing negative behavior when you see it.

Culture is Every Day.

Remember always to address the “Bad Apple” head-on when he or she surfaces.

And finally, be purposeful in developing your team leaders. It will make your team, season, and coaching career much more enjoyable and successful!

Good Luck!


"The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning."

- Pele

"The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination."

- Tommy Lasorda



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