When observing a colony of ants, researchers discovered that 30% did 70% of the work. Similar work rate levels were also discovered among robots. Both biological and artificial workers have found that adding more members to a team does not necessarily lead to a greater output, especially when there are those team members who seem to contribute almost nothing. This team member is known as a “flat tire” because they slow down the progress of the whole team (the car). As a team leader, here’s what you can do to ensure you get the best results for your team when a flat tire is holding you back.

Set Clear, Achievable Targets

Your first step should never be to alienate the flat tire or kick them out. You need to give them a chance to prove themselves. Take the struggling team member to one side and talk them through their targets, remembering to keep them SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. This will allow you to track the extent to which they are falling behind.

It also removes any excuses. They can’t claim to have been working on other tasks and they can’t just look busy without really doing anything. If you set the targets clearly, then they also cannot pretend that they didn’t know what was expected of them. This is your first step before moving onto more drastic action.

Offer Additional Support And Resources

If they are still failing to meet targets which are achievable and clearly laid out, then you need to consider whether the flat tire is simply incompetent or ill-equipped to deal with the job at hand. Before kicking them off the team, try and motivate them. People respond better to carrots than to sticks.

As long as you think that they are not just being lazy, you may want to give them additional resources or pair them up with a stronger team member. This will help them to feel valued and encourage them to get up to speed with the rest of the team. If this fails to pump air into the tire, then move onto the next step.

Be Brutal If Necessary

A car with a flat tire is in danger of flying off a cliff edge, even if the rest of the tires are working absolutely fine. Sometimes, the only course of action is to replace the old tire with a new one, which will work with the rest of the wheels to keep the vehicle on the straight and narrow. It is irrelevant whether they are deliberately being lazy or simply lack the necessary skills. If they can’t keep up, then you need to respectfully let them go for the sake of the team.

Every team experiences a flat tire from time to time. As a leader, you need to motivate and encourage everyone to pull their weight. However, sometimes there is only so much you can do. Dropping a failing team member can remove any negativity from a team and let you progress forward as a unit to achieve your goals.