5 Strategies that Defeat Drifting

The trouble with teams is drifters; people who hide behind the work of others. Drifters are more than annoying; they’re dangerous, damaging dead weight.

Drifters de-motivate the motivated and drain energy from the energized.

Poorly run teams protect low performers.

Energized team members ask, “Why am I busting my butt?” when drifters succeed.

Dealing with drifters:

  1. Keep teams small. Large teams are a drifter’s paradise. They present opportunities for drifters to hide behind the performance of others.
  2. Assign tasks to individuals. Teams achieve goals because individuals perform tasks. High performance teams consist of high performance individuals.
  3. Recognize and reward both teams and individuals. Individual performance drops when individual effort is marginalized.
  4. Show everyone their value. Explain the reason each individual is on the team. Identify and agree upon the unique skills and deliverables each individual brings to the team.
  5. Hold individuals accountable even when they’re on teams. Teams succeed on the efforts of individuals. Track individual and team performance.

Bonus: Expect candor on the team. Be candid when you see smoke blowing. Press for specifics when drifters give generalities.

Overcoming gullibility:

Skilled drifters convince leaders they’re contributing when they’re not.

Drifters use future tense to convince
leaders they’ve done something in the past.

Ask a drifter what they’ve done and they’ll talk about what they’re going to do. Ask a high performer what they’ve done and they talk about the past.


How can leaders/managers identify and deal with drifters?

What factors enhance the performance of teams?

Is the formation and functioning of high performance teams managements greatest challenge?