Dashing to catch a cab at the corner of Sixth and Vine, the account team was exhilarated. After a quick exchange of high fives, three of the four jumped into the backseat of a cab to return to the Manhattan offices of Devereaux-Dering, a global advertising agency with offices in New York, Hong Kong, and Paris. The team couldn’t wait to tell their team leader, Kurt Lansing, that they had won the BMW account that morning. The fourth team member, Brad Fitzgerald, stood apart from the animated group, studying his BlackBerry and then hailing a cab for an afternoon flight out of LaGuardia.
After a two-year slump in sales, Devereaux-Dering needed a big score like the BMW account. To drive new business and land high-profile accounts like this one, the company had hired Kurt Lansing, an MBA from Wharton, with prominent status in the advertising industry. His job was to lead a new business team to study the market, develop strategies, and acquire major accounts. Lansing hand-selected four high achievers for his team that represented each area of the business: Brad Fitzgerald, creative director; Trish Roderick, account services; Adrienne Walsh, production manager; and Tyler Green, brand strategy.
“That was a shocker!” said Roderick as she scooted across the backseat of the cab to make room for her teammates. “The client didn’t seem too impressed with our presentation until Fitzgerald presented the last set of slides describing the global campaign. They loved it. I think he single-handedly clinched the deal when he presented the tag line for the Asian market,” she said excitedly.
“He’s a real whiz, alright,” muttered Green. “The eighth wonder of the world.” Sighing deeply and losing his earlier exuberance, Green said, “We couldn’t have bagged the deal without him, and I know we’ll all get credit. But none of us knew he planned to present that last part of the global campaign. I know he was working on that tag line late last night, but there was plenty of time this morning to get team input on it. I hate surprises in front of a client. I felt like a fool, even if we did win the business.”
“He’s a regular white knight,” chuckled Walsh, “riding in at the last minute to save the day. I suppose we should appreciate him, but he’s just so irritating. He snapped at me last week for not telling him about a client who was upset about delays in their ad campaign. I reminded him that I had told him about it in our status meeting, but he wasn’t listening at the time. He was glued to his precious BlackBerry, as usual. Why have team meetings if he isn’t going to participate?”
Roderick was surprised by her teammates’ reaction to Fitzgerald. She thought they had been working well together. She was quickly discovering, however, an undercurrent of resentment. This was the first time that she had been exposed to the conflict that was simmering below the surface. No doubt, Fitzgerald did have a strong ego and aggressive personality. A previously successful entrepreneur, Fitzgerald had a track record of success and was very ambitious. However, she did notice that he didn’t show respect for differing opinions or invite collaboration on ideas. She wondered if he was placing his own success above the team’s. But why complain if the team was sharing the credit and earning fat bonuses along with him? She was content to go with the status quo. “You know,” she said, “we’re darn lucky to be on his team.”
She stared out the cab window at the passing traffic and listened to her two teammates continue to grouse. “I should have known something was up when I walked past his office last night and saw him working with the new copywriter. They must have been hashing out the new tag line,” smirked Green. “We are a team, aren’t we? The system is bigger than the individual, remember? He doesn’t seem too concerned about the welfare of the team—only his own.”
“Well, let’s all have a heart-to-heart with Mr. McWhiz,” said Walsh sarcastically. “I’m sure he’ll see things our way. We’ll give him a brief overview of Teamwork 101. That will go over great!” As the cab pulled to the curb, they tossed the driver a $20 bill and headed to their offices on the 40th floor. They would all stop to see the team leader, Kurt Lansing, first.
In the meantime, Lansing smiled broadly when he received Fitzgerald’s text message that they had won the BMW account. Sinking back in his chair, he marveled at the cohesiveness and success of his team. All that time building a shared vision and building trust was starting to pay off.
1. What factors do you think are affecting this team’s cohesiveness? Explain.
2. If you were the team leader, what could you do to bring Fitzgerald into the team more and foster better relationships among the team members?
3. As a team member, what would you do? Should the three members of the team confront Fitzgerald with their concerns? Should they inform Kurt Lansing? Explain your answers.