Building a High Performance Team? Who’s your Glue?

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Grade schoolers, at least in my Old School Days learned about the wonders of GLUE early on.

Elmer's glue

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Ahhh the wonders of the sticky stuff to hold things together, like paper mache.

glue in the classroom

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Glue is even more important on teams.  By definition, teams need to be “stuck together,” working towards a common goal, and having each other’s back.

The problem is, Sal from accounting wouldn’t appreciate a thin layer of Elmer’s being applied to his fore-arms and then pressed to his colleague across the hall.  Although the image is intriguing!

So what takes the place of the magical Elmer’s?

People.  Check that:

People with the right skill and desire that have the ability to replace the function of Glue.  I’m not talking about the social butterflies, (although this matters too), I’m talking about the players that can bring people together in a way that ADVANCES YOUR BUSINESS.  

This is not your garden variety role player on your team.

It takes a special kind of person that can pull a team together.

Critical Elements Needed For Your team Glue player
  • NOT the leader – By definition, the leader has position authority.  
    • You want your glue player to have peer to peer influence to extend the leader’s impact.  So scratch the chief off the list.  
  • Street Cred – The glue can only be so effective if they are not a solid performer.  Street Cred comes by achievement, real results.
    • Results = Respect for what matters in business.
  • Keeps CONFIDENCE – Nothing destroys team morale and effectiveness more than someone who does not exercise discretion and confidentiality.  Trust = Mandatory.  Question this, move on to next candidate.
    • The Glue needs to hear the “big picture goals and problems,” let them sink in, then go off on their own to help carry a message and lead by example.  But NOT betray the leaders or other team member’s confidence.
  • Understands human emotion – Let’s face it, if everyone was persuaded by A to Z logic, business would be easy.
    • The reality is that emotion under-cuts all behavior.  The Glue needs to understand this and be able to connect with diverse personalities.  Flexing of styles mandatory to apply adhesion.  Listening is directly tied in.  As is CARING.
  • Is intentional – Inertia is alive and well in business.  The GLUE needs to be a catalyst to break it.  So they need a flame that consistently burns, brings people together to work on problems, advance the cause and deal with key objectives.
    • There needs to be a strong element of HUSTLE that is core with the Glue.

All teams have respected individuals at the top of the food chain.  They are candidates to be your Glue.  But be careful.

Make sure they have the critical elements to break the log jam and bring the team together.  Remove other elements above and you have a skilled individual.  But you don’t have Glue.

Find the team player that can function as Glue, you probably have an impact player with great Leadership ability.  Stretch them.  Promote them.  Do what it takes to keep them engaged and motivated, although if they have the elements, they are easy to motivate.


Missing anything?  Drop your comments below, would love to hear from you.


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  1. Kelli Shuter Cessna (@innovKelli) says:

    What a great way to look at a team! I’m definitely going to take a different view of my team. While they have their own “territories” and generally work individually, there are lots of aspects that actually require team work and if we did that better I think we’d realize our goals faster.

    So I have to thank you, Mark, for picking me to share this link with 🙂

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