The Law of the Chain

The Strength of the Team Is Impacted by Its Weakest Link


Your Minneapolis business team may choose to appraise itself by its greatest members, but the reality is that the power of the team is measured by its weakest link. It is not of importance how much people try to justify it, make up for it, or conceal it, a weak link will sooner or later be discovered. That’s the Law of the Chain.

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Your Team Is Complete when It’s Elite

Common mistakes a team leader can make is when they think everyone on their team should stay on their team. They can believe this for a number of reasons. First, a leader may sincerely see the best in people. They may see all a team member could be – their potential. Second, a team leader may be a real people person. They think the more people around them, the better the outcome. Third, a leader who has vision and considers his ambitions useful and valuable may innocently imagine that everyone will want to go along.


But this may not be the case.  When it comes to teamwork . . .


  1. Only Some Will Take the Journey



Not every team member will complete the journey. They may have personal concerns that stop them. For others, their outlook may hinder them from growing with their position. The best a leader can do with team members like this is considerately thank them for their past contributions and let them go.

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2. Only Some Should Take the Journey

Not every person’s plans fit every team. A leader needs to recognize when a person’s agenda doesn’t match the team’s agenda. What’s good to do with people in this group is wish them well and if a leader is able, help them along to accomplish their goals.

3. Only Some Can Take the Journey

Some team members’ abilities hinder them. They may not be able to keep in stride with their teammates or be able to assist the team to reach its target. It’s relatively easy to identify people who fall into this area.

Look for these qualities:

  • They can’t keep in stride with other team members.

  • They don’t develop in their area of duties.

  • They don’t grasp the big picture, even when it is explained to them.

  • They won’t improve themselves.

  • They aren’t team players.

  • They can’t deliver on expectations for their duties.

If a leader has team members with one or more of those traits, then they need to recognize that the members are weak links.

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That doesn’t inevitably make them bad people. If truth be told, some teams are designed to assist weak links and aid them to become stronger. It’s governed by the team’s aims. For instance, many churches extend help to people in their area with food and household items. They assist people with addictions, grief issues and many other problems. Their goal is to serve them. It’s right to aid people in those situations. But adding them to the team while they are weak and dispirited doesn’t help them – and it doesn’t help the team. They can even stop the team from realizing its target.


What should a leader do with people on the team who are weak links?

There are few options. Basically, a leader needs to coach them or let them go. Coaching team members who are falling behind should be a leader’s first concern. Assistance can look like: providing them with audio books, trips to conferences, mentors, and new tasks. Often people rise to a leader’s expectations.

However, what should a leader do if a person on their team consistently doesn’t meet expectations, even after accepting further education, reassurance and new challenges? Have hope. A person who is a weak link on one team may turn out to be a principal player on another team. A leader needs to let the team member go and find out.

The Result of a Weak Link

Handling weak links is one of the responsibilities of a team leader. Team members who have a hard time keeping up will hold back the rest of the team and adversely affect leadership. If a weak link stays on the team, a few things may happen.

The More Effective Members Recognize the Weak One

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A weak link is easy to spot (except in a group of weak persons). More effective people on a team always realize who isn’t producing as much as everyone else.


The More Effective Members Have to Assist the Weak One

When dealing with a weak teammate, team members have only two choices. They can take no notice of the person and let the team be negatively impacted or they can help the person do their job and make the team productive. If they have team spirit, they will help.


The More Effective Members Eventually Resent the Weak One


Whether or not more effective members help their teammate, the consequences will be invariable: resentment. Nobody wants to fail or lag behind over and over again because of the same person.


The More Effective Members Become Less Valuable

The functioning of stronger teammates is diminished when they are doing their own job and someone else’s, too. If that’s the case for a while, the team goal may be compromised.


The More Effective Members Doubt the Leader’s Competence

When the leader tolerates a weak person staying on the team, the team members required to make up for the subpar member start to question the leader’s bravery and judgement. A leader only maintains the stronger members’ esteem when he or she deals appropriately with the weak link.


Leaders are the ones on the team who are expected to deal with the weak links. One of the distinctions between leaders and followers is that leaders take action. Stronger team members shouldn’t be making decisions for the leader. The leader should set the example of how to act towards the weaker team member.


Making the Chain Stronger


The team’s time is compromised when there is a weak person on the team. One result is that the stronger team members have to provide their time to cover the weak person’s obligations. The larger the disparity between more capable team members and the less capable team member, the larger the damage to the team. For instance, if we rate persons on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best), a 5 amid 10s certainly harms the team where an 8 amid 10s usually does not.

Let’s see how this plays out. When a leader first gathers a collection of people, their skills converge in a way that is comparable to addition. So, concretely, a 5 amid 10s looks like this:

10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 5 = 45

The disparity between this team and awesome ones with five 10s is like the disparity between 50 and 45.  That’s a discrepancy of 10 percent. But when a team reaches a collaborative state and gains energy, it’s comparable to multiplication. It’s at that time that a weak link can really harm the team. It’s the discrepancy between this calculation:

10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 100,000



and this calculation:

10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 5 = 50,000



As you can see, that’s a disparity of 50 percent! The might and energy of the team may not be compromised by a weak link for an interval, but they will be compromised eventually. A weak link over time steals the energy – and the promise – of a team.

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Paradoxically, weak team members have less insight about their flaws than more competent team members do. Additionally, they squander more of their time protecting their interests, expounding on their importance, and holding tight to what is theirs. It is vital to understand that in relationships (work and personal) the less effective person usually controls the interactions.

For instance, a self-confident person is more accommodating than a person without confidence. Someone who can see the big picture proceeds ahead more quickly than someone who can’t. An individual with excellent skills and superior drive finishes more in less time than a weaker individual. If the two team members work together, the more effective member must continuously adjust for and pause for the less effective one. In essence, the weaker member controls the progress of the team.


If a team has a weak member who is unable to or will not improve – and the leader has offered the member education, assurances and new challenges – then the leader must exercise their authority. When that happens, a leader does best to take the counsel of authors Danny Cox and John Hoover.¹ When downsizing a team, a leader should be restrained, be understandable, be truthful and concise. After the person has left, a leader should be candid about the loss, while at the same time being considerate of the person who was dismissed. If later a leader doubts their actions, they should focus on this truth: The team is better off without the weak link.

Being a Better Team Member


Many people are predisposed to think the best of themselves and the worst of others. The outcome is that they can easily steer self-improvement projects towards others. But who is really responsible for a person’s growth? As we know, that person.

Examine yourself. Using what you learned in this post, take a tough look at yourself to see where you might be holding back your team. Check the box under the word “Me” for any concern that pertains to you. And if you are brave, ask someone who is supportive of you to assess you by marking the boxes listed under the word “Supporter.”

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If you (or the other person who evaluated you) checked more than one box, you need a growth strategy so that you become a benefit to your team. Speak with your team leader or a mentor about methods you can improve in any zones.

Being a Better Team Leader


If you are a team leader, you must address problems produced by a weak link. Unique solutions are applicable to unique teams. If the team is a family, then you don’t “dismiss” weak people. You carefully develop them and try to help them improve, but you also try to mitigate the harm they can bring about to other family members. If the team is a company, then you have duties to the owner or stockholders. If you’ve effected ways to improve, but no or not enough improvements have been made, a dismissal might be necessary. If the team is a ministry and instruction hasn’t improved the situation, then it may be useful to ask the weak person to step down for a time.


It doesn’t matter what type of issue you are up against, remember that your duties to people are in the following order: to the organization, to the team, and subsequently to the person. Your own concerns and contentment come last.

¹ Danny Cox with John Hoover, Leadership When the Heat’s On (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992), 69-70.

stephen Crawford