Needles, Haystacks (and bad apples) – building a championship support team

Building a team is one thing, identifying the needles in the haystack is another.

Sadly, the chances of you building a “needlestack” are very slim.

So an element of compromise is necessary in your approach to creating a championship support team.

The needles will be those individuals who go the extra mile and light up the room when they enter.

They cannot be categorised by gender, age, education or ethnicity – they just “are”.

There are no “needle training courses” – it’s an innate ability.

The compromise is to promote the needles into positions of leadership and/or management, accepting that the “haystack” element of your team just want to show up and be told what to do – then go home.

That’s fine.

At the risk of mixing my metaphors, you do have to keep an eye out for bad apples and get them out quickly.

With my clients, I use a Performance/Behaviour Matrix to identify the needles, the haystack and the bad apples.

A copy is attached here as a free download.

Try this exercise:

  • Flip chart and pen
  • Divide the flip chart sheet into the quadrants on the attached PDF
  • Post-it notes
  • Write the initials of each team member on a Post-it note
  • Apply the Post-it notes to the appropriate quadrant on the flip chart

You will very soon see what I mean.

Performance & Behaviour Matrix



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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.

3 thoughts on “Needles, Haystacks (and bad apples) – building a championship support team”

  1. A timely article for me. Useful matrix – the dotted line from therapy implies there is one way to go. Is that correct or am I interpreting it wrong?

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