From Cat Herding to Leadership


This e-book was written as a resource guide for a two-day Master Leadership Class delivered by Steve Zuieback and Michael Grinder. The class and e-book walk you through the frameworks, tools, and processes developed over 35 years by the authors. Starting off with the Leadership Map of Excellence framework and then moving into diagnosing the types of group dynamics, the book provides you with the knowledge, processes and tools to move from Cat Herding to Leading powerful high functioning teams.


In my training programs I am frequently asked about how to deal with dysfunctional behaviors and group dynamics. The following is a short list of the most common dynamics I get asked about. They are normally presented to me as, “How do I deal with…….

  1. no participation in a team?
  2. people are complacent with the status quo?
  3. frustration with one or more people in a group by the majority of the group?
  4. a leader who is the problem?
  5. a team resistant to new strategies and approaches?
  6. lack of motivation in a team to try new strategies?
  7. long negative history that gets in the way of doing business?
  8. a team that is not capable of the task before them?
  9. strongly held positions by individuals or cliques?
  10. members of a team who aren’t pulling their weight?
  11. people who believe that solutions are outside their control?

As you can see from this list, some of these dynamics have to deal with an individual, some are about whole team dynamics and some have their roots in the culture of the broader organization. Many people experience working with groups akin to herding cats. In an attempt to have a systematic approach to understanding and then responding to these concerns, Michael Grinder and I developed the Leadership Map of Effectiveness framework.

The map lays out 4 areas of assessment that will enable leaders to select an effective approach to increase the level of functionality and effectiveness of their team.

  1. Functionality of the Group
  2. Management, Intervention and Facilitation to Increase Functionality
  3. Complexity of the Issue
  4. Facilitation Processes Matched to Functionality and Complexity



The Four Areas of Assessment 

Assessment 1: Functionality of the Group

 Michael Grinder makes four major distinctions about types of groups. This assessment is the first step for the leader to determine the degree of functionality. These distinctions are as follows:

  • Unformed Group: An “unformed group” is a collection of people who come together for the first time or meet so infrequently that they are not gelled.
  • Formed and Functional: A group with agreed to and aligned outcomes, methodology and a track record of achieving their outcomes.
  • Formed and Dysfunctional: This type of group has an agreed upon purpose, goals, methodology and work plan, but the dynamics of the group significantly hamper their ability to work and produce results.
  • Healthy: A healthy group has all of the attributes of a formed and functional group and the group accepts each member as an individual and still holds each person accountable for their behaviors.

Assessment 2: Management, Intervention and Facilitation Process to Increase Functionality

In the map you will see references to Management, Intervention and Facilitation Strategies. In the context of group dynamics, management is what you do with formed groups to develop higher levels of functionality. Management deals with individual dynamics in ways that connect individuals to the rest of the group. 

Assessment 3: Complexity of the Issue

The third area of inquiry for the leader is about the capability of their team to tackle the task at hand based on the complexity of the issue. Sometimes it is difficult to gauge whether the development of the team is sufficient to effectively tackle the issue, or whether the issue is so complex that it is beyond the capability of the team as it is currently configured. In our e-book we review how to use the Ralph Stacey model as a way of assessing the complexity of the issue relative to the functionality to the team.

Assessment 4: Facilitation Processes Matched to Functionality and Complexity

Finally, the last consideration is the best match of the appropriate dialogue process to the complexity of the issue. In his book, Leadership Practices for Challenging Times, Steve provides approximately twelve tried and true dialogue processes. These processes are sorted by the desired rational and experiential outcomes. What has not been provided is a third dimension in the selection process – matching the process to the complexity level of the issue. So now there are two sequential steps for a leader to take in arriving at the best dialogue process.