Extraordinary Team Blog

Who’s the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier or Spy on your Team?

Posted by Kristin Arnold on January 17, 2012

I love movies that make you think.  Where the dots are not connected for you…and you are challenged to solve the riddle.

My experience of the new movie, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is exactly that.  Set during the height of the Cold War, the former head of British Intelligence (simply named as “Control”) believed one of his direct reports was in fact a Russian agent – a mole – and a failed operation in Hungary was an attempt to identify which of them it was. Smiley (Gary Oldman), who also reported to Control had been forced into retirement after the debacle, but is asked by a senior government official to investigate the possibility of a double agent in the highest ranks of British Intelligence.

So was there a mole on the team?

SPOILER ALERT:  Yes, there was one.  I won’t tell you whom, but suffice it to say the signs were all there.  It was up to Smiley (and the audience) to solve the riddle.

So what does this have to do with teams?  Lots.  You can tell who is playing full out and who is not.  Just look at the signs.  Connect the dots.  And then check to see if your perceptions are reality.  Unlike the Cold War, it’s not bloody likely you have a mole in your team – but you may have some passive or aggressive behaviors that are keeping the team from performing at its fullest potential.   Unfortunately, you can’t just ignore these signs.  Like Smiley, you will have to deal with it, and do it early, before it escalates into a failed operation.