Monday, June 23, 2008

Teams - Avoid the Drama

Have you ever been in a situation that when you get together with your team (whatever team whether you are the leader or not) there is some sort of drama. And it seems there is always drama--someone changing something or upset about changes to something. It becomes an initiative killer after a while.

What do I mean by drama?

Drama is when there is always a crisis causing the team to change directions from what they were doing. Drama is caused by personnel turbulence or problems. Drama may be tied to secretiveness to allow the leadership can shoot for effect on new ideas. Drama is characterized by a continual state of upheaval where no one really knows what's going to happen next.

What else is drama? Constant changes to the direction of a project or task. Deciding that although one approach was planned, another approach is necessary. While this will happen at times through the natural course of events, once it becomes the norm, the drama factor is high.

Drama is a leadership issue. It is a control related issue and may also be related to bad planning or communication.

Weak leaders believe they can control the team better by ensuring that no one but them has a clue of what is happening. Constant changes allow only those in the know to be able to set policy and direction.

In some cases, drama may simply be the result of poor planning and inefficient communication. Better planning and more intra-team communication may reduce the apparent drama level.

Drama caused by non-leaders on a team is an attempt to control the activities of the team.

Stamp out drama. Drama causes team members to expend emotional energy and work time to adapt to the changes. There is a resultant loss in productivity due to the replanning necessary to adapt or to the changes. Recognize drama for what it is--negative energy seeking to disrupt the team.

How to reduce drama?

If it is a leadership style--change styles. Recognize that continual drama is sapping individual team member creativity and reducing productivity. While it may appear to the leader that creativity is being infused into the team, recognize that last minute changes or unprogrammed schedule changes causes team members to expend energy to adapt.

Leaders often do not notice the energy team members expend adapting to drama because they are looking at the problem from the top down rather than the bottom up. What is the job of a leader? To make sure the team has the personnel, resources, and guidance necessary to accomplish the task. Secondarily, the job of the leader is to provide an environment where the team can function to accomplish its mission. Drama disrupts the environment.

If drama is being caused by a team member--deal with it. Don't let it continue. Find out the root cause or the "WHY" and address it. Be careful and recognize it may be a challenge to your leadership style, so be prepared for a deep and potentially difficult discussion.

Drama is OK in the theater, but in a team setting over time it will drain the emotion and creativity out of a team. Team drama stems from a control problem--either weak leadership skills or a challenge to the team leadership. It must be addressed or the team will suffer.

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