Why do most teams, leaders, executives and coaches ignore issues with backstabbing, gossip and drama until the team is literally being torn apart? Key players quit, coaches or managers get fired – things get as bad as they possibly can before help is called in. I had a client say to me (after I had been working with them for awhile and things were back on track) “Well, we decided to give you a call because we had tried everything else”. Great, just what every expert wants to hear.
I know I always provide tips, tricks and ideas for issues – and I promise I will get to that. But for just a moment I am going to step out of that role and tell you straight up – every team I have known, been involved with or heard of that is at the point of meltdown has either been torn apart or they have brought in help. If your team is headed down that path get in touch with someone trained in group facilitation and team building. It can be me, it can be someone else – but bring in some help.
Okay, I am off of that soap box. If you don’t want to take the above advice, here are a few things you can do that can help. Success depends greatly on your team trusting whoever is facilitating the discussion.
Step 1 – Figure out what is going on and/or where the problem started. It took me between four and five hours over the course of two sessions in one day to get the whole story from the last time I worked with. I was careful to keep them on track so I could get the facts but also to make sure they felt like I was hearing their frustration and anger.
Step 2 – Acknowledge that there were certainly things that could have been handled differently and that where they are now is not a good place. Get buy-in that everyone on the team believes something has to change. If anyone thinks things “aren’t so bad” they will drag their feet during the change process.
Step 3 – Brainstorm what “solved” looks like. This step is about the end result not the process. What has to happen for everyone on the team to put the issue behind them and move forward?
Step 4 – Brainstorm the process to get to “solved”. Once you have the end goal from step three you can start figuring out how to get there. It won’t be easy but you need a plan.
Step 5 – Get buy-in from everyone on the team that the goal and the process are acceptable and will bring closure.
Step 6 – Put the plan into motion. Make sure you include check-in points. Every member of the team is responsible for following the process, holding others accountable to the process and bringing up issues or concerns if the process isn’t working. Be willing to make changes as you move along to make sure you reach your end goal.
Step 7 – Agree as a team that the issue has been addressed and is over. Hold each other accountable to not going back to “that place”. The commitment to closure is critical. That way if someone tries to slide back into an old issue you can remind them that it is over and part of the past.
So there it is, the simple yet oh so challenging framework for dealing with a team spiraling out of control. It is hard work. Members might not feel safe enough to be honest. Hurt feelings might not be discussed like they should and people may lie and say they are willing to move past something and not be. But if you stick to it for as long as it takes (I worked with a team for almost two full semesters before they were ‘better’) you will get there.
When you’ve tried everything you can on your own and it still isn’t working – you know how to reach me.
Do you have tips or ideas about dealing with team drama? We will love to hear them!
Next week: When is good – good enough?
Did you miss last week when we talked about keeping your team from falling into the pitfalls of office politics, gossip and team drama? Read it here.