I was working with a client recently who said she felt her team was like a 10pm drama on television. She had the diva who tried to take credit for everything. The sniper who constantly lobbed in bombs that tore apart all the good ideas on the team. Mr. Passive Aggressive sat in the corner barely containing his hostility but a wry smile on his face the whole time. She also had the “holier than thou” character who stayed above the conflict and talked about how wonderful her group was doing and if everyone would just get alone, their results would improve. I asked her what role she played and she just laughed and said “I guess I view myself as Wonder Woman trying to rescue this team and organization.” As you can imagine, my client is pretty exhausted from being a rescuer/superhero and wanted help to regain the power of her team.

Does this sound like a team you have been on recently? There are other characters that we could add like Pass the Buck guy; The Blamer; It’s Not Me; Squirrel-Distracted by Shiny Bright Objects (this can be me if I am not engaged); Persecutor, etc. Obviously, we are not headed for the road to success if this is our team.

Let’s go back to Wonder Woman…how can we help her lead her team.  First, she will need to make sure each person knows their purpose, vision and mission and values of the organization. I believe most people come to work wanting to do a good job. Sure, there are a few truly bad characters but most people want to do a good job. Thus, have a conversation to make sure the team reconnects with the collective purpose.

Next, I would encourage the team to draft a team charter. This should include the vision, mission, ground rules and values of the team that supports the organization’s needs. I encourage team leaders to outline their goals, strengths, barriers, weaknesses, desired outcomes and hopes. This should lead to a discussion of roles and expectations for each team member. I would also spend time outlining how decisions will be made on the team and who has the ability to make what decisions. Are there group decisions? If so, who is responsible for these and does everyone understand the process for decision making.

Okay, we are making good progress.  Now, how are we going to handle conflict? This should be discussed as a team ensuring there are ground rules on how to handle any conflict. The team then needs to hold each other accountable to their commitments. One rule I would encourage is no triangulation. This means I cannot talk to Beth about Lee.  I need to go straight to Lee to share my feedback. The challenge is that people often start to see each other as the characters that we started the blog with. I encourage each person to spend time with each team member for a few minutes and find 2-3 things you respect about the other person. I then ask the team members to share that with their teammates. It is amazing the reaction that you get from this exercise. First, there is resistance and by the end there generally is hugging and sometimes tears.

Does this mean we are all set? I wish…no, we will need to keep working on recognizing each other, living our values and adhering to our ground rules and revisiting our charter. However, if we connect with each other in our team meetings and try to recognize the efforts of our peers then there is a good chance we start to see the good in each other and stop seeing each other as heroes and villains.

Good luck on your team journey and let me know how you do at bringing your characters into a high performing team.