More productivity. Less stress. Zero drama. The dream workplace. While some things sound too good to be true, a drama-free work environment is not only possible, it’s well within your reach. One of the highest compliments I hear when new people join our team at YMC is “There’s no drama here!” That observation doesn’t mean we’re perfect—we’re far from it. What it does means is that we are a team of individuals who have spent the last few years working together in the pursuit of a common mission. We acknowledge that we each have different communication styles and search for the best ways to interact with each other. We have learned that we need to ask a lot of questions to cultivate quality communication. Sounds like we cracked the code, right?
Well, just when I thought I had this thing figured out, I met Dennis McIntee. We were introduced by mutual friends, and before he started speaking at a credit union conference a few years ago, he handed me his book: The 8 Qualities of Drama Free Teams. It took me two years to open it, and less than an evening to read. After I finished reading, two thoughts occurred to me. On one hand, I was proud that we’ve managed to build a high-quality team that works hard for our clients and avoids drama in the process. On the other hand, I recognized that if we apply some of the principles Dennis shared in his book, we can get even closer and work better together as a team.
Here are a few quick takeaways that might help your crew become a drama free team:
- Policies do not produce results. Behavior does.
Constantly looking for a shiny new policy to implement isn’t the answer to creating a great culture. Maybe you think, “If I could establish new rules, my employees would obey.” Wrong. In the book’s opening pages, McIntee shares, “Emotion is the fuel of motion. As a leader, you’re going to have to navigate through people’s emotions to change behavior.” I realized just how true that is after spending a day with our team’s leadership coach. We worked through several role-play scenarios that simulated situations that routinely cause dysfunction and drama in office settings. During this exercise, I quickly understood that most leaders want to implement a quick fix or a new rule instead of taking time to ask tough questions and lead meaningful conversations that bring people together.
- You can’t change what you don’t see. Feedback is the fuel to changing behavior.
Want to create an environment that encourages honesty instead of drama? Ask tough questions that you may not want to hear the answers to. Then, listen closely. Don’t speak. Don’t argue. Just listen—and process. “Awareness is your first step to changing behavior,” McIntee advises while sharing an example from his personal experience. At one point, he asked one of his respected mentors, “What’s my biggest constraint?” The answer was a hard truth, he admits, one that was hard for him to hear. But rather than getting discouraged, he took his mentor’s feedback to heart. It helped him be aware of his challenge and ultimately inspired him to change his behavior and achieve a more favorable outcome.
- To create ownership, first give ownership.
McIntee reminds his readers that people rise according to our expectations of them. Ouch! How often do we look at a team member and focus on their negative attributes and tendencies? What you believe about your team determines your behavior toward them. If you believe your team is lazy, you’ll make rules and policies that treat them that way. “If you assume your people need supervision and specific direction, your very assumption could be what’s increasing the drama. Empowering your team with choices helps take out the drama,” says McIntee. Take a minute and think about that last statement. How do you treat your team? It’s a question worth answering.
If you decide to read this book, brace yourself. McIntee saves one of the hardest truths for the closing of the book, and there’s a good chance it will punch you in the leadership gut. “Realize your team is a reflection of you. The culture in your facility is a direct result of your leadership choices. Change your leadership actions and your culture will change.” Tired of dealing with internal drama at your credit union? Change starts with you. If you want to begin making that change, I recommend you start by picking Dennis McIntee’s book, The 8 Qualities of Drama Free Teams. Oh, and if you see Dennis on the speaker lineup at the next credit union conference you’re attending, be sure to stop by his session. Your leadership—and your team—will be better for it!