stop the drama - a leaders guide

7 Steps to Stop the Drama – a Leader’s Ultimate Guide

Life is crazy; work doesn’t have to be. Stop the drama and get back to work.

Do you work with a drama addict? Are you desperate to stop the drama and focus on real work?

Maybe you have a boss who thrives on adrenalin-fueled fire drills, loves to shout “stop everything and get everyone in here now!” and who refuses to do the planning necessary to avoid the drama.

Or perhaps it’s your team member who is always in your office, taking up time, worried about how something isn’t working, the latest mistake by a colleague, and who blows every problem out of proportion.

Drama eats your productivity. It consumes your emotional energy and wastes valuable decision-making energy. But when you’re leading people, there will always be some level of drama. It takes many forms, but even the most mellow accountants and engineers can encounter drama.

Effective leaders master the ability to de-escalate drama and redirect people to productive activity. These seven steps are your ultimate guide to stop the drama, build healthy relationships, and achieve breakthrough results.

7 Steps to Stop the Drama

1. Ground Yourself

You won’t be effective if you’re swept up and washed away in the storm of other people’s drama. Anchor yourself. Know what matters most, build connections that keep you centered, steep in the values you want to live, and approach work with a positive “we can solve this” attitude.

At the same time, be prepared for problems. Disruptions are a fact of life. People won’t always do what they’re supposed to. These are not reasons to panic or freak out.

When there are problems, your grounded energy will help your team to maintain their composure and focus on the real MIT (Most Important Thing).

2. Set Clear Expectations

Just as you ensure everyone is on the same page regarding key business outcomes, you want to set expectations around how the team will react to challenges, how they resolve disagreements, and what to do when someone lets you down.

Give your people the tools to have tough conversations with one another. Talk about how the team will respond when (not if) there’s a problem. Rehearse. Practice. Role-play and be ready. You’ll prevent problems from catching fire and blowing up into unproductive drama.

These first two steps help you prepare for drama-situations before they happen. Now let’s look at what to do when the drama happens:

3. Acknowledge Their Feelings / Concern

When someone is fired up, one of the most effective ways to de-escalate the situation is to reflect how they’re feeling. eg: “It sounds like you’re frustrated.”

You’re not telling them how to feel or saying you agree with their interpretation. You’re just them know you understand how they are feeling. Until that strong emotion is acknowledged, you’re unlikely to be able to move forward. Often, this acknowledgment and understanding is all the person needs.

4. Ask Rational Clarifying Questions

After you acknowledge their feeling, your next goal is to get the problem into perspective. Ask straightforward questions that help quantify the real issue.

For example, when someone comes to you wound up because “I’m facing an insurrection! Everyone is fighting the new system and this will never work!” you might ask: “Who is having a hard time?” “What are they finding challenging?”

It’s one thing for the world to be on fire, but it’s another when it’s just Liz in Accounting and Jeff in Marketing who haven’t figure out how to get the data they need.

Push for the specifics that define the real problem (not the emotional problem).

5. Redirect to “How Can We” Questions

Once you’ve got the problem identified, asking a “How can we?” question helps pull the person out of reacting and into problem-solving. The human brain isn’t able to hold onto intense emotion at the same time as holding curiosity.

When you ask “How can we solve this?” you’re also communicating that you care, that you trust them to be able to come up with solutions, and that a solution is possible. That’s a lot of drama-erasing, problem-solving power for one short question.

6. Identify Next Steps

As they come up with solutions, translate those into specific actions that can be taken (the sooner the better). Ideally, these are actions they can take to help solve the issue. Sometimes there will be steps for you to take as well.

Either way, don’t allow the situation to resolve without specific commitments to action.

7. Finish Strong

Schedule a specific time where you and the other person will meet to review the actions both of you have taken, their impact, and what comes next. This is a critical step that prevents this particular dramatic situation from happening again. Don’t waste this conversation. If you do the drama will be back before you know it. Finish strong.

Your Turn

When you use these seven steps, you’ll prevent unnecessary drama. Your team will have the tools to deal with problems productively. For team members with a more drama-loving personality, walking them through steps 3 – 7 will guide them to more productive behaviors.

We’d love to hear from you: what’s your best tip to stop the drama, calm things down, and help everyone focus on moving forward?

Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development

5 Steps To Managing Emotions At Work

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
~ Daniel Goleman

A subscriber writes:

 I have found that because I’m passionate, I tend to get emotional. I look at things objectively, however at times when I am having a much-needed conversation my emotions get to me.”

Emotions get funky and screw everything up. It’s not just the “distressing” emotions. Joy, excitement, and passion easily overwhelm your cause too. Emotional extremes of either breed raise eyebrows and damage credibility. Listen well to your emotions and hear what they have to say. Channel that energy to serve your cause.

5 Steps to Channeling Emotions

Don’t lose that leading feeling. Use it to inspire your leadership:

  1. Time Out – Back away from the scene. Let it steep. Your heart is screaming, “say something now.” “This is urgent.” “I must speak my truth.” Most moments of truth last more than a moment. You will be more effective with a deliberate plan.
  2. Name That Emotion – Naming your feeling helps you understand it. Jealous, scared, pissed off, hurt, or some combination. Sit with this a minute. Write it down.
  3. Ask Why – The old 5 Why trick is very useful here: (1) Why am I so excited? “It will help the customer”, (2) Why is that important: “their lives will be improved”, “We will win JD Powers”, “My boss will be happy.” Even the second “why” begins to uncover root cause. Go for 5 whys. Be honest. Ask a mentor or coach for help.
  4. Seek To Understand – Really listen to alternative point of views. Ask open-ended “what” and “why questions.” The picture is always bigger than it appears.
  5. Now Speak Your Truth – Write down your top 3 points. Read them aloud. Envision conversation. Breathe, don’t blurt. Use a calm tone of voice. Don’t feel compelled to handle it in one shot (see #1 back away as needed). You’ll gain respect with each well- handled encounter. The next one will be easier.

Join our growing leadership community. Enter your email address to subscribe. Have a leadership challenge you want to discuss? Send me an email at letsgrowleaders@gmail.com.

Lead Me Please: Developing Leadership Standby Skills

This weekend, I attended the TEDxWomen’s conference in Washington, DC. The theme was “The Space Between.” Women and men sharing amazing stories about the magic that can happen in the convergence of extremes.

“One day you will want to say, this is actually the right thing to do. And when you turn around, they are following you. I just want you ready for every single moment of leadership that comes your way.”

As I sat fascinated by the courageous stories of powerful women, I kept thinking, “huh, that sure wasn’t on their life map.” For most of these speakers, they weren’t out looking for opportunities to lead. They didn’t have a five-year plan to get onto TED. They found themselves in situations that ignited their passion wars, accidents, loss, violation of human rights. Their life got disrupted. They took action. They began to lead. Most of these women don’t fit the image of a traditional leader. I doubt most were in anyone’s “binders of women” or succession list. And yet, when they started doing the right thing, people followed.

Why Prepare?

So often, I hear people say. “Oh, I am not a leader.” That may work fine in most circumstances. The world needs great followers. But what happens when your passion erupts, and everyone is looking at you. You must prepare to be a leader because someday…

  • Life will bring you a disruption you can’t ignore
  • You will need to take a stand
  • Your heart won’t be able to turn away
  • No one else will care as much as you
  • Your passion will trump that voice in your head that says, “I am not a leader”

How to Prepare to Lead

Charlotte Beers shared her stories of why preparation matters, in her talk on the Space Between EQ and IQ. She also offers 3 vital skills everyone should cultivate to prepare for the toughest scenes in life. Personal Clarity: Getting underneath the personal traits and experiences driving your behavior Memorability: Honing your communication with a keen focus on the listener, “it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear” Persuasiveness: Harnessing your passion to attract others to follow I connected with Charlotte to ask for her advice. “What advice do you have for persuading reluctant leaders that they should and can prepare to lead?” Her answer…

When you want to lead in a crisis..you can’t UNLESS you’ve been practicing stepping out to lead on many small things. Watch who you are in those moments and rehearse saying it with clarity, memorably and persuasively. You’ll blow it sometime. So what, it’s only work.

In today’s connected world, I am not sure “if leaders are born or made” is the relevant question. We can all have a platform. The bigger question is, will be ready to use it?

On Anger: Techniques for Managing Emotions at Work

I run, I do yoga, I reflect, I write and sometimes I get angry.

As leaders, how we manage our anger and other emotions is vital. Everyone is watching, and if we don’t handle our anger well we can make a tough situation even more difficult.

“Anyone can be angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way this is not easy.”
~ Aristotle

I’ve gotten better at this over the years, but when I’m in a values clash, or if someone isn’t straight with me I get ticked off. I don’t always love how I react on the inside or the outside.

In his work on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes,
Anger is the most seductive of the negative emotions; the self-righteous inner monologue that propels it fills the mind with the most convincing arguments for venting rage. Unlike sadness, anger is energizing, even exhilarating.

Intervene Early in the Anger Cycle

Goleman talks about intervening early in the anger cycle, to challenge the thoughts and assumptions at the source of the anger. This is similar to the approach recommended by the Arbinger Institute in their work around “Self-Deception”. Both approaches focus on truly considering the emotions and values of the other person. Reframing the issues and changing perspective help to organize a more productive response.

While anger breeds more negativity as we subconsciously look for ways to justify our negative emotions; reframing diffuses the intensity and makes room for more logical approaches.

Consider Meditation and Other Mindfulness Techniques

In his book, The Mindful Leader, Michael Carroll recommends mindfulness practices and meditation as a way to get better insights and mastery of our emotions.
Emotions are like unruly but beautiful creatures that we work hard to tame. We want our emotions to behave themselves, but they are not always predictable. Some emotions seem very powerful and threatening, so we have them caged for fear that they will escape, and make us do all kinds of things that we might regret. On occasion, an emotion may break out and frighten others or we may let one out of its cage to prance around and have a little naughty fun, but generally, we work hard to keep them under lock and key. Other emotions we domesticate, and they behave like circus monkeys– entertaining us and keeping us distracted and happy.
Meditation helps us to sit with these emotions and handle then more objectively.

Of course, the techniques that will work best, are the ones we will actually use. As leaders, it is vital that we acknowledge how we handle our emotions and find productive way to manage those feelings productively.