2016 was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Leaders can learn a lot about how to create a year with a “happy ending” from Shakespeare.
If there is no problem, then there is no story!
Tragedy or comedy, a good story always has a problem to overcome. What makes Romeo and Juliet as compelling today as it was when written is the real life problems they face. The same is true of teams at work. All teams face problems. The problems are what makes life at work interesting and memorable. The problems create opportunities to learn. Therefore as a leader, you should not seek to have a team without problems, but rather a team that can overcome the problems.
Great leaders and great teams aren’t great because they don’t have problems. They are great because they face, and overcome, many huge problems. Ghandi, Gates, and Gerstner all faced big problems—and their stories were not tragedies. They were happy endings because of how they responded to the problems.
Resentment, passive aggressiveness, and hurt feelings linger from poorly handled problems and prevent teams from moving forward. Team failure and the metaphorical death of the leader is inevitable when conflict is avoided or mishandled.
Teams that end up with a happy ending are ones that break through the issues. Leaders that have the judgment, guts, and skills to work through problems positively end up experiencing a happy ending. The leader sees the issues, the issues are raised, worked through, and resolved. There is a breakthrough of teamwork, team attitude, team communication, etc. This is why we call our team-building sessions team breakthrough sessions. Teams need to break through issues to get to higher levels of productivity.
Leaders Choice: Comedy or Tragedy
To avert team tragedy, leaders must positively face their team problems. Here are some keys for leaders to happy endings:
Procrastination is the enemy of a comedy. For example, several executives at clients of ours have finally decided to deal with attitude issues after several years of knowing about it. At one, when people learned of a key person leaving, its people said, “I am not surprised” and “What a relief.” This is now the beginning of new, happy chapter and the possibility of a happy ending. Firing or reassigning people is facing conflict and will create a happy ending for many. The longer you wait, the longer you forestall a happy ending.
Not listening creates team tragedies. I wish I could count on only one hand the number of executives who have prevented happy endings by not listening. I can’t. Not listening is pervasive. The need to be right and the need be in control steers teams down an unhappy path. I know this because we are often brought in to help a team change course, and it turns out that the leader doesn’t hear what the team needs.
Happy endings are a hero’s journey. I have watched many senior executives and middle managers face the challenges of creating positive results. It is a hard road. It is not for the faint of heart. It requires showing up every day with an optimistic spirit, ready and willing to fight the good fight. There will be resistance. There will be unforeseeable obstacles thrown in front of you. Whether tragedy or happy ending, it is a hero’s journey, requiring all your heart mind and spirit to face the challenges head on.
Everyone on the team truly wants to look back on the year and see a year worth living, time well spent, and results well achieved. They want a “happily ever after.” They are looking to you to help write that story. Your job in this last part of the year is to see the challenges plainly and face them with the mindset of the hero—unafraid, strong, and optimistic.