Reducing Team Drama

10 tips to evolve and grow to Higher Performance

The toxic/ drama driven team is a challenge that is faced in large and small organisations. In the work we do we acknowledge that there are a few triggers for toxicity in a team that can take the success of team alignment and performance down a challenging road of chaos, hurt and experiences that can be both traumatic for leaders and team members. The perspective of this article will be to consider both the team member and leaders view and the ownership needed to move to growth and performance.

Simon Sinek quotes: “The leader sets the tone”. Let us consider starting with the Leader and their perspective as well as consid




Leaders you have a responsibility to nurture and grow the culture of your team. A culture in which inclusivity, collaboration and diversity in thinking will help solve challenges and create a future state. A few questions to consider… Do you have a fear-based culture or a culture where your team feel valued and challenged to bring their best? Do you spend time on the culture you would like for your team that will enable them to exceed expectations and deliver outcomes? As leaders we always have to take ownership for the culture of our team. The challenge and the opportunity are to think about how you are contributing to the culture and if you would like to change and grow it? The final question is what is around the tone you are setting in your team: Fear or Love, Stretch or breaking point, Shame or care… You need to consider what the tone is in your team that will deliver results, after all, your people are central to your success.


Listening to your people must be one of the simplest things you can do as a leader. The challenge we often face when we try and listen might be we feel the need to protect our vision or our plan, our behaviours etc. Leaders your greatest opportunity is to keep asking to understand so that you can create a full picture of the truth in your mind. The more you hear and reflect the greater your opportunity to grow and create outcomes that engage your people. We as leaders can sometimes armour up and not hear our people. Choose to listen with curiosity and love not fear and protection.


Setting boundaries isn’t shutting people down or stopping people from talking. Setting boundaries is when the behaviour displayed is a personal attack on character. Knowing what is ok and not ok and communicating this is really important. We can’t use blame language when communicating boundaries as this can start a fight over hurt feelings and who might be right. It takes courage to “hold the hand that hits us” yet it is critical to set boundaries with each other and still be connected. Setting great expectations is also key as it becomes the guidelines to success in how we work together. A leader we have worked with recently wrote down their expectations for team alignment and engagement. They were open to learn and shared these with their team. The outcomes were fantastic and set the tone for success.


Creating a place where people can openly share their thoughts and ideas, share feedback and ask for input is critical for success. When we don’t have a feedback culture, people bottle up their frustration which then becomes “kitchen” conversations and creates a lot of conflict and unneeded drama and fear. When you have your regular catch-up with your people start sharing honest feedback on how you are experiencing each other (Positive and Opportunities). Create a safe space where the feedback is not going to be delivered from a place of fear yet from a place of curiosity, love and understanding. Where connection between people is good the ability to lean into positive conflict is more likely and highly effective. Taking perspective together in feedback sessions is critical for growth, team flow and high performance.



I recognise that this final point can create discomfort, yet it is critical to reflect on. When we work in a High-Performance team we need alignment in order to create success. Alignment means we agree on the strategy and align to our leader’s vision. When there is a lack of alignment, we will find internal negative conflict. Alignment doesn’t mean we don’t have robust conversations and share ideas, it means we don’t sabotage agreed plans. Leaders, you need to make sure your team are aligned to your vision of success. If you find your team are not aligned your role is to seek perspective and help your leaders understand why they are not comfortable in aligning. Being autocratic won’t achieve much success. Being collaborative yet clear (empathy) will support your success. Finally, if you have a team member who really cannot align to your vision and way of working you need to consider if they are the right person for your team and organisation. They might have great skill yet you will continue having a hard time moving your strategy forward if they sabotage the vision. Also, the discomfort and pain created for the team member will create frustration and not allow them to bring their best talents to the role.


Team Members


In a team where you feel your gifts and talents are valued and others can be more successful because of it, you will love what you do and you will deliver great outcomes. There are two things that allow you to bring your best talents:

  1. You don’t have “fear”, you and your leader recognise the talents you have and you are enabled to bring them to the role and the people you connect with
  2. You know what your gifts and talents are, you work at them every day, you recongize that success is not about you it’s because of your impact on the bigger picture….

You are able to work with your leader/ team to find ways in which you can be successful in your role.



Have you heard of the term being comfortable being uncomfortable? That in order to work well as a team you need to allow yourself to be seen and have the courage to be open. Vulnerability is a crucial component of working in a high performing team to create flow. The challenge is we fear being vulnerable as we see it as a weakness. So, we struggle working with others because we don’t allow them to see us and to truly understand who we are. Sometimes we fear this because we might not like what we see, we might fear that if we show who we are we won’t be accepted and may be rejected. Some of the most successful sports teams and business teams work with vulnerability as their foundation to high performance. It means working on inclusion and acceptance. They don’t exclude others for being different, they include others because of their difference. They don’t judge they find ways to seek perspective and understand. The choice is yours, working through vulnerability will free your talents and help you be more passionate and successful.



It’s so easy to judge and blame, to hold onto hurt and unforgiveness. The opportunity for teams is to work through their fears and discomfort and to seek perspective to understand. Blaming is human, we blame from a place of anger, fear and ultimately protection. The definition of blame is: A discharge of pain and or discomfort. Which means we don’t take any responsibility for our own actions or thinking in the process of connecting with someone else. How many times do you blame others? Your leader, your team and even your people. When we ‘blame’ we don’t take accountability for our impact and thinking. Consider how and when you are blaming and think about the impact it might be creating with others and how you can change things for the better.


More often than not I tell myself stories based on what I am experiencing right now. My leader might make a comment as they are thinking aloud. I take this comment and start telling myself the story of how they are ‘think’ I am not good enough, smart enough, worthy enough… I start telling myself that I will fail. That my leader will set me up to fail, that my team don’t take me seriously… Suddenly one comment has become an entire story unravelling my feeling of worthiness and my courage to stand and be seen. What I would like you to do is when you feel uncomfortable rather than telling yourself a story that then becomes your truth, ask your leader… “The story I am telling myself is that you think I am a failure…. Please can we chat about it…” This is the courage to lean into clarity and to stop our own fear of relevance taking us into a toxic pit of shame and discomfort.


Triangulation is the greatest toxicity builder in a team. The intent of chatting to our team about how we are feeling is never bad because we always need people to speak to. The challenge is when one of us becomes the rescuer of the victim. That
means we both could have negative discussions and thoughts of the “persecutor”. This becomes a vicious cycle in the team and before we know it, the fear levels of the team exceed their ability to think about challenges from a place of wisdom, clarity and opportunity. The team gang up on different people and the discomfort and lack of safety drives a sense of unease and unhappiness. So, what do we do when we have challenges with a team member or our leader? We find the courage to “rumble” and to explore how we are feeling. When we are told about a situation we don’t try and fix it for the person we ask them if can chat it through with the person we unhappy with. We hear from a place of empathy and we try and provide support through perspective taking to get the situation unstuck. I can’t think of a team where the opportunity to triangulate doesn’t exist. When there is too much toxicity the team will struggle to be innovative, creative and to have flow.



We are all accountable for the success of our team culture. It all starts with us as individuals and the willingness to grow, reflect and find better ways to win with others. I love the feedback checklist from Brene Brown (Dare to lead):

I know I ready to give you feedback when:
I am ready to sit next to you rather than across from you
I am willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us
I am ready to listen, ask questions and accept that I may not fully understand the issues
I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes
I recognise your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges
I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you
I am willing to own my part
I can genuinely thank you for your efforts rather than criticize you for your failings
I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity
I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.

Why not ask yourself the question, what can I do that will help my team be more effective and successful? How can I grow in order to bring the best out in my team? What toxicity do we need to address in order to become the highest performing team with a great culture? It starts with one person willing to make a difference. Can you be the difference maker?


Share This Article