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Turning Passion into a Project Accelerator, Not Project Burn Out

You have assembled a team of passionate and talented individuals, yet meetings are chaotic, people are pulling in different directions, tempers flare, fingers point, and you are not moving at the pace you feel you should be. This challenge is widespread among leaders across various organizations today. Varying levels of developmental capacity (or maturity) among team members and leaders makes it challenging to have meaningful and productive conversations. Over time, this mismatch can transform initial passion into burnout and eventual turnover.

In today’s environment, numerous significant projects with profound implications for our collective future are underway.  Behind each of these projects are hundreds of passionate individuals who recognize the stakes and feel a sense of urgency to accomplish meaningful outcomes. However, in our urgency, we often overlook the crucial work of building the capacity to hold conversations that lead to real coordinated action. Instead, we find ourselves spinning our wheels, arguing our positions and raising our collective blood pressure.

So, how can we have our passion for an urgent new future as the driver to accelerate projects?  First, it’s important to understand how the developmental levels of team members contribute or detract from productive conversations. Elevating the developmental level of each person and the team is critical to success and doesn’t have to take a lifetime to achieve. The graphic below offers a framework to think about your team members’ individual and collective capacity to have meaningful, collaborative conversation.

Low Passion, Low Development: Individuals and teams in this domain don’t last very long. They exhibit indifference and apathy, often resulting in high turnover.  Roles lack clear purpose, and there is a lack of skills for creating meaningful work, which are neither present nor actively developed. These environments rely on authoritative direction.

High Passion, Low Development: Individuals and teams in this domain can sustain operations for a while through sheer will and determination. However, without intentional effort to enhance individual and team capacity to participate in purposeful and productive conversation, this can lead to burn out and dissatisfaction.  Without clear distinctions of what creates a productive team environment, it becomes easy to blame others for lack of meaningful progress on goals.

Low Passion, High Development: Individuals and teams in this domain, can operate effectively for extended periods, often having skillful conversations that are expansive and deep.  However, the challenge lies in these conversation lacking sufficient drive for purposeful results toward a goal. While intellectually stimulating, they may fall short of delivering tangible outcomes that truly matter.

High Passion, High development: Individuals and teams operating in this domain are deeply committed to achieving urgent results and understand the critical importance of creating shared meaning. Building the capacity for collaborative conversation is a priority and an ongoing focus.  Leaders recognize that the developmental maturity level of their team members is fundamental to project success —not just a nice-to-have, but a necessity to accelerate both team results and individual satisfaction.

Developing Highly Passionate People into Highly Collaborative Teams

First, it’s important to establish some basic distinctions about collaboration. Below is a list of the distinctions that are important for enabling a team to have collaborative conversations.

  1. “Conversation as action”: Conversation itself is a form of committed, coordinated action, contrary to the common notion: “Let’s stop talking and start doing!” For many of us, especially those in non- physical vocations like artists or carpenters, our primary tools are not hammers or brushes but writing utensils, keyboards, and our voices —each a form of conversation when used to communicate with others.
  2. Organizations and teams form around “shared commitments”. When a team establishes clear shared commitments about how they work together, they create a “holding container for each conversation, which provides important constraints for productive dialogue.
  3. These shared commitments provide the context and purpose for committed conversations.
  4. Organizations and/or important projects or endeavors are networks of committed conversations.
  5. The quality and skillfulness of conversation determines the capacity for effective collaboration.
  6. Collaborative conversation aims to harness collective intelligence and wisdom, enabling outcomes greater than any one person alone can create, cause, or imagine.
  7. Developing effective committed conversations is a skill that requires intention and practice.

Six Actions That Leaders can Take to Develop Your Passionate Team

  1. Ensure that the shared purpose is clear and present during collaborative conversations, serving as an anchor point to return to if/when a conversation becomes unclear or too far off track.
  2. Establish upfront shared agreements on how to conduct effective conversations, which serve as an anchor point to come back to if/when a conversation gets stuck.
  3. When confronted with a complaint, whether your own or someone else’s, consider the underlying commitment. “What is the commitment behind the complaint”? Identify what commitment isn’t being realized and is causing the issue.  Speaking from commitment and purpose helps clarify intentions and moves individuals away from focusing on the complaint.
  4. Notice when you or someone else is speaking from a “position”, as if the position is “the truth”. Positions invite opposition and conflicting “truths”.  Instead, speak from your perspective as just one of many possible viewpoints. This approach encourages openness to other perspectives and reveals broader possibilities beyond narrow “truths”.
  5. Practice listening as a “storycatcher” rather than storyteller. Storycatchers listen deeply to uncover unarticulated aspects of a conversation and work to articulate what the collective is trying to achieve.  This involves synthesizing perspectives to foster new thinking and explore new possibilities.
  6. Establish a “Drift Alert”: Breaking through ingrained culture norms and deeply embedded behaviors can be immensely challenging. Despite striving for new outcomes, there is a risk of reverting to predictable patterns and incremental improvement. A “drift alert” reminds team members of these conventional thoughts and behaviors that hinder desired results. It prompts conscious evaluation of whether these thoughts or behaviors contribute to achieving that desired future.

After investing considerable time searching for and hiring passionate, talented people, ensure your investment, and theirs, delivers the kind of results that matter.

In today’s project world, where so much is at stake, how we collaborate is crucial.  With so much passion to create meaningful change, developing the capacity to channel that passion into productive results is essential to our collective success.

To learn more about Genii Earth’s leader and team development approach and our Project Alignment services contact hello@geniiearth.com

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