During March Madness, media coverage is packed with heart-pounding play-by-plays, interviews and feel-good stories of the collaboration and comradery that it takes to come together for a win. But even with the most elite teams, it’s the off-camera drama where teams grow. It’s the disagreements, it’s when players aren’t always accountable to one other and it’s when players put their needs first that creates the breakdown teams must overcome.
During the winter Olympics, the Jamaican bobsled coach quit her team, right before the games started and took the bobsled with her. Luckily, Red Stripe bought the athletes a new bobsled just in time to race. Teammates criticized the sportsmanship of Canadian hockey player, Jocelyne Larocque, when she immediately removed her silver medal during the post-game ceremony, as the US took gold. Last year four NCAA coaches were charged as part of an FBI investigation into a pay-to-play fraud scheme that ripped through several collegiate basketball teams. Whether it’s a team of athletes, co-workers, family, friends, a neighborhood league or a team of two people, at some point, everyone thinks of themselves and how best to serve those ego-driven needs.
Teams are inherently dysfunctional. There are times we withdraw support because someone disrespected us or someone took credit for our idea. We’ve been caught in the backstabbing and sniping over he-said, she said. Maybe there’s bullying in the mix, arrogance or lying? Under these circumstances, anyone can develop an “everyone for themselves” mentality. In the teams of our lives, we get defensive and settle for a comfortable spot on the Drama Triangle.
This triangle has tropes found in the dysfunctional family dramas of film, television, and stage. There are three roles: The Victim, The Villain, and The Rescuer. The Victim has been wronged and carries the “woe is me” banner like a flag. The Villain (or Persecutor) has a need to survive a situation. They will fight, they will absolve themselves of compassion for others because that is what must be done for their personal success. The Rescuer wants to save the day, especially for The Victim. They choose to be all things to all people because without them, everyone is lost (so they think).
Have you ever found yourself on The Drama Triangle? You can easily move around on it. One moment you say, “give it to me! I’ll do it,” as the rescuer and then be so exhausted that you feel like the victim: “I did all that work and no one even says ‘thank you’.” Then you’re the villain when you snap at others for not doing enough.
When you’re on the triangle you can’t see the greater good for yourself or those around you. The teams of your life begin breaking down and the dysfunction shows itself. This is where you have workplace drama, family drama, neighborhood drama, friends drama… Anytime there’s drama in your life, it’s an indication that you’re on the triangle and you’re likely acting from ego.
This is when you have to become a conscious disruptor. Conscious disruptors take full responsibility for their actions and thinking. They are aware when they fall into the trappings of a role. They know that taking self-accountability—no more and no less responsibility—liberates them from all triangle roles.
Trainers at Productive Learning have guided hundreds of clients off The Drama Triangle. They’ve trained clients to stretch past ego-driven needs to protect themselves from fear, hurt, pain, anger and dislodge themselves by using emotional intelligence. Freeing ourselves of limiting points of view like the need for justice, the need for rescuing or the need for revenge revives our confidence, power of authenticity and allows us to serve our teams with selflessness.
Conscious disruptors get off the triangle because they are willing to trust themselves. They also trust others will step up to collaborate. And when others don’t step up, a conscious disruptor has the emotional intelligence to place healthy boundaries. They know how to give guilt-free ‘no’s’— they serve others without depleting themselves.
Often times we have presented with a paradox of service to our team: our wants are not as important as the collective goal so we sublimate them as an act of selfless service; yet, we also need to act compassionately toward what we want. So how do we give to others while giving to ourselves?
Your ego is the best compass to determine where you stand. When we serve to satiate an ego-driven need that’s when we must step back before we find ourselves on The Drama Triangle. True service and selflessness are when we serve with authentic intentions. We don’t use the team as a source to fulfill our unmet needs. We don’t use the team to take out anger and pain.
Conscious disruptors approach giving with circumspection: where does my need to give come from? Do I care if anybody acknowledges what I do? What’s in my heart when I’m serving? What’s my real intention?
When unity is more important than our actions, that is a service without ego. This is how we create a life with teams bound by love, fun, and togetherness.
Becoming an extraordinary person means becoming a great servant to our teams and that entails building self-love, self-care, and personal growth. There’s much exploration to be had with the roles you play in the communities and relationships populating your life. But there’s no greater role or service you can provide than being your authentic Self.