Audio: Shift from Drama to Empowerment [Time – 12:55, File Size – 12 MB]
It’s this simple: Project teams must create. Whether they are creating a new software product, a new house, an upgrade to an organization’s business operations, or a major motion picture, project teams must create! And to create effectively, they must be synchronized and engaged in that powerful flow that leads to excellence. Unfortunately, many team members find themselves drawn into all sorts of weird interpersonal dramas that can suck the life (and the energy) out of the entire team. So how can you avoid this? The key is to step out of the debilitating drama and into the empowerment dynamic.
In his book The Power of TED, David Emerald compares two very different ways of being: The Dreaded Drama Triangle (or DDT) versus The Empowerment Dynamic (or TED). In this post, we’re going to examine how both of Emerald’s frameworks can be used to help project teams analyze, then transcend, some typical negative patterns of behavior.
In the Dreaded Drama Triangle, there are three interconnected roles that are played: The Victim, The Persecutor, and The Rescurer. According to Emerald: “When you inhabit any of these three roles, you’re reacting to fear of victimhood, loss of control, or loss of purpose. You’re always looking outside yourself, to the people and circumstances of life, for a sense of safety, security, and sanity.” In short, in the Dreaded Drama Triangle, you are simply not empowered to have a fulfilling and productive life. What’s more, Emerald is clear that all three roles (Victim, Persecutor, and Rescurer) are intertwined and essential to maintaining the Dreaded Drama Triangle. As you might imagine, the Dreaded Drama Triangle is an intense and fairly unpleasant place to live.
In contrast is The Empowerment Dynamic (TED). Says Emerald: “TED—The Empowerment Dynamic—counteracts the poison of DDT, the Dreaded Drama Triangle. TED is the antidote for DDT.” And how is this antidote obtained? First, you wake up to the realization that you are trapped in the Dreaded Drama Triangle. And next, you take action to transform the DDT roles of The Victim, The Persecutor, and The Rescurer into completely different characters that will empower you to be all you can be.
So that we can better recognize them, let’s examine Emerald’s definitions of these roles in the Dreaded Drama Triangle a little more closely:
The Victim: “Every Victim requires a Persecutor. But the Persecutor isn’t always necessarily a person…All victims have experienced a loss—a thwarted desire or aspiration—even if they’re not aware of it… Frozen in fear, you avoid responsibility because you think your experience is beyond your control. This stance keeps you from making decisions, solving problems, or going after what you want in life….Victims may be defensive, submissive, over-accommodating to others, passive-aggressive in conflict, dependent on others for self-worth, overly sensitive, even manipulative. They’re often angry, resentful, and envious, feeling unworthy or ashamed about their circumstances.”
The Persecutor: “These people are often authoritarian and rigid in their views, exerting power over others in an effort to keep others from having power over them. Persecutors may act grandiose and self-righteous to mask their own insecurity…Persecutors, like Victims, act out of fear. The may seem fearless, but actually Persecutors are almost always former Victims.”
The Rescurer: “Rescuers fear loss of purpose. Rescuers need Victims—someone to protect or fix—to bolster their self-esteem…A Rescuer isn’t always a person. Addictions to alcohol or drugs, sexual addiction, workaholism—all the ways we numb out—can rescue the Victim from feeling his or her own feelings.”
By engaging their world in these stressful and co-dependent ways, Victims, Persecutors, and Rescurers are all locked in a kind of stressed-out triangle that blocks any of them from achieving their best.
In contrast, The Empowerment Dynamic (TED), is another kind of triangle entirely. In TED, the Victim is transformed into a Creator, the Persecutor is transformed into a Challenger, and the Rescuer becomes a Coach. Let’s examine each of these roles a little more closely:
Replacing the Victim is The Creator: “One of the fundamental differences between the Victim Orientation and this one [Creator] is where you put your focus of attention… For Victims, the focus is always on what they don’t want: the problems that seem constantly to multiply in their lives. They don’t want the person, condition, or circumstance they consider their Persecutor, and they don’t want the fear that leads to fight, flee or freeze reactions, either. Creators, on the other hand, place their focus on what they do want. Doing this, Creators still face and solve problems in the course of creating outcomes they want, but [and this is key!] their focus remains fixed on their ultimate vision.”
Replacing the Persecutor is The Challenger: “All of life’s experiences are teachers in some sense, challenging us to grow and evolve. Although the Persecutor certainly provokes a reaction, the Challenger elicits a response by encouraging the Creator [former Victim] to acquire new knowledge, skill, or insight. Both roles provoke change, but in different ways.”
Replacing the Rescurer is The Coach: “The Coach is the antidote to the Victim’s Rescuer in the DDT… Mainly, a Coach supports, assists, and facilitates the Creator in manifesting a desired outcome. [And here’s the key…] A Coach holds others to be whole, resourceful, and creative… They help you dig deep inside yourself to gain clarity about what you want to create in your life.”
Summarizing: The object of the game is to break out of the Dreaded Drama Triangle and implement The Empowerment Dynamic (TED). So, When you recognize that you, or people on your team, are playing one of the roles in the Dreaded Drama Triangle, you need to transform that role into its TED counterpart. Specifically:
- The Victim (fearful, defensive, submissive) must become a Creator (focused on a vision, working toward a goal).
- The Persecutor (gleefully exerting power over others) must become a Challenger (gently pushing others to acquire new knowledge or skills and strive to be their best).
- The Rescuer (overly protective, self-esteem bolstering) must become a Coach (supporting, assisting, facilitating).
Reflect on these questions:
- In your role as leader of your project team, are you acting as a Rescurer or a Coach? … are you acting as a Persecutor or a Challenger?
- Does your team as a whole embody the characteristics of the Victim?… or the characteristics of the Creator?
- Are there specific members of your team who are locked in the Victim-Persecutor-Rescuer dynamic?
Ask your team:
- Given the role definitions and the DDT versus TED perspective, what can we infer about us (our relationships) as a team?
- Would you say our team, as a whole, embodies characteristics of the Victim… or characteristics of the Creator?
- Do we have any Persecutors on our team who could become Challengers? … Victims who could become Creators? … Rescuers who might better serve as Coaches?
Project Manager Challenges
- Before you approach your team with the preceding Team Challenges, take a few minutes and write some notes to yourself about your Reflections and your own answers to the Team Challenges.
- Give some serious thought to the best forum (group meetings or one-on-one sessions) to handle any DDT versus TED issues you feel are important to address.
- Gently work your way through the Team Challenges with kindness and with the goal of helping your team break out of the DDT and get into The Empowerment Dynamic (TED).
- Try to internalize, then embody, the characteristics of the Coach (and not the Rescuer) or the Challenger (and not the Persecutor) in your role as project manager or team leader.
- Go to Amazon and check out David Emerald’s The Power of TED