A veteran sergeant, tasked with teaching me how to lead as a young lieutenant, once said, “The thing that will solve most problems is a mission.”
Mission is Army-speak for a goal, a job that has to get done. And he was right. I discovered again and again that whenever there was drama in my team, whenever the energy level got low, whenever team members were worried about the future, I could fix it with work.
Work does some good things. It occupies minds and hands. It accomplishes things that can bring satisfaction. It gives a feeling of demand, meaning someone somewhere needs what you do. Beyond that, a mission focuses work on an immediate need. People set aside differences and their own concerns to respond.
So when you sense team unity is starting to fray, or focus is lapsing, find a mission. “Guys, if we want to avoid overtime this summer we have to build some inventory now. Here’s my targets.” “Team, one of our important customers will be out of product on Monday if we can’t somehow get them some.” “We can serve this new client need if we figure out X.” “We’ll be more environmentally friendly if we can change this process.”
Keep them focused and moving ahead, and you won’t have to deal with the drama.