Fight and Flight

While the project manager I shadow at Vaudeville Ventures is highly task-oriented and effective in keeping her teams on task, the success of one of her teams are hindered by the internal issues of its members. A few weeks into my internship, the team that is creating the startup company, which consists of three execs and Molly, the project manager, asked if I’d be able to attend their daily 8:30-10am production meetings. Through this experience, I have been able to witness some gaps in effectiveness. I will say, my participation at the production meetings has made it easier to stay up to date on the progress of the startup as well as be assigned research tasks for the team. However, I’ve seen a team that is made up of wildly different personalities run into some clashes that made the project less successful.

For starters, because of the execs’ different schedules, commitments to other clients, and their own lives, the meetings usually start at least twenty minutes late every day. It may seem like a small chunk of time, but the production meeting was put into place in order to get an hour and a half of uninterrupted time together with the team in order to complete time sensitive tasks. As the summer goes on and the launch date of October is looming over us, it is apparent that this ineffectiveness has a negative impact on the project in the long run. When the whole group isn’t present or they don’t start talking about the tasks they’d like to complete that day or week until after 9am, they’re losing a couple hours per week that they can’t afford to lose. If they got on task sooner and held each other accountable for being on time and making sure to hit deadlines they set for themselves, they’d accomplish a lot more, as well as avoid a lot of the stress that comes with lack of productivity.

Along the same vein, the group is less effective when they’re impatient with one another. I’ve witnessed some awkward clashes between two execs when they disagree or make half-jokes/half-insults towards one another. Sometimes the arguments are practical and concern a decision about the project – which is understandable and part of running a business – but a few times, the clashes have been sarcastic jabs at one another that leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. I would define their style of problem solving as “fight and flight.” First, the altercation (the fight) occurs, then, they try to escape it by ignoring it altogether (the flight). Instead of communicating with each other to solve the issue, they look to the project manager to simply move to the next task and get everyone’s mind off the altercation. Molly handles it well, and usually they move on and forget the reason they were just angry at one another, but I see it as harmful in the long run for the team. Grudges have boiled up and will continue to boil up if they don’t address their differences head on – and that might mean one on one discussions instead of in front of the entire group of five.

While I can’t solve differences of personality in a few recommendations, I know I can say that these kinds of altercations only get worse over time if they’re not addressed. The execs have been working together for over five years at Vaudeville, and years longer at their previous company, so they know each other well enough to be able to give and receive constructive criticism without insulting each other. As a new business that is planning for five years from now, they are going to need to able to address disagreements and compromise with one another rather than shoving these moments under the rug if they want to be successful in the long run.