I get called in to work with some teams who are battling some pretty dysfunctional dynamics. Don’t get me wrong, I also get to work with a lot of teams that are doing really WELL and want to get better! But occasionally when I’m working with a group that’s maybe a bit “in between” or with a leader who isn’t quite 100% comfortable either with their role or with the team dynamics, I’ll hear a phrase that always makes me cringe a bit, “Just don’t dig too deep.”
While I absolutely understand the deep discomfort that can be caused by doing the deeper work of diagnosing dysfunction, uncovering hard truths about where things are going off the rails, and the vulnerability, patience, and extensive time and energy it often takes to heal all of this…I’m also puzzled, frustrated, and downright dismayed when I hear this.
This work takes courage, my friends. If you’re serious about making a change in your team, altering the dynamics in your organization, or setting a new course for your industry, you’re going to have to dig. DEEP. Get your pickaxe and shovel, grab one of those giant boring drills if needed, strap on your steel toe boots, and get after it. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.
So how do you get past this initial reluctance to get too deep? Truthfully, it depends on where you are in the organizational structure relative to the changes that need to be made. If you’re the lead decision-maker, you can start by examining the fears that come up when you think about what might be uncovered. Take it from general concerns over work disruption, possible hurt feelings, and discomfort, and get really granular. Are you afraid to hear some hard truths about yourself? Are you worried you might lose some team members? Is it genuinely not the right time in your work cycle to do this work? (I might argue you on that last point- it’s never going to feel like you’ve got tons of time for this, but it will cost you way more time in the long run if you don’t address it early on!) This will help you figure out what is causing you to hesitate, and then you can decide what you want to do with it from there. Maybe you really aren’t ready. But maybe you really are, and you just need to commit to it with some extra courage.
If you’re not the lead decision-maker, it will show up differently for you. You might be working for someone who is hesitant to dig too deep. Maybe you’re feeling frustrated with that unwillingness, or maybe you’re secretly glad because, hey- you’re really busy and you just might learn that you have some areas of improvement, too. In either case (or any other), you’re at a decision point of your own. A quick assessment of what’s possible will help. Can you have a courageous conversation with your leader to maybe influence the depth of the work? Is there someone you can team up with to establish a more trusting environment to maybe pave the way for some of the conversations? Is it better to bide your time? Maybe the exact reminder that maybe you didn’t want but actually need to start looking for your next adventure? If you can stay open yourself and do a little deep-digging of your own, you’ll uncover the answer.
Next time you find yourself or hear someone in your sphere talk about not wanting to dig too deep, it’s a great time to get curious. It will take courage, but that deeper examination is what will drive the transformation you need so you can get the results you want.