In my experience on creative teams, I have found that active engagement is the “special sauce” for breakthrough realizations. Fighting is a good thing. Passionate viewpoints spawn heated discussions. And if one person starts to detach, the chemistry of the entire team suffers.For this reason, apathy – the state of not caring – is dangerous. As leaders, we must fiercely defend the chemistry of our teams. When you see any degree of apathy, you must address it.Consider a few approaches for confronting apathy:
1. Call it out.
When a colleague disengages during a heated discussion or difficult project, call him or her out on it. Sometimes we lose focus without realizing it, and we rely on our team to bring us back. Simply asking, “Are you following me? Does this make sense?” Or asking for feedback on the process itself might solve the problem. If you fail to call it out, you will find that apathy is contagious.
2. Talk it out.
Apathy often has roots that run deep. Sometimes it is a personal issue that is causing the turmoil. Other times it is a disagreement or a miscommunication between team members. Whatever it is, it will only become worse without discussing it. Teams should foster an open atmosphere where people can discuss tensions as a way of resolving them.
3. Introduce new challenges & pose new questions.
Sometimes apathy can be traced to a lack of feeling challenged. Behance’s Chief of Design, Matias Corea, suggests adding new challenges into the mix as a way of re-engaging checked-out team members.
Another cause of distraction or disengagement can be simply getting lost amidst discussion. Perhaps a team member has lost track of the major question being answered. Or, alternatively, maybe the question never made sense in the first place. The easy solution is to simply pose the question again in a new way. Simply reframing the topic at hand can often re-engage everyone.