Your Zombie Apocalypse Team: The Good, The Bad, The UglySurvival Group Dynamics - 05.16.2012
(…or 7 Habits of Highly Effective ZPN Teams)
There’s nothing more annoying than surviving mayhem, near dehydration and starvation, and relentless undead hordes, than to have deal with group drama or a pissing contest with your group’s (self-appointed) alpha (esp. for girls cuz aiming is not as easy).
In every group, there will be some good, some bad and surely some ugliness. Each person will have strengths and weaknesses and you may have limited choices about what group you join and who is part of it. Here are 7 habits/issues to consider to help your awkward team from pre-emptively killing each other before anyone actually gets bitten. How your team handles these issues could very well affect how long your team / you stay alive and how AWESOME ZA life will be.
Yes, even though office departments, sports teams, sororities, and political action committees have all gone the way of the rotten flesh, you’re not going to get away from having to “communicate effectively” (apologies for the profanity). Why? Cuz it’s how you’re going to get anything done! You’ll need to discuss plans, goals, interpersonal issues, contingencies, risks, logistics etc. Some people completely miss the whole awesomeness of ZA and stress or freak out — both of which can impair their hearing, memory, logic and cognitive skills and not to mention, tempt you to consider target practice on them. While we can’t help you with your drama king/queen/doosh’s intelligence (or lack thereof), we can help you tolerate them by doing the following when you talk to them:
- Listen without interrupting (don’t sit there rapidly going through all the things you want to respond with while nodding condescendingly)
- Confirm your understanding of what was said (e.g. what I think you’re saying is… did I get that right?)*
- Ask clarifying questions, ask for examples (e.g. so what do you mean by “bat sh!t crazy?”)*
- FINALLY, think about your response and then share it as objectively as possible (well I agree with X/Y/Z of what you said, but I think…. )*
*this is also a good time to start lowering your voice and speaking slower. Deepening your voice helps too and lean back or step back. By (re)setting the volume and pace of the conversation and changing your body position, you can bring the drama down a notch. It also helps keep you from smacking them upside the head (usually/hopefully).
Staying alive is a good one to start with (lightbulb!). If this (hopefully) extends to each group member, then certain aspects have to be maintained and shared (e.g. security, food/water, peace). While this goal seems quite obvious, it can easily be overshadowed by petty rivalries if its not continually and explicitly reinforced (usually the job of the leader). In a mildly stressful situation such as, you know, the Zombie APOCALYPSE, it’s easy for a person to despair/panic, get distracted, and think life is not worth living (clearly someone who forgot that the ZA is going to be AWESOME!). Having a group goal and having the group see progress towards that goal can motivate these whiney, cry-baby, runts… um, I mean, sensitive types to keep going, stay engaged, and most importantly, stay useful and alive. People are usually more willing to give up on themselves more easily than they are to let down others.
It is also important to have individual goals and to know each other’s, in order to motivate yourself and so each of you can remind each other of them when you’re feeling like your whole world has come to an end (which it has, of course, but the ZA is AWESOME!).
Do some. Divide the work. Yes, while we all will rejoice the freedom from 9-to-5 drudgery, it doesn’t mean there ain’t work to be done. Think of it as getting to “work remotely” or “work from home”.
Understand people’s skills and weaknesses and, where you can, divide the work based on people’s strengths. This sounds obvious but remember that you may not get to pick your ideal ZA team and end up stuck with a mixture of primadonas, spoiled brats, know-it-alls, and yes-men. You should also take into account personality strengths/tendencies. Some people are natural planners and organizers, others are relationship builders/keep the peace sorts of people. There are ways to observe people’s behavior and determine what kind of person they are and their social style (also handy for communication). One I find particularly interesting is a model by Merrill and Reid; read up on a summary here (they also published a book).
Having roles, responsibilities and accountability to each other give people a sense of purpose and worth, which helps if they start to forget the AWESOMENESS that is the Zombie Apocalypse. It conveniently also gets SH!T done and helps keep the drama in check.
Since you’re not getting paid for the work you put in to the ZA team, you better live it up as well. All work and no play… as the saying says. Of course, ZA play time will be better than the office-sanctioned “Happy Hour”, baseball game shindig or ice cream social, because you can run amuck and not get arrested. Get silly, have a food fight, hit a zombie pinata, go streakin’ (but carry a weapon at all times)… remind yourself of the AWESOMENESS of life, otherwise wtf do you get to be alive when the ZSHTF?
If you’re not in the mood for shenanigans, get some space. Climb a tree, go float in the middle of a lake (alive). Everyone, eventually, is going to want some private/quiet time (make sure you have a way to signal others though) to meditate on AWESOMENESS. Don’t waste your time keeping yourself alive just to be dead inside. It’s like being a zombie without neck-down “invincibility”. In a word, lame.
5. REDUNDANCY (CROSS-TRAINING)
Not to be redundant, but you should be redundant.
You know all that work you divvied up based on strengths/skills/personalities? More than one person should be able to do the same task/work. While it might be tempting and convenient to have people specialize (doctor does medical, soldier does killing), this can bite you in the butt (or the arm, the neck, the belly, anywhere flesh like). To use what will be a ZSHTF ancient phrase, “cross-training” will make your team more agile. The doc got hurt, no worries I can cauterize that wound for you… Daryl Dixon (aka AWESOME) is gone, no worries, I have my own home-made cross bow and arrows. The more cross-trained everyone is, the more options you have for scouting, heists, security, zombie ambushes, raves in former government buildings. It also keeps people learning and interacting; they’ll stay sharp. The division of work will also be more fair cuz no one’s necessarily stuck doing one thing. It might seem cool now to be THE katana guy/girl, but if that’s all you do… all the time… it could get old. (Ok, bad example… that would never get old. Maybe something like cutting wood?)
Have one. This is related to the whole idea of divided responsibilities. Chaos is fun and all but ya gotta eat sometime and someone’s gotta be on watch at the crow’s nest. In addition to having clear roles/jobs, there should be a structure, which is really the essence of civilization. Your team is bound to have differences and arguments, so you should have an agreed-upon way to settle it (before it happens and definitely before they just shoot each other… unless that’s your way of arbitration). How are you going to decide on a plan? When should someone be kicked out of the team cuz they’re dangerous and un-awesome? (Shane *cough*) Besides, it’s so much more awesome to go kill zombies than bicker about who gets to shake the big stick how many times.
Your team structure should be rigid but flexible enough to adjust to changing times. Majority vote is good and all, but if the zombie horde is 20 feet away, whoever makes the call, makes the call… or you can vote/abstain and be bait/Otis. I’m not saying this will be easy to establish but it’s something all teams should shoot for. It saves your brain cells for things like target practice and make them future gourmet fare for the discerning zombie
This might seem out of place in an article about teamwork but it’s important and it goes hand in hand with redundancy. If you can do what everyone else in the team can do, that helps the team. You know that whole, “you’re only as strong as your weakest… ” One might say this is what turns a team into an army. If you end up needing to lead, you can. You are essentially your own team, a microcosm of ZPNness. You are independent. And what’s awesome about that is… you level up to BAD ASS and if your team starts to fall apart or you get tired of the drama, you get out of Dodge and find yourself a better one and take your pick. In the mean time, your spirit quest will be AWESOME!
P.S. any of these factors actually have use in the pre-apocalyptic days, when the sh!t is in someone’s hand and not yet in the fan. Practice it on the office zombies, it works there too. Did we mention the Zombie Apocalypse is going to be AWESOME?