Innovate 2017 Takeaways: How to Create a Drama-Free Work Environment


Innovate 2017 had so many incredible speakers that it can be hard to recall all the great information shared during the conference. To solve that problem, we’re providing lecture summaries from some of the speakers who took part in the Financial Leadership Track. Davidoff’s session on eliminating workplace drama was one to remember.

Who is Davidoff?

John and Jacki Davidoff run Davidoff, a company that specializes in transforming businesses’ organizational systems, mechanics, psychology and culture to optimize performance.

Who are John and Jacki?


With 35 years of experience working with local, national and international nonprofit, philanthropic foundation, association, municipality and business organizations, John Davidoff is recognized as a leader in strategic planning, marketing and communications strategy, thought leadership, and business development. He is the architect of Davidoff’s proprietary Mission-Driven Strategy & Marketing methodology. See full bio here.  


Jacki Davidoff is an accomplished management executive. She bridges both corporate and non-profit sectors. Her background includes 30 years in leading national advertising agencies and senior executive positions in Chicagoland nonprofits. Jacki has strong expertise in marketing, strategy, and corporate/philanthropic partnerships. Read her full bio here.

What does Davidoff do?

Davidoff uses their Mission-Driven™ methodology to transform organizations, increase the effectiveness of their operational mechanics and improve the psychology of their culture. They provide strategic planning, marketing and communication strategies, sales management, fundraising and resource development. They’ve worked with everyone from the American Cancer Society and Blessings in a Backpack, to the National Museum of the American Indian, Ocean Conservancy and many more.

What did their presentation cover?

Their session, titled “Creating Drama-Free Workplaces with Mission-Driven Leadership” covered different tactics that allow organizations to become better aligned in order to more effectively serve their ultimate mission.

Session objectives included:

  • How organizations can rid themselves of negative drama
  • How to create more genuine, cohesive teams
  • How to focus and align teams and stakeholders to the larger mission, goals and outcomes
  • How to read people (and yourself) by increasing social and emotional intelligence

Mission-Driven Organizations

Davidoff’s goal is to transform businesses into mission-driven organizations. The question is : what exactly does a mission-driven organization look like? According to Davidoff, these organizations have a clarity of purpose. They are energized and proactive with a growth mindset. They employ curious, inspirational problem solvers and ensure that the values of the organization are fully aligned with the ultimate vision, and they foster effective collaboration.

Mission-Challenged Organizations

In contrast to the mission-drive organization, there are many organizations whose structures are weak. And because of that, they experience unnecessary challenge on a regular basis. These “mission-challenged” organizations focus on operations at the expense of their mission. They chase money and are resistant to change. Consequently, these organizations experience a lack of mission awareness and foster a “dead culture” that avoids responsibility and operates in isolated, communication silos.

The Engagement Continuum

One of the most interesting sections of the presentation was “The Engagement Continuum” — a term coined by Dr. Bob Wright that outlines the varying levels of engagement in an organization.

Bob Wright effectively explains the continuum on his website:

“On the left side of the spectrum, you’re on the phone with your client and they can hear you click-click-clicking away as you browse the Internet while they drone on. Likewise, maybe last week, you showed up to a meeting, but you didn’t participate. Maybe you were half-listening, but your mind was on your next client, everything else you had to do that day, or where you wanted to go for lunch.

In these examples, you’re disengaged.

On the right side of the spectrum, you have honesty and openness. You’re engaged in every client interaction. You care about making a connection with your individual client: learning who they are and understanding their yearnings and desires. You can see the ways they want to be known and make a difference, and they can see the ways you want to be known and make a difference.

You’re communicating. You’re engaged.”

The Drama Triangle

The Drama Triangle was another important concept covered by Davidoff during the presentation. This concept was created by Dr. Stephen Karpman to describe the destructive interactions that occur between people in a conflict. There are three characters that play a role in this phenomenon.

The Victim – This is someone who feels victimized, hopeless and powerless in situations of conflict. They pity themselves and ultimately seek out a “Rescuer” to help them with the problems they’re having with the “persecutor.” Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the problem as the Rescuer’s intervention only perpetuates the victim’s negative feelings.

The Rescuer – The Rescuer’s tagline is “let me help you.” They’re enablers. These people feel guilty if they’re not rescuing others and they don’t realize that their intervention is having negative effects on the Victim and on themselves. When these people get involved in other people’s affairs, it’s usually to ignore their own anxieties.

The Persecutor –  The Persecutor blames everything on other people. They are controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior.

How to Avoid the Drama Triangle at Your Office

Davidoff offers several different tactics to avoid The Drama Triangle. It’s important to identify the roles that you and other people in the office are playing so that you can work on fixing them. Encourage others to be on the lookout for drama and call it out when they see it.

Davidoff also stresses the importance of humor in these situations. Don’t take things so seriously and remember that the whole team is in on this effort together. They encourage different role players to shift themselves physically out of the role. For example: if you’re a persecutor, smile more. If you’re a victim, stand up straighter and with more confidence. Finally, do not withhold emotions. Acknowledge when you feel frustrated, sad or hurt.

This was a special session and JMT would like to thank Davidoff for sharing their expertise on a variety of different strategies that can help nonprofits operate as effectively as possible.