Handling team changes: Lessons from ‘The X Factor’ and other talent competitions

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With the proliferation of TV singing competitions, there’s increased pressure on the shows’ producers to snag the highest-quality talent as judges. While 10 years ago it may have been tough to get a C-list star to sit in the judge’s seat, these days these shows are launching new careers or re-launching dwindling ones.

Recently, a major game of musical chairs was played among many of the talent-competition shows, with judges being swapped in and out in the blink of an eye. “American Idol,” which lost Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, just announced Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban as their replacements. “The X Factor” created buzz when it traded Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger for Demi Lovato and Britney Spears in the hopes of higher ratings. And next season, “The Voice” will temporarily replace Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera with Shakira and Usher, due to the former stars’ scheduling conflicts.

With all eyes on these new judges to see how they’ll perform, the returning judges can get lost in the background. It can’t be easy being a veteran judge, having to deal with new people, personalities and ideas. The same is true for workers dealing with changes to their team. Change is never easy, and once you get into a rhythm with other team members, any disruption can cause angst. But change is inevitable, and if you can be nimble, you’ll be better off in the long run.

Here are some lessons to be learned from popular singing competitions on dealing with changes to your team.

Step up as a leader
While attention may be temporarily shifted to new team members, don’t take it personally. In fact, think of it as an opportunity to emerge as a leader. Randy Jackson has been on “American Idol” since its debut. When Simon Cowell — another original judge and the unspoken leader of the group — left and new judges joined, Jackson stepped into Cowell’s role and helped keep the judging running smoothly. Similarly, your new teammates will need help getting up-to-speed on projects, so offer to act as their guide. Your boss will not only appreciate the help, but he’ll also see that you’re capable of being a manager and leader.

Be open to new ideas
When “The X Factor” debuted in the U.S. last year, there were high hopes that it would be a huge success. While it did well, the ratings weren’t as stellar as expected. So for the second season, the show shook things up and brought on new judges that have star power, reach different demographics and appeal to a broader audience. Not only are they breathing new life into the show, but they’re also bringing new perspectives to the judging table, opening the show up to new talent that it may not have previously considered.

Think of any changes to your team in the same way. While it may be easy to get offended by the notion that additional team members have been added because your ideas were becoming stale, think about it as an opportunity to grow as a team and an individual. Sometimes, the status quo can cause complacency, which can harm both your work and your career growth. Interjecting new ideas and perspectives into the mix can push you to be better and work harder. When that happens, everybody wins.    

Consider temporary changes
“The Voice” has a demanding shooting schedule, because it’s airing two seasons back-to-back. Rather than lose Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera all together, it’s letting them miss a season to meet their other commitments. If you’re in a similar situation, and you find yourself juggling too many projects, consider handing off some of the work to a teammate until things become more manageable. While it may be hard to give up a project out of fear that you may lose it all together, it’s better than getting so overwhelmed that your work suffers. Your boss will respect the fact that you’re willing to raise your hand and ask for help rather than let things slide.

Think about what’s best for the team
While you should always think about what’s best for your professional advancement, you won’t advance your career if you aren’t also thinking about the greater good of the team. Don’t let your ego prevent you from cooperating with new teammates just because you think you could do their job better. By dealing effectively with team change, and seeing it as an opportunity instead of a roadblock, you’ll no doubt find success.

Here’s to hoping all three competitions succeed in finding the next big singing superstars.

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