Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to work with many different leadership teams. Here is what I have discovered:

  1. Many of today’s leaders are not equipped with the tools to engage in tough conversations as a team.
  2. It is difficult for some team members to:
    • Not get defensive
    • Take things personally
    • Attack one another
    • Disengage from the conversation or
    • Engage in office politics
  3. Teams lack interpersonal skills needed to have creative tension in discussions to create a better outcome.

Many of us have likely witnessed these events, conversations that don’t happen but need to, one-sided conversations, a team member dominating a meeting, someone losing their temper, or perhaps a team member who shuts down and withdraws. None of these create robust dialogue and healthy communication.

I believe in order to drive the maximum results, the leader and his team must be able to engage in a dialogue that is filled with creative tension. I like to show how this works with a demonstration using a large rubber band. Here’s how it works. Imagine a rubber band that is loosely stretched. Without any tension in the rubber band it will not be able to do the job it was designed for, it will not hold things together.

Now, imagine a rubber band that is stretched almost to the breaking point. Visualize that if another ounce of pressure were put on it, it would break rendering it useless.

Somewhere in-between is the sweet spot. It is not static, but a range. It is the place where there is just enough give and take for the tension in the rubber band to create energy to do what it was designed to do, hold things together.  

In order to have an effective Leadership Team, creative tension lays at the foundation.  

So how do you get it? Simple but not easy.

  1. Create Trust
  2. Develop Relationships
  3. Curb Politics on the Leadership Team

To create trust, use a tool like Insights Discovery. Start by having the team write down a recent breakdown in communication that happened with someone on the team. If they don’t have a breakdown that will tell you something! Next have them review their Strengths and Possible Weakness from their profile to see if perhaps the breakdown was fueled by a strength overused or a possible weakness. Have a discussion about the breakdown. Using the Insights Discovery Profile further, have the team share their top three Strengths and Weaknesses, their top three Communication Do’s and Don’ts, their Value to the Team and a Possible Blind Spot. Create a team chart with these items on it. Pass this out to the team, assign a team member to bring this to all team meetings. Use this tool to call out one another’s behavior and to discover the “sweet spot” of creative tension for your Leadership Team.

This suggestion is what I call a, “Start to start” rather than, “The Solution”, because there isn’t a simple solution. Trust takes time to build and so do relationships. So leaders, set your teams up to succeed. Start today!