Manage These 3 Tensions for a Healthy Team

Manage These 3 Tensions for a Healthy Team

Imagine you have a meeting coming up where you and your teammates will gather to discuss the upcoming quarter. Which scenario feels most likely to occur in your current work environment?

  • Scenario 1 – You’re dreading the meeting because you don’t always feel like you can trust your teammates, and you fear that you’ll get thrown under the bus if you let your guard down. Innovation and creativity are stifled, and overall, people are just focused on completing their work, rather than achieving excellence.
  • Scenario 2 -Everyone is nice and feels like they belong, but when you’re all in a meeting it feels like an echo chamber. Without diverse opinions, you’re doing the same things simply because it’s how you’ve always done them. Expectations are sometimes clear, but not always.
  • Scenario 3 -You have fun together, and you feel safe bringing your true self to work while also thriving in a culture of high performance. People are challenged to develop and grow into their best selves in a guided, healthy way.

If you’re like most professionals, you can identify with aspects of each of these scenarios. At some point in your career, you’ve likely felt the frustration of working in a culture like scenario #1 or #2 and have felt a longing to experience the collaborative power of scenario #3.

You’ve searched everywhere for the solution. You’ve listened to podcasts, read the best-sellers and tried to implement their promised quick fixes. Yet, this hasn’t worked because the reality is there are no easy answers. In fact, when it comes to team effectiveness, it is less about a silver bullet solution – and more about identifying and managing three unavoidable tensions.

The three tensions that you’ll find on every team are:

#1 – Acceptance AND Accountability – Over-focusing on accountability results in a culture of micromanagement and fear.  Over-focusing on acceptance results in people not being challenged to be their best.  Finding healthy tension between accountability and acceptance is the path to a culture of productivity and trust.

#2 – Working Collaboratively AND Working Independently – Over-focusing on collaboration results in people not having the freedom and recognition needed to thrive.  Over-focusing on working independently results in silos, disconnected parts, and a divided culture.  Finding healthy tension between collaboration and independence creates the kind of alignment that is needed to win!

#3 – Task AND Relationship – Over-focusing on task accomplishment results in people feeling like they are just a cog in a machine.  Over-focusing on workplace relationships results in a lack of focus and deadlines being missed.  Finding healthy tension between task and relationship is a winning combination that maximizes engagement.

When you book our Healthy Teams workshop, you’ll learn about these tensions, and how the best teams are leveraging them to their advantage.  To request a free proposal to bring this team-building program to your workplace, click here.

At Leaders for Leaders, we’ve seen these three tensions make or break every team we’ve worked with, from small tech startups to the United Nations. Once your team stops ignoring or avoiding these tensions, and instead understands and leverages them, everything starts to change. Your team starts to work!


Tim Arnold is passionate about helping teams and leaders gain the confidence and skills needed to thrive.  He is the author of the book: The Power of Healthy Tension, and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can overcome chronic issues and conflicting values.

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