Competing Tensions


Did you happen to watch the Republican AND the Democratic National Conventions? While I certainly do not seek to initiate a political commentary, it is remarkable to note how differently the state of our economy, foreign affairs, safety, health, the environment, and our values can be viewed by diverse groups of educated leaders. Both sides want us to believe that their way is the ‘Right Way’ and their opponents way is the ‘Wrong Way.’ While some of us may lean strongly to the left or the right, I think it is critically important to respect others’ opinions and simply acknowledge that not everything is as ‘black and white’ as the political pundits may want us to believe.

When it comes to business, I do not recommend following the example of our political process. Most issues that we deal with are not necessarily a problem to be solved, but rather a tension to be managed. Can we focus on Cost AND Quality? Is it possible to deliver on the Mission AND achieve the Margin? Might some situations require Directive Leadership AND Influential Leadership? Are we better off Centralizing common services AND Decentralizing others? And, more personally, is it possible to balance Work AND Life activities?

These are just a few of the limitless tensions individuals manage within their respective organizations. Neither side of the competing tension is ‘bad’ AND in many cases, the potential exists to ‘have our cake…and eat it too.’ I encourage organizations and individuals to assess and develop strategies that maximize the potential benefits of BOTH sides of a competing tension while minimizing the downside consequences.

When faced with your next ‘problem’, ask yourself if it is a problem to be solved, or a tension to be managed. Such reflection may just open up an entirely new set of possibilities while demonstrating an open-mind to consider what once seemed like competing solutions. Now, if we could only get the politicians to follow suit. CEEK…a Better Way®!