When I first got married to Karen, I would run the moment she started to cry. If there was one tear rolling down her face, I was giving in and doing whatever I could to make her feel better. Early in my Army career I would do the same thing, except it would look as if I was not speaking up for something that I knew needed to be done.
Like a lot of us, I was scared of the tension. I was scared that if I pushed the envelope of the conversation, whether with my wife or my organization, I was going to get myself into some sort of trouble. What I didn’t realize is that tension creates opportunity for the amazing.
Good tension, the type of tension that happens between people pursuing the same goal, can change the face of an organization. Simply put. you need tension in your life, and here are the top five reasons why:
1. Tension forces us to be uncomfortable. When I think of the uncomforting feelings that come with tension, I am often reminded of the jeans that were a little too small. Either you’ll lose the weight or you’ll buy bigger jeans, but no matter what, something has to change.
2. Tension reminds people of passion. Typically, tension arises when two people on the same team have two ways to get to the same goal. Passionate discussion often leads to passionate outcomes. I hope I never get to a place where I lose my passion and, as a result, lose the desire to speak my piece.
3. Tension creates new pictures. When two people are passionately working through a problem, new pictures are formed. Without the tension, it can be hard to create a new (and improved) vision. Remember, the best fruit is out on a limb.
4. Tension reminds us to grow. Often times I will say, “We have to live into the tension,” and what I mean is that sometimes the best thing we can do is sit in the tension so that we can evaluate it. The strongest relationships and organizations happen when we grow from the tension of our differences.
5. The Gospel is full of tension. The way Jesus lived His life mandated tension. From not answering the disciples questions, to challenging the status quo, and, eventually, to challenging us to live in Kingdom-thinking versus worldly thinking. Because of our own failures, we will always live in the tension of what Jesus did for us, and that is just unavoidable.
A good leader must always be aware of the difference between tension and conflict. While they both can be beneficial, it always comes back to the idea that with tension we are on the same team. When your organization or your personal relationship can create good tension, the outcome is nothing short of miraculous.