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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.


333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States


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News & Articles

November 30, 2023 | John Pagliuca

A Little Tension Does Your Team Good

When harnessed effectively, tension can be a powerful tool for driving innovation, fostering creativity, and improving decision-making.

Accountability and transparency are paramount when it comes to creating a strong company culture. But what about adding a healthy dose of tension in the mix?

Not just any tension, because that could lead to unneeded, unwanted stress. I’m talking about the type of healthy tension that drives us forward, keeps us motivated, and challenges us to work together to achieve a goal.

To quote the famous football coach Chuck Noll, “Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing.” Teams devolve from tension to pressure when they don’t have clear answers or direction. A lack of transparency will lead to no accountability, and we all know how that ends.

On the other hand, when harnessed effectively, tension can be a powerful tool for driving innovation, fostering creativity, and improving decision making.

So how do we create healthy tension in our organizations? Here’s my rundown:

Bring On Diverse Perspectives to Get Better Solutions

Tension often arises when team members hold different perspectives, or ideas about a particular issue or project. Rather than avoiding these conflicts, embrace them. Diverse viewpoints are a gold mine for your team and the customers you serve.

When team members engage in constructive debates, they bring unique insights and experiences to the table. This diversity of thought can lead to more comprehensive, effective solutions.

By encouraging open dialogue and respecting different opinions, your team can uncover innovative approaches that might have otherwise been hidden. Over time, these discussions can build stronger bonds as team members collectively work toward shared goals.

Encourage Continuous Learning

Tension can serve as a powerful motivator for self-improvement and continuous learning. When team members challenge each other’s ideas or methods, it pushes everyone to stay informed about industry trends, best practices, and emerging technologies.

The desire to defend one’s perspective or approach can drive individuals to do their homework and present well-informed arguments. This kind of tension fosters an environment where team members are more likely to invest in their own professional development, ultimately benefiting the entire organization.

Promote Greater Accountability

A catalyst for so many things, tension also is a natural mechanism for accountability within your team. When individuals feel a sense of responsibility for their ideas and decisions, they are more likely to be engaged in and take ownership of their work.

John Pagliuca of N-able

John Pagliuca

Accountability is essential for delivering high-quality services and maintaining client satisfaction in an industry as dynamic and fast-paced as managed services.

Enhance Decision Making

I’m a huge advocate for effective decision making. It’s a cornerstone of any successful organization — and an action good leaders must encourage in their teams. Used with good intent, healthy tension will work to improve decision making by encouraging your team members to thoroughly evaluate options, weigh pros and cons, and make the business case.

When decisions are fully vetted, they tend to be more thought out and robust. A healthy level of deliberation is good for the business, prompting team members to consider potential risks and alternative solutions before committing to a course of action.

Lean Into Innovation

Innovation often thrives in an environment where opportunities and challenges are ever present. When team members challenge the status quo and question existing practices, it creates fertile ground for innovation.

Harnessing this type of tension can push your team to think outside of the box, experiment with new technologies, and explore unconventional solutions to problems. By fostering a culture of innovation, you position your organization to stay ahead in a competitive landscape and continue performing while moving forward together.

Avoid Groupthink

Groupthink is a waste of time and works against innovation. Unfortunately, it’s common in a lot of companies where team members prioritize consensus over critical thinking.

Embracing tension, and encouraging open and honest communication can help your team avoid the trap of groupthink.

Bottom line, strong leaders recognize that a little tension among their talent can go a long way for all the right reasons. It produces better results and gives way to continuous business transformation.

The next time you see the room heat up with passionate employees, don’t park the discussion. Fuel it as a force for positive gains, potential change, and growth. Remember, it’s not about avoiding conflict; it’s about using that energy — the healthy tension — as a catalyst for excellence, transparency, accountability, and progress.

John Pagliuca is CEO of N-able.

Image: iStock

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