Tag Archives: experts

How to Tell Creative Tension From Team Bickering

Author: Wayne Turmel, bnet.comReading the rather contentious comments back and forth between two readers on a recent blog post (check out How to Write Emails That Will Get Read) got me thinking. The life of a project or line manager would be so much better if the team just got along and never argued with each other. Right? Not necessarily. Blind agreement can be almost as destructive to your team’s success as ugly friction.

There are times when you feel like a parent on a long car trip. You just want to turn around and yell, “If I have to stop this project and turn around, you’re both in big trouble!” Before you step in between team members, though, you might want to take a deep breath and see what’s really going on. Here are four traits to look for that differentiate creative tension (i.e., positive, constructive differences of opinion) from unproductive bickering (the workplace equivalent of your kids calling each other a big cootie head).

  1. Is the argument about the work? Smart people don’t always agree on the right way to approach a problem, so disagreement is the only way for differing opinions to get a fair hearing. As the manager, watch the tone and the language choices. If the wording (spoken or written) is about the project, you’ll see inclusive, positive language: “our outcomes,” “project success,” “what this means to the department is….” If it’s getting personal and petty,  you’ll hear “you guys in QC,” or “Here you go again.” In simple terms, personal language means it’s getting personal.
  2. Are people asking you and others to pick sides? Public disagreement, whether on email or on wikis and blogs, might be unseemly. But you know you really have a problem when you as the manager start to receive private emails asking you to side with one party or the other. Don’t get sucked into the middle of it. First, have them talk to each other. If you think they can keep it civil, air the conversation in a more public forum like a discussion thread, so they can get input from others. Moderate if you have to, and watch for inappropriate behavior like name calling.
  3. Is it impacting the quality of outcomes? Your team doesn’t have to be best friends, and sometimes competition and one-upsmanship can lead to great work. When timelines get missed, or the quality of work suffers, however, it’s time to speak to both parties together – out of earshot of the rest of the team. If you have to, speak to them together and listen to what they have to say.Make sure they’re focused on the work and they know how their dispute impacts the team and their work overall.
  4. How’s your blood pressure? You as leader have to monitor your own reactions, as well as those of the team. Is the tension starting to impact others? Are they commenting on it to you privately? What’s your personal tolerance for conflict? When you have to step in, make sure you talk about not only the behavior you’re seeing but how it impacts you, the team, and the outcome of the project.



Turmel, Wayne. “How to Tell Creative Tensions From Team Bickering.” On Leadership: Management and strategy ideas from executives and thought leaders. CBS Interactive Inc., 26 Mar. 2010. Web. 31 Mar. 2010. <http://blogs.bnet.com/management/?p=665&tag=nl.e713>.

Business Roundtable Launches Broad-based Commission to Address Needs of American Workers

The Springboard Project will recommend how to best equip the current and future U.S. workforce for success in the post-recession economy

Washington, D.C. – Today Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. corporations, announced the launch of The Springboard Project – an independent commission that will develop innovative approaches to help American workers acquire the new skills and the education needed to thrive in the 21st century’s evolving labor market. The commission, which will bring together a diverse group of education and business leaders, labor experts, union chiefs, academics, foundation heads and government representatives, is holding its first meeting today in Washington, D.C.

“Given the transformations in the current economy and the long-term impact they will have, this is the moment for business and government to join forces with labor and the online community to make sure that our workforce has the training and resources to meet the demands of an ever-changing marketplace,” said William D. Green, chairman & CEO of Accenture and chairman of The Springboard Project. “I am looking forward to working with such an esteemed and talented set of experts to tackle the unique challenges the American worker faces today and will continue to face even after the recession passes.”

Today’s meeting will officially kick off The Springboard Project’s nine-month mandate to develop innovative and feasible recommendations to the Obama administration, Congress, the private sector, labor and individuals.

“American business leaders are optimistic about the future of our economy and the long-term prospects of American workers,” said Harold McGraw III, Chairman of Business Roundtable and Chairman, President and CEO of The McGraw-Hill Companies. “America’s talented workforce and strong history of innovation have helped us overcome economic hardship before, and we have assembled some of the nation’s best minds to help identify practical and productive ways to ensure today’s workers are equipped to help us succeed again.”

The Springboard Project will:

  • Assess current government services for those looking for work, education and training examine model programs commission research
  • Identify how to harness technology and other resources to help students and workers better adapt to labor market changes so they can secure and maintain employment throughout their working lives

The Springboard Project will issue its recommendations at the end of 2009.

More information about The Springboard Project can be found at www.businessroundtable.org/springboard.


Business Roundtable. Business Roundtable Launches Broad-based Commission to Address Needs of American Workers. Business Roundtable Resource Center. Kirk Monroe, 13 Mar. 2009. Web. 17 Nov. 2009.


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