These Tensions Make Us Great
It was night already, I had just finished a meeting when I got a call. “I’m really upset.” Carla said with her very obvious upset voice. “Is it true that you allowed this?” she asked.
“Yup?” I said. “Why? What’s the problem?”
“This thing is not inline with our values.”
“Why not?” and I proceeded to explain why I didn’t think we weren’t crossing any lines.
She replied with her own explanation of why I was wrong, and why we needed to correct what I had green-lighted. After some discussion, it became clear that she was right and I was wrong. So I admitted she was right, we agreed on the proper next steps, and then I called two other team members who were directly affected to clarify the situation. Then I took a cab to my next meeting, finished that, did my evening routine and went to bed.
The next day, at our daily 7:00am huddle (Yes, we start at 7:00am), I shared the incident with the team, owned up to my mistake, and commended Carla for confronting me. I did this so that every single member of the team would know that not only is it possible and accepted to correct your boss at Bridge, but welcomed. I want them to be using their brains. I want them to sharpen their minds and use them to sharpen mine. I want them to know that it’s not only safe to question but beneficial, that debating doesn’t have to be disrespectful but is an important part of discovery. And I want them to know that I’m not infallible, that I need every single one of them to step up, to become really smart, really strong, really courageous, really excellent, really hard working, and really wise for their customers, for each other, and for me.
I did this because I want them more loyal to our mission and values than to me. And I told them so. “Your loyalty is to Bridge not to me. And what is Bridge? It’s this team embracing one mission and sharing distinct values. If you find me doing things that don’t make work life better for others, correct me.”
I think they got the point. I hope they got that point.
But then I explained my next point, “These tensions make us great. These seeming contradictions, Jett pushing the sales to the edge, Carla pushing compliance, Eric pushing technology, Janna pushing process, all of us are pushing to make our diverse responsibilities work, to make sure we’re the best at our individual domains, because there’s no room for second best. Keep pushing your domain forward. And in our pushing on all fronts, naturally, tension will arise, and during this tension, we will need to learn how to come together and briskly discuss the pros and cons in light of our values and mission. We can’t just jump to conclusions. we can’t just fee bad or feel good. We need to explore what we’re facing. It’s this process of cooperation amidst conflict that leads to breakthrough. So let’s get used to it.
Be so excellent in your field that you can’t help but challenge each other. Be so clear with our mission and values that we can’t help but refine our decisions with them.
We’ll be more than fine. We’ll be great.”
I didn’t exactly say it that way (I tend to ad-lib), but those were my notes. t hope they got that point too.
It’s these tensions that make us great. It’s these challenges that we overcome that lead to mastery, and mastery leads to confidence. I’m glad I have growth-oriented people pushing the boundaries. And I’m glad that the conflicts are settled with conviction and cooperation. I’m confident that someday when the world looks back, it will be glad that we did.