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1.3 Tension Triggers

No one wakes up thinking, I think I’ll go to work and disengage…or what can I do to stop innovation and collaboration?

That would be crazy.

Instead, let’s look at what we do on a day to day basis when we are at our best, our day-to-day Best Practices that get ideas flowing, build momentum, and generate quality decisions, so results happen.

Let’s paint a picture of what happens.

Take a minute and think about you and your team on a really
good day. You all are working at your best. It is the best
meeting you have participated in all year. What do you notice?
What do you see in the meeting? What do you hear? What do
you feel?

You might see people: 

• Actively listening
• Speaking honestly
• Encouraging/coaching others
• Focused participation
• Asking good questions
• Being open-minded to diverse input
• Challenging perspectives

What gets in the way of this? Life, right? Life has stress. Life
has pressure. You have deadlines to meet, resources to manage, bosses to satisfy. You have personal stress – aging parents,
young kids, volunteer activities that demand your time and energy. Life happens!

For example, you get an email from a co- worker who “promised to have the deliverable to you at 8:00 a.m.” that you’ve been counting on, and it turns out that she is going to miss the deadline. Again. So, you call her up, and all she says to you is, “we are working on it, and I’ll let you know.”

We feel the inevitable pressure and stress of our lives – and
that pressure and stress becomes tension. Our bodies feel the
tension and the sense that it is danger – something to escape –
something to survive – something to end.

So, what happens?

What happens when you realize you are not going to meet your deadline, and you have to call the client? What happens in that situation, when we experience stress, tension, danger? Are we more apt to respond from “best practice mode” or “survival mode?”

 What is survival mode? It’s the physiological response that is
wired deep in our DNA to react to tension, fear, danger – our
bodies equip themselves to survive.

• The adrenal glands produce adrenalin to provide energy.
New research says that our bones produce hormones that
strengthen the skeletal system.
• The focus of the brain moves from the back to the front of
the brain. Our senses become heightened; pupils dilate to
improve sight.
• Hearing and the sense of smell become more acute.
• Blood is bought back to the heart, filled with oxygen, and
then back to the extremities.

Why? Our bodies are getting ready to make us safe again, and we
are getting ready for flight or fight – survival.

What are some of the things people say/do when they are in flight mode?

• Disengage
• Stop listening
• Check out/check email
• Avoid issues
• Comply/Acquiesce
• Don’t speak up
• Don’t ask questions
• Nod our head yes, when we mean no

Now you are starting to see some of the things people do because of tension, and how that equates to that huge disengagement number of 70 to 87%. A major reason we disengage is because of pressure, tension, and the stress we feel daily.

So now you see the range of interactions from Flight to Best
Practice to Fight mode.
We need to operate in this middle area we call the Arena, where
we are truly effective, instead of our Comfort Zone of Flight or

What are some of the things that people do in fight mode?

• Withhold info
• Take charge/take over/dominate
• Defensive
• Resist input
• Assume buy-in
• Control
• Do all the talking
• Forceful with opinions
• Don’t listen
• Don’t ask questions
• Force issues
• Shut down discussions

So now you see the range of interactions from Flight to Best
Practice to Fight mode. We need to operate in this middle area we call the Arena, where we are truly effective, instead of our Comfort Zone of Flight or Fight.

Our Comfort Zones feel safe, familiar, natural – the problem is when we are in our Comfort Zone, we are ineffective.

We need to recognize when we are outside the Arena and do what is necessary to be truly effective instead of doing what feels
safe, easy, familiar, and natural.

Again, the problem is that we are ineffective when operating in a Comfort Zone of either Flight or Fight. We need to recognize when we are operating outside the Arena in our Comfort Zone, and also recognize when others are outside the Arena – and then help them to enter the Arena, to manage the stress and the tension.

We want to develop these skills to be able to deliver growth through innovative, collaborative interactions and truly be “IN.”
This ability to Operate in the Arena where we are truly effective takes Courage.

What is Courage? Simply defined, courage is having the Competence – (Skills – you know what to do and how to do it) and Confidence (you know how to do it well) to do what makes you effective – not what makes you comfortable.

There are a couple of quotes from thought leaders on this topic that really bring this home. Dr. Brene Brown, who wrote “Daring
Greatly,” says:

“No corporation can thrive in the absence of creativity, innovation, and change, and the greatest threat to these is

Seth Godin has also written about this topic.

Throughout the upcoming modules and workshop, we are going to talk about what it means to show up physically, mentally, emotionally – not only yourself but what can you do to help others show up and contribute what they were hired to contribute.

We will identify and practice the skills necessary to speak honestly and with respect so that you communicate your thought and ideas clearly and succinctly in a way that promotes collaboration rather than shutting it down.

We will look at what it means to ‘listen to understand’ rather than ‘listen to reply.’ How important it is to listen with all of your

We will talk about how to Frame discussions around desired outcomes vs. problems, people, or blame – to open possibilities and maximize opportunities.

And we’ll talk it about how to “Open it Up” – the skills to dig deep and get beneath surface issues to understand the real underlying needs and foster more creative solutions.