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Two Tests To Tag Tension For What It Is

I went to the gym yesterday morning and had a great workout. When my sons and I pulled into the parking lot at 6AM, the parking lot was pretty full. I didn’t think much about it until later.


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I grabbed a locker, threw my stuff in, and headed up to the room with all of the treadmills and elliptical machines. I spent thirty-five minutes on the treadmill, listening to a couple of podcasts while working up a decent sweat. Then I headed down to the weight room and did about twenty minutes working on a couple of different muscle groups.

What a great way to begin the day! But don’t worry. I’m not telling you this story to guilt you into starting to exercise. Although…it’s not a bad idea.

Remember when I said that the parking lot was pretty full when we arrived at 6AM? Did that surprise you? It shouldn’t have. Why? Because it’s the middle of January. Everybody and their brother is back to the gym working on their New Year’s resolutions.

As a matter of fact, my goal is to lose 7-10 pounds by the end of March. That’s one of the reasons why I am there.

But what will the parking lot look like in February, or even better, in July? If the numbers shown by the Statistic Brain hold true, in February the parking lot may only be a little more than half full. And by July it will be less than half full.

That’s the life of most people in the fitness business. Maybe that is your situation, or something similar. Is this a problem to be solved, or a tension that needs to be managed?

There are two simple litmus tests that will help us to distinguish whether this a problem or a tension.

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Three False Beliefs That Are Leading You Down the Wrong Path

There is such a cultural pressure to agree.”


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I made that statement in a previous blog post and it highlights a shortcoming that exists in many companies today, probably even yours.

For many, there is a natural inclination to want to get rid of tension. However, the right amount (and kind) of tension, is actually necessary for productivity in many cases. Take your thumb for instance. Yes…your thumb. When you pick something up, you press your thumb and at least one other finger against the item to pick it up.

With the right amount of tension you can pick it up. With the wrong amount of tension you either drop it, or crush it. The same principle applies in some mechanical operations as well. Tension serves the greater good. It works that way in conversations as well…at least it can.

A few weeks ago I wrote to you about the fact that sometimes you are dealing with a tension that needs to be managed and not a problem that needs to be solved. When that is the case, getting rid of the tension actually destroys the value that could be created if the tension was allowed to do its work.

There are three false beliefs that will lead you to the wrong conclusion and, therefore, down the wrong path.

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Is This Really a Problem to be Solved?

I was in a meeting with two senior leaders a few weeks ago where they were trying to determine if they could come to terms on merging their two companies.


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The thought all along has been that if the two organizations, each with their own unique strengths and assets, could pull it off, they would be stronger together. Combined they would be able to add tremendous value to their respective clients.

They had worked through quite a number of issues over the previous three months as we met to discuss the risks and concerns of each leader. A number of roadblocks had been overcome and put behind them, many with relative ease.

But, that day there was a problem. Or was there?

It certainly felt like a problem. They had been going back and forth on an issue, each sharing their point of view. The discussion had been very amicable, but there seemed to be a growing, albeit subtle, tension in the room.

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How to Raise the Level of Your Listening

Do your meetings or conversations ever get disrupted by an incoming text, phone call or notification? But, it was somebody else’s phone, right?


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I was just in a meeting last night with a Board of Directors group and there were a few times that the buzzing noise from someone’s phone (very politely set on “vibrate”) was so loud that you couldn’t help but be distracted. The person talking never missed a beat, but I can assure you most of us missed a chunk of what they had to say.

Listening is hard work. As I wrote to you last week it takes a definite level of intentionality to press through the myriad of distractions that come at us. There are actually three different levels of listening we engage in and only one of them is the kind that will result in greater leadership impact with the people that matter to you.

Let’s take a quick look at the three levels, how you can recognize which one you are in, and how to get to the right place in your listening quickly.

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THE Best Way to Get Someone’s Attention

I can’t remember the last time someone listened to me like that. I have never felt more believed in.” Many years ago I remember hearing a client utter those words, and the emotion that surrounded them. It made quite an impression on me.


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I have also seen the difference active listening has made in my relationship with my wife, my children and my team members.

In a world full of noise, there is one sure way of getting someone’s attention. Listen to them. I mean really listen to them. The person I referred to above went on to talk about the enormous difference that this conversation made in her engagement with her goals and dreams.

People today are starved for authentic relationships. Because of this, and with the introduction of the millennial generation into the labor force, I am convinced that being a highly skilled listener has risen to the top of the list of skills required to be a truly great leader.

Here are five, simple aspects of listening that will take your skills to a new level of influence with others.

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