Positive Tension

When we speak of Impact in CMOE’s Coaching Skills Model, or in Coaching TIPS2™, we call this step the So What? skill.  It is the “ah-ha” moment when team members realize that what they do on a daily basis affects them individually, the team as a whole, the organization as a collective, and the overall business environment.

What is Positive Tension?

Defining positive tension is best done in two parts:

a)      Positive: characterized by or displaying affirmation or acceptance or certainty; incontrovertible; impossible to deny or disprove.

b)      Tension: a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense; a balance between, and interplay of, opposing elements or tendencies.

In a positive tension model, with Productivity on the X-axis and Tension on the Y-axis, there is a comfortable (neutral) side, and a negative (negative) side. However, in the middle, with increased positive tension creating an uncomfortable situation, we find increasing productivity very positive.

Possible Positive Tension Opportunities

  • Asking a customer to buy or do something different.           Blog - Positive Tension
  • Being bold and move out of a comfort zone.
  • Providing leadership and accountability.
  • For a leader or coach
    • providing coaching—constructive feedback
    • demonstrating integrity and leadership
    • holding and being held accountable

Positive Tension Implemented

When he was asked to explain the first four-minute mile—and the art of the record breaking—Roger Bannister answered with original directness:  “It’s the ability to take more out of yourself than you’ve got.” Banister:

  • Believed it was possible.
  • Used his knowledge as a physician.
  • Incorporated the help of a group of friends.
  • Planned thoroughly.
  • Painstakingly researched the medical aspects of running.
  • Developed scientific training methods to aid him.
  • Planned: win the 1,500-meter Gold Medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
  • Could only finish 4th.
  • A week later, Bannister’s friend, Chris Chataway, received a letter asking if he would pace him on an attempt to break the 4-minute mile

Bannister began training with a new coach, the Austrian Franz Stmpfl, but was acutely aware that two other athletes were edging closer and closer to the four-minute barrier. Norris McWhirter, organizer of the event, persuaded the BBC to send a camera crew, ENSURING that the famous milestone would be broken. Race day was wet and windy with a 15 mph crosswind and gusts of 25 mph. During the 1st lap, “I was so full of running that I thought we were going too slowly. I shouted at Chris Chataway, ‘faster, faster’, but afterward, he said he was going as fast as he possibly could.” On the back straight of the final lap, Bannister accelerated and made his charge. “I overtook decisively with a burst of speed, feeling as if I was in the finishing mode and would have to keep it going as long as I could,” said Bannister. As the announcer of the event tried to delay the announcement of the time as long as he could:

“Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event 9, the one mile: 1st, No. 41, R.G. Bannister, Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, Oxford, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which—subject to ratification—will be a new English Native, British National, All-Comers, European, British Empire and World Record. The time was 3 . . .”

Bannister’s time was 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

Six weeks later, Australian John Landy destroyed the record by clocking a 3:57.9-mile in Finland. Beating the record was as much a psychological barrier as it was a physical barrier. Since May 1954, the record has been broken 18 times and stands at 3 minutes 43.13 seconds. Bannister went on to challenge Landy to decide who the fastest miler was. Bannister won, but both men ran a sub-4-minute mile. He is always remembered as the first man who broke the 4-minute mile.

Consider the following and how Positive Tension might increase the productivity of your team:

  • How has my team started out the year, and how can we better execute during the next few months to better achieve our objectives?
  • How do you want to be remembered in your current position?  Keep in mind that you are always developing your internal and external resume.
  • What reputation will you make for yourself and for your team?
  • Will you be on the road to become one of the top performers for the year, or just in the middle of the pack?
  • How are you developing yourself to be more effective in your current position, or to move up in the organization?
  • Always keep this in mind: regardless of the role you play, you are competing internally or externally with someone else. Someone will win. Why not you, your team, or your organization?
Blog - Positive Tension Image

Positive tension

Photo courtesy of HSLD

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About the Author

CMOE Design Team

CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.