A leadership team, a married couple, and a board of directors are so very different! But they actually have a lot in common since each has a strong potential for conflict and yet cannot accomplish its mission without effectively working together. Here are 4 traits that contribute to success in each of these unique relationships.
1. Higher ratio of positive conversations than negative
People who successfully work together over the long term consistently have more positive interactions than negative ones by a ratio of 5:1. It’s not that they never disagree or have conflict, but rather it’s all about the ratio. Research has consistently shown that building strong relationships at work and at home is more about having the right ratio of interactions than it is about having no negative interactions. While most of us don’t carry an interaction tracker in our pocket that technically monitors this, leaders would be wise to monitor it with intentional self-awareness.
2. Agreed upon expectations and priorities
Austrian Holocaust survivor, neurologist, and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl once said, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
When people work together towards a compelling vision, they can overcome and overlook a lot of other hindrances and limitations. For example, without agreement, couples can struggle regarding whose career will take precedence; leadership teams can struggle with what priorities to pursue; and boards sometimes wrestle with what their responsibilities are compared to a CEO. It’s extraordinarily hard to walk in the same direction unless you can agree on where you are going and how you are going to get there.
3. Psychological safety
Ever notice that some people are prone to provoking and feeding off of conflict? Others often feel a sense of uncertainty or even fear when engaging them – as if they need to be on guard for fear of being tricked or attacked. In a 2017 Harvard Business Review article, Dr. Laura Delizonna stressed the importance of psychological safety as it relates to high performing teams. If a person fears being punished for making a mistake, they will be less inclined to take risks and will spend an inordinate amount of time and energy protecting themselves rather than leading or serving others.
4. Abundance of flexibility and forgiveness
One difference between a single person and a team of two or more such as a board, marriage or leadership team is that when you have two or more people, you need to show flexibility and grant forgiveness in order to be successful. Why? Because you’ll never get everything you want. Each relationship requires compromise. And as I once read, if one of us is smarter than the rest of us, the rest of us aren’t needed. God created teams from the very beginning because he believed two are better than one. But as Dr. Daniel Goleman notes in his work on emotional intelligence, this is only true when the two or more people have a reasonable sense of harmony.
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of ministry assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.Ed in Instructional Systems Design and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.