Why It May Not Always Pay to Be the Good Guy

If you find a team within which there is no tension, where everyone is getting along wonderfully and there’s a high level of cooperation, generosity and selflessness – the chances are that you have found a team that will be under-achieving, failing to fulfill its potential and within which some people will be feeling surprisingly uncomfortable!

Here’s a fascinating article from Fast Company that I read a few months ago that reports on some research containing the findings indicated above and seeks to find explanations.

Fast Company – Greed is Good, Trust is Bad

Reading the article, I couldn’t help thinking that it had some relevance for schools. There tends to be a culture that suggests that because schools are meant to be nurturing, caring environments for children, then absolutes of these traits should be the aspiration for all the adults. What results is a climate within which people become reluctant to be frank and open with each other, where many would rather compromise than tell someone where their performance is falling short, where showing ‘strong feelings’ is considered a cardinal sin – all to be suppressed in the cause of ‘getting on nicely with each other’. When things get like this, regrettably, we find that all those compromises add up to an acceptance of ‘less than best’ performance, a diminishing level of creativity and innovation and ultimately, stagnation.

Ultimately, after reading the article, I found myself concluding that in every organization we need to find an optimum point as leaders along the scale between trust and tension. Where that point lies might vary between organizations. Probably, within nurturing professions like education it will always be further towards trust than in industrial or commercial organizations. However, there is a clear responsibility on leaders to ensure that the inclination to swing or deviate too far away from that optimum point is resisted, even if that means an occasional injection of tension!

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