Is FRICTION a healthy thing for a team?

The idea of a team that has 100% harmony, people agreeing with each other 100% of the time, zero discussions and no misunderstanding is as unrealistic as the picture you can see below (nothing against unicorns :P).

It is more way more realistic to assume that there will be always some level of friction in a team and this is actually not a bad thing…. as long as it is under control. This is why being able to “read the room” and sense the level of friction in a team is a really important skill. No matter if this comes naturally to you or if you need to practice in order to do it, you should be always doing that. When you read the room, you will be aware of how people collaborate, what triggers them, how they react in discussions, what annoys some individuals, how much the team cares, if some are capable to disagree but commit, who is always willing to create a big fuzz out of something, etc, etc... 1:1’s are also going to be a great opportunity for you to understand other individual’s perspectives that will complement yours. One of the benefits of reading the room is to enable you to SENSE friction levels. As a good leader, you should always have a good sense for the friction level in the team, and when you don’t, that means you need to actively work on sensing that.

Ok, so what to do after you read the room and get a good feeling for the friction level? First thing is, if you sense high levels of friction, that you need to act and help your team. Your team probably needs you, and requires support from your side. You should ideally not let it come to this point where you need to intervene. But it happens…

However, if you sense a low level of friction, my advice would be: DO NOT ACT! Sometimes it is really hard for leaders to see problems/issues and don’t rush into resolving it. The team needs that friction so they can resolve it on their own, without your intervention. This will make them grow together, as individuals and as a team. Nothing compares to the feeling you get when a conflict/issue gets solved. A controlled level of friction is a healthy thing for the team. Keep it controlled!



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Thiago Burgos

People-oriented Leader | Technology Lover | Agile Enthusiast | Software Developer at heart | Advanced Giphy User | Culture Builder