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Wholesale Distributors Need To Create More Tension


Something is missing from our business today—and that something is tension.

Not the kind of tension you’re thinking of—not fear, worry, concern for our jobs, our stability, our future. There is actually plenty of that to go around, especially as we slowly climb our way out of the recent recession. There’s certainly no shortage of negativity out there, even though business conditions are improving in many industries.

No, we’re not talking about fearful, worrisome tension at all.

We’re talking about positive tension, good tension—the kind that is driven by optimism, Positive Tension Beyond Comfort Zoneexcitement, and a vision for a better tomorrow.  When you get right down to it, tension suggests that we are entering the unknown, that we are vulnerable. But this doesn’t have to be a negative state. If we flip this condition on its head and fill our organizations with the right kind of tension, there’s no telling what we may achieve.

Positive tension is more than just the opposite of negative tension; it is the polar opposite of the complacency we have come to accept as good business practices in our daily operations.
Injecting tension into your organization can push you to the next level.  It can take you from survival mode to thriving mode.

Bring Your Organization To The Edge

There’s no question we are stuck in a comfort zone these days. We surround ourselves with people from our industry. We bring in consultants from our industry. We recruit from within our industry. We read industry-specific publications. As a result, we come to really know our industry.  We come to conclude “we are doing pretty good” compared to other wholesalers and distributors.

But this comfort is camouflage.  Camouflage of your businesses exposure to disruption.

Our comfort helps us maintain our position until someone or something better comes along. And then what will we do? We’ll cry “unfair competition.” We’ll say “I can’t compete with that big-box store,” or “If I only had the resources to provide those kinds of services.”

But what we’re really saying is that we can’t keep up; that we can’t compete. We’re really saying we’ve failed to move beyond our safety zone.

To become the thriving, innovative organizations we all want to be requires moving from inside your organization to the edge of it.

Providing new and better solutions to customer problems is the heart and soul of what wholesaler-distributors do.  And we can’t continue to do it if we’re stuck on the sidelines.  Being out in front means being vulnerable—to the competition, to your surroundings, and to yourself. 

But it is only there—out in front, out on the edge—that we can find new and better ways to deliver value to our customers. And this is the true definition of innovation, as we have said in this space before.

Getting to the edge requires being in a state of tension that drives us forward. It means looking beyond best practices of other distributors to the earth shattering changes of technology, consumerism, mobile, social, millennials entering the workforce, evolving business models, and more.

It means being in a race to get your next great idea to the market. And it means being brutally honest with ourselves, our peers, and our employees about what it takes to succeed in the new business economy.

There are many ways to harness the power of positive tension in your organizations. Consider some of these ideas:

  • Let your employees feel vulnerable. Being on the edge of something is what drives us forward. Historically our industrial driven hierarchal  management styles have demanded immediate results - today.  Positive tension allows for trying something that we think might work.  At Burberry for example - they value feeling over knowing. You can’t prove what hasn’t been so positive tension says - “Do you believe in what you are suggesting?  We don’t know if it will work.  If you feel that it’s right - let’s run at it!”  The vulnerability comes in not knowing what the outcome is going to be and the risk involved.  That’s positive tension.
  • Admit you don’t have all the answers—that some of your best solutions are still out there, waiting for you to discover them.  Sharing our vulnerabilities opens conversations and brings people closer together. What better way to bring employees together to create new value.
  • Be brutally honest. Is there anything that causes more tension than good old-fashioned, blatant honesty?  Of course this honesty must be directed towards uncovering the camouflage of comfort.  Use your direct and coaching communication skills to move your people and their ideas, not to what we can do today, but to the edge of what’s possible.

Tension In An Organization Is Good

Positive tension is a force that great leaders use to bring their team to a new place.  Look at your team - are they comfortable?  The day they are, is the day you begin to lose your business.  Let go of the fear and unleash the power to push them—and your organization—to the next level.



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