“If I tell him that there will be a volcanic eruption. He will have a tantrum and threaten to leave. It’s not worth bringing it up.” George looked stressed.


“What are the consequences of not bringing it up?”

“We’re stuck with a system where the CEO bulldozes bad decisions that costs us hours to fix up. I have a colleague who spent the best part of year, and about half a million dollars in lost productive time, cleaning up one of these messes that should never have been.”

That’s an enormous productivity loss. Can you spot the friction point?

Say ‘productivity’ and what springs to mind? Calendars? Task lists? Document management systems?

Yes, all these things are important. But so are these things, and they are often neglected:

  • Rapport with colleagues
  • Problem solving skills
  • Feedback mechanisms
  • Motivational focus
  • Mindset

These are the less tangible aspects of productivity that can cause push and drag in a person’s workflow. They manifest in these three critical friction points.

Friction point 1: Truthtelling

The ability for team members to speak their truth, express an opinion and concern, is critical to the health and resilience of an organisation. In George’s situation, past experience showed that truth telling was rewarded with volcanic explosions.

The leaders and their team had not crafted the expectation that truth telling was acceptable, invited, and welcome.

Friction Point 2: Accountability to Truthtelling

It’s one thing to agree to speak the truth, and another one to keep accountable to that. Few teams create a regular check in where raising issues are encouraged, and individuals can express their comfort levels in doing so. It’s an important pulse check as little incidents can build over time. Good intentions get eroded with a constant wash of at-the-time minor negative experiences.

From little things big things grow. It is best to check how people feel about their ability to speak up and address any diminishment in the sense of safety.

Friction Point 3: Emotional Hygiene

This is the most neglected of the friction points. We are simply not taught how to accept and express our feelings in a useful way. The usual way to deal with uncomfortable emotions is to repress and judge our feelings, leading to implosions and explosions. And boy do those burn our time and productivity!

Emotional hygiene is the practice of checking in with our feelings, taking insight from them, and expressing them productively.

If you don’t deal with these friction points, you are handicapping your ability to do your best work. Life can be so much easier and better if we just smooth these little sticking points.