The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni (San Francisco: Jossey-Pass, 2012)
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The Advantage Synopsis
In The Advantage, author Patrick Lencioni takes readers through the secret weapon that can elevate a company – organizational health. Companies that are organizationally healthy are able to avoid and or tackle things, such as dysfunction, politicking, and confusion. However, many organizations do not engage in healthy behaviours for many reasons. The three biases that lead an organization to avoid such healthy behaviours include the sophistication bias, the adrenaline bias, or the quantification bias. Leaders either think behaving in a healthy manner is beneath them or are addicted to the rush of daily fire fighting. Additionally, they may be unwilling to engage in such behaviours because it is difficult to quantify the benefits.
Build a cohesive team
At the core of organizational health is a cohesive leadership team. Leadership teams that are unified are able to make better decisions and are more productive. This creates the basis to support the other elements of organizational health.
Leadership teams should be anywhere between 3 – 12 individuals. The ideal team size is less than 8. Additionally, leaders need to embrace five behaviours in order to be successful. The five behaviours that a healthy and cohesive team need are: building trust, mastering conflict, achieving commitment, embracing accountability, and focusing on results.
Leaders need to be comfortable being transparent and vulnerable with one another. This means being able to provide and receive feedback and suggestions without feeling defensive. Organizations that can foster this type of environment in their leadership team achieve true collaboration. This type of environment can also be liberating for some people as it encourages individuals to stop overthinking their actions.
Leadership teams that fear conflict are red flags of a bigger problem. Productive conflict allows for constructive conversations, which enables the organization to have robust and thoughtful collaboration. In addition, having conflict means that individuals can avoid holding issues in. Being able to address issues without the fear of defensiveness allows for a productive debate. In return, the overall team will make more effective decisions quickly.
There is a belief that if people don’t weigh in, they cannot buy-in. Mastering conflict becomes important as it opens the discussion for sharing one’s opinion and debate. This discussion is what helps build commitment with leaders.
When leaders commit, there is a trust that is shared amongst the team that they will follow through with their actions. With that, they are also able to confront one another if they were to experience issues. They are able to do this without feeling defensive or facing backlash. This helps drive accountability between leaders, which will hold one another to their commitments.
Focusing on results
A common paradox that leaders have is where their commitment lies. Leaders are often committed to the team members they lead rather than the team they are actually part of. This creates dysfunction among the leadership team. Instead of setting up the leadership team for collaboration, such behaviours bring leaders together purely to lobby for their teams. This has the opposite effect of what we want from a team environment.
In addition to building a cohesive team, the next step is to create clarity for leadership and the organization. This is one of the most difficult things to do. The primary purpose of creating clarity is to drive alignment to the organization’s goals. The types of questions that leaders need to address include:
- Why do we exist?
- How do we behave?
- What do we do?
- How will we succeed?
- What is most important right now?
- Who must do what?
Having the answers to these questions gives staff members a clear understanding of what the organization values. Furthermore, having strong clarity will lead to clear values, which can be helpful for weeding out individuals who are not aligned.
After you have answered the six questions above, communicate these as often as possible to your teams. Ensure that all team members truly understand the answers to these questions. Transferring knowledge is not the same as understanding. By over-communicating the answers, all team members can align on what is important to the organization. As a result, team members can behave in ways that work towards organizational goals.
Be sure to communicate the answers early and often and ask questions to team members to verify understanding. This means having your team leaders promptly report to their subordinates the message.
Leaders should take steps to remind team members of why the organization exists and what their values are. Reinforce the message using different mechanisms to ensure that the answers to the key questions are clear in various areas of the business. Thread the message through the fabric of the organization. This includes meetings, performance discussions, and client engagements.
- Organizational health is imperative for creating an environment that fosters high performance.
- The two pillars of organizational health are having a cohesive team and bringing clarity to the organization.
- Business leaders should avoid the biases which may prevent them from adopting healthy behaviours.
The Advantage author Patrick Lencioni
Patrick Lencioni is an American author specializing in books on business and leadership. He brings experience from a prestigious consulting firm, Bain & Company, along with VP experience at Oracle Corporation and Sybase. In addition to writing, he is also the founder of Table Group, a management consulting firm that specializes in organizational health.