In his keynote speech at Mega Leadership, Patrick Lencioni, bestselling author of The Advantage and founder of The Table Group, presented a strong case that organizational strategy “will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage.”
While too many leaders are still limiting their search for advantage to conventional and largely exhausted areas like marketing, strategy and technology, Lencioni sees an untapped gold mine sitting right beneath them. Instead of trying to become smarter, he believes that leaders and organizations need to shift their focus to becoming healthier, allowing them to tap into the more-than-sufficient intelligence and expertise they already have. So how exactly does one build a cohesive team? “Start with yourself,” Lencioni says.
There are two requirements for business success:
- Be Smart: strategy, marketing, finance, technology
- Be Healthy: minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, low turnover
Being smart is the easy part. However, the single greatest competitive advantage is being healthy. Every business has enough smarts to be successful, but what most lack is cultural health. Lencioni explained that organizational health is about making a company function effectively by building a cohesive leadership team, establishing real clarity among those leaders, communicating that clarity to everyone within the organization and putting in place just enough structure to reinforce that clarity going forward. “Culture is the way in which we get work done, but oftentimes there is dysfunction inhibiting success,” Lencioni said.
Here are his five tips to overcome the five dysfunctions of a team and pave the path for uncharted success.
Trust: Teams need to be founded on trust. Be honest about who they are, faults and all. “This sounds simple, but this is a fundamental character trait that can be engrained in a person from childhood. It is the most difficult and the most important element.” To function, a team needs to be united and have trust. It is never about the individual, it is always about the team. Trust begins with being capable of being vulnerable. It starts with the leader. If the leader can’t be vulnerable, no one on the team can be either. Lencioni challenged the leaders in the audience to send the message that they will admit their faults and allow members on their team to admit theirs. Competence doesn’t mean being perfect. Gain credibility and you can gain trust.
Conflict: Teams can overcome conflict once trust is built. When there is trust people feel comfortable expressing ideas and opinions. A little disagreement and conflict is healthy as it fosters the exchange of ideas resulting in the best possible answer. Teams don’t want people holding back. An effective team is one where people feel comfortable to disagree on important issues as that is how they arrive at the best resolution. Great relationships are based on your ability to disagree and recover from that disagreement.
Commitment: People don’t buy into a decision if they don’t have the opportunity to weigh in. Teams do not necessarily need to come to a consensus, but they do need to offer everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion.
Accountability: The more a leader is willing to hold someone accountable, the less likely they will have to actually hold them accountable. Leaders need to be able to deliver bad news along with the good so there can be opportunity to improve. “Behavior always precedes results,” Lencioni said. “The greatest leaders are the ones who are not afraid to hold people accountable. If you love the people you work with, then you have to give them feedback. You have to hold them accountable. Tell them the truth so they can get better and the team can get better. That is the sacrifice a leader makes.”
Results: Without accountability, commitment, conflict and trust, teams won’t get results.
“If we love each other enough we can focus and work on the collective good,” Lencioni said in closing. “There is no better competitive advantage.”