Captivating the audience with a unique blend of sarcastic wit and humor, Tuesday’s keynote speaker Patrick Lencioni gave conference attendees a framework for capitalizing on what he calls an organization’s single greatest untapped advantage: organizational health. Lencioni is the author of 10 books that have sold more than 4 million copies and is cited by the Wall Street Journal as one of the nation’s top business speakers.
According to Lencioni, for any organization to be successful – it must be both smart and healthy. Both qualities are necessary in order to maximize potential. “In 18 years of business,” he said, “I’ve never found a group who was too dumb to be great.” Being smart means having the strategies, marketing, finance, technology, and other systems in place in order to enable the organization to get the job done. Being healthy means having minimal politics and confusion, leading to high morale and productivity and lower turnover.
Lencioni explained that the four disciplines of a healthy organization are:
- Building a cohesive leadership team
- Establishing clarity among those leaders
- Over-communicating that clarity to everyone within the organization
- Putting in place just enough systems to reinforce that clarity going forward.
Successful teams are those that master five critical behaviors:
- They build trust. Successful trust is not predictive trust, which any team that has become familiar with one another can develop; but vulnerability-based trust, where team members feel comfortable enough to admit what they may not be good at or do not know. One person on a team who is invulnerable poisons the whole team. Leaders must go first to build trust, said Lencioni. If you can’t be trustworthy, your team won’t follow suit.
- They don’t fear conflict. Successful teams engage in constructive, ideological, frank conflict. When team members don’t disagree around ideas, it leads to conflict among people. Without trust, conflict is politics. With trust, conflict becomes pursuit of the best possible answer. Not having an argument in pursuit of the organization, said Lencioni, is negligence.
- Their members are committed. Passively supporting a bad idea is worse than sabotaging it. Lencioni argued that consensus should not be the goal – it takes too long and in the end no one really buys in. People don’t need to get their way in order to get on board with an idea, they need their idea to be heard, considered, and factored into the final decision. Constructive conflict can bring about this commitment.
- They are accountable. The primary source of accountability on a great team comes from peers, not the leader. Leaders who have demonstrated that they will hold people accountable don’t have to do it very often. You must love your team enough to tell them the truth, and have the courage to confront behavior before it leads to problems. We have a moral obligation to hold people accountable because their behavior is going to affect the people we serve.
- They value results. Successful teams generally hit their targets and win games. They realize that collective results matter. Teamwork becomes a strategic, intentional decision, rather than a virtue.
In his breakout session following the keynote, Lencioni outlined the four types of meetings that are essential for ensuring a healthy, productive organization:
- Daily check-ins: The least important type of meeting, these daily check-ins are no more than 10 minutes long and give team members the chance to ask questions, get answers, and update one another on progress at the beginning of each day.
- Weekly tactical meetings: These meetings, the traditional “staff meetings,” range from 60 to 90 minutes. They are the most critical type of meeting in which team members assess the organization's list of its greatest priorities and determine what strategies must be taken in order to achieve goals. Lencioni recommended using a red/yellow/green system to assess progress. The red/yellow issues are those that lead to further discussion.
- Ad-hoc strategic meetings: These longer meetings are focused on a single topic. These are the venues for discussion on the big, hairy issues. We must not have big conversations in 15 minute intervals, said Lencioni. We must separate tactical decisions from strategic brainstorming.
- Quarterly get-togethers: These outings are a chance to step back from work, get out of the office, and breathe.