This week we are going to take a look at Patrick Lencioni's principles for Organizational Health. Specifically we are going to explore the requirements for creating a cohesive leadership team. I want to be very clear that I draw the concepts from Pat's book "The Advantage - Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business" but the examples I use are personal and based upon my own experience of these principles.
Lets begin by looking at the concept of a Leadership Team and how we tend to view that. Leadership teams occur in every type of organization and at various levels in that organization. Whether you head up a group responsible for custodial services or are the CEO leading your companies executive group, leadership teams take on many forms. Yet regardless of what their mandate is, or where they are situated in a company all successful and cohesive leadership teams share certain traits. Let's consider a couple of examples to begin that exploration.
Example 1 - We will get along fine just as soon as you realize I am the boss.
Organization X was small as groups went. They fulfilled a social mandate to enhance the lives of families in a local community and to provide training and education to that same group of families. Everyone was clear on the mission and vision of the group and great care had been exercised in selecting a group of people who had all of the skill sets necessary to carry out the organizations mandate. Yet in spite of having all of the right people and having a clear mandate organization X lurched from one crisis to another and never seemed to move to any kind of stability.
It only took one leadership meeting to figure out why. Even though the team was populated by capable professionals it was divided and dysfunctional. There were two distinct groups, one that dealt with family support and local issues and one that dealt with training and education. The president's background was family support and even though the two arms of the group were meant to compliment each other decisions nearly always came down in favor of providing resources toward family support over training and education. Added to that was a culture of hierarchy in which it was not prudent to question the president or question those in charge of the various sub-components. Turnover was high, mistakes were not tolerated, information was used as leverage and meetings were never positive or productive. This dysfunction became known in the community at large and everyone knew that this was a place to avoid and where quality people tended to have a very short shelf life with that organization.
Example 2 - Here is our mission - what do we have to do to make this work?
Organization Y was also small as groups went. It had the same mandate as organization X and yet where X struggled, Y prospered. Whats more, the folks who worked at Y did not have nearly the same professional pedigree that the folks at X had been noted for. The first meeting was notably different in tenor from the X meeting. People arrived and seemed energized and friendly. As they worked through the agenda there was a surprising amount of discussion and debate and at one point a position put forward by the president was challenged as not being in alignment with the mission or the agreed upon process that had been passed two meetings before. The president rather than getting upset at the push back discussed and explained her position and allowed for feedback and admitted that they were right and thanked the person for reminding her about that process. People would admit they were struggling with a project or initiative and would actually give others in the group the opportunity to give input even if it was not their particular area of expertise. In fact there were some really interesting and innovative ideas that came out of the discussion. The focus was always about helping each other work toward accomplishing Y's mission which everyone knew forward and backwards.
So leadership teams share certain traits - they have a mission (or should), they are made up of a variety of people who each in turn own a piece of that mission and its fulfillment and they usually have someone who is tasked with leading that team and ensuring its goals are met. And yet, in spite of the fact that most leadership teams have these traits we can see by our two examples they can look very different in reality. (Which example resonates the most with you? Which example is the most familiar? Are they the same?)
Why is this? And how is it that at times the most unlikely collection of people will come together and accomplish truly remarkable things? Most importantly are there concepts that can be learned and applied toward creating these meaningful and cohesive leadership teams?
This week we will explore those questions and the potential answers to them. Tuesday - what is the foundation of a cohesive leadership team?
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