Reading Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, the following statement really caught my attention:
“Some leaders of teams that don’t regularly succeed will insist that they have a great team because team members care about one another and no one ever leaves the team. A more accurate description of their situation would be to say that they have a mediocre team that enjoys being together and isn’t terribly bothered by failure. See, no matter how good a leadership team feels about itself, and how noble its mission might be, if the organization it leads rarely achieves its goals, then by definition, it’s simply not a good team.”
Wow. I find that to be a very convicting statement.
This got me thinking about Leadership Couples and evaluating the health of their teamwork.
- Shouldn’t a husband and wife team be the “ultimate team”?
- Shouldn’t a Leadership Couple be the epitome of healthy teamwork?
Clearly this is not always the case. There are other factors involved.
5 Key Behaviors of Healthy Teams
In the first section of the book, Lencioni talks about the importance of building a cohesive leadership team. Here he outlines 5 key behaviors required to building a healthy team, which are established in the following order:
- Building Trust. While this might seem obvious, Lencioni is talking about a different kind of trust. He calls this “vulnerability-based trust” where team members get to a point they are completely comfortable being transparent and honest with each other. When everyone knows that other team members will not hide his or her weaknesses or mistakes, they develop a deep and uncommon sense of trust.
- Mastering Conflict. Lencioni argues that the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems. But he’s not talking about people-centered conflict that’s often nasty. The type of healthy conflict he’s referring to here is the willingness to disagree (even passionately when necessary) around important issues and decisions that must be made. It’s about the pursuit of truth and search for the best possible answers. Of course, this can only happen when there is trust.
- Achieving Commitment. Once everyone on a team has had the opportunity to provide input, ask questions, and understand all the issues, they’re more likely to commit to the final decision – even if they disagree with it. Such commitment is needed to avoid the pitfall of “passive agreement”, where others smile and nod their heads when a decision is made but then do nothing to support it.
- Embracing Accountability. Along the journey to a committed goal, anyone can become sidetracked or even get off-track. Lencioni argues that peer-to-peer accountability is the most effective form of accountability that keeps teams on track to achieving their goals. That’s why when team members know that their colleagues are truly committed to something, they can confront one another about issues without fearing defensiveness or backlash.
- Focusing on Results. While this also might seem obvious, Lencioni argues that one of the greatest challenges to team success is the inattention to results. The reason? Being distracted by the need to focus on “other results”. Such distractions come from feeling the need to help a different team to achieve their stated results (i.e. we’re often part of multiple teams), or focusing on individual results of personal interest.
So what does this mean for Leadership Couples?
The Impact for Leadership Couples
A quick analysis might suggest all of the right ingredients are in place.
A Leadership Couple might feel:
- They have a strong marriage, which is great.
- They have a noble cause, which is awesome.
- They have a solid plan, which is important.
But if they are not experiencing desired results, then maybe something needs to change. It’s possible they are not operating as a healthy team.
Working backwards through Lencioni’s 5 key behaviors, a Leadership Couple could ask these questions:
- Are one or both of you distracted by focusing on “other results” vs. your stated goals?
- Are you holding each other accountable to achieving your stated goals?
- Have you both fully committed to the stated goals, or is it simply passive agreement?
- Do you encourage having regular “healthy conflict” in support of your stated goals?
- Have you achieved a kind of trust with each other where you can openly acknowledge your weaknesses and mistakes and talk about them?
So how does a Leadership Couple know when they are working as a healthy team? When they experience desired results that lead to the fulfillment of their stated goals.
Which of the 5 key behaviors do you struggle with the most, and why?
What are some ways you have found to resolve unhealthy behaviors?