Issue No. 245 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting features a Top-10 book (already!) for 2012 with new insights on core values. Patrick Lencioni says there are four kinds: Core Values, Aspirational Values, Permission-to-Play Values and Accidental Values. Plus, check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
Bad Meetings: Birthplace of Unhealthy Organizations
My regular readers know I’m on a perpetual trek (or is it a treadmill?) to find gold in them thar hills—culminating in my Top-10 books of the year list. I just found one—and it will take a rare gem to knock this one off its current perch as my Number One pick of 2012.
Any new book by Patrick Lencioni is worth the read, but this treasure—published just this month and already on the Wall Street Journal’s Top-10 business books list—is in a class by itself.
Lencioni says that “bad meetings are the birthplace of unhealthy organizations and good meetings are the origin of cohesion, clarity and communication.” He adds, “If someone were to offer me one single piece of evidence to evaluate the health of an organization, I would not ask to see its financial statements, review its product line, or even talk to its employees or customers: I would want to observe the leadership team during a meeting.”
And he says all of this on page 173, in his next to last chapter, “The Centrality of Great Meetings.” I couldn’t agree more. In the “Meetings Bucket” chapter in my book (the 20th and final core competency), I include a two-page template, Weekly Update to My Supervisor, a summary document of almost all the core competencies. As Lencioni points out—your meetings are a barometer of everything else.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Why is this such a spectacular book? What moves it from fad-of-the-quarter, ho-hum pablum, to YOU MUST BUY THIS TODAY for every person on your senior team?
I ordered 24 copies for a CEO Dialogues roundtable last week—after reading just the first 50 pages of The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. I thought to myself, “These 50 pages are so transformational—if teams apply the wisdom with discipline and desire—it doesn’t matter if the other 150 pages are even readable.”
Lencioni, who has sold more than three million business “fables,” calls this book a “comprehensive, practical guide”—and it is. His goal was to bring all of the ideas from his eight books and consulting practice under the roof of one book—and he did. This one, especially, is brilliant.
“The single greatest advantage any company can achieve,” says this plain-speaking author/consultant (blessed with wit and wisdom) “is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free and available to anyone who wants it.” He builds his case quickly—not with fables this time but with real life peeks behind unnamed company closed doors. (Not all business or nonprofit/church leaders have it together, we soon learn.)
His model for organizational health is centered on four disciplines:
1) Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
2) Create Clarity
3) Overcommunicate Clarity
4) Reinforce Clarity
Is this just another yada, yada, yada or a big pile of nada, nada, nada? Nope. It is so simple and practical, I think Lencioni was a bit embarrassed to put so many cookies on the bottom shelf. But that’s what sets this apart from all the other books in recent years—it’s a comprehensive approach that any team can implement. And it’s so simple—it may well be the death knell for us consultant types. (Buy the book and you won’t need us anymore!)
In what I term the “Superman Syndrome,” Peter Drucker said “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.” Thus Lencioni skillfully delivers exceptional goods—for all of us average players.
Organizational health is like a family, comments Lencioni. “If the parents’ relationship is dysfunctional, the family will be too.” He adds, “Teamwork is not a virtue. It is a choice—and a strategic one.” He paints the picture of what healthy teams look like, starting with the basics: size of teams, specific agendas when the team meets, and frequency and types of team meetings and staff meetings.
His five team behaviors (think of a pyramid from the ground up) of Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results—are defined and explained in practical, practical ways in the first 70 pages. He writes, “The ultimate point of building greater trust, conflict, commitment and accountability is one thing: the achievement of results. That seems obvious, but as it turns out, one of the greatest challenges to team success is the inattention to results.” (Three cheers for the Results Bucket!)
“Discipline 2: Create Clarity” is really a short-course in strategic planning without all the buzz words. His page on “BLATHER” is hilarious. “Though I can’t be sure, I suspect that at some point about thirty years ago a cleverly sadistic and antibusiness consultant decided that the best way to screw up companies was to convince them that what they needed was a convoluted, jargon, and all-encompassing declaration of intent.” (Think: vision and mission statements!)
I gotta end this review—but, really, I haven’t even enticed you to the deep end of the pool yet. You MUST buy this book and read about: The Two-Headed CEO, the six key questions to create clarity, The Playbook (a few pages, on the desk and in every meeting), Cascading Communication, Performance Management (“Healthy organizations believe that performance management is almost exclusively about eliminating confusion.”), The Price of Passivity, Behaviors Versus Measurables, and The Universal Challenge of Peer Accountability.
To order this book from Amazon, click on the graphic below for: The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, by Patrick Lencioni.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) Lencioni writes, “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.” Pop Quiz: Write down at least one previously agreed-upon annual S.M.A.R.T. goal for each member of your team. Do you have a good team?
2) Lencioni says that great leaders see themselves as “Chief Reminder Officers.” He says that “their top two priorities are to set the direction of the organization and then to ensure that people are reminded of it on a regular basis. So why do so many leaders fail to do this?”
Your Calendar Reflects Your Convictions - Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
One of the big ideas in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets, is that “your calendar reflects your convictions.” Consequently, you must invest time in life-long learning (example: reading or listening to leadership and management books, being accountable to a coach, etc.) if you want to be a God-honoring and competent leader.
I look for alignment in books and Patrick Lencioni’s body of work aligns perfectly with the classic books by Peter Drucker, Jim Collins and Ken Blanchard. For more resources from what I call “The Drucker Bucket,” including a link to “Brainy Quotes” by the father of modern management, visit The Drucker Bucket webpage.
P.S. Here’s a great Druckerism, “Executives owe it to the organization and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs.”
ECFA Blog on “Governance of Christ-centered Organizations” – Add your thoughts and comments to John Pearson’s weekly blog posts, including, “The Nothingness Syndrome.”