Building Healthy Organizations and Leadership Teams

The facilitator at a recent breakfast meeting brought the topic of healthy teams for the group to discuss. He framed his presentation and subsequent group exercise around Patrick Lencioni’s 2012 book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business.

A smart organization is one that has a defined strategy and has teams and processes in place for marketing, sales, financial health and technological resources. A healthy organization has minimal politics – the focus is on the team; clarity throughout the organization – everyone knows where the firm is going, how they are going to get there, and what their roles are; high morale – employee engagement is strong; consistent productivity; and finally, low employee and customer turnover. So how do you get there?

Randy Taussig, our facilitator shared Lencioni’s five-step process. It begins with trust, vulnerability-based trust that is authentic. When a leader can be vulnerable and show his or her humanity, it sends a powerful message. If trust is absence, well pack your bags and leave.

The second element or step, once trust has been established, is healthy conflict – Don’t forget The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook! Too often, conflict is perceived as negative, but the ability to have passionate, positive debate moves the organization forward. It’s not about personal gain or winning an argument. Rather it’s about giving everyone the opportunity to have their say so ideas and issues can be presented, decisions made, and then allow everyone to move on. When there’s fear of conflict or unhealthy conflict, the result is the avoidance of issues, passive-aggressive behavior, and lack of engagement.

Healthy conflict leads to the next step – true commitment. Healthy conflict provides input. When all team members know and understand all opposing points of view, they will be able to commit to team decisions and buy into them. It avoids those situations that we’ve all witness in organizations, where everyone shakes their heads in agreement, then leave the meeting and voice discontent or just don’t stand behind and support the decisions.

When true commitment exists, accountability can be embraced – that is the willingness not just to be accountable as an individual, but to hold others on the team including the leader accountable. If accountability is avoided, feedback does not take place. It’s the old adage of telling the boss (or anyone on the team) what you think he wants to hear rather than what he needs to hear – withholding vital information.

This leads to the final step – results – collective team results that supersede any departmental or personal objectives or pursuits. If there is inattention to results, the team loses track and misses what was possible.

Test if your team is a healthy one. You can do this exercise alone, but it’s more powerful to do it with others:

1. Describe a time when you were part of a team that exhibited some or all of these behaviors. What stands out about the experience?
2. Then, describe a time when you were you were part of a team that did not exhibited these behaviors. What stands out about the experience on this team?
3. Generally, how good were the outcomes and results in both of the above?
4. Looking back, how important was the “health” of your team in achieving the overall results you expected in the scenarios you described.

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