Businesses are always focused on getting all the systems and processes, but is there something else? Hi my name is Bernie Heine, and I want to talk about other issues that we need to be focused on.

Most businesses will focus on “okay, we have a new strategy, so we got the right people in place, we’ve got to get the right processes, and we need some new machines, we need some new IT systems”. All of those things can be summed up as the smarts of business – making the business smarter and making it stronger. And those are all great things right? Well they are, but we often forget the other half of what’s also important.

The Health of the Business

As Patrick Lencioni talked about in his book The Advantage, we also have to work on what he calls the ultimate competitive advantage, which is working on the health of the business.

So what do we mean by the health? Well, when you look at a company that maybe has been really suffering, a company that went bankrupt, what are they going to attribute that to? Are they going to say “we should have hired one more MBA”, “you know we were short one PhD scientist”, “we just changed that machine out one year earlier”? That’s almost never what they talk about.

What they get down to is “well, the senior leadership team didn’t see this coming” or “they didn’t trust each other enough to talk about what was really going on”. You know, you have that proverbial elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about – “well, that’s that third rail topic that we don’t want to touch because every time we mention it you know the boss always gets a little crazy so we’ll just avoid that issue”.

That’s usually what causes big companies to collapse. It is because we’re not talking about the things that really matter. We’re avoiding those issues because we’re afraid we might hurt somebody’s feelings.

Trusting Each Other

So how much do we trust each other? And we’re not only talking about trust that people show up for work on time, but something we call vulnerability based trust. So do we trust each other enough that you can walk into the room and apologize to your colleagues and say “I’m sorry I screwed up yesterday, everything I said was totally wrong, we need to approach this from a different angle”?

Disagreeing with Each Other and Embracing Conflict

Once we have this level of trust, which is the underpinning of a successful team, you need to wonder: can we have good arguments? Because if we can trust each other we can actually argue with each other. We can have disagreements and we can fight back and forth, and by the way that’s really healthy. We are getting all the sides of the argument on the table and people are expressing their views because they trust each other.

Commitment to the Solution

If we don’t trust each other, we’re afraid to bring things up. So if we get to that level where we can have these arguments, can we then come around and all come together with an alignment around a common solution? Can we put our previous thoughts behind us and agree that “yes, this is the path forward, we’ve had it out and discussed it in detail, and now we’re moving forward with the one message to the organization”? Do I leave the meeting and  tell everybody else that’s a crazy idea and I block it, or do I tell everybody else “this is what we’re doing, I believe in it, it wasn’t my idea but that’s okay since we came together as a team and this is the place were going”.

Holding Each Other Accountable

The next thing to ask is: can we hold each other accountable? Are we holding each other accountable for that solution or do we just expect the boss to hold us accountable? With the teams that work well together, the entire team holds themselves accountable for the strategy that they’re moving down, the one that they all agreed on.

The Common Result

Do we believe in the common result? Are we all trying to just maximize our own department budgets or our own bonus plan but it doesn’t matter because the rest of the company suffers, or are we really looking for that result that helps the entire organization be more successful?

So these are the five behaviors that really build a cohesive team and organization, that build the health of the organization, which supplement the smarts. We still want to have a smart organization, we wanted to do the right thing and have the right people and processes, but we need to also spend an equal amount of time on the health of an organization. And that’s what really defines very successful businesses.