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, 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 talking here not just 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 I was totally wrong, we need to approach this from a different angle"?
Disagreeing with Each Other
Once we have this level of trust, which is the underpinning of a successful team, the next thing is 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 – when were getting all the sides of the argument on the table and people are expressing their views, and because we trust each other we can express our views. If we don't trust each other, we're afraid to bring it up "I don't even want to go there, I don't want them to think that I'm not part of the yes-man team that's supporting the boss." 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 I 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 if 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 to.
The Common Result
The final thing, the fifth element, is if we believe in the common result. Are we all trying to just maximize our own department budgets or our own bonus plan or just saving a few people in the company 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 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.