Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book Notes - The Advantage

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

For the past few months or so, I've been encouraging a lot of people that I meet with about the importance of organizational structure. Yes of course the character and capacity of the people on your team is important. But almost just as important is that you have an organizational structure that allows you to do what you want to do. I know this sounds obvious. Like one of my favorite mantras of Mosaic : Structure must submit to Spirit. This book took this idea to task.

The second large idea that hit me from this book deals with the value of trust. Specifically, I have been on teams in the past where the issue of trust was obvious - members of this team don't trust one another. That's certainly an issue that needs to be addressed. What hit me even more was reminders of specific times when I've been on a team and have withheld trusting another team member. That's a very personal flaw that I should have fixed.

Anyway, on to the notes. Most of you readers would really enjoy this book.
Build a Cohesive Team : Build Trust - Master Conflict - Achieve Commitment - Embrace Accountability
Create Clarity
Overcommunicate Clarity
Reinforce Clarity

Teams: A good way to understand a working group is to think of it like a golf team, where players go off and play on their own and then get together and add up their scores at the end of the day. A real team is more like a basketball team, one that plays together simultaneously, in an interactive, mutually dependent, and often interchangeable way.
I like to say that teamwork is not a virtue. It is a choice - and a strategic one. That means leaders who choose to operate as a real team willingly accept the work and the sacrifices that are necessary for any group that wants to reap the benefits of true teamwork.
A leadership team is a small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieve a common objective for their organization.
When it comes to discussions and decision making, there are two critical ways that members of effective teams must communicate: advocacy and inquiry.
When more than eight or nine people are on a team, members tend to advocate a heck of a lot more than they inquire.... When a team is small, members are more likely to use much of their time asking questions and seeking clarity, confident that they'll be able to regain the floor and share their ideas or opinions when necessary.
The kind of trust that is necessary to build a great team is what I call vulnerability-based trust.
- personal histories, profiling [mbti], fundamental attribution error.
When team members trust one another, when they know that everyone on the team is capable of admitting when they don't have the right answer, and when they're willing to acknowledge when someone else's idea is better than theirs, the fear of conflict and the discomfort it entails is greatly diminished. When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best posssible answer.
As critical as conflict is, it's important to understand that different people, different families, and different cultures participate in conflict in different ways.
When people fail to be honest with one another about an issue they disagree on, their disagreement around that issue festers and ferments over time until it transforms into frustration around that person.
When team members get used to choosing the latter option - withholding their opinions - frustration inevitably sets in. Essentially, they're deciding to tolerate their colleague rather than trust him.
... It's important to remember that the reluctance to engage in conflict is not always a problem of conflict per se. In many cases, and perhaps in most of them, the real problem goes back to a lack of trust.
... the more comfortable a leader is holding people on a team accountable, the less likely she is to be asked to do so. The less likely she is to confront people, the more she'll be called on to do it by subordinates who aren't willing to do her dirty work for her.
6 questions for organizational clarity
why do we exist
how do we behave
what do we do
how will we succeed
what is most important, right now
who must do what
The only way for people to embrace a message is to hear it over a period of time, in a variety of different situations, and preferably from different people. That's why great leaders see themselves as Chief Reminding Officers as much as anything else. 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.
The point of leadership is not to keep the leader entertained, but to mobilize people around what is most important. When that calls for repetition and reinforcement, which it almost does, a good leader relishes that responsibility.
Providing employees with a means of communicating upward to their leaders is important in any organization. However, it's not the panacea it's often presented to be. That's because noncohesive leadership teams that have not aligned themselves around common answers to critical questions are not in a position to respond adequately to employee input and requests. In fact, getting more input from employees often only exacerbates frustration in an organization when that input cannot be digested and used.
Great organizations, unlike countries, are never run like a democracy.
Keeping a relatively strong performer who is not a cultural fit creates a variety of problems. Most important of all, it sends a loud and clear message to employees that the organization isn't all that serious about what it says it believes.... When leaders take the difficult step of letting a strong performer go because of a values mismatch, they not only send a powerful message about their commitment to their values, they also usually find that the performance of the remaining employees improves because they are no longer being stifled by the behavior of their former colleague.

Four types of meetings:
admin - daily check in - 5-10 mins
tactical - weekly staff - 45-90 mins
strategic - ad hoc topical - 2-4 hours
developmental - quarterly off site review - 1-2 days

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