Patrick-LencioniPatrick Lencioni is a pretty big name on the business speaking circuit having published some very popular business and leadership books. Three of his better known books are:

  • The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  • Death By Meeting

In March I attended an event where he spoke for about three hours on some of the topics he writes about. It was his first time in Australia. The event at Star City Casino appeared to be a full house of well over 1,000 people.

Lencioni is a thoroughly engaging speaker with a sense of humour and some important messages to share. You could argue that a lot of what he says is common sense. It’s just that common sense doesn’t seem to be all that common!

Organisational Health

He started by focusing on organizational health and four disciplines of what he defines as a healthy organisation. These are:

  1. The leadership team is behaviourally cohesive
  2. They create clarity – so everyone is on the same page
  3. They over communicate the clarity
  4. They reinforce the clarity through structures

In terms of the clarity piece he identifies six questions to be aligned on:

  1. Why do we exist? (not the $)
  2. How do we behave? (what are our values)
  3. What do we do? (what business are we in)
  4. How will we succeed? (essentially strategy)
  5. Who must do what?

These align with elements I build into my planning workshops with clients and I agree 100% that alignment on these is really, really important.

Lencioni reminded us all that the leadership team need to keep repeating things about these six questions over and over again. He even went so far as to say that the CEO is really the CRO – Chief Reminder Officer! I agree. The positive messages about these things can and should be communicated regularly and in different ways by the leaders.

He also made a good observation about meetings – that these are where decisions are made and meetings are a fundamental part of leaders’ roles. Good meetings = good decisions. Sometimes meetings get a bad rap but that is usually because they have been poorly set up and managed.


Lencioni walked us through the five dysfunctions of a team as he sees them – the things that destroy teams.

  1. Absence of trust
    This is what he calls vulnerability based trust – are you prepared to be emotionally naked with each other?
    The leader has to be vulnerable first and Patrick shared some amusing stories of where this was not possible
  2. Fear of conflict
    He sees procedure conflict as very necessary and drew a continuum from artificial harmony through to mean, hurtful conflict – he reckons somewhere more towards the artificial harmony end is desirable
    Conflict is about getting to the best decision
  3. Lack of commitment
    You need to have weighed in to have buy in but this is not consensus – but everyone gets to say his or her piece and their opinion is factored in
  4. Unwillingness to hold each other accountable
    When he gets people to self rate this is the one of the five that gets the lowest rating
    It comes from peers in the team as well as the leader
    Quoted Alan Mulally at Ford as a great example of a leader who is really good at this
  5. Inattention to results
    This is about collective results, not individuals


The ideal team player

Lencioni says there are three qualities that an ideal team player exhibits:

  1. Humble
    To quote CS Lewis, this is not about thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. In other words, you can be confident and humble
  2. Hungry
    This is not workaholicism but it is a work ethic to get things done
  3. Smart
    This is not about raw intellect but more about emotional intelligence – you are tuned in to the people around you


Three root causes of job misery

He identifies these as:

  1. Anonymity
    This occurs if the leaders have no interest in you as a person.
    You feel you are not understood or appreciated
  2. Irrelevance
    This occurs if leaders are unable to connect what you do with something that matters, or a benefit to others – to reinforce that what you are doing is impacting others in a positive way
  3. Immeasurement
    This occurs when there is no measurement of progress or success that the you can assess for yourself and is not dependent on the opinion of others


Some good food for thought here.