October 06, 2009

Pat Lencioni: Building Winning Teams

Pat Lencioni, the management author (One-Minute Manager), did an outstanding talk on how to build winning teams.  Highlights:

Life is ultimately simple and really difficult.  Usually success in life comes down to doing things that are theoretically simple but really hard to do day in and day out. 

There are two requirements to run a successful business: “smart” and “healthy.”  We spend too much time making our organizations “smarter” (strategy, marketing, finance, technology) and not enough time making them “healthy” (minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, low turnover).  Southwest Airlines isn’t smarter than Delta or United.  They don’t have more PhDs.  Their competitive advantage is that they’ve built a great organization.

It is so easy in an age of nano-second communication to copy a strategy.  You cannot replicate an organization’s culture though.  

Here’s a process for building healthy organizations:

Some areas we can all develop:

Trusting the team:  Predictive trust (“I know what he’s going to do”) isn’t enough.  Teams need vulnerability-based trust (“I don’t know the answer…”).  Vulnerability-based trust allows human beings can be human beings.  It allows team members to stand in front of the group emotionally naked.  One person on a team who cannot be vulnerable will spread the attitude to the team. 

Managing younger people: They have high needs for understanding why their job matters.  They want to feel part of a team and they need trust.  It’s less about a “job and benefits” for them. 

Dealing with conflict: If you have a marriage where you don’t argue, you don’t have a good marriage.  Great relationships are built on the ability to disagree—even passionately.  Great teams debate things.  Conflict is almost always lacking.  Because CEOs don’t want people to get their feelings hurt.  The organization where people get their feelings hurt the most is church.  When you don’t have conflict around issues and ideas, it ferments into conflict around people. 

Addressing unpleasant behaviors:  Behaviors proceed results. Leaders must confront people about their behaviors.  You need to do this vulnerability, but failing to confront difficult issues is an act of selfishness.