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Charlie Duff

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Teams and leadership: Patrick Lencioni talks to


For Patrick Lencioni life could be simple – if only we stopped looking for the harder answers. From being a good parent and a great spouse, to fitness and work, life is simple. It’s hard, he admits, but there’s no hard and fast answers – we look for scientific answers but there are none needed.

First, he says, you need to be smart and you need a healthy team.

You need to do the following to have a healthy team: keep the politics down, have minimal confusion, high productivity and low turnover.

People need to hear something seven times in an organisation before they believe it. It comes down to leadership. Leaders have to over-communicate the important stuff and repeat it. Great organisations are great at doing that. Again, it is simple: build a great team, get them aligned then put in place basic systems to keep this in place.

Focus on how to build a cohesive team.
This is the most important aspect because your ability to build a cohesive team decides whether you can build a healthy team.
See our video where we talk to Pat about leadership, family and how HR can manage teams better:

Dysfunctions of teams

1. Absence of trust
By this Patrick does not mean predictive trust – as in knowing what someone is going to do – but vulnerability trust. This is where you can say to someone; “I need your help, I was wrong, I’m sorry,“ and when everyone else can do this then there is a powerful level of trust
Vulnerability is when you realise you are wrong and the team doesn’t realise this – but you tell them that you are wrong. When you realise you took out your home stress on your team, admit it and apologise.

2. Conflict
When we can build trust we can overcome the fear of conflict. Conflict around issues is positive, great teams always debate and argue with each other over ideology. This is not personal conflict, but stimulating debate.

Culturally this varies but no matter what, you need to know people on your team are not holding back. Great teams disagree – trust enables us to engage in productive conflict.

3. Lack of commitment
If people don’t feel they have weighed in on a decision they won’t buy in.
Patrick does not mean consensus; to him ‘consensus is a four letter word’! The leader is there to break the tie – and when this happens 99% will support it no matter what so long as they felt consulted.

Passive commitment means they don’t pre-warn you and don’t raise issues. Teach your team to disagree and commit – it’ll be true commitment.

4.  Avoidance of accountability
If your team is not committed, team members won’t be able to hold each other accountable to their ideas and actions.

Most CEOs don’t want to confront people because they want to be liked.

Having a difficult conversation
We have to have the courage to face up to these and if you care about the people you work with you have to hold them accountable for their behaviours.

Leaders have to do this so others on the team can do it for each other. By not doing it we give them tacit permission to do things outside of the team’s interest.
Everyone needs a thematic goal to work towards: everyone must know what the single over-riding goal is. It needs to be timescaled at 3-12 months – any less than this and it will feel like a fad, any longer and it will lead to fatigue.
Don’t create a false crisis but do have a rallying cry – something which is bigger than their dept and inspires them to work better.

The 3 signs of a miserable job
It’s not good job vs. bad – it’s miserable job vs. fulfilling job

1. Anonymity
If your boss is not interested in you as a person then you cannot love your work. There is a basic human need to be known for what you do at work. As a manager it’s your job to go and make sure you know everyone who works for you and know about them. You can change your competitive influence in your market just by doing simple things.

2. Irrelevance
Every job should impact on other people’s lives. Treat people in a way which makes them treat others better. You can make someone’s day. Do it.
Relevance is about the whole thing – we have to help people connect to their jobs.

3. Immesaurement
You need to be able to gauge your own level of success. And know how you make a difference.
You have no real measure? Make one up! (Suggestion – how many times did you make someone smile?) Salespeople like their jobs because they always know where they stand – they get a lot of feedback. You need to let people know where they stand.

So even if you have to make up a measure – it will work and you will see turnover drop and engagement soar.

Final thought: Managing people is one of the most important things we can do. It touches every area of their lives so don’t take it lightly – you affect their lives more than you will ever know.

  • Charlie Duff met Patrick at a Benchmark for Business event: visit their site to see their next leadership event.
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Charlie Duff


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