Building teamwork and strategy

I see what you are doing Patrick Lencioni…

I’ve gotten hooked on your podcast and now I am reading all of your books.

Well played, Pat. Well played.

This post is all about Lencioni’s book, The Advantage, which is a clear, concise, and easy read all about how teamwork, strategy, and communication come together to help organizations achieve strategic goals.

The Advantage is the only Lencioni book that I’ve encountered that is not told as a fable with an explanation at the end. The author gets right into the content describing four disciplines that achieve organizational health. They are:

  1. Build a cohesive leadership team
  2. Create clarity
  3. Over-communicate clarity
  4. Reinforce clarity

The Advantage Model and Summary

For lessons on building a cohesive leadership team, they mirror Lencioni’s model in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The create clarity section uses the model Lencioni describes in Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars with a few added tips. The new learning for me came in the “over-communicate clarity” and “reinforce clarity” sections of the book, particularly in the practical advice about meetings.

I spend the majority of my time in meetings at work. In a complex organization with many different functions, it is hard to avoid meetings and, in all honesty, it’s a necessity to operate a large organizations. Still, meetings can be productive with the right intention and format.

Lencioni describes a model involving four kinds of meetings in The Advantage and even describes how much time a leader invests in meetings using his model and the potential benefits.

Using the model assures regular and clear communication with the team on as frequent as a daily basis. In my experience, I have learned that Lencioni’s emphasis on over-communicating is right on. In the midst of a task heavy day, most people need the friendly reminder to align those tasks to strategy and operations. That is why great organizations (particularly service organizations like the Ritz-Carlton) that I have observed and admired have mechanisms to repeat key themes on a daily basis.

I recommend that any leader who is either in a new leadership role or is looking for a change of pace with their current team read The Advantage. Also, subscribe to the At the Table podcast, knowing that it will be supplemented with an investment in materials!

KEY TAKEAWAY: Leniconi’s model described in The Advantage is a must-use for teams looking to achieve strategic goals. By focusing on the four disciplines of healthy organizations, leaders can set an important tone in how a team works together, sets its strategy, and keeps that plan top of mind.


The Advantage is available for purchase on Amazon for $27.95 (does not include Prime discount)

Can you win a game with no end?

Simon Sinek’s latest book, The Infinite Game, provides another challenge to the status quo for leaders. Always thought-provoking, different, and inspiring, Simon Sinek asks leaders in business a fundamental question: What game are you playing?

Sinek describes how many corporate leaders judge their success based on how they win or lose at the game of business. Sinek though, says that business is not a win-able game because there is no end. He argues that business and service are, in fact, infinite.
Sinek reviews lessons from several successful businesses who are loyal to their “just cause,” a mission statement with a few extra parameters, in order to further prove his point. One example he gives is CVS’ decision to no longer sell cigarettes in their stores as part of their commitment to enriching community health.InfiniteGame

One aspect of the book I really enjoyed was the inclusion of real life examples of how to lead in an infinite game. Sinek features leaders who rally for a cause, instead of simply trying to beat a competing organization. He gives examples of training leaders from the US Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. He discusses the Shell URSA oil rig as an example of a team that needed to establish psychological safety in order to ensure physical and environmental safety. He uses the Four Seasons Las Vegas as an example of an organization where leaders care for the employees, which leads to incredible customer service (Incidentally, this example about an associate named Noah, was my favorite part of the book).

Sinek writes much about the role of a CEO in an organization playing the “Infinite game,” suggesting that the CEO should really function more as a Chief Vision Officer or CVO.

Few authors are able to write with as much strong conviction on leadership topics as Simon Sinek. He is very critical of finite-minded CEOs, which in the book include Jack Welch (Former GE CEO) and Steve Ballmer (Former Microsoft CEO).

But the real magic of Sinek is his ability to illustrate that businesses that practice long-term thinking around a “just cause” benefit both the business itself and the broader community. For example, in the CVS example of ending the sale of cigarettes at their stores, he explained how the company’s stock price went down for only a matter of days, only to shoot back up even higher than it had been performing.

I agree with most of what Simon Sinek writes about and try to put his ideas into my own leadership practice. Whenever I have the opportunity to work with a team, I always stress the need for a clear vision that can be understood across the organization and for psychological safety to develop high-functioning teams. Like Sinek’s other books, this is the next in an excellent series of required reading for modern leaders.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Simon Sinek’s latest book doesn’t disappoint. It illustrates how to lead in an organization pursing a just cause and and infinite mindset. Implementing the ideas should be simple and are imperative for most successful teams.


The Infinite Game is available for purchase on Amazon for $28.00 (does not include Prime discount)

The most important organization in the world

Welcome back to Leadership as a Practice. We took a brief hiatus for the holidays but are back with more exciting content for you to enhance your own leadership practice.

Part of the reason for the break is that my wife and I are expecting our first child this Spring and we had some planning to take care of. As our family grows, we did some deep thinking about what it means to become a family with a child.

Coincidentally, I have been listening to a new podcast called At the Table with Patrick Lencioni, and a recent episode was about how to create a strategy for the family, or as Lencioni describes it, the most important organization in the world. My wife listened to the podcast as well and we both decided to try creating a family strategy with core values, defining objectives, standard objectives, and a regular cadence of checking in on progress.

Lencioni3Together, we read Lencioni’s book, The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family, which describes the process families can use to develop their strategic plan. This past Saturday night, we went out to dinner with the book, a legal pad, and pen and mapped out our strategy. The book describes that this process should be fast and we found that to be true. With the prompts and descriptions from the book, we spent about 20 minutes discussing the strategy and 10 minutes refining it. After reading our strategy over several times, we felt comfortable with the product.

From there, Lencioni prescribes developing a “rallying cry” or your family’s short term goal (2-6 months). I have also heard this idea called the “burning platform” in business discussions. The “rallying cry” will be reached by accomplishing “defining objectives”. From there, you define “standard objectives” or the themes that are always important to the family (ex: Physical health). After all of that work, the family meets weekly for 10 minutes to do a stoplight score (green for on schedule, yellow for close, and red for off schedule), which helps prioritize goals for the upcoming week.

My wife and I have our first check-in meeting this week, so we decided that we wouldn’t share our strategy with Leadership as a Practice readers until later (but stay tuned).

At work, I’m a big advocate of the value of strategic planning as well as disciplined and intentional implementation of the plan. Applying it to our family was something that occurred to me but I couldn’t figure out how to implement it. Lencioni’s model has helped my family get focused and organized. Our strategy has already helped us make decisions that are aligned. It also serves as an excellent model for a quick strategic plan for a functional department at any business.

Do you lead with intention both at home and at work? If you have any stories about this topic, I would love to hear them. Please send them to me here.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Strategic planning is a valuable exercise to accomplish both professional and personal goals. Leaders can establish a plan quickly and implement it. What better place to start than at home?


The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family is available for purchase on Amazon for $24.95 (does not include Prime discount)

Book Review: Tribe of Mentors

I was wandering through the business section of the Amazon Books store in our old neighborhood and stumbled upon Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. Ferriss, as you may know, is the author of several books including The 4-Hour Workweek and hosts a popular podcast called The Tim Ferriss Show.

In this book, Ferriss interviews experts, celebrities, thought leaders, and other successful figures to collect their advice and wisdom into one reference book. Each interview is a few pages long and I have left the book on our coffee table for a quick read every time I have an extra minute.

Among the questions Ferriss asks his interviewees are:

  • What’s the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
  • How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
  • In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
  • If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere, what would it say, and why?
  • What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

tribe of mentors

The book is eye opening for many reasons and Ferriss sources are diverse, deep, and impressive. One lesson is the value of asking good questions. As you can tell by the sampling of Ferriss’ questions above, these are not the typical questions people ask in most interviews. As a result, Ferriss gets thoughtful and deep responses. It has challenged me to ask better questions, especially it situations when I am the most curious.

The stories of how some of the figures handled failure are inspiring. Those answers are some of my favorite in addition to the very practical advice around how to focus. Sometimes I feel like I am walking through quicksand or thick molasses in making progress. It’s reassuring to know that I am not along in this feeling. The most successful people all have stories of risk and setbacks before finally realizing a reward.

Additionally, good advice is only as good as making it fit for the person receiving it. There is a lot of advice in the book, I’ve found that some of it could work for me with simple changes (low barriers to entry), some with more complex changes, and some that just don’t fit my personality. While all the advice in the book is valuable, not all of it is good for every reader. My advice in reviewing the book is to pick one or two simple behavior changes that makes sense first and to not try to change everything at once.

Overall Tribe of Mentors is a good read and a good reference. It should be on every leader’s bookshelf.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss contains a lot of excellent wisdom for leaders. Through reading it, I’ve learned to ask better questions, embrace failures, and be discerning about taking advice.


Tribe of Mentors is available for purchase on Amazon for $30.00 (does not include Prime discount)

Is it better to be a generalist or a specialist?

I always enjoy books that challenge conventional thinking. I find it always important to question and wrestle with the way I typically approach problems or other situations. For that reason, I highly recommend reading the book Range by David Epstein.

Epstein takes on the fundamental assumption that going deeper (specialization) is better for problem solving in our increasingly complex world than it is to have many diverse experiences (generalization). According to Epstein, generalists are in the best position to solve problems and innovate in an increasingly complex environment.

He writes that human’s unique strength is in the ability to think broadly, which is a capability that is uniquely human and difficult to teach a machine or algorithm to do effectively. He cites numerous examples from sports to medicine to space travel where the specialists got it wrong and a more general view would have been more beneficial.

There are many implications to leadership in business in the research Epstein compiles in Range.

One lesson is about over-reliance on data, which Epstein illustrates using the Challenger explosion as an example. At the Johnson Space Center a plaque in the mission control room read, “In God We Trust—All Others Bring Data.” Epstein explains how NASA’s culture made it rely on quantitative analysis too much, which he argues helped to bring on the decision to launch the Challenger when the O-rings were vulnerable to failure.

I highly recommend the book and believe that all leaders can benefit from its lessons. Next week I will write about some of the implications of Range’s findings to organizational development.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Generalized knowledge may be advantageous for leaders to develop new ways to solve long standing problems.


Range is available for purchase on Amazon for $28.00 (does not include Prime discount).