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)

The “Miracle Moment”

The “miracle on ice” is the story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. This team of amateur players overcame the odds and beat the Soviet hockey team, considered best in the world, during a tumultuous point in the Cold War. Disney made a movie about the team called “Miracle”, staring Kurt Russel as the team’s coach Herb Brooks.

Embed from Getty Images

There is a famous moment during the movie that tells an important story about teamwork and team trust. Throughout the beginning of the movie, Disney shows that the athletes identify as a collection of individuals. Coach Brooks periodically asks team members during practice to introduce themselves and they respond with their name, home town, and school where they played hockey. Even thought, the team is beginning to gel, it’s obvious that trust has not fully formed.

After a disappointing performance during an exhibition game, Coach Brooks keeps the whole team out on the ice to run “suicide” sprints for hours. The team is becoming so fatigued as they keep skating back and forth across the ice that the assistant coach and team physician are encouraging Coach Brooks to stop calling for more sprints. At a desperate, but important moment, the soon-to-be-named team captain, Mike Eruzione, announces his name, hometown, and that he plays for their current team, their country, the United States of America.

You can watch the scene here:

That “Miracle Moment” was a dramatic representation of the moment when a group of individuals transformed into a team. In high-performing teams, team members can pinpoint the moment where this transformation happens, which I refer to as the “Miracle Moment”.

When individuals come together to perform a task, becoming a team does not happen quickly. Basic human psychology encourages us to be selective about whom we trust, especially when other people look, speak, or see the world differently than we do. Individuals can get together and perform tasks well, but only in an environment of trust, openness, and fairness will a true team be able to form.

Teams are different than groups of individuals because teams can achieve high levels of synergy. Synergy happens when the group reaches better conclusions than any of the individuals would have reached acting independently from one another.

The best performing teams that I have been on have all had a “Miracle Moment” where individuals became a team. It is hard to manufacture that moment, it takes work to create and foster an environment where it can happen. The leader is responsible for developing a context where the team can come together. For Coach Brooks, his strategy was to galvanize the team against a common foe: himself.

Brooks’ plan worked. The US Olympic hockey team won the gold medal in 1980, beating the Soviets to get into the gold medal game.

KEY TAKEAWAY: As you lead your team, create opportunities for the “Miracle Moment” to happen when your team becomes truly synergistic. Use the tools at your disposal: the ability to call meetings, set up retreats, or create social contexts outside of work to create an environment where trust develops. When that “Miracle Moment” happens, the group of people you lead will become a team and teams can accomplish anything.