Thursday, August 31, 2017

Smart and/or Healthy?

A few years ago at a leadership summit, Patrick Lencioni related the story about Southwest Airlines. He had been at one of their leadership meetings and as they talked about their culture, he asked the CEO why the airline's competitors didn't talk about these things. "Frankly," Herb Kelleher responded, "I think they think it's beneath them." Organizations need to be smart and healthy. But organizational health is hard, so almost all organizations focus on being smart. But Southwest Airlines knows there are smarter, more experienced people at their competitors' they try to be as smart as they can but, more importantly, they strive for health so that they tap into ALL of the intelligence their organization has.

Smart organizations focus on strategy, marketing, finance and technology...According to Lencioni, it's half of the equation but gets 98% of the attention. These are the areas that are more illuminated, like the drunk looking for car keys under the street light though he lost them in the alley. Mediocre or bad organizations are often that way, not because of dumb executives, but because of dis-ease in the organization. However, organizational health leads to 'true competitive advantage,' according to Lencioni.

Healthy organizations focus on...
  • minimal confusion and politics--and this is the key for many of the organizations with which I've been involved--through integrity, transparency, "majoring on the majors", sorting relevant from irrelevant...
  • high morale
  • productivity
  • low turnover
These areas can be messy...and emotional. The soft stuff is the hard stuff. According to Dr. Henry Cloud in Boundaries for Leaders, "we are ridiculously in charge"--in other words, we get exactly the corporate culture we want and/or the culture we allow. He then describes that important aspects of the leadership responsibilities are such because we are leading an organizational "brain":

  • Focusing attention on the relevant and avoiding organizational ADD (attention deficit disorder)
  • Inhibiting actions that are irrelevant, unimportant or too risky
  • Retaining working 'organizational memory' and observations/data in order to access relevant information for reasoning, decision-making, leading to taking effective future actions.
If these things are important to the 'mental health' of the organization, and needed to reduce dysfunctions of your team, why are you only spending 2% of your time on it?

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