Every business leader has to deal with a challenging—sometimes overwhelming—mix of variables. Because they feel so much pressure to get things done, it is often tempting to let small decisions side. How many times have you and your team said, “Oh, we’ll come back and decide that later”? And did later ever arrive? To have the best chance of success, leaders and their teams should drill down into the smallest details at the first opportunity, instead of leaving seemingly “little things” to chance.
Patrick Lencioni believes that neglecting the details creates a real and serious threat to the health of a company. He argues that the best way to build a company is to truly define every aspect of it first. The author of multiple books, including The Five Temptations of a CEO, Death by Meeting, and Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni knows what a healthy or unhealthy) organization looks like. The biggest mistake that leaders make, he says, is that they and their teams don’t take the time to really understand what their company stands for. As a result, they have no way forward.
In both the course and his recent book The Advantage, Lencioni outlines six questions that every business leader and his team must ask in order to build a healthy company.
1. Why do we exist?
Does your company have employees who show up daily without much motivation or desire? (Are you sure?) They may have no idea what the true purpose of their job is. Lencioni says it is imperative that this “why” be defined before anything else in the organization. “There are all kinds of different purposes or reasons for existing,” he notes. “The point is, you have to know yours and you have be clear about it because you don’t ever want to violate that. It gives your employees a reason to get out of bed in the morning and it allows them to understand why what they’re doing ultimately matters.”
2. How do we behave?
Many organizations function without any clear guidelines for behavior. They think this creates flexibility for different types of people to function within the group. Unfortunately, it has unintended consequences: confusion, frustration, and inconsistency. “When an organization has no clear values, or worse yet, when they have 12 and they get a thesaurus out and they look up the 12 nicest adjectives they can find to encompass all perfect things, they leave employees without any guidelines for their behavior.” People crave clarity. His advice? Find the two or three most important behaviors for your company. Your employees will remember them and relax, as they now know what to do. This will help build the right culture and even attract the right clients.
3. What do we actually do?
To get the business growing, some leaders will try running several different models or opportunities at the same time, often arguing they are all related in some way. When you do too many things, the only guarantee is that you’ll never be great at any particular thing. Lencioni states that it is crucial for companies to analyze and determine whether they are service- or product-focused and what they want to be the best at.
4. How will we succeed?
A common belief about “business equation is: smart idea + great team + great product/service= long-term success. Lencioni believes this leaves out a critical variable, noting that every company needs a unique set of strategies that will help them win the market. Once you have those strategic concepts in place, “we have found that that frees up employees to become more creative and empowered.”
5. What is most important, right now?
“If everything is important, then nothing is,” Lencioni insists. He means that many organizations don’t have a clear understanding of how to create priorities. Teams wind up misusing their time. He recommends that organizations find the single most crucial task at hand and look to complete it between the span of three to 12 months. This will give everyone in the organization something to rally around.
6. Who must do what?
Does your executive team attempt to do everything together, or all at once, or both? Lencioni says that’s a surefire way to kill progress. Lencioni recommends clarifying each person’s responsibilities and deliverables in order to develop a clear strategy for moving forward.