Book Review: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

the advantage by patrick lencioni

Over the course of the past 8 years, I have become enthralled with Patrick Lencioni’s (pronounced Lin-choni’s) series of parables for the business leader. These easy to read, engaging short stories lay out principles that will help a business and it’s leaders become healthy. The first book I read in Pat’s series was”The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” It hit me where it hurt! It was spot on for the team that does it’s job well, but just does not work that well together to create something that none of the team members could create on their own. After reading that short parable and set of principles, I got fired up about building a healthy team free of silos and operating with a level of trust that is required for health.

The Advantage by Patrick LencioniI was excited to find out a couple of years ago that Pat was putting all of his principles together into a comprehensive manual for leading teams. This work was called “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.”

In this book Patrick says, “the single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health.Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.” Now why would any leader turn her back on something that is so effective and FREE? That is the question that led Patrick to put together this manual on team health.

In The AdvantagePatrick delineates between the smart company and the healthy company. He states that although the two are different, they are both necessary for ultimate success. He says that smart is only half the equation and that healthy completes the success cycle. Below is his assessement of the two:

Smart

  • Strategy
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Technology

Healthy

  • Minimal Politics
  • Minimal Confusion
  • High Morale
  • High Productivity
  • Low Turnover

So, how do we attain health in our business? Patrick outlines “Four Disciplines” that lead to a healthy organization.

Discipline #1: Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
Discipline #2: Create Clarity
Discipline #3: Overcommunicate Clarity
Discipline #4: Reinforce Clarity

Build a Cohesive Leadership Team

A leadership team is a small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving a common objective for their organization.             -Patrick Lencioni

Pat says that there are five building blocks for a healthy team.

  • Trust
  • Healthythe advantage by patrick lencioni Conflict
  • Commitment
  • Accountability
  • Results

The remainder of the chapter on Cohesiveness gives practical examples, exercises and metrics which will aid a leadership team in becoming cohesive and saying goodbye to distrust and silos.

Create Clarity

The “Create Clarity” step is all about achieving alignment.

Regarding alignment, Lencioni says, “Alignment and clarity cannot be achieved in one fell swoop with a series of buzzwords and aspirational phrases crammed together. It requires a much more rigorous and unpretentious approach (The Advantage, page 76).”

Patrick builds his case on creating clarity around six questions that every leadership team should be able to answer. Although these questions are simple, they represent the bare minimum that a leadership team must agree upon to be unified in their vision and mission.

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What is most important, right now?
  6. Who must do what?

When I walked my leadership team through these six questions a couple years ago, we were amazed at how difficult it was to answer some of the most simple of the list. Seriously, as a consignment or thrift store, WHAT DO WE DO? We were surprised at how much we learned when we walked through that question as a team.

Overcommunicate Clarity

Sure, you’re just a small consignment shop or thrift store. I understand that you have a small team. Heck, maybe it’s only you and one or two more. This chapter seems a bit irrelevant as it talks about cascading your leadership message down to subordinates. But hey, how about your consignors, or your customers. Once your team aligns around clarity using these six questions, you must communicate…no overcommunicate your message.

One of the most dreaded questions that my team faces many times on a day is the same one you hear constantly, “So, how does your consignment work?” It can be torture to repeat that short spiel over and over again. But guess what, it’s the first time your potential consignor has heard it. And if she hears a different message from you than she hears from your sales clerk, she is confused and less likely to become your supplier.

Don’t just reach clarity on WHAT you do (procedures), but WHY you do it (mission). And then communicate and overcommunicate it with ALL your people. The more your team is unified around both procedures and mission, you will have consignors and customers knocking down your door to do business with you.

Reinforce Clarity

You’ve heard the old saying, “do as I say, not as I do.” That’s what we often try to do in our business leadership. We may have an awesome mission statement and vision for our business, but if it is simply a nice little sound byte that we pop off when we have an opportunity to impress someone, it is pointless and repelling to the people around your business.

Every fiber of our mission and vision must be reinforced with every human system we integrate into our systems. Whether it’s hiring, firing, consignment policies, customer procedures or compensation, our systems must align with our clarity of mission and vision.

Patrick says that the biggest challenge is to do this without adding too much structure. A business and it’s systems must breathe. We have to be willing to bend a bit and tweak over time. But each procedure, policy and system must be aligned with our Why and our How.

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni: Conclusion

Organizational health sounds fun! Who wouldn’t want to work on a team who has a unified message, mission and vision and is fully committed to seeing the business through to reach them? That is synergy. That is momentum!

The single most important factor to organizational health is the commitment of the primary leader.

Are you committed to working with your team to achieve vibrant organizational health?

It requires a whole lot of give and take! It’s not just about you, it’s about that team taking ownership and charging forward together.

If you haven’t read Patrick Lencionis Leadership Parables, please pick one up now! When you are ready to put them all together tackle “The Advantage.” You will not regret it!

In the comment section below, share the key idea you picked up from reading this review.
What will you do next to lead your team toward organizational health?

Comment Below!