Are Your Executives Obsessed with the Right Things?

One of the most common bits of feedback I get from clients about their experience with EOS® is that it has simplified their work. Before adopting EOS, most of them were either rudderless—shifting with every change in their Visionary’s mood—or in a rut.

They all knew they had a problem, but trying to fix it felt like putting together ten jigsaw puzzles from the same pile of pieces.

Done well, simplification gets to the heart of problems without sacrificing smarts.

Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, often is high on my list of recommendations for new clients. I don’t just want their Visionary or Integrator to read it. Everyone on the leadership team can benefit from it. Why? Because it offers a simple set of rules for improving as a business leader and, ultimately, building a strong company.

In a nutshell, here are Lencioni’s Four Obsessions:

  1. Build and maintain a cohesive, trusting leadership team.
  2. Create organizational clarity.
  3. Over-communicate the plan.
  4. Reinforce the message.

Here’s how I’ve seen these principles play out.

Cohesion is a team effort.

When I hear a business claim it’s just like a family, I wonder if that includes the drag-out arguments that families have. For companies that really mean it, arguments might be a normal thing. The challenge with arguments is to keep them productive.

In EOS, tools like IDS™ offer a solution. At the end of the argument, there needs to be a solution: a tangible, measurable, realistic goal for addressing the source of the conflict.

One of the family businesses I work with has quite a few strong personalities. The arguments during our early sessions made me wonder if the team was on the edge of falling apart. They told me they’d argued like this for years. The trouble was that they’d usually storm out of the room without resolving their differences.

I’m not going to tell you that EOS miraculously turned this crew into the picture of harmony. They still argue, but once tempers settle someone will say, “Let’s IDS this.” The result is they find a path forward quickly, because finding that solution is baked into their “argument framework.”

Organizational clarity starts with who you are.

A business that tries to be something it is not will usually fail. Some businesses fail because they’ve cut out the important step of understanding themselves. Dialing in core values and the business’s goals—and agreeing to them as a team—is the essential starting point for achieving organizational clarity.

The team of one of my clients struggled to agree about their shared values during their Vision Building day. The company’s founder and Visionary wanted the focus to be on a strong culture for employees, so people would want to build their entire careers there. His Integrator saw things very differently. She had a background in finance and wanted the company to focus on building shareholder equity first. Although she agreed that happy employees were important, she sharply disagreed with the sacrifices that would be required to accomplish what the Visionary had in mind.

A few months later, the founder was looking for a new Integrator. Discovering such a big gap in thinking at that stage of the process was a valuable thing for the business and for the people involved. It helped them avoid trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

Get used to repetition.

Lencioni encourages his readers to reduce their message to a mantra that gets repeated all the time. The company’s big plans need to be repeated in conversation, in email, in print, and even in the art on the walls.

In many ways, EOS makes the process of repeating the plan easier for everyone. The V/TO™ provides a formal reference that can be shared within the company, and even outside it. If anyone on the leadership team is ever in doubt about the “why” behind an effort, they can refer to the V/TO.

A strong Visionary-Integrator duo I support has developed a habit of always communicating where the company is in its goals for the year. By doing this, they’ve found employees are excited to achieve milestones. Their CEO told me, “They’ve become emotionally invested in our success.”

Reinforcement is about smart management.

Lencioni’s last Obsession is the hardest part for many executives I know. Making good hiring decisions is tough enough. Knowing when to discipline an employee and when to make a termination can be especially hard. But these are all crucial to being a good boss.

When Gino Wickman designed EOS, he had this pain point squarely in mind. For example, the People Analyzer™ is one of my favorite tools for getting to the essence of whether a candidate is the right fit for the business.

I help one of my clients by being part of their interview process. My approach is to look for those “plusses and minuses” that the People Analyzer calls for.

I recently interviewed a candidate the client was excited about. She seemed to offer the skills and attitude they urgently needed, but they wanted a second opinion. When I interviewed her I began noticing red flags. In particular, her go-it-alone attitude seemed incompatible with the business’s core emphasis on collaboration.

I raised my concerns with the team and they had a follow-up interview with the candidate, this time probing the values fit more deliberately. Their Integrator later told me I’d saved them from making a big mistake. The truth is that EOS had saved them, not me!

Get obsessed! How is your leadership team working to improve its approach to management? If you haven’t already, be sure to check out The Five Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive. Reach out to me if you’d like to talk about how EOS can turn Lencioni’s ideas into action. Call me at (818) 649-1103 or send me an email.