Leadership Library: “The Advantage” Focuses on Clear Communication

“Organizational health will one day surpass all other business disciplines as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage.” – From Patrick Lencioni's new book The Advantage—Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.

If you want your company to be successful, says author Patrick Lencioni in his new book The Advantage, don’t ignore its organizational health.

A healthy organization is about “making a company function effectively by building a cohesive leadership team, establishing real clarity among those leaders, communicating that clarity to everyone within the organization and putting in place just enough structure to reinforce that clarify going forward.”

An unhealthy organization is described as a place where issues such as dysfunction, ambiguity and cynicism are the norm, rather than trust, accountability and inspiration.

Business communication skills can particularly be lacking at smaller companies. In a Robert Half Management Resources survey, 35 percent of chief financial officers at companies with 20 to 49 employees said their teams are not very or at all aware of the company’s strategic goals, compared to just 9 percent of executives at firms with 1,000 or more employees who felt this way.

Focusing on organizational health will lead to greater profitability and success and higher productivity and morale, Lencioni says, but many leaders mistakenly avoid thinking about it, finding it to be too “touchy feely,” not as urgent as their daily operations or too difficult to quantify and measure.

While it’s easy to see how finance and accounting professionals might feel that way, especially in an industry where quantifying and measuring are of the utmost priority, things are shifting. Relationship-building and communication skills are now seen as must-have nontechnical skills, a trend that fits well with Lencioni’s recipe for a healthy organization.

Lencioni believes the health of an organization is a multiplier of its intelligence. In other words, a healthy organization is better equipped to take advantage of its employees’ skills and expertise. Organizational health is good not only for the company and its employees but also for its customers, vendors and families.

The book’s lessons are centered on a comprehensive, practical checklist for leaders that outlines all the tenets within four key disciplines that are key to establishing and maintaining organizational health: Building a cohesive team, creating clarity, reinforcing clarity and over-communicating clarity.

It's organized into in-depth discussions of these four disciplines. There is also a great chapter on how to conduct effective meetings that people will actually look forward to attending.

Throughout the book, case studies from Lencioni’s management firm, The Table Group, are used to explore these and other contrasting organizational issues:

Healthy organization: Tolerance, unity, commitment, accountability, trust, engagement, inspiration, integrity, walk the walk

Unhealthy organization: Dysfunction, ambiguity, conflict, ego, fear, avoidance, cynicism, bureaucracy, talk the talk

The contrast and comparison of healthy to unhealthy organizations runs throughout the book and provides a good framework for understanding and believing in the value of organizational health and for helping leaders learn how to adopt healthier behaviors and practices.

It’s clear the message is getting through. There are real-world testimonials from company presidents and CEOs about the advantages of prioritizing their organizational health. Just the variety of organizations listed – public schools, churches, construction, medical, financial – impressed upon me how valuable this effort is.

Lencioni sums it up well:  “Organizational health is more than a side dish to the real meat and potatoes of the business. It’s the very plate on which the meat and potatoes sit.”

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For more insights on in-demand skills, download the 2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half.

 Image credit: Amazon.com screen shot.