The Advantage

Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business

the biggest problem our clients faced, and their biggest opportunity for competitive advantage, was not really about strategy or finance or marketing; it was something a little less tangible—something that seemed to revolve around the way they managed their organizations. (289)

qualitative field research is just as reliable as the quantitative kind, as long as clients and readers attest to its validity. (317)

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. (331)

In spite of its undeniable power, so many leaders struggle to embrace organizational health (which I’ll be defining shortly) because they quietly believe they are too sophisticated, too busy, or too analytical to bother with it. In other words, they think it’s beneath them. (350)

The health of an organization provides the context for strategy, finance, marketing, technology, and everything else that happens within it, which is why it is the single greatest factor determining an organization’s success. More than talent. More than knowledge. More than innovation. (360)

The Sophistication Bias: (365)

it’s hard for well-educated executives to embrace something so simple and straightforward. (368)

The Adrenaline Bias: (369)

you have to slow down in order to go fast. (373)

The Quantification Bias: (374)

Organizational health permeates so many aspects of a company that isolating any one variable and measuring its financial impact is almost impossible to do in a precise way. (375)

An organization has integrity—is healthy—when it is whole, consistent, and complete, that is, when its management, operations, strategy, and culture fit together and make sense. (388)

organization that really wants to maximize its success must come to embody two basic qualities: it must be smart, and it must be healthy. (392)

being smart is only half the equation. Yet somehow it occupies almost all the time, energy, and attention of most executives. The other half of the equation, the one that is largely neglected, is about being healthy. (400)

none of the leaders I present to, even the most cynical ones, deny that their companies would be transformed if they could achieve the characteristics of a healthy organization. (410)

leaders prefer to look for answers where the light is better, where they are more comfortable. And the light is certainly better in the measurable, objective, and data-driven world of organizational intelligence (the smart side of the equation) than it is in the messier, more unpredictable world of organizational health. (427)

What they usually want to avoid at all costs are subjective conversations that can easily become emotional and awkward. And organizational health is certainly fraught with the potential for subjective and awkward conversations. (432)

fact, I’d have to say that a lack of intelligence, domain expertise, or industry knowledge is almost never the problem I see in organizations. (445)

The vast majority of organizations today have more than enough intelligence, expertise, and knowledge to be successful. What they lack is organizational health. (448)

that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones has little, if anything, to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with how healthy they are. (452)

succeed, I’ve met plenty who made me think, Uh-oh. The culture within this team and this organization is way too unhealthy to sustain a successful business. (455)

An organization that is healthy will inevitably get smarter over time. (462)

contrast, smart organizations don’t seem to have any greater chance of getting healthier by virtue of their intelligence. (466)

key ingredient for improvement and success is not access to knowledge or resources, as helpful as those things may be. It’s really about the health of the environment. (475)

if you had to bet on the future of one of two kids, one raised by loving parents in a solid home and the other a product of apathy and dysfunction, you’d always take the former regardless of the resources surrounding them. Well, the same is true in organizations. (476)

it. In almost every situation, it was politics, behavioral misalignment, and inconsistency that did them in, leading them to make what seemed in retrospect like obvious tactical and strategic mistakes. (487)

a good way to look at organizational health—and one that executives seem to respond to readily—is to see it as the multiplier of intelligence. (492)

Most organizations exploit only a fraction of the knowledge, experience, and intellectual capital that is available to them. (494)

The financial cost of having an unhealthy organization is undeniable: wasted resources and time, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, and customer attrition. (520)

when they are misaligned, confused, and inconsistent about what is important, they create real anguish for real human beings. (524)

People who work in unhealthy organizations eventually come to see work as drudgery. (527)

Turning an unhealthy company into a healthy one will not only create a massive competitive advantage and improved bottom line, it will also make a real difference in the lives of the people who work there. (532)

What does an organization have to do to become healthy? (536)

An organization simply cannot be healthy if the people who are chartered with running it are not behaviorally cohesive in five fundamental ways. (544)

When it comes to reinforcing clarity, there is no such thing as too much communication. (553)

When an organization’s leaders are cohesive, when they are unambiguously aligned around a common set of answers to a few critical questions, when they communicate those answers again and again and again, and when they put effective processes in place to reinforce those answers, they create an environment in which success is almost impossible to prevent. Really. (560)

There’s just no way around it. If an organization is led by a team that is not behaviorally unified, there is no chance that it will become healthy. (581)

The importance of leadership team cohesion is almost never overtly disputed, even by the most cynical executives. But somehow, few organizations invest nearly enough time and energy in it, and certainly not with the level of rigor that building a cohesive team requires and deserves. (586)

The truth is, few groups of leaders actually work like a team, at least not the kind that is required to lead a healthy organization. (603)

leaders who choose to operate as a real team willingly accept the work and the sacrifices that are necessary for any group that wants to reap the benefits of true teamwork. (612)

A leadership team is a small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving a common objective for their organization. (614)

When it comes to discussions and decision making, there are two critical ways that members of effective teams must communicate: advocacy and inquiry. (623)

we cut costs. Inquiry is rarer and more important than advocacy. (629)

Why do so many organizations still have too many people on their leadership teams? (642)

Inclusivity, or the basic idea behind it, should be achieved by ensuring that the members of a leadership team are adequately representing and tapping into the opinions of the people who work for them, not by maximizing the size of the team. (646)

These are bad reasons to add staff to a leadership team. (651)

When executives put people on their leadership teams for the wrong reasons, they muddy the criteria for why the team exists at all. The only reason that a person should be on a team is that she represents a key part of the organization or brings truly critical talent or insight to the table. (669)

they enter into difficult, uncomfortable discussions, even bringing up thorny issues with colleagues about their shortcomings, in order to solve problems that might prevent the team from achieving its objectives. (688)

most of a leadership team’s objectives should be collective ones. (693)

When leaders preach teamwork but exclusively reward individual achievement, they are confusing their people and creating an obstacle to true team behavior. (702)

The personal histories discussion is merely the first step in helping a team get more vulnerable with one another. (769)

Sometimes it’s during the process of coming clean about weaknesses that the biggest breakthroughs happen among team members. (783)

of the fundamental attribution error is the tendency of human beings to attribute the negative or frustrating behaviors of their colleagues to their intentions and personalities, while attributing their own negative or frustrating behaviors to environmental factors. (815)

believe that a person on a team can be too vulnerable is really to suggest that she would be wise to withhold information about her weaknesses, mistakes, or need for help. (857)

the only way for teams to build real trust is for team members to come clean about who they are, warts and all. (859)

A measure of judgment and emotional intelligence is always required, and I’ve found that the vast majority of leaders understand where to draw the line. (865)

only way for the leader of a team to create a safe environment for his team members to be vulnerable is by stepping up and doing something that feels unsafe and uncomfortable first. (893)

Only when teams build vulnerability-based trust do they put themselves in a position to embrace the other four behaviors, the next of which is the mastery of conflict. (899)

to popular wisdom and behavior, conflict is not a bad thing for a team. In fact, the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems. (902)

When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer. It is not only okay but desirable. Conflict without trust, however, is politics, an attempt to manipulate others in order to win an argument regardless of the truth. (909)

Even among the most trusting team members, there will always be a certain level of discomfort associated with disagreement. But it will be a healthy discomfort, a sign that there is productive tension around an issue that warrants discussion and debate. (913)

the tendency to run from discomfort is one of the most important requirements for any leadership team—in fact, for any leader. (916)

His message could not have been clearer: I would rather have boring, ineffective meetings that avoid the real issues than have to endure the discomfort of conflict. From then on, meetings continued to be a struggle, resulting in poor decisions being made. (930)

When leadership team members avoid discomfort among themselves, they only transfer it in far greater quantities to larger groups of people throughout the organization they’re supposed to be serving. (940)

What’s not okay is for team members to avoid disagreement, hold back their opinions on important matters, and choose their battles carefully based on the likely cost of disagreement. That is a recipe for both bad decision making and interpersonal resentment. (947)

When people fail to be honest with one another about an issue they disagree on, their disagreement around that issue festers and ferments over time until it transforms into frustration around that person. (951)

they can explain their disagreement and work through it, or they can withhold their opinion and allow themselves to quietly lose respect for their colleague. (954)

Essentially, they’re deciding to tolerate their colleague rather than trust him. (956)

most organizations live somewhere fairly close to the artificial harmony end of this continuum. (975)

In any team, and for that matter, in any family or marriage, someone at some point is going to step over the line and say or do something that isn’t constructive. But rather than fearing this, teams need to accept that it will happen and learn to manage it. They must be willing to live through the messiness of recovering from slightly inappropriate conflict, so that they will have the courage to go back to the best place again and again. (981)

end of the pool in the world of artificial harmony. The (988)

Nowhere does this tendency toward artificial harmony show itself more than in mission-driven nonprofit organizations, most notably churches. (1007)

What they’re doing is confusing being nice with being kind. (1008)

One of the best ways for leaders to raise the level of healthy conflict on a team is by mining for conflict during meetings. (1019)

At first, mining for conflict might seem like stirring the pot and looking for trouble. But it is quite the opposite. (1021)

Another tool for increasing conflict is something I refer to as real-time permission (1024)

Another way that leaders can help their teams overcome their aversion to conflict is by creating clear expectations and guidelines around what it should entail. (1036)

it’s important to remember that the reluctance to engage in conflict is not always a problem of conflict per se. In many cases, and perhaps in most of them, the real problem goes back to a lack of trust. (1050)

Trust must be established if real conflict is to occur. (1053)

“If people don’t weigh in, they can’t buy in.” (1059)

When leadership teams wait for consensus before taking action, they usually end up with decisions that are made too late and are mildly disagreeable to everyone. This is a recipe for mediocrity and frustration. (1061)

Most people are generally reasonable and can rally around an idea that wasn’t their own as long as they know they’ve had a chance to weigh in. (1075)

The only way to prevent passive sabotage is for leaders to demand conflict from their team members and to let them know that they are going to be held accountable for doing whatever the team ultimately decides. (1104)

Although they are sitting in the same room and speaking the same language, they often leave with different ideas about what was just decided. (1109)

functional teams maintain the discipline to review their commitments and stick around long enough to clarify anything that isn’t crystal clear. (1114)

the only thing more painful than taking additional time to get clarity and commitment is going out into the organization with a confusing and misaligned message. (1119)

they modeled vulnerability by acknowledging the dysfunction of what had happened before and the steps they would take to prevent it in the future. (1138)

When colleagues know that there has been only passive commitment around a decision, they aren’t going to feel good about confronting a peer about their behavior. (1151)

peer-to-peer accountability is the primary and most effective source of accountability on the leadership team of a healthy organization. Most people assume that the leader of an executive team should be the primary source of accountability—and that’s the norm in most unhealthy organizations—but it isn’t efficient or practical, and it makes little sense. (1155)

way to keep one another focused on what matters most. Accountability (1169)

The leader of the team, though not the primary source of accountability, will always be the ultimate arbiter of it. If she is reluctant to play that role—if she is a wuss who constantly balks when it’s time to call someone on their behavior or performance—then the rest of the team is not going to do their part. (1190)

here is the irony—the more comfortable a leader is holding people on a team accountable, the less likely she is to be asked to do so. The less likely she is to confront people, the more she’ll be called on to do it by subordinates who aren’t willing to do her dirty work for her. (1194)

Firing someone is not necessarily a sign of accountability, but is often the last act of cowardice for a leader who doesn’t know how or isn’t willing to hold people accountable. (1200)

To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies. (1204)
cf: Mutual Learning Model

an honest reassessment of their motivation will allow them to admit that they are the ones who don’t want to feel bad and that failing to hold someone accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness. (1221)

Confronting someone about their behavior is a different matter. It involves a judgment call that is more likely to provoke a defensive response. (1233)

behavioral problems almost always precede—and cause—a downturn in performance and results. (1236)

a meaningful drop in measurable performance can almost always be traced back to behavioral issues that made the drop possible. (1237)

It’s difficult to overstate the competitive advantage that an accountability-friendly organization has over one where leaders don’t hold one another accountable. More than anything else, problems are identified and solved earlier and without the collateral damage of politics. Whether you measure that in terms of greater revenue, higher productivity, or reduced turnover, the benefits are massive and real. (1242)

Conflict is about issues and ideas, while accountability is about performance and behavior. (1247)

because it involves something of a personal, behavioral judgment. Team Effectiveness (1250)

The greatest impact is the realization on the part of leadership team members that holding one another accountable is a survivable and productive activity, and it will make them likely to continue doing it going forward. (1273)

No matter what the situation, there will always be some discomfort as team members confront one another about their behavior. In the end, however, the level of cohesion and personal satisfaction among team members who embrace the new philosophy overwhelms any temporary discomfort. (1294)

I’m often asked whether leaders should hold their people accountable privately during one-on-one sessions or in more public forums with the whole team, (1298)

they know that the leader is holding their colleague accountable, which avoids their wondering whether the boss is doing his job. (1303)

When leaders—and peers—limit their accountability discussions to private conversations, they leave people wondering whether those discussions are happening. (1305)

one of the greatest challenges to team success is the inattention to results. (1317)

Some leaders of teams that don’t regularly succeed will still insist that they have a great team because team members care about one other and no one ever leaves the team. A more accurate description of their situation would be to say that they have a mediocre team that enjoys being together and isn’t terribly bothered by failure. (1324)

One Team, One Score (1352)

the attitude embodied by the fisherman who looks at the guy sitting at the other end of the boat and announces, “Hey, your side of the boat is sinking.” (1367)

The only way for a leader to establish this collective mentality on a team is by ensuring that all members place a higher priority on the team they’re a member of than the team they lead in their departments. (1374)

The second requirement for building a healthy organization—creating clarity—is all about achieving alignment. (1456)

Within the context of making an organization healthy, alignment is about creating so much clarity that there is as little room as possible for confusion, disorder, and infighting to set in. Of course, the responsibility for creating that clarity lies squarely with the leadership team. (1461)

What those executives don’t realize is that there cannot be alignment deeper in the organization, even when employees want to cooperate, if the leaders at the top aren’t in lockstep with one another around a few very specific things. (1466)

there is no way that their employees can be empowered to fully execute their responsibilities if they don’t receive clear and consistent messages about what is important from their leaders across the organization. (1477)

There is probably no greater frustration for employees than having to constantly navigate the politics and confusion caused by leaders who are misaligned. (1478)

most mission statements have neither inspired people to change the world nor provided them with an accurate description of what an organization actually does for a living. They certainly haven’t created alignment and clarity among employees. What they have done is make many leadership teams look foolish. (1494)

alignment and clarity cannot be achieved in one fell swoop with a series of generic buzzwords and aspirational phrases crammed together. (1510)

Clarity requires a much more rigorous and unpretentious approach. (1512)

of clarity necessary to become healthy. These are the six questions: (1519)

tempting for leaders to slip into a marketing or sloganizing mind-set when answering these questions, trying to come up with catchy phrases or impressive-sounding statements. This is a sign that the team is missing the boat and has been distracted from its real purpose: establishing true clarity and alignment. (1537)
cf: Visionary Leadership

More than getting the right answer, it is important to simply have an answer—one that is directionally correct and around which all team members can commit. (1545)

what they were really good at was not necessarily having the right answer, but rather being able to rally around the best answer they could find at the time. (1551)

waiting for clear confirmation that a decision is exactly right is a recipe for mediocrity and almost a guarantee of eventual failure. (1580)

An organization’s core purpose—why it exists—has to be completely idealistic. (1596)

In order to successfully identify their organization’s purpose, leaders must accept the notion that all organizations exist to make people’s lives better. (1600)

every organization must contribute in some way to a better world for some group of people, because if it doesn’t, it will, and should, go out of business. (1607)

There is a darn good chance that your company—in fact, any given company—has not yet identified its purpose. (1612)

those executives don’t see the company’s reason for existing as having any practical implications for the way they make decisions and run the organization. (1619)

Some executives, especially those who are a little cynical about all this purpose stuff, will say that their company exists simply to make money for owners or shareholders. That is almost never a purpose, but rather an important indicator of success. It’s how an organization knows that it is effectively fulfilling its purpose, but it falls far short of providing the organization with a guide to what ultimately matters most. (1624)

the process of determining an organization’s purpose cannot be confused with marketing, external or internal. It must be all about clarity and alignment. (1645)

So how does an organization go about figuring out why it exists? It starts by asking this question: “How do we contribute to a better world?” (1654)

If this is the real reason for existing, it’s important for leaders to be clear about it, with themselves and the people who work for them. Otherwise they’re going to waste a lot of time doing meaningless exercises and having fruitless conversations that only create confusion and cynicism among employees who are best served by knowing the clear truth. (1728)

The point here is that an organization’s reason for existing is not meant to be a differentiator and that the purpose for identifying it is only to clarify what is true in order to guide the business. (1737)

when it comes to creating organizational clarity and alignment, intolerance is essential. After all, if an organization is tolerant of everything, it will stand for nothing. (1747)

an organization that has properly identified its values and adheres to them will naturally attract the right employees and repel the wrong ones. (1757)

leaders conduct a survey asking employees to vote on which values they want, and then they try to accommodate all of the input they receive. Let me be very clear: this is a terrible process for identifying core values, (1771)

When leaders who adopt too many values finally realize what they’ve done and that there is no hope for actually putting their many values to practical use, they often end up ignoring them altogether. (1777)

What we advised that client to do was make “sense of urgency” an aspirational value and do everything it could to intentionally instill it in the organization. But they needed to avoid falsely claiming it as a core value, because that would only incite cynicism among employees who knew better. (1827)

Confusing core and aspirational values is a frequent mistake that companies make. It is critical that leaders understand the difference. (1830)

permission-to-play values don’t serve to clearly define or differentiate an organization from others. Values that commonly fit into this category include honesty, integrity, and respect for others. (1850)

Permission-to-play values must be delineated from the core to avoid dilution and genericism (I don’t think that’s a word, but you get the point). (1852)

It’s important that leaders guard against accidental values taking root because they can prevent new ideas and people from flourishing in an organization. Sometimes they even sabotage its success by shutting out new perspectives and even potential customers. (1873)

separating core from aspirational values can be done by asking the questions, Is this trait inherent and natural for us, and has it been apparent in the organization for a long time? Or, is it something that we have to work hard to cultivate? A core value will have been apparent for a long time and requires little intentional provocation. (1891)

Would our organization be able to credibly claim that we are more committed to this value than 99 percent of the companies in our industry? If so, then maybe it really is core. If not, then it’s probably a candidate for permission-to-play; (1895)

the reason organizations need to understand the various kinds of values is to prevent them from getting confused with and diluting the core. Core values are what matters most. (1899)

Once an organization successfully identifies and describes its core values and separates them from the other kinds, it must then do its best to be intolerant of violations of those values. (1928)

build their values into their processes that revolve around people. Identifying (1934)

leaders must identify employees who, though talented, were or are no longer a good fit for the organization. These are people who, in spite of their technical abilities, drive others around them crazy and would add value to the organization by being absent. (1939)

leaders need to be honest about themselves and whether or not they embody the values in that pool. (1944)

more than any word in the business lexicon, strategy is one of the most widely employed and poorly defined. (2008)

an organization’s strategy is simply its plan for success. (2020)

the best way for an organization to make strategy practical is to boil it down to three strategic anchors that will be used to inform every decision the organization makes and provide the filter or lens through which decisions must be evaluated to ensure consistency. (2024)

How will we make decisions in a purposeful, intentional, and unique way that allow us to maximize our success and differentiate us from our competitors? (2056)

Sometimes it is the very process of identifying strategic anchors that alerts an organization to the fact that what it is currently doing isn’t right or isn’t enough to ensure success and differentiation, and so a change is needed. (2141)

Most organizations I’ve worked with have too many top priorities to achieve the level of focus they need to succeed. (2177)

Wanting only to succeed, they often find themselves working at cross-purposes with their colleagues in other departments who are left to make their own decisions about which of the many priorities is most important. (2187)

What a crisis provides for an organization, whether that organization is an emergency responder accustomed to dealing with crises or a more traditional organization that finds itself temporarily in the midst of one, is a rallying cry, a single area of focus around which there is no confusion or disagreement. (2207)

there is no reason that every organization couldn’t have a rallying cry, even when it is not in crisis. I called this rallying cry “a thematic goal” because it needs to be understood within the context of the organization’s other goals, at the top of the list. (2212)

the thematic goal is the answer to our question, What is most important, right now? (2214)

If we accomplish only one thing during the next x months, what would it be? In other words, What must be true x months from now for us to be able to look back and say with any credibility that we had a good period? These questions provide a critical level of focus for leaders who are being pulled in numerous directions. (2232)

every thematic goal must become the collective responsibility of the leadership team. This is true even if the goal doesn’t seem to directly involve the departments that some of those executives lead. (2246)

On a cohesive team, leaders are not there simply to represent the departments that they lead and manage but rather to solve problems that stand in the way of achieving success for the whole organization. (2251)

it is the lack of a defined, compelling rallying cry or thematic goal that allows most bad staff meetings to happen, which enables poor decision making. (2262)

Defining objectives are the general categories of activity required to achieve the thematic goal. Like the thematic goal, defining objectives must be qualitative, temporary, and shared by the leadership team. (2274)

In most cases, there are between four and six defining objectives, depending on the nature of the goal itself. (2276)

Walking away with a single sheet of paper that lists a team’s thematic goal, the defining objectives, and the standard objectives would give leaders the clear focus they need to align their actions and avoid distraction. (2337)

the purpose of having a thematic goal is not to restrict the organization’s flexibility but rather to rally its leaders around what they decide they want to achieve. (2364)

at some point the leaders need to clearly and unambiguously stipulate what their respective responsibilities are when they go back to work to do their day jobs. (2371)

Regardless of how clear or confusing a company’s “org” chart may be, it is always worthwhile to take a little time to clarify so that everyone on the leadership team knows and agrees on what everyone else does and that all critical areas are covered. (2406)

running the organization in an aligned, consistent, and intentional way. Playbook (2431)

Once a leadership team has become cohesive and worked to establish clarity and alignment around the answers to the six critical questions, then, and only then, can they effectively move on to the next step: communicating those answers. (2518)

people are skeptical about what they’re being told unless they hear it consistently over time. (2523)

leaders confuse the mere transfer of information to an audience with the audience’s ability to understand, internalize, and embrace the message that is being communicated. (2541)

messaging is not so much an intellectual process as an emotional one. Employees are not analyzing what leaders are saying based solely on whether it is intellectually novel or compelling, but more than anything else on whether they believe the leaders are serious, authentic, and committed to what they are saying. (2551)

the best way to ensure that a message gets communicated throughout an organization is to spread rumors about it. Therefore, they concluded, leaders simply ought to go out and tell “true rumors.” (2565)

Most leadership teams are more than adept at sending out e-mail messages and giving presentations, and yet they still struggle with effective communication because employees wonder about the authenticity of what they are reading and hearing. (2576)

There are three keys to cascading communication: message consistency from one leader to another, timeliness of delivery, and live, real-time communication. (2594)

Many executives ask if they can communicate the results of a meeting using e-mail or even voice mail. The answer is no. Although these tools are certainly more efficient than having to communicate live, they are drastically less effective. (2623)

The best way to do cascading communication is face-to-face and live. (2627)

do it with an entire group of direct reports at the same time instead of one by one. (2631)

the reason most organizations fail to communicate to employees is not that they don’t know how to build an intranet site or write a blog or design a PowerPoint presentation, but that they don’t achieve clarity around key messages and stick with them. (2649)

Providing employees with a means of communicating upward to their leaders is important in any organization. However, it’s not the panacea it’s often presented to be. That’s because noncohesive leadership teams that have not aligned themselves around common answers to critical questions are not in a position to respond adequately to employee input and requests. In fact, getting more input from employees often only exacerbates frustration in an organization when that input cannot be digested and used. (2666)

What is key to making these effective is that leaders not give the impression that they are abdicating responsibility for decision making by giving employees a vote. Great organizations, unlike countries, are never run like a democracy. (2672)

The most well-intentioned, well-designed departmental communication program will not tear down silos unless the people who created those silos want them torn down. (2679)

without cohesiveness and clarity at the top, no amount of communication will suffice, and that with true clarity and cohesiveness, even a little formal communication will go a long, long way. (2683)

“An organization has to institutionalize its culture without bureaucratizing it.” (2714)

HR and legal professionals play important roles in the creation and administration of human systems. But the initial design of those systems must be driven by the people who set the direction for the organization in the first place and have the authority to guard against the bureaucracy that turns a useful human system into an administrative distraction. (2728)

The fact is that the best human systems are often the simplest and least sophisticated ones. Their primary purpose is not to avoid lawsuits or emulate what other companies are doing but rather to keep managers and employees focused on what the organization believes is important. (2736)

For all the talk about hiring for fit, there is still too much emphasis on technical skills and experience when it comes to interviewing and selection. (2754)

no real strategy for identifying the critical signs that indicate a candidate will be successful. (2770)

When organizations overstructure their hiring process by adding layers of bureaucratic forms and approvals and analysis, they often diminish the role that judgment must play in the selection of good people. (2777)

an overly complicated or academic approach to hiring. (2782)

the real goal of any effective hiring program: finding people who fit the culture and have the best chance at success. (2786)

too much structure almost always interferes with a person’s ability to use their common sense, and because it is far easier to add a little structure later to a fairly bare system than it is to deconstruct an already overcomplicated process. (2790)

going to enjoy working with him or her. Hiring for Fit (2815)

without a clear understanding of what a cultural fit—or misfit—looks like, without a proper mix of consistency and flexibility, and without the active involvement of the leadership team, even the most sophisticated hiring process will fail. (2833)

orientation shouldn’t revolve around lengthy explanations of benefits and administration but rather around reinforcing the answers to the six critical questions. (2838)

Essentially performance management is the series of activities that ensures that managers provide employees with clarity about what is expected of them, as well as regular feedback about whether or not they are adequately meeting those expectations. (2859)

When employees focus more on the official “grades” they receive from managers, and managers focus on documentation more than coaching, inevitably trust is diminished and management and communication suffer. (2871)

Healthy organizations believe that performance management is almost exclusively about eliminating confusion. They realize that most of their employees want to succeed, and that the best way to allow them to do that is to give them clear direction, regular information about how they’re doing, and access to the coaching they need. (2873)

it is critical that organizations separate corrective action processes from the regular performance management system, because the last thing an organization wants is for its good employees to feel as if they’re being interrogated and prepared for dismissal. (2885)

the single most important reason to reward people is to provide them with an incentive for doing what is best for the organization. (2891)

many leaders are a little embarrassed by giving praise and are afraid that employees will discount it as a cheap replacement for financial rewards. (2939)

the healthiest organizations in the world are not necessarily the highest-paying ones and that throwing money at a problem that would be better solved through improved management is a true waste of resources. (2963)

when it comes to building a healthy organization, the most important part of the firing process is the very decision to let someone go. That decision needs to be driven, more than anything else, by an organization’s values. (2971)

Keeping a relatively strong performer who is not a cultural fit creates a variety of problems. Most important of all, it sends a loud and clear message to employees that the organization isn’t all that serious about what it says it believes. (2981)

No action, activity, or process is more central to a healthy organization than the meeting. (3022)

Bad meetings are the birthplace of unhealthy organizations, and good meetings are the origin of cohesion, clarity, and communication. (3027)

The fact is that the human brain isn’t meant to process so many disparate topics in one sitting. There needs to be greater clarity and focus, which means that there needs to be different kinds of meetings for different kinds of issues. And, yes, that means there will be more meetings, not fewer. (3043)

The most powerful impact of having teams meet every day is the quick resolution of minor issues that might otherwise fester and create unnecessary busywork for the team. (3071)

It’s as though they’re saying, Do you realize how busy we are trying to solve problems that result from our lack of communication? We can’t possibly spend ten minutes every day preventing them! (3081)

if there are too many people on a team, or if the people in the room don’t trust each other and aren’t willing to engage in productive conflict, then no matter how you reorganize your meetings you won’t see much impact. (3106)

The beauty of this real-time agenda system is that the team will avoid the all-too-common problem of sitting through a presentation or a discussion of something that everyone knows is of little importance to the organization. (3144)

Thinking they’re being efficient, they reduce the time they spend in meetings by cramming every discussion into one big staff meeting. What they’re really doing is ensuring that those staff meetings are going to be ineffective and that the most important conversations they should be having—topical, strategic ones—are cut short. (3186)

separate their tactical conversations from their strategic ones. Combining the two just doesn’t work and leaves both sets of issues inadequately addressed. (3190)

no one is going to complain about spending too much time discussing critical issues. (3195)

off-site review meetings should occur quarterly. (3208)

if executives are having the right kind of meetings, if they’re driving issues to closure and holding one another accountable, then there is much less to do outside meetings, including managing their direct reports. (3236)

a great deal of the time that leaders spend every day is a result of having to address issues that come about because they aren’t being resolved during meetings in the first place. (3239)

at the end of every meeting, with the exception of the daily check-ins, team members must stop and clarify what they’ve agreed to and what they will go back and communicate to their teams. (3252)

organizational health is largely untapped in most companies. (3272)

the last frontier of competitive advantage will be the transformation of unhealthy organizations into healthy ones, (3273)

the single biggest factor determining whether an organization is going to get healthier—or not—is the genuine commitment and active involvement of the person in charge. (3290)

When it comes to building a cohesive team, leaders must drive the process even when their direct reports are less than excited about it initially. (3296)

The leader must also be the driving force behind demanding clear answers to the six big questions, even when everyone else wants to end the discussion and just agree to disagree. (3299)

People who lead healthy organizations sign up for a monumental task—and a very selfless one. That is why they need to relinquish their more technical responsibilities, or even their favorite roles, that others can handle. Because when an organization is healthy (when the leader at the top is doing his or her most important job), people find a way to get things done. When an organization is unhealthy, no amount of heroism or technical expertise is going to make up for the confusion and politics that take root. (3307)

few other activities will seem more worthy of our effort and more impactful on the lives of others, than making our organizations healthy. (3341)



Primary Goals sits at the intersection of three core ideas about communication:
  • Leaders create vision by communicating a compelling future to their teams.
  • Teams create success based on how effectively the communicate and coordinate with each other.
  • Entrepreneurial ventures are successful only when they communicate value to people with a concern that the business can take care of
In all cases, it’s about Conversations for Committed Results.  That’s our Primary Goal.  



Copyright 2021 Primary Goals - Privacy Policy