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The Linchpin of Organizational Health

By Pat Lencioni - February 2016


Recently, someone asked me how I know whether a Table Group client is really going to be successful in achieving organizational health. It is a great question.

While there are a number of factors involved in making such a prediction, I'm convinced that there is one single indicator that demonstrates that a client really "gets it," that they are likely to experience the kind of transformation that only organizational health can bring about. Though that indicator isn't directly related to teamwork, clarity, communication or systems, it connects all of these disciplines in a way that nothing else can. What I'm talking about are meetings.

Yes, meetings. Not the kind of meetings that non-healthy organizations have, the ones where every issue under the sun gets thrown onto an agenda, nothing seems to get decided, unimportant topics and PowerPoint presentations take up valuable time, and executives check their watches waiting for the painful ritual to end. I'm talking about meetings with clarity, focus and intense interaction, the kind I describe in detail in my book The Advantageand the leadership fableDeath By Meeting. (If you're one of those people who is convinced that meetings are inherently a waste of time,click hereto learn more about our approach to better meetings.)

Most of our clients immediately understand the importance of the meetings model we propose to them, and they excitedly adopt it. Adoption is rarely the challenge as our approach is simple and practical. The bigger obstacle they face - and this is a litmus test of sorts - is whether they will have the discipline and courage to stay with those meetings over the long haul, and keep passionately focused on the most critical issues.

Like so many other aspects of life, success comes down to perspiration more than inspiration. Solving a problem is one thing; continuing to exploit that solution after its novelty has worn off is another. Too many leaders struggle with discipline, getting bored with consistency and continuity and searching for something new and exciting. And many of them, even if they do stick to their meetings structure, lack courage when it comes to entering the danger around difficult topics, choosing a more harmonious path instead.

The fact is, running a healthy organization is neither sexy nor comfortable. Leaders who want to be stimulated and entertained more than they want their companies to succeed will often find it too taxing. They'll be easily tempted by the latest fad or flavor of the month, which almost always means their meetings will become scattered, unfocused and inconsistent. What is particularly ironic about all of this is that eventually and inevitably, those meetings become boring.

And so, here is my advice to any leader considering the journey toward making his or her organization healthy: know that one of your primary responsibilities, perhaps the most important one, is ensuring that your meetings are outstanding. Make them a constant, living example of teamwork, clarity and communication. As unsexy as that may seem, there is no greater predictor of organizational health.