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Seven Disciplines Of a Leader

All the competitive advantages—strategy, technology, finance, marketing—that we’ve pursued in the past are gone. The disciplines haven’t disappeared, but they have lost their power as meaningful competitive advantages, as real differentiators that can set your company apart. Why? Virtually every organization has access to the best thinking and practices on those topics. As information has become ubiquitous, it’s almost impossible to sustain an advantage based on intellectual ideas.
However, one simple, reliable, and virtually free competitive advantage remains—team health. Healthy teams all but eliminate politics and confusion from their cultures. Thus, productivity and morale soar, and good people almost never leave. For those leaders who are a bit skeptical, rest assured that none of this is touchy-feely or soft. It is as tangible and practical as anything else … and even more important.
Even the smartest team will eventually fail if it is unhealthy. But a healthy team will find a way to succeed. Without politics and confusion, it will become smarter and tap into all of the intelligence and talent it has.
Team health requires real work and discipline, maintained over time, and the courage to objectively confront problems hindering true team achievement. Leaders must confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunction within their teams with honesty and persistence. Persistent leaders walk into uncomfortable situations and address issues that prevent them from realizing the potential that eludes them.

Four Disciplines
To get healthy, leaders need to take four simple, but difficult, steps:

  1. Build a cohesive leadership team. Get the leaders of the organization to behave in a functional, cohesive way. If the people responsible for running a team, department, or organization are behaving in dysfunctional ways, then that dysfunction will cascade down and prevent organizational health. And yes, there are concrete steps a leadership team can take to prevent this.
  2. Create clarity. Ensure that the members of that leadership team are intellectually aligned around simple but critical questions. Leaders need to be clear on topics such as why the organization exists and what the most important priority is for the next few months, and eliminate any gaps between them. Then people who work one, two, or three levels below have clarity about what they should do to make the organization successful.
  3. Overcommunicate clarity. After the first two steps (behavioral and intellectual alignment), leaders can take the third step: over-communicating. Leaders of healthy organizations constantly repeat themselves and reinforce what is true and important. They err on the side of saying too much, rather than too little.
  4. Reinforce clarity. Leaders use simple human systems to reinforce clarity in answering critical questions. They custom design any process that involves people from hiring and firing to performance management and decision-making to support and emphasize the uniqueness of the organization.

Healthy teams get better at meetings. Without making a few simple changes to the way meetings happen, a team will struggle to maintain its health. Healthy teams rarely fail. When politics, ambiguity, dysfunction, and confusion are reduced to a minimum, people are empowered to design products, serve customers, solve problems, and help one another. Healthy teams recover from setbacks, attract the best people, and create exciting opportunities. People are happier, the bottom line is stronger, and executives are at peace when they know they’ve fulfilled their most important responsibility: creating a culture of success.
Applying the principles of great performance is hard, but the effects of deliberate practice are cumulative. The more of a head start you get in developing people, the more difficult it will be for competitors to catch you.

Jeff Wolf

Jeff Wolf is one of America’s foremost executive business coaches, speakers and management consultants. In December 2010, prestigious Leadership Excellence Magazine named him one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders for his accomplishments in leadership development, managerial effectiveness and organizational productivity. His strategic focus on solving corporate and human issues has garnered continuing raves from myriad global organizations. Jeff can be reached at: (858) 638-8260 and jeff@wolfmotivation.com.

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Filed Under: Featured StoriesPersonal Development

About the Author: Jeff Wolf is one of America’s foremost executive business coaches, speakers and management consultants. In December 2010, prestigious Leadership Excellence Magazine named him one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders for his accomplishments in leadership development, managerial effectiveness and organizational productivity. His strategic focus on solving corporate and human issues has garnered continuing raves from myriad global organizations. Jeff can be reached at: (858) 638-8260 and jeff@wolfmotivation.com.

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