Although I am an avid reader of most genres, I tend to steer clear of self-help books because I find them a bit dry. However, I recently came across The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni.
The main thing I enjoyed about this book is the parable-style tale of the value of a healthy company and how to ensure that you, as an executive, can help create a beneficial environment for your own association.
Although this book, like many, is designed for the corporation, the association mirror is fairly clear when reading. In The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Lencioni’s fable tells of two rival companies. One company, Greenwich Consulting, is trying to figure out how Telegraph, a firm with many similarities, manages to keep ahead in the market and demonstrate low employee turnover. The few who do leave Telegraph usually have only good things to say about it. Greenwich is no less an industry leader and usually enjoys a great deal of success, but Greenwich’s CEO, Vince Green, struggles for that success and resents what appears to be an easy time of it for the other company’s leadership.
Our goals as association executives can be well-defined in trying to have the culture created by Telegraph. If we follow Lencioni’s four disciplines, as he calls them, and adapt them to our own leadership, this culture becomes far more attainable.
The four disciplines offer some pretty groovy tools. I will address them and share my take on relating them to interactions within my association.
Discipline 1: Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team
Since our leadership is elected, this may seem unattainable at times. It is, however, one of the most important things we must do for our association’s health. The ability to maintain cohesion is more about culture than which individual personality you may encounter at any given time. It takes a clear personal commitment from us, the AEs, to make team strength the priority. Foster trust between you and your leadership by avoiding politics, listening to their ideas, and working together to create and achieve the goals of the association.
Discipline 2: Create Organizational Clarity
With clarity comes unity. Unity in an organization brings excitement. Excitement makes an organization strong and healthy. When members and staff share goals and have a mutual understanding of what a successful organization looks like, the association will flourish. How many of your staff are fully aware of their role in the association’s strategic plan? Do your members know the strategic plan? If they do not, you may be missing a valuable component to ensuring your association’s health.
Discipline 3: Overcommunicate Organizational Clarity
This discipline is pretty self-explanatory. One of the most valuable components of communication is “state, clarify, restate.” This pattern lessens the likelihood of miscommunication. Keep the messages that your organization sends out as simple as possible, but make sure that you leave plenty of space for questions. Remember that everyone communicates best in their own way, so although an emailed message may reach some people, important messages should be made available on several platforms.
Discipline 4: Reinforce Organizational Clarity Through Human Systems
The strategic plan for our association is available on the website, emailed to every staff member upon completion by the leadership team, linked for members in the association magazine, and available by request. It is part of who we are and what we do as an association. Employees and members must know what the association values are. Annual reviews and new hires should be based on those core values of the association.
It is up to us as association executives to lay the foundation for our members and staff. The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive offers many more details on evaluating our associations and guiding them to optimal health. I recommend this book as a quick read as we prepare to head into the new year.