A five-person leadership team at a successful 50-year-old company recently got stuck and hit the ceiling. Two years ago they started to implement the EOS Tools on their own, but they were still dealing with several frustrations.
- Too many meetings. They had meeting after meeting after meeting, and they didn’t have enough time to get anything done!
- Revisiting the same issues over and over again. They thought they’d solved their issues, but a few thorny ones lingered and never really went away.
- Too many miscommunications. They were working against themselves at times with miscommunication, causing lots of extra work.
- Accountability lacking. Roles and responsibilities weren’t as clear as they wanted them to be.
- Financial results were always behind. They always seemed to fall short of the goals they’d set and they couldn’t figure out why.
One Root Issue Can Sprout Several Business Problems
The breakthrough came after setting their company rocks (3-7 priorities for the next 90 days). They realized that one of the rocks could change the entire course of the company, but four of the five members of the leadership team knew nothing about it. Why? The one person had told everyone about the idea in the past, but to the rest of the team it was just an idea. In this person’s mind it was real, as they were about to submit a proposal regardless of what the rest of the team thought. Tensions rose quickly.
To help them get to the root cause, I led them through a review of Patrick Lencioni’s five dysfunctions of a team—in particular the following three areas:
- Vulnerability-based trust—the ability to let your guard down and express your true, honest, raw opinion without being judged.
- Conflict—Having it out about anything and everything, focusing always on the issue, never personal. Going deep on the real issue.
- Commitment—a deal is a deal. So long as everyone has been heard, a final decision gets made. Even if everyone doesn’t agree with the decision, they can live with it because they’ve weighed in with their perspective.
Here’s what caused the struggle with this team. The leader-owner was looking to get commitment from the team on this decision, but different perspectives on this project were never solicited before the decision was made.
And what they discovered was that four out of five team members felt a lack of trust because a huge decision had been made without their awareness or input—and they would be the ones accountable for executing on the decision, and getting everyone else in the company to carry it out.
Everyone was open to the idea of the project and thought it could be beneficial for the company—so the project itself wasn’t the issue. Rather, it was the way that this project came about and was presented to the team that was the issue.
Establishing Team Trust Solves Many Other Problems
What did the team do? The one person who brought the project up had never meant to offend or hurt anyone. In fact, in their mind they had already communicated everything that they thought needed to be communicated well in advance. But clearly there was a misalignment somewhere.
The path towards trust was restored after an intense and emotional conversation, along with a unique solution that they put in place. Anytime that a new idea like this would arise in the future, they would keep a high-level spreadsheet of all potential projects and have a weekly review to assign a number from 1 to 5 on each of idea: 1 = 20% likelihood to a 5 = 100% (the project is a GO!). This would ensure the team was all on the same page with opportunities, along with a process of knowing when they would need to get more involved in the decision-making process. This was a great tool to ensure they had two-way communication.
After going through this issue, the team understood from a new perspective why their meetings had been unproductive in the past, why issues would linger, why miscommunications were too common, why accountability felt like it was lacking, and why their financial performance was suffering.
Start with Team Trust
It starts with improving the vulnerability-based trust of the team. As that improves, along with the proper use of the EOS® 5 Foundation Tools, they will finally be farther ahead than ever—and, more importantly, break through this ceiling they were bumping against.
- Download chapter 1 of Traction—the book that helps companies break through the ceiling
- Check out Patrick Lencion’s video on the importance of Trust