I’d like to introduce you to Patrick Lencioni, a new friend of mine that caused me to view the world in a completely different way. While Christianity is at the core off my life, there are three additional people that have made an indelible mark on me.
1. Peter Senge, who I read when I was 20 years ago
2. Kahnemann and Tversky, who was introduced to me via Dan Ariely’s books around 5 years ago.
3. Now Patrick Lencioni, who I just read 4 weeks ago
I have over 3000 books, and I continually am reading new thoughts and ideas. I can normally find something good in all of the books that I have, but rarely will I say a book has changed my life. However, when I read “The Five Dysfunctions of A Team,” I will never look at work again in the same way. After reading this book, I walked around in a haze for almost a week, thinking about the truth of his words. Because he is a best selling author, I know his work has been read, but it is obvious that much of it has not been implemented by most companies.
In this post, we will give you a teaser on his work, but then we’ll talk a bit about why his work is not embraced.
I had bought the book almost 2 years ago, but it sat unread on a local reading pile. While I have a ton of books that I am reading all the time, more are always constantly coming in. However, I had been in an argument with one of my peers inside of my work, and they kept insisting on a definition of trust that I completely disagreed with an I felt was incredibly illogical. He has a backbone, and he kept insisting that he was right. However, he was so wrong (my cognitive hole) that I simply couldn’t listen to him. Until he said, “you know like that definition in the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.”
This caused me to do a reset. I knew that the book was very famous, and I had always wanted to get around to reading it, but the title of the book was something that completely turned me off. I hate the pop term dysfunction because it is just applied to everything. However, he spurred my interest, so I picked up the book at started to read.
I was blown away.
The 5DOAT (Five Dysfunctions Of A Team) is a fable. It tells a story of a company that is a recent start-up in the neighborhood of the Silicon Valley. Lencioni used the exactly same teaching method as our Lord and Savior: he tells a parable or a fable to get through a deeper point. (This should not be a surprise because Lencioni is a practicing Catholic, with strong ties to the Church.) If you are not from business, you won’t understand why this book is so appealing, but if you have ever been engaged in a high performance team, his message will cut you to the quick.
In the fable, he shows a team that is working together, and he shows who is helpful to the team and who is hurtful to the team. Unfortunately, as I read the story, I recognized myself in some of the good characters, but I also recognized much of myself in the bad characters. I recognized mistakes that I have made in my own career over the last 20 years. And when I say mistakes, I mean massive mistakes. If I had only been trained in this methodology, I could have been 500% more effective in my career.
I have immediately gone and tried to apply this learning to my job. However, it is like my quest to pick up golf when I turned 40 a little over a decade ago. I can become pretty good, and even better than average. If I had been doing this at a young age, I could have been an expert.
Now, the one thing you should not do is go and read an outline of the book. The lesson is going to seem extremely trite and obvious. It is the parable that make the lesson stick. I can tell a million people that they should spend less than they earn, yet most of them do not act on this knowledge. By reading the book, you have a much better chance of having the lessons stick. The concept is easy. The learning is hard.
So, I will not tell you the story. I will explain the principles behind it.
Lencioni’s model involves understanding that companies are broken up into two parts:
1. How smart they are: This is things that you can measure: processes, computer systems, numbers of Ph.Ds, your systems, and even your strategy.
2. How healthy they are: This is things that you can’t measure but impact the interaction of your people: commitment to the company, the way that people interact with each other, the way that you make decisions, the willingness of people to straightforwardly address improper behavior, and the characteristics of self-discipline
The common vernacular for these two types of smarts is “IQ” for intelligence quotient and “EQ” for emotional quotient.
1. If you are smart, you have high IQ
2. If you are healthy, you have high EQ
Lencioni points out that there are ways to increase a teams EQ potential. Before we dig into EQ, let’s chat about IQ and why this really doesn’t matter as much.
I work with and I manage an engineering group. This group is made up of stereotypical engineers, who are pretty smart. Depending on the study, engineers have an average IQ of roughly 126 IQ points. (Wisconsin showed closer to 112, but lack of how they measured makes me strongly doubt this number.)
If you have ever looked at IQ, you’ll know that IQ is distributed in a bell shape curve with a gaussian distribution. This bell curves is shown in the figure above, which looks like a bell. The . This means that there are a lot of people with an IQ of 100, and if you tested 100 people the most likely “top rank” score would be at 100. Now that you know the top, you want to know “how much is contained in a range.” The way we do this is by creating a number called a “sigma” and 1 sigma or deviation (as it is called) has 34.1% of the population. We then look at the top of the curve, or 100 IQ points, and we’ll take a sigma or one deviation to either side of the top. In our case for IQ, 68.2% of the population (or two deviations) range from an IQ of 85 to 115. Yet, we are speaking about engineers. Engineers, as I wrote above, have an average IQ of around 126.
If we overlay the average engineering intelligence on the bell curve, we get a line here:
Now, the next step can be just a little bit confusing, but our general expectation is that any occupation should look generally bell shaped or Gaussian. The overall make up of the bell curve is made up of a bunch of smaller bell curves. However, the peak of the smaller bell curve, should be at the top of the super bell curve. This can be seen in the curve below.
Hopefully, this should make sense. You may say, “Well fine, the bell curve is the bell curve. All populations deviate in the ranges of the abilities in the bell curve.” Yes, while this is true, the real point is “as the peak gets smaller, the one standard deviation gets much smaller.” In essence, as you move to engineers, you are going to find the spread of intelligence in this community is pretty small.
Let me give you an example. If you are dealing with the general population, somebody in the top 16% (this is one standard deviation to the right of the mean) is going to have an IQ that is 15 points higher than your population. This is a lot of points, and this person is going to be much faster than your average person.
However, now take a look at the smaller curve that I drew for electrical engineers. To be in the top 16% of electrical engineers, you need to be 4 or 5 IQ points higher. In other words, all of you people are packed into an exceptionally small range. I have found this in the groups that I managed. With a few exceptions, which in retrospect I spotted because of a poor academic record, almost all of my engineers are bright people. With a little bit of work, they can all solve the exact same set of problems.
This is a great secret that everybody should hang onto. The more that you can hire professions that intrinsically have a high IQ, the less precious is that high IQ, because everybody is smart. (I am ignoring outliers, which is another subject, which is a game changer.) The bigger aspects is now a secondary function.
Your ability to work with people and inside of teams is spread on the exact same bell curve. There are some people that are good natured. They are forgiving. They keep the team spirit high. They share the credit and they bring up the overall performance of the team. There are others that are backbitters. They try and get credit for other people’s work. They constantly complain about other people. They are political and they lobby for their ideas so they get the personal credit.
The problem is that there is no standardized test for this undesirable part. Companies are made of individuals and these individuals are made up of three attributes: being a sociopath, being clueless, and being a loser. What Lencioni tries and do is create a system where you can pull out a team’s EQ, something that I call the TQ or “Team Quotient.” He does so in a brilliant fashion, and those individuals that can’t commit to the TQ are either fixed, or they are replaced.
Sounds simple. Why isn’t it implemented everywhere. The key to this is understanding the make up of a company. Hugh MacLeod, on gapping video, has the following comic about how companies are structured.
At the top of the pyramid is the sociopaths. In a nutshell, these individuals often get to the top of the pyramid because they are willing to do things that most of us are not willing to do. They are very willing to play the politics. They will take credit for other people’s work. They judge on items that are more political than they are based in facts.
In some sense, there are two types of sociopaths. You have that smart but ruthless sociopath. This individual will make the company a success. They may burn down the internal benefits, or devalue other fringe benefits for the rest of the employees. However, they will be running a successful business if they are smart. To be led by a ruthless sociopath is better than being led by the other type.
The other type of sociopath is based around image and elite social class. Companies can be successful because they simply got lucky. If you just happened to be in a given field when this field became successful, then the company can be very successful. The success comes from right time and right place. Normally, the leaders at the top of this chain have attribution error. They think the company is successful because they are running in the company. In reality, the company is successful with good or bad leadership.
However, even the sociopaths recognize that to have a company of sociopaths is not useful. Often they will recognize each other and carve our space for each other, but they are not willing for everybody to be on their level. Instead, they know that they need selfless, hardworking individuals, who will kill themselves for the company. These are the guys that work really hard and believe that by hard work, they will get ahead in the company. They are often naïve, but have some redeeming value of truly hard work. These guys are the clueless. In the worst of all worlds, the clueless are the one that simply mouth the party line, and try to believe in the words of the sociopath. All in all, they received benefits, but not at the level of the sociopath.
The biggest class is the losers. They fundamentally are the ones that always get hit in layoffs. They are the ones that get blamed. They are on the receiving end. They look at the clueless and say, “why would I ever want to spend ever minute in the office, and stop all of my vacation so I can address a work issue?” For these people, they are doing a job. They put in enough work not to get fired, but they are not going to fully engage in the job because they are not capable, they don’t see the payback, or they simply don’t want to be hurt when something they work on very hard does not happen.
Why do I mention this? Because for Lencioni’s work to be highly effective, you need to start from the top of a company. Although in the comic, it shows these layers at the top or the bottom of the pyramid, in reality, we all have a bit of a sociopath, clueless, and loser in us. If you are very lucky, your top level will have a desire to create a company for more than just themselves. Quite frankly, our sociopathic side of our nature doesn’t want to confront the changes that Lencioni calls for. The changes that happen are very anti-sociopathic. It is hard to stomach something that goes against your nature that allowed you to go forward. The people that need this work the most are the least able to hear the conversation.
As I quoted in my last post:
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be every seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s hearts has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.”
So, where do we go from here?
At the bare minimum, by being familiar with the Lencioni model, you can hope to find a group which aspires to live outside the normal bounds If you are really lucky, you can take your success and point to why it is successful. Then the proof is in the pudding. However, just insisting that this is the best way will make you no more successful than Semmelweis, as we discussed in our last post.
I know that this is what I’m trying to do.