“Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.” – Peter McWilliams
I recently finished reading (for the 2nd time) The Advantage a book by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni. The whole book is good, but the part that really resonated was the first 70 pages or so which focused on the importance of organizational health and, in particular, the idea of building cohesive leadership teams.
I could write a year’s worth of blog posts on that book, but for today I’ll keep it short. One of the conversations early on in the book deals with the idea of smart vs. healthy organizations.
Lencioni defines smart organizations as those who are good at fundamental, traditional business stuff: things like strategy, marketing, IT, etc. By contrast, healthy organizations are those that have minimal politics & confusion, high degrees of morale & productivity, and very low turnover among good employees. You could argue about the specific traits of each group, but you get the idea.
Lencioni’s theory is this: being smart is simply the price of admission into the game. Being healthy, however, is the difference between success & mediocrity. More than that, the idea is that healthy organizations inevitably get smarter over time (people learn from one another, identify key issues, recover from mistakes, etc), while smart organizations don’t have any chance of getting healthier by virtue of their intelligence.
Regardless of whether you go all the way with his theory, Lencioni makes a good point: it’s awfully hard to succeed without organizational health. So ask yourself some questions: Are we really healthy as an organization? Are we effectively making the most of the talents & opportunities we have? Or are we wasting time dealing with politics & confusion? Are we repeatedly losing key people? Or have we created an environment where our best people feel good about where they are and perform at a high level?
I’m not suggesting that being smart doesn’t matter – but I agree with Lencioni that all else being equal, if you have to prioritize between healthy and being smart, pick healthy. Working on those types of things isn’t always within our comfort zones, but If you can get that right, everything has a chance to follow. If not, you’re setting your own ceiling much lower than it needs to be.