Improve Team Health by Hunting for the Elephants

I recently found myself in yet another room full of smart, sophisticated business leaders who had built a growing business but had hit a ceiling because they couldn’t see the elephants in the room. All of the teaching tools I had would not penetrate the thick hide of this elusive animal, and if I couldn’t help them see—and kill—the elephant, they would never get the full benefit of our work together and improve their Team Health.

In his book The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni unearths a reality I have seen play out many times in my own businesses as well as in my years of working with leadership teams of entrepreneurial organizations. It is a psychological mindset that is rooted in the size of the team and significantly impacts Team Health. Many times, I find that business owners include too many people as part of their leadership teams, either because they are afraid being honest about who the true leadership team is will hurt feelings, or because they mistakenly think “more is more.”

 

How Too Many On The Team Undermines Team Health

When the team is large (based on the work I do, I have found that a leadership team of more than seven people is on the large size) there is an unspoken awareness that the time to talk will be limited due to the number of people in the room. As a result, when people have the floor to speak, they focus on advocacy: pushing, and even arguing, to make their point based on their perception of the facts.

What’s worse, I find that when others are speaking, team members are less likely to be really focused on what they are hearing, but are rather focusing on the points they want to make so they don’t misspeak or forget exactly what they want to say. It becomes very much like our elected officials in Congress: lots of posturing and talking in circles with little or nothing actually getting done. That is no way to lead and grow an entrepreneurial business and build Team Health.

This advocacy behavior and mindset prevents healthy growth and healthy conflict as a team; thus the elephants remain so close, yet so far away.

 

Team Health: Less Is More

On the other hand, when I work with teams of 3–7 people, or when I can help the larger groups see that they need to shed the added weight of too many people, I find that the mindsets in the room shift to a posture of inquiry: taking time to ask more questions and make fewer statements. People tend to listen more intently to each other and ask better questions. As a result, they learn from one another and open themselves to see the facts from a different point of view. This almost always leads to deeper root-cause analysis of issues, and when teams can shift to a posture of inquiry over advocacy, the elephants are much easier to find and Team Health begins to flourish.

Do you want to see your team get better at going deeper and solving issues at the root? Start with an open and honest evaluation of the team and its size. Do you have just enough of the right people in the room? Your leadership team should be structured as simply as possible—and no simpler than that. Remember, when it comes to numbers and increasing Team Health, less really is more. Happy hunting.

 

To learn more about how The TRACTION Hub and Certified EOS Implementer Michael Erath can help you and your team dig deep and unearth the real things that are holding you back, click here to contact us and schedule a call.