We have yet to find an organization with a leadership competency model, existing leadership development course, or change initiative that cannot be clearly aligned to The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® and the 30 behaviors identified in the LPI®:Leadership Practices Inventory® . In fact, one of the most rewarding things about working with The Leadership Challenge is how well it acts as an “umbrella” for an organization’s full complement of leadership, team, and organizational effectiveness programs. For example, many of the other high-quality leadership programs available today focus on one or two of The Five Practices. So when we introduce The Leadership Challenge to a client, it typically feels familiar and reinforcing, while also expanding their understanding of a bigger picture view of leadership.
One program that works exceptionally well in this regard is Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive TeamTM. While The Five Practices model describes specific behaviors exemplary leaders engage in to drive superior performance and results, The Five Behaviors model describes behaviors effective teams engage in to accomplish those same goals. And the synergy between the two models is no accident. Lencioni, by his own account, has been deeply influenced by The Leadership Challenge, describing it as “perhaps the most comprehensive field guide ever written for leaders [and] a key part of my personal journey as a leader for years.”
Making the Link for Leaders and Teams
The Five Behaviors model, depicted here, describes the essential elements required for cohesive teams.
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The fundamental ideas are that teams must build trust, which enables productive and healthy conflict that leads to commitment and accountability, culminating in superior results. Teams that do this well make better decisions, reduce political strife and infighting, and have more fun—achieving great things in the process.
And while The Five Behaviors model stresses the importance of the dynamic between team members, there is a clear acknowledgement that the leader plays a critical role. If the leader does not lead the way by modeling the behaviors he or she wants others to follow, a team will never meet its full potential. So when we work with clients that have needs around leader and team development, we have found tremendous value in integrating the concepts of both models and programs. Our typical approach involves starting with The Leadership Challenge to get the organization’s leaders grounded in the fundamentals of leadership. With that “umbrella” in place, we introduce The Five Behaviors and explore what makes teams effective. And along the way, we continuously reinforce how their leadership behaviors impact the teams’ performance and potential.
Using this approach with a variety of clients, we have found many connections that resonate with leaders. Here are a few of the most significant ones:
As authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner frequently remind us, above all else leadership is a relationship—a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow. To get things done in organizations today, people need to collaborate, and collaboration is all about relationships. It is leaders who set the tone for how well their teams will embrace and harness the power of true collaboration.
The Five Behaviors model also stresses the importance of the quality of relationships, in this case specifically between and among team members. In fact, the team facilitation process that is part of this program includes a number of techniques designed specifically to deepen the quality of the connection between team members. In particular, the approach emphasizes building trust to facilitate effective relationships.
Relationships are Built on Trust
Trust is a key theme in Jim and Barry’s work. In fact, in The Truth About Leadership, “Trust Rules” is #6 on their list of 10 truths. And throughout their writings and research on leadership, they have consistently underscored the importance of credibility—the foundation of leadership—with trustworthiness as a critical component of the leadership relationship. Leaders don’t accomplish great things alone. When constituents trust a leader they are more willing to accept his or her influence, take risks, and accept challenges.
Likewise, in The Five Behaviors model, trust is the foundation upon which team effectiveness is built. The specific kind of trust Lencioni describes goes beyond “predictive” trust into the much more meaningful “vulnerability-based” trust. When team members trust one another in this way, they can be open about failures, mistakes, and fears. It reduces time-wasting politics and increases the likelihood that results will be achieved. As Lencioni writes in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, “Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team. Without it, teamwork is all but impossible.”
Leaders Go First
But how do teams get to the point where they trust each other? As with many things, the leader goes first. Jim and Barry describe it this way in their book, The Leadership Challenge: “Building trust is a process that begins when someone (either you or the other party) is willing to risk being the first to open up, to show vulnerability, and to let go of control. Leaders go first. If you want the high levels of performance that come with trust and collaboration, you will have to demonstrate your trust in others before asking them to trust you.”
A core principle of The Five Practices, then, is that it is the leader that sets the tone and creates the environment where people can engage with one another in this way. Leaders, indeed, trust first.
In a similar way, The Five Behaviors program engages teams in a simple yet very powerful “personal histories” exercise to help everyone get to know one another on a more personal level and to establish trust through vulnerability. Each member of the team, including the leader, is asked to share a few things about his or her childhood, including an important or unique challenge they faced growing up. Invariably, even in a short period of an hour, people who may be very guarded at work share some deeply personal experiences — incidences of bullying, feelings of loneliness, or memories of an extremely happy childhood—that, in the end, promote understanding, compassion, and connection even between teammates who were previously distrustful or even hostile toward one another.
Of course, the leader also participates in this personal histories activity. We often ask the leader to literally “go first”—to be the first one to share his or her story. If the leader shares in a genuine and vulnerable way, it is much more likely that the rest of the team will feel safe to do the same. As counter-intuitive as it seems to many leaders, their ability to be vulnerable and admit mistakes can make them more credible and influential.
Feedback and Self-Insight are Critical
Candid feedback and insight are key components of both The Leadership Challenge and The Five Behaviors programs as they share the belief that we can only improve when we receive and accept the benefits that feedback offers. For example, results from the LPI 360 provide leaders with a comprehensive view of how frequently others observe them demonstrating the behaviors associated with exemplary leadership. Similarly, The Five Behaviors includes a team assessment and insights from each team member’s Everything DiSC® profile, a personality assessment tool that measures preferences and tendencies that shape the workplace experience. In this context it helps people understand their own style and the styles of their teammates through the lens of team dynamics.
More to Learn – More Connections to Be Made
The style differences we began to see when adding in the DiSC® component of The Five Behaviors program with The Leadership Challenge caught our attention. We began to clearly see that when leaders and team members truly understand their own and other’s DiSC styles it can make a significant difference in improved communication, team effectiveness and productivity, and the health and well-being of the organization’s culture. We think this is a connection well worth exploring in more detail. So watch for a follow-up article in an upcoming issue of this newsletter in which we’ll share tips on how to leverage the power of the LPI with the insights derived from Everything DiSC solutions to coach and develop leaders.
This article first appeared in The Leadership Challenge Newsletter at www.leadershipchallenge.com. It was co-authored by Amy Dunn, a Certified Professional Coach and a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge. Amy’s work focuses on facilitation, coaching, talent management, team building, and meeting design. She can be reached at [email protected].