The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health.
This is the first sentence from Chapter One of Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. I believe it to be true, and really think anyone who plays a leadership role anywhere, ought to seriously consider what he writes to begin the book. We all play leadership roles somewhere, even if it is just for ourselves as we run our own lives.
Regarding this single greatest advantage, he continues:
… it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants to do it…If it sound absurd, it should. After all, why in the world would intelligent human beings ignore something that is so powerful and accessible?
The question was finally answered for me on July 28, 2010.
I was attending a client’s leadership conference, sitting next to the CEO. This wasn’t just any company. It was, and still is, one of the healthiest organizations I have ever known and one of the most successful enterprises of the past fifty years. In an industry plagued with financial woes, customer fury, and labor strife, this amazing company has a long history of growth and economic success, not to mention financial customer loyalty. Moreover, its employees love their jobs, their customers, their leaders. When compared to others in the same industry, what this company has achieved is almost baffling.
As I sat there at the conference listening to one presentation after another highlighting the remarkable and unorthodox activities that made this organization so healthy, I leaned over and quietly asked the CEO a semirhetorical question: ” Why in the world doesn’t your competition do any of this?”
After a few seconds, he whispered, almost sadly, ” You know, I honestly believe they think it’s beneath them.”
And there it was.
I have also seen this at the individual and family level in my work as a psychotherapist. The people who improve under my care and maintain their gains all have one thing in common – they establish their mental health or wellness as their top priority. They stop taking it for granted for the rest of their lives. This may seem like an obvious thing to do for someone who is suffering enough to take time and money to see a mental health practitioner, but it is not so easy for the many folks who think they are in therapy just to get back to who they used to be before mental health issues set in. They forget that the same person that seemed so strong because they weren’t struggling with mental health issues also made the decisions that failed to prevent their current mental health difficulties.
They idealize how they were before mental health challenges struck, and they just can’t bring themselves to stoop down from their lofty view of their former self and do the new things it takes to achieve and maintain true wellness.
Even if they get better, and many do because they make a surge of effort for a limited time, they remain at high risk for relapse if they do not keep their mental health priority number one.
Sadly, this can reinforce their idealization of themselves before their first mental health episode, and the pattern continues.
I imagine organizational leaders fall into similar ruts for similar reasons.