Contributed by Gino Wickman, a recent EO 360 podcast guest and the author of Traction and The EOS Life, as well as the creator of EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System), which more than 140,000 entrepreneurs use to run their companies. He also created The 10 Disciplines for Managing and Maximizing Your Energy.
I recently delivered my 2,000th session with the hard-charging leadership teams of 135 companies. As I reflect back on 14,000 hours in a session room, it’s crystal clear to me what the number one cause of a company’s greatness is.
There isn’t even a close second. Although you might think that the number one cause that makes a company great is a compelling vision, luck, execution, culture, the business model, the product or service, timing, compensation, being first to market, or cutting-edge technology, it’s none of the above.
The number one cause is a strong leadership team.
When I look back at thousands of sessions with my 135 clients over the last 21 years and ponder the ones who grow the way they want to, are healthy, have endured recessions, pandemics and crises, and consistently get everything they want from their business, they are the ones who have strong leadership teams.
So, what do I mean by “strong?” Strong is defined by seven criteria. Today, I’ll give you the flip side of strength and call them “the seven signs of a weak leadership team.”
And what I mean by a leadership team is the people heading up the major functions of your business—typically, three to seven people.
Please treat this as a checkup to measure how your leadership team stacks up.
Here are the seven signs you have a weak leadership team:
Sign 1: You don’t have rock stars in every seat on the leadership team
A strong leadership team has an accountability chart that is the right structure for the next level of growth, is forward-looking and makes clear the major functions. Those major functions are filled with the right people in the right seats (eg, Visionary, Integrator, sales/marketing, operations, finance, etc.). Each member has total confidence and trust in their fellow team members, and everyone exudes the company’s core values. All seats are filled (no vacancies) with leaders who “get” their job, “want” their job, and have the “capacity” to do their job.
Do you have rock stars in every seat?
Sign 2: You aren’t 100% on the same page with the vision and plan
Strong leadership teams are in total agreement on the vision for the company. There is not one chink in their armor. In my experience, once a leadership team agrees 100 percent on every word in their vision and plan, 85 percent of issues disappear because they were symptoms of disagreement and lack of “same-pageness” on the leadership team.
Are you 100 percent on the same page?
Sign 3: You don’t speak one language
A strong leadership team agrees to speak one common language throughout the organization and run on one operating system. An operating system means the way you meet, plan, measure, prioritize, solve issues, systemize, communicate, manage and lead. I’ve observed that a team of average people running the company on the same operating system and speaking the same language will outproduce a highly skilled team of individuals each doing it their own way, any day of the week. Said another way, you can’t build a great company on multiple operating systems; you must choose one. As one of my dysfunctional clients said in a session, “Separately we are geniuses, together we are morons.”
Do you speak one language?
Sign 4: You aren’t open and honest
The most successful companies have leadership teams that are comfortable with conflict. They don’t hold back, they call out every issue, and they comfortably discuss them until they are resolved in one sitting.
Are you open and honest?
Sign 5: You aren’t fanatical about resolution: A strong leadership team, after calling out all of the issues, is fanatical about resolving them. They typically solve five to 15 issues every week in their weekly meeting, and 30 per quarter in quarterly planning sessions, regardless of whether it’s a people issue, new idea, opportunity or business problem. For strong leadership teams, issues never linger.
Are you fanatical about resolution?
Sign 6: You don’t treat each other as equals
A strong leadership team, when in a room together, ignores hierarchy. Each member’s input is weighed exactly the same, and there is an equal exchange of dialogue. If five people are on the team, then each member talks about 20 percent of the time in the meeting. For example, the Visionary views the head of operations as an equal, and the head of operations sees the Visionary as the same. No one is intimidated or intimidating.
Do you treat each other as equals?
Sign 7: You don’t possess the secret sauce
A strong leadership team truly loves each other. They look forward to meeting together, and those meetings are passionate, intense, exhausting, fun and never boring. They love working together. They make every business decision out of love and not fear (for the greater good of the company). Loving each other is truly the secret sauce.
Do you possess the secret sauce?
So, there they are: the seven signs you have a weak leadership team. I urge you to score yourself from one to 10 on each criterion, forward this to your leadership team and have them score it, and then share it with each other at your next meeting or quarterly planning session.
Please be obsessive about building a strong leadership team. Make sure you have a rock star in every seat. Everything else will take care of itself. I’ve now had 10 Visionaries replace everyone on their leadership team in the interest of the greater good of the company. If you want the how-to manual for building a rock star leadership team, please read Traction.
And if you don’t know what a Visionary is, read Rocket Fuel.