This month, I delivered my 2,000th EOS session. As I reflect back on 14,000 hours in a session room with the leadership teams of 135 companies, 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 get consistently everything they want from their business, they are the ones who have strong leadership teams.
So what do I mean by strong? For the sake of this message, strong is defined by what I call “the seven criteria of a strong leadership team.” And what I mean by a leadership team is the people heading up the major functions of the business. Typically, this is three to seven people. Please treat this as a checkup to measure how your leadership team stacks up. I urge you to rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 on each of the seven criteria, with 10 being the best.
Here are the seven criteria of a strong leadership team:
- They 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 (e.g., 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.
- They Are 100% on the Same Page with the Vision and Plan: Strong leadership teams are in total agreement on every word in their Vision/Traction Organizer™ (V/TO™). There is not one chink in their armor. In my experience, once a leadership team agrees 100% on every word in their vision and plan, 85% of their issues disappear because they were symptoms of disagreement and lack of “same-pageness” on the leadership team.
- They 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.”
- They Are 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.
- They Are 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 their quarterly planning sessions, regardless of whether it’s a people issue, a new idea, an opportunity, or a business problem. For strong leadership teams, issues never linger.
- They 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% 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.
- They Possess the Secret Sauce: They love each other. 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). This is a picture of my leadership team, which built EOS Worldwide for 10 years. We all happened to be standing near each other at the EOS Conference last week, so we snapped a picture. I truly loved working with each and every one of them. Love is truly the secret sauce.
So there they are: the seven criteria for a strong leadership team. Again, I urge you to score yourself from 1 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 weekly meeting or your next 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 how to build a rock star leadership team, please read Traction.