The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive is one of my two favourite books written by Patrick Lencioni. Patrick who runs a management consulting firm called the Table Group in the US, has authored several bestselling books on management soft skills development. In a previous post I had covered his other book The Five Temptations of a CEO.
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive has been written in Patrick’s typical fable format and in a lucid easy reading style. Post story telling, Patrick turns into an executive coach and goes on to analyse these obsessions and gives advice on how to carry out self-assessment and on implementation of these disciplines in an obsessive manner. Unlike the “Five Temptations..” where you are advised to avoid temptations, here Patrick turns the issues around and focuses on the positive actions required to improve organisational health, which is the only long term competitive advantage that you can build for your organisation.
According to Patrick, extraordinary executives obsessively pursue the four disciplines of (a) Be Cohesive, (b) Be Clear, (c) Over-Communicate and (d) Reinforce through Human systems.
The first discipline of “building and maintaining a cohesive team” will counter some of the temptations mentioned in the other book. A cohesive team will know each member’s strengths and weaknesses and trust will prevail over invulnerability. They will openly engage in productive conflict and not choose harmony, and will hold each other accountable in choosing accountability over popularity and fully commit themselves to group decisions.
The next discipline is where you “create organisational clarity“. This is the opposite of choosing certainty over clarity (if you recall the third temptation). Team members must know why the organisation exist, what business it is in, who are the competitors, what behaviour values are fundamental, what are the long term and short term goals and of course, the specific tasks and responsibilities of each member.
After this, you not just communicate but “Over-communicate organisational clarity“, which is repeated often and cascaded across the organisation over multiple formats, delivered in simple language.
Finally you “Reinforce organisational clarity through Human systems” – all of the above need to be built into the organisation ethos and this will be ensured by relevant and consistent policy and practice of hiring, of performance management, rewards and recognition and employee separation.
Business coaches say that to be a good executive you need soft skills rather than technical skills and also that application of soft skills is “simple in theory but difficult to put in practice”. In schools, colleges, universities and business schools, we are taught to solve complex problems and the rigors of technical and scientific analysis. Simple soft skills are hardly taught in formal sessions any where. We therefore find it difficult and uncomfortable to implement such simple skills. On the other hand, we really enjoy dealing with complex problems of marketing, technical or finance. As a result we fall prey to the five temptations and do not learn the basic four disciplines of managing teams and improving organisation health.Email This Post 0