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Organizational expert urges leaders to care for culture

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Patrick LencioniPatrick Lencioni shared his thoughts on leadership, teamwork and the value of building healthy organizational cultures in the August episode of the 21st Century Business Forum.

The monthly webcast features one-on-one interviews with some of the nation’s most prominent business minds and thought leaders, brought to you by SC Biz News, the Charleston Regional Business Journal and business partners, Charleston Southern University and Doctors Care.

The author and organizational expert said joy “is the leading indicator” of whether an organization is healthy and is something he can gauge just by walking around a workplace.

“Are people talking to one another?” Lencioni said. “Are they engaged in what they’re doing? Does it seem like there is joy? Or do they look like they can’t wait to be gone?”

If good people stay at an organization and bring other people in, that indicates the company is healthy, Lencioni said. Conversely, if a company is incapable of keeping its best people on staff, then it could be a sign of an unhealthy organization, he said.

Lencioni told the webcast’s host, Jon Gordon, that “one of the most practical things (a leader) can do for any business is build a healthy culture.”

Striving to create such a culture “is not something esoteric or touchy-feely,” Lencioni said. “The best companies in the world get this.”

For example, Lencioni said that Southwest Airlines isn’t considered one of the best in the world because of technical decisions or the company’s ability to manage fuel prices, but rather they have a culture that works.

“Leaders have to realize that (culture) is more important than finance or strategy or operations or technology,” he said. “It’s the context for business.”

He said the biggest mistake executives make is figuring out their business inside their own minds and keeping it to themselves without inspiring a staff through culture and messaging.

“What makes a business successful is, do the leaders care and work well together, are they crystal clear on what they want the organization to be, and do they repeat (that message) constantly” and reinforce it consistently?

Asked by Gordon what he learned about leadership during the pandemic, Lencioni said, “I think what I learned is that very few people are leaders.”

“Leadership involves suffering, and it is lonely,” Lencioni said. “It involves the willingness to sacrifice for others, and there are not many people in the world who want to do that.”

In September, the Business Forum welcomes Todd Graves, the founder and CEO of Raising Cane's. Click here to register for this conversation and webcast about serving up great customer service.

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