True or False:

1. As a leader, I know that my success hinges on my people.

2. I am not entirely sure what it takes to make my people happy and productive.

3. I would rather get a root canal than spend time at an offsite working on my team (Hello, kumbaya).

Chances are good that you responded true, true, and TRUE. And you're not alone.

Just because you recognize talented employees' enormous impact on your business doesn't mean you know how to transform potential into reality. That is because doing so hinges, in large part, on bolstering your organizational health--a concept developed by Patrick Lencioni that represents a virtually untapped competitive advantage at the vast majority of companies.

I was reminded of the importance and neglect of organizational health during a recent conversation with a vice president at a midmarket health care company, who said to me, "We have the best technology. Our customer service is really good. We talk to people all the time from our competitors and they want to come work for us because they know we have the product sewn up." She paused. "We have a huge opportunity this year.... I don't know. If we fail, it will be because of our people."

The premise behind organizational health is this: While all of your competitors are obsessing over the smart stuff (metrics, functional areas, and more metrics), you can win by focusing on the healthy stuff (getting the most out of your team, reducing politics and confusion, and boosting productivity and morale). Your organization's health can act as a multiplier of its smarts. Both are important to win, but few leaders focus on health--making it a powerful competitive advantage.

The example I use with clients is simple: Picture your leadership team sitting around a conference table. You're paying them all 100 percent. Are you also getting 100 percent buy-in from each one of them? Are you getting all their best (work) ideas? Are you getting their commitment? Imagine that you were. What could you accomplish then? That's what organizational health looks like.

Here are the four hallmarks of a healthy organization:

  • A cohesive leadership team
  • Organizational clarity around six critical questions
  • Overcommunication of that clarity
  • Reinforcement of that clarity through human systems

To begin bolstering organizational health, you first need to build a team that functions well together. The secret to success? Aligning your team around the answers to these six critical questions:

1. Why do we exist?

2. How do we behave?

3. What do we do?

4. How will we succeed?

5. What's most important right now?

6. Who does what?

The answers to those questions, once developed, are then communicated again and again--until the entire organization knows the answers and believes in them. And then you build structures that reinforce your values and goals.

Focusing on organizational health takes discipline. After all, it's amorphous. You will know when you get there, but not thanks to any signposts.

I will not lie; the journey is not easy. Most leaders who choose to engage are by turns amazed, frustrated, tired, hopeful, and satisfied. Most find that the hard work pays off, but make no mistake that it is hard work to challenge yourself and your team to be habitually honest, to engage in conflict, to bring all best ideas to the table, to hold each other accountable, and to put the group first.

Like many good ideas, organizational health is simple. Simple, but not easy. Lencioni often talks about how people need to be reminded more than they need to be taught. He knows we're not telling you anything you don't already know.

The art is in the doing.

To learn more about organizational health, tune in to this webinar with Jeff Gibson from Patrick Lencioni's Table Group on Friday, Feb. 24, at 1 pm EST.