Summer Reading, Take 4

Here is the fourth and final book report, courtesy of the Counselors Academy 2008 Book Club.  I encourage all of you to comment with your own recommendations, as there is no better time than now to expand  your literary repertoire …

Reviewed by Roy Reid, APR
Vice President, Consensus Communications

Book name, title, author, publisher
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Patrick Lencioni, Jossey-Bass, 2000

What is the book about?
The book provides a model for effective team leadership. It is written in two parts.  Part one is a fictitious account of how the process works and part two is an explanation of the concepts in greater detail.  The story allows the reader to see how the process plays out in the lives of executives within two rival consulting firms. Vince Green is the CEO of Greenwich Consulting and has an almost obsessive jealousy of his more successful, yet ambiguous rival Rich O’Conner, CEO of Telegraph. O’Conner is the principle within the story that exemplifies the “Four Obsessions” in the title.

Why did you pick this book?
I have been working with a number of executives that are looking for more effective processes and opportunities to train leaders.  In particular I had been involved with a couple re-organizations and had seen and read other books by this author related to strengthening organizational leadership.

What are the key take-aways?
The opening line of the book is…”If everything is important, then nothing is.” That captures the foundation of the author’s premise, that leaders must have a system to help their team effectively deal with the most important issues.

Communication and the commitment to open and honest dialogue are the underpinnings to the “four Obsessions” and therefore a strong team.  The storyline follows a rather troublesome employee within O’Conner’s organization that cannot seem to grasp the ideas. The “obsessions” set a framework for the team to be open, honest and vulnerable in their dialogue with one another. Time and again he finds himself in meetings where people are arguing and passionate about issues, yet come to consensus and move forward. The author focuses the reader on the concept that you have to be willing to both bring your best idea and accept that there may be better ones available.

In addition, there is a delicate balance between an overbearing leader and a strong leader.  O’Conner wrestles with that concept and even finds himself stumbling at one point when he wanders from his “obsessions”. Fortunately, the team has accepted them and helps O’Conner to navigate back into balance.

One radical or unexpected idea you really liked.
In the book, Rich O’Conner used a very simple, yet challenging review process with employees.  The idea being if you have a strong set of principles that run the processes, you can be more open in the review so employees can exercise their strengths. The process took the following four questions into account: What did you accomplish? What will you accomplish? How can you improve? Are you embracing the values? The process allows the team leader or CEO to help advance the person without getting mired down in the “unimportant”.

One thing you disagreed with.
There may be an oversimplification regarding competition and political issues within an organization.

Thumbs up/thumbs down: Do you recommend it?
This is a must read along with his other books, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Five Temptations of a CEO, Death by Meeting, and Silos, Politics and Turf Wars.