Scaling Up a Business Requires a Healthy and Aligned Executive Team

Rockefeller Habit #1: Is Your Executive Team Healthy and Aligned?

Think back to a time when an executive team you were a part of or worked for was not healthy and aligned.

The greater the disease and misalignment in your executive team, the greater the friction and distraction.

And I do not need to remind you that friction / distraction are absolute kryptonite to productivity and alignment... You and I have both experienced this.

Per The Rockefeller Habits Checklist (Verne Harnish), a healthy and aligned executive team has the following characteristics:

  • Team members understand each other‘s differences, priorities, and styles.
  • The team meets frequently (weekly is best) for strategic thinking.
  • The team participates in ongoing executive education (monthly recommended).
  • The team is able to engage in constructive debates and all members feel comfortable participating.

How does your executive team score?

Would your colleagues agree or disagree?

Kick it up a notch... As you review each bullet above, ask yourself, "What is my evidence? Would others conclude similarly? Is this a blind spot for myself and my team? Are we using excuses to explain away a low or soft area?"

From my experience, you never quite arrive. There is always more to be done to improve the health and alignment of your executive team. In today's rapid-paced, hyper-competitive business landscape, rapid scaling a business requires not just a powerful vision coupled with an innovative product / service, but a cohesive and aligned executive team steering the ship. Drawing wisdom from Verne Harnish's seminal work, "Mastering the Rockefeller Habits," the first "Rock Habit" emphasized is that "the executive team is healthy and aligned." This is not a mere suggestion nor is it a "nice-to-have". Companies with an executive team that is healthy and aligned operate with far less bad friction. If you are serious about the health and alignment of your executive team, you and your team must become deeply familiar with the "Five Dysfunctions of a Team" Framework by Patrick Lencioni. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team provides a powerfully-effective diagnostic and developmental model that is absolutely invaluable for achieving this crucial alignment.

As a Certified Scaling Up Coach, I know from direct experience that this is the proverbial low-hanging fruit. And this is not difficult to quickly improve upon.

This article examines the compelling necessity of a healthy and aligned executive team, informed by Harnish and Lencioni's significant works.

Executive team at the starting line - Scaling Up a Business

The Health of the Executive Team: The Starting Line, Not the Finish

Health in the executive team transcends the absence of overt conflict. Quite the contrary actually. Health in an executive team means the right things are getting discussed. It embodies psychological safety, trust, and mutual respect. But why is a 'healthy' executive team so vital? Because a dysfunctional team is an inefficient one, often plagued with delays, indecisiveness, and ultimately, missed opportunities. A dysfunctional team often avoids talking about the important things. A dysfunctional team does not have vulnerability-based trust. Nor does it have productive, idealogical conflict. Nor does an unhealthy and misaligned executive team effectively commit and if there is soft commitment, accountability is often muted. Sustainable results require accountability.

Health in the executive team is foundational; it is the prerequisite upon which the structure of alignment is built in your organization.

Alignment: More Than Just Agreement

Alignment is the linchpin for scalability and business success. An aligned executive team functions essentially as a single unit, where each individual's goals and activities are symbiotically linked to the company's overarching objectives.

Alignment is not about nodding heads around the boardroom table but an intricate understanding of the organizational goals and the tactical roadmap to achieve them.

The Urgency of Now: Scaling in a Dynamic Landscape

Scaling is not a luxury; for many businesses, scaling is a necessity dictated by market realities. Scaling is not a luxury. In a world of ever-escalating consumer expectations and disruptive technologies, stasis is the first step towards irrelevance. Misalignment and lack of health in your executive team are not mere inconveniences; they are risks, introducing delays and discord at a time when agility and cohesion are paramount. Your competitors are not waiting; nor should you.

Complete a ten-minute Scaling Up Assessment to see how you and your team are doing. 

Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions: A Framework for Team Health

In this context, Patrick Lencioni's "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" must be part of your essential toolkit. Lencioni identifies five key dysfunctions—Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results—that serve as barriers to team performance.

  1. Absence of Trust: Without vulnerability-based trust, no team can be healthy. Trust is foundational to create a psychological space where executives are willing to be vulnerable, admitting mistakes, and inviting constructive criticism.

  2. Fear of Conflict: A healthy executive team must not only tolerate conflict but seek productive ideological debate as a catalyst for better decision-making and innovation.

  3. Lack of Commitment: Without commitment, alignment is impossible. Commitment is born out of productive, ideological debate (conflict) combined with clear goals that are understood and agreed upon by every executive team member.

  4. Avoidance of Accountability: An aligned team holds each other accountable for actions, inaction and outcomes. This reciprocal accountability reinforces alignment and expedites goal achievement.

  5. Inattention to Results: The final dysfunction encapsulates the consequence of the previous four. A team that is not focused on results is a team that is not aligned with the organization's objectives.

The genius of Lencioni's framework is its applicability and simplicity. I have found The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Framework to essentially be a principle - a universal truth. Ignore it at your career trajectory peril. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team framework offers a measurable and actionable path to rectifying dysfunctions, thereby contributing to team health and alignment.

CEO's Role: The Chief Alignment Officer

If you are the founder, CEO or a business leader, your role is not just strategy and vision; your role is also to serve as the Chief Alignment Officer (CAO). You must be the catalyst for fostering a healthy executive team and ensuring alignment, utilizing tools like Lencioni's framework for an objective assessment and continuous improvement. The work is never done. 

A Tactical Blueprint for Achieving Alignment

  1. Develop vulnerability-based trust.
  2. Articulate Clear Objectives: Every executive should understand the strategic goals and how they connect to the larger vision.
  3. Regular Check-ins: Regular executive meetings are not bureaucratic red tape; they are essential for maintaining alignment and addressing misalignments proactively.
  4. Adopt Accountability Mechanisms: Transparent KPIs should be set and reviewed, not just for performance evaluation but as a barometer for alignment.
  5. Adopt Lencioni’s Framework: Make it a regular exercise to evaluate your team against the Five Dysfunctions, using the results as a roadmap for ongoing improvement.

A Call to Action

The stakes could not be higher. In a business climate characterized by volatility, disruption and rapid change, the health and alignment of your executive team are not a "nice-to-have"; they are essential for survival and scaling. Harnish's first Rockefeller Habit - the executive team is healthy and aligned, supplemented by Lencioni's framework, offers a robust methodology for achieving this.

If you are unfamiliar with The Rockefeller Habits nor The Five Dysfunctions of a Team right now is the perfect time to invest in your team's future and your sanity. 

If you seek to turn your executive team around quickly, consider The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Workshop.

As a leader, if you truly are focused on scaling your enterprise you have no choice but to act with both authority and urgency to instill this dual ethos of health and alignment within your executive team. Your legacy and the future of your scaling endeavor depends on it.

Schedule 25 minutes with Chris Young to discuss how to apply this to your executive team.


Act now - schedule a meeting

Scaling Up Resources.

The Rockefeller Habits Checklist - (print this out and review) 

Ten-Minute Scaling Up Assessment

How to Scale Up Your Business

Five Answers to Your Scaling Up Questions 

A Culture of Discipline - Ignition Points for Scaling Up Your Business


Five Dysfunctions of a Team resources.

What are the Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Why Do They Matter?

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Activity Guide

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Workshop