More 1-on-1: Patrick Lencioni

Business organization is Patrick Lencioni’s game. He is a well-respected leadership consultant and the president of the management consulting firm The Table Group Inc. He is the author of nine best-selling books, including Getting Naked, The Five Dysfunctions ofa Team and The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. Lencioni is a popular keynote speaker and meets regularly with Fortune 500 CEOs and executives across the country. He’s also a husband and the father of four young boys.

His life is busy; his family’s schedule is hectic. But by practicing the principles he teaches in his book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family, he and his wife are able to create a life that is both productive and enjoyable. Here, Lencioni shares a few comments on how being focused can help control the chaos so you don’t miss out on the moments and the relationships that matter most.

SUCCESS: You mention in your book that one reason we fail to plan when it comes to our family is that we take our family for granted. Why do you think that is?

Paul Lencioni: When it comes to planning our family life, we don’t see much risk of loss. At home, we certainly deal with more stress and exhaustions than we’d like, but it’s not going to threaten the existence of our families. We accept family chaos as just a part of life. Sadly, it’s not until people face losing their families (due to divorce or behavior issues) that they realize a little planning and strategy would have been worthwhile.

S: Complaining about the craziness of our schedules is like a rite of passage for high-achievers. It’s almost a bragging point. Why do we feel like being stressed and tired is “normal”?

PL: Family chaos is the norm today and we all certainly tolerate high levels of disorganization and craziness in our home lives. The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family is not about eliminating chaos and confusion from our lives completely. As long as there are sleepovers and in-laws and book reports and Little League games and proms and college applications and weddings to deal with, we will have unpredictability and craziness in our homes. And that is a good thing, because complete control would make life boring. Addressing the Three Questions is about providing your family more clarity, context and purpose around effectively navigating the chaos. High-achievers can still brag about their schedules, but they will be proactively managing their lives with purpose instead of reacting to an ongoing stream of disparate activities and events.

The three questions Lencioni asks in The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family are:

What makes your family unique?

What is your family’s top priority—rallying cry—right now?

How do you talk about and use the answers to these questions?

S: How do we let go of perfectionism traits that keep us in the busy trap?

PL: It’s not about letting go of perfectionism; it’s about giving perfectionism some context and boundaries. I think a little bit of chaos will always exist in family life. Any time you're dealing with human beings, who are emotional and fallible, there will be unpredictability and drama. That's part of the adventure of family life. However, the nature of chaos in a family will change. It will be more managed, guided and somewhat purposeful chaos, and most important, it won't cause the kind of anxiety that makes people wonder whether they're living the life they had hoped to live.

S: By giving our families the attention wegive our businesses, do we run the risk of losing the emotions and depth of our relationships? Or is the opposite true?

PL: Answering the Three Questions should not be a bureaucratic and formal process, and by no means should take the place of our emotional relationships. Providing the initial context and clarity for our families should only take about an hour. Most families are surprised to find the processimmensely interesting and fun.Beyond that initial hour, the only investment in time is fiveminutes per week. Most families will actually want to spend a little more time than that, because doing so will be such a relief. Soon, you'll look forward to these discussions, and they'll become a part of your regular discipline and family habit. This focused time together provides a forum to air important topics and concerns that can ultimately bring a family closer.

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