Yin & Yang and the Visionary & Integrator Final Part (# Four)

Yin Yang Sky Earth - Illustration

Greetings! Today’s blog is the last in this series on inside/outside leadership pairs, or what we call Visionary and Integrator (V/I) pairs. (We love this topic; don’t be surprised if we return to it!) We hope you have found this series to be thought-provoking and maybe even a bit freeing. Our aim has been to help you gain some insight into who you are and what your organization might be missing if it is not being led by a strong V/I pair. We would like to conclude the series by sharing some parting thoughts regarding strong V/I teams versus the traditional CEO structure. The goal is share some examples that provide a little more context and depth and thus elevate the discussion from just theory to practice and insight.

Why Companies Fail

The main reason mature companies fail, according to David Thomson, author of Blueprint to a Billion and Mastering the 7 Essentials of High Growth Companies, is “blind passion.” Simply stated, these companies have leaders who fail to self-correct despite obvious evidence of changing customer needs and demands due to the economic cycle, technology, or some other factor. It is easy to see how blind passion could manifest—especially with a strong, outside-oriented CEO who is a true believer in the company’s vision and has set a clear course for taking everyone to the Promised Land. But what happens when things change? Who has the credibility and confidence to tell the emperor he is wearing no clothes? Who has built the early feedback systems and kept the scorecard to incontrovertibly demonstrate that the market has changed and it’s time to pivot? Who has built the systems and processes that can survive this hard pivot? The answer to each question is a strong Integrator. And, finally, what kind of team can pivot without losing serious credibility within its stakeholder ranks? A strong V/I team.

Stick to Your Role

One of my good friends, Rob Toomey, works with leaders, influencers, high performing teams, and organizations all over the world. His experience suggests that many companies that have gone by the wayside (Polaroid, Woolworth, Bethlehem Steel, Pan Am, etc.) either involved only an Integrator at the helm OR they had a Visionary who was dragged into the execution/logistics too much. The point being, you need to stay in position; if you’re the Visionary, do that.

Avoid the Hard Jibe

Rob also sees a significant amount of hard jibe leadership transitioning from Visionary to Integrator to Visionary in succession planning. An Integrator often comes up on the heels of a Visionary and then gets the helm for a while before the need for Vision kicks back in. This leads to companies getting jerked back and forth—eventually people turn a deaf ear to the changes and apathy sets in.

Why Companies Succeed

Building an enduring business is tough, especially today. Change is everywhere. The winners are constantly exploring and driving. Exploration is critical, whether it’s with regard to innovation, staying on top of your markets, staying close to your customers, or elevating your business model. Strong Visionaries do this consistently well across the board. At the same time, driving the business on a day-to-day basis is essential. Strong Integrators do this consistently well. Together, strong V/I teams are fully prepared for those defining moments where difficult decisions need to be made while juggling numerous balls, spinning multiple plates, and constantly putting scrambling chicks back into the box. When done well, you cannot help but applaud.

Pushing on the Status Quo and the power of “Good Cop, Bad Cop”

One of the great attributes associated with a strong V/I team is the Visionary tends to be the customer advocate—she really gets the customer’s pain points and wants to help. Since she isn’t overseeing engineering or operations or client service, she isn’t burdened by the status quo or the facts and is better-positioned than anyone else in the organization to push to make the impossible happen. The Integrator on the other hand, is burdened by what he knows and his relationships with his direct reports. For a host of reasons, he needs to be pushed to stretch the organization. He is often, but hopefully not always, the internal “good cop” versus the Visionary’s “bad cop.”

Leading by Example

As individuals, are any of us perfect examples for how our organization should lead and manage? Do we excel at demonstrating through actions, not words, how to build trust and how to master conflict? The beauty of a strong V/I team is that collectively they genuinely are exemplars of how to lead and manage; how to build trusting relationships where people respect differences and leverage each other’s Unique Abilities™; and how to approach things from two very different points of view by engaging in constructive conflict and avoiding stepping into destructive behavior.

It’s Lonely at the Top

Leading is a tough and lonely job. I am pretty sure that all of us who have held leadership positions know this and were probably surprised by how tough and lonely it can be. Don’t get me wrong, few of us would ever trade out a real position of leadership once we get it, but wouldn’t it be great if we had someone who we genuinely trusted and with whom we could talk about some of the tough issues we are facing? Wouldn’t it be great if they really understood the situation and the complexity of the trade-offs associated with our choices? Wouldn’t it be great if we had access to such a person 24/7? And wouldn’t it be great if they weren’t wired like us so they brought a different point of view? You get all of these things when you are part of a strong V/I team.

Do you have great examples of situations where having a strong V/I team would have made it much easier to address either a challenge or an opportunity or, more likely, both? If yes, we would love for you to click here and share it in the comments section of this blog. Up next, Smart + Healthy: the power of organizational health in a world where billions of us have access to almost an infinite amount of knowledge and being smart has become permission to play.

Until then, be well.

Yin & Yang and the Visionary & Integrator Part Three

Yin Yang Sky Earth - Illustration

In our last two blogs, we introduced the notion that many of the most successful and enduring companies had or have an inside/outside leadership pair—what we call a Visionary and Integrator team (V/I Team). This insight is supported by our work at EOS® with over 600 companies as well as by some incredible research undertaken by David Thomson for his insightful books Blueprint to a Billion and Mastering The 7 Essentials of High-Growth Companies (highly recommended reads). In his books, David details why having an inside/outside leadership pair is one of “The 7 Essential” ingredients to success. This idea is based upon his detailed study of 410 companies that went public since 1980 and reached $1 billion in revenues. Frankly, it all seems fairly obvious when one thinks about all of the things a leadership team needs to do in order to build a strong, growing, and enduring business—especially in times like today where it feels like there is an unprecedented amount of change taking place. In today’s blog we will talk about how to best organize around, and what makes a great, V/I Team.

Once a leadership team decides it wants to lead utilizing the V/I model, the Visionary and the Integrator must get crystal clear as to who does what. Our experience suggests that each of their roles needs to be distinctive and complementary for everyone’s sake. As the old saying goes, “when two people are accountable, no one is accountable.”

As for who does what, our experience suggests the most effective structure is one in which the Integrator reports to the Visionary and all of the functional heads report directly to the Integrator. This structure enables each of them to optimize their Unique Abilities™. For the Visionary, this structure enables him or her to focus on doing the things he or she loves doing:

  • Leading through example
  • Meeting with people (current and prospective employees) and listening
  • Driving the culture
  • Working on the next Big Idea
  • Developing and nurturing Big Relationships
  • Solving Big Problems
  • Staying on top of the industry

For the Integrator, this structure enables her or him to focus on:

  • Leading by managing
  • Harmonizing the way the functions work together
  • Optimizing resources
  • Removing obstacles and barriers
  • Driving the business plan
  • Hitting the numbers (P&L, Scorecards)
  • Overseeing special projects
  • Making sure that all of the right things are being done across the organization

So what are the key ingredients of a great V/I team?

  • Each has to genuinely posses the characteristics we enumerated in our last blog, otherwise they will not be truly complimentary
  • Each must have a huge amount of respect for the other as an individual and as a professional, otherwise they simply will not trust the other to do his or her job and the entire structure will breakdown
  • Each must truly embody and embrace the organizations culture, otherwise they will have conflicting values
  • Each must be ready, willing, and able to make the other look good, especially when it comes to the other’s short comings, otherwise, neither will be able to truly concentrate all of their energies on leveraging their Unique Abilities™

In short, at their core great V/I teams are, as David Thomson wrote: “the yin and yang, the weave and the warp, the bacon and eggs—and without the dynamic of compatibility their companies could not have made it to the top.”

In one of our future blogs we are going to talk about the notion that at their core, really strong and enduring organizations are both Smart & Healthy. In many respects, while both the Integrator and the Visionary are responsible for building a Smart & Healthy organization, I hope it is now clear to you which role I think is responsible for driving each of these two perpetual needs.

While I haven’t written it yet, I suspect the there will be one more part to this Yin & Yang and the Visionary & Integrator series, until then…

Be well.

Yin & Yang and the Visionary & Integrator Part Two

Yin Yang Sky Earth - Illustration

In our last blog, we introduced the notion that many of the most successful and enduring companies have, or had, an inside/outside leadership pair—what  my EOS® colleagues and I call a Visionary and Integrator team. As we illustrated last week, Visionaries and Integrators couldn’t be more different in terms of how they lead and problem solve. They are the Yin and the Yang of leadership. Today we’ll discuss the key characteristics of Visionaries and Integrators to better explain how they complement each other.

We’ll start with the key characteristics of a Visionary.

A Visionary:

        • Is often a founding entrepreneur
        • Has lots of ideas
        • Is a strategic thinker
        • Always sees the big picture
        • Has a pulse on the industry and target market
        • Loves the research and development of new products and services
        • Is easily distracted
        • Manages big relationships (e.g. customer, vendor, industry)
        • Keeps the company culture alive (provides inspiration)
        • Leads with emotion
        • Is good at creative problem solving (handles big problems)
        • Creates the company vision and protects it
        • Typically sells and closes big deals
        • Gets involved with customers and employees when needed
        • Loves to connect the dots
        • Occasionally does the work, provides the service, makes the product

In short, Visionaries are passionate, big picture people who are easily distracted and love to put 100 pounds in a 50 pound bag.  As you can imagine, they are pretty good at creating chaos. For this reason, organizations that are run by Visionaries typically find themselves yearning for more stability and control. Often times this stability comes in the form of Integrators.

Unlike a Visionary, an Integrator has the unique ability to manage daily issues as they come up while also integrating all the major functions of the business–sales, marketing, client services, operations, and finance – into one harmonious group.  Put simply, the Integrator acts as the glue that keeps the team together.

Here are some other key characteristics typically associated with an Integrator. An Integrator:

      • Has clarity
      • Excels at communication
      • Provides resolution
      • Has focus
      • Is accountable
      • Promotes team unity
      • Leads with logic
      • Is good at project management
      • Follows through
      • Serves as the tie breaker
      • Removes obstacles and barriers
      • Prioritizes
      • Drives execution
      • Is a steady force
      • Beats the drum
      • Is accountable for P&L results
      • Executes the business plan
      • Leads, manages, and holds the leadership team accountable

As we pointed out in Part One, most of us get that we cannot be great at all things or be all things at once. I’m curious if you have ever met anyone who genuinely possesses the key characteristics of both a Visionary and an Integrator. If you have, I would love to hear about her or him and the success of her/his firm in the comment section below.

In our next couple of blogs, we will continue to discuss Visionaries and Integrators. We will provide an overview of how the typical Visionary/Integrator team leads while referring to what we call the Accountability Chart. We’ll also go over the essential ingredients necessary for any great V/I team, discuss why most organizations eventually falter without a strong V/I team, and explain what to do if you don’t have both or lose one member of a V/I team. When the series is done, we hope you will have a pretty good sense for why V/I teams are not only powerful but almost essential for enduring success.

Until then, be well.


Yin & Yang and the Visionaries & Integrators

Yin Yang Sky Earth - IllustrationI have always had characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD. Love big ideas, reaching for the stars, and building things. Pretty good at seeing how things are interrelated. Have a critical mind in both the best and worst of ways. My way of looking at the world lets me instinctively know that we can always make things better. It also leaves me paranoid about someone else getting there first. To me, this potential for improvement is obvious. Look at where the world is today versus just ten years ago. Look at the amazing new products we now take for granted like the iPhone and iPad. Think about the fact that billions of us now have access to almost an infinite amount of knowledge and consequently an infinite array of opportunities. It’s incredible, if not a bit overwhelming, and it’s all due to man’s insatiable need to make things better for himself.

My passion for making things better combined with my love of the big picture means I often find myself trying to do too many things, losing focus, and creating confusion and a little chaos. I have what we refer to at EOS® as a “visionary” mind versus an “integrator” mind. This “visionary” mind can be its own worst enemy.

Looking back at my career, it’s clear I have been at my best when this visionary “Yang” was counter balanced by a “Yin.” These “Yins,” and I have been blessed with many, have helped me focus and execute in a disciplined and thoughtful manner. I sought out these partners because I instinctively knew, and still do, that I needed a Yin for my Yang to flourish.

Some people refer to these Yin/Yang teams as inside-outside leadership pairs. As I mentioned above, at EOS we call them “Visionaries” and “Integrators.” One of the key things we’ve learned during more than a decade of working closely with hundreds of senior leadership teams is that many of the best, most successful, and most enduring companies had both a Visionary and an Integrator. You can probably think of numerous examples of V/I teams that support this observation. My exemplars include: Apple’s Jobs and Wozniak, and later Jobs and Cook; Hewlett and Packard; Intel’s Moore and Grove; Google’s Page and Brin; Disney’s Walt and Roy, and later Eisner and Wells; Berkshire’s Buffet and Munger; Microsoft’s Gates and Allen, and later Gates and Balmer; and others in that same vein. Have your own exemplars?  Please share them in the comments section below.

We all get that we cannot be great at all things or be all things to all people but how many of us leaders still try? And to what end?

Over the next several blogs, we will enumerate the characteristics of Visionaries and Integrators. We’ll also cover why most organizations eventually falter without a strong V/I team, and what to do if you don’t have both or lose one. When the series is done, we hope you will have a pretty good sense for why V/I teams are not only powerful but almost essential for enduring success.

Until then, be well.


First Name (required)

Last Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Please select your free book(s):

People Stuff: The Fundamentals
Same Page: The Fundamentals

Please leave this field empty.

© 2018 VTH Partners