Written by Chuck Mollor
Leadership team alignment begins when there is a high level of trust and member’s share consensus on the organization’s business objectives and strategy. Aligned teams have a high level of clarity and agreement on their purpose, vision, values, goals, procedures and roles.
Leaders should be determining whether they are aligned. While everyone may be nodding around the table during leadership meetings, what happens outside the conference room is more telling. Are leaders having courageous dialogue in their meetings and sharing their views and/or concerns? Generating real alignment requires considerable effort and diligent focus. Alignment rarely evolves naturally.
So, how does an organization determine whether its leaders are aligned and what can be done about it if they aren’t?
Most people understand it’s important for an organization’s leadership team members to be on the same page. When there is no alignment or it is lacking at the leadership level confusion cascades into the organization affecting employees, decision making, engagement and performance. There are other negative repercussions as well – missed market opportunities, damage to the corporate brand, inability to attract and retain top talent and, of course, a negative impact on the company’s bottom line.
One way to determine the degree of alignment within the leadership team would be to ask each member to list in priority what the five biggest opportunities are for the organization and the five biggest challenges. If a leadership team comes back with half a dozen different answers, they are obviously misaligned and not on the same page.
Achieving leadership team alignment is an on-going process. Various circumstances including; new leadership members, an acquisition, a change in strategic direction, etc., These and other scenarios can result in leadership teams falling out of sync.
So What Does Alignment Look Like?
An aligned leadership team has its act together, with members working together to achieve success. Consider these features of an aligned team: “the four C’s” of an effective leadership team:
- Commitment: Leaders are doing more than just complying to what is expected of them; they are committed to and passionate for organizational success, they are focused on creating a strong culture where accountability exists. They are committed to helping their team members and building collective success. They are committed to courageous dialogue, even if agreeing to disagree.
- Connection: Leaders need to go beyond simply having contact or communicating with one another there needs to be a real connection. This requires authentic trust and respect, as well as a shared set of values. They need to communicate with their teams in an open manner to create a genuine understanding of each other.
- Content: When leaders are aligned and focused, messaging is clear, consistent and concise. Communication cascades effectively and the business strategy is understood by all levels of the organization as well as the role they play in realizing objectives. Communication happens often and it motivates teams to perform.
- Controls: Well-defined “rules of engagement” or operating systems and norms must exist so that teams have clear guidelines on how to debate, disagree, challenge the status quo, update others on market conditions, and evolving and changing client needs. When leaders take the time to set these in place teams are aligned and ready to perform.
Transforming the Team
In-depth leadership team assessment, followed by coaching, is an effective option for achieving alignment. Individual coaching can serve as a pro-active measure for members who may not be on the same side. For instance, if a new leadership team has been formed as the result of a merger, team building and coaching can help ensure that all leaders are in sync. This ensures the necessary operational rules are in place, at the beginning of the relationship. Another key factor is getting the team together for a team building session or meeting. We have found that clients who commit to a comprehensive and holistic approach by getting everyone around the table and investing the time for a day or two have found that the ROI is worthwhile as this is a highly effective way to set a new team off in the right direction, correct an underperforming team and help re-launch a team that has dysfunction.
As part of the assessment phase, it’s important to determine what strengths each member brings to the team. There are a number of tools available to survey, measure and assess personalities, styles, communication, trust, engagement and conflict.
- Develop strategies and an action plan to close gaps and leverage strengths
- Discuss and agree on purpose, vision, goals, success criteria, operating processes, accountability
- Determine how to act with one another, i.e.,Â develop a code of conduct and a decision-making approach
- Learn to engage in dialogue practices (diverse people, sequencing conversations, developing powerful questions) and surface appropriate issues before trying to get to a solution
- Create a Framework through Team Meetings to support strong and solid team structures
The importance of alignment is, of course, not limited to the leadership team. However, if leaders are aligned, they serve as a model for all teams within the organization, enabling them to accelerate performance and deliver better solutions to achieve business results.