3 Steps To Corporate Alignment
noun: alignment – position of agreement or alliance.We talk a lot of strategy, innovation and sparking great ideas. But as leaders, we still seem to forget that building alignment is essential to getting people on board with those great ideas. The process of alignment may not be an easy one in the short term, but we’re firm believers that alignment conserves time and energy in the long term. Think back to your early career…weren’t you happier when you knew what you were supposed to be doing and why? It sure helps build that emotional buy-in and unites people around your vision. So, how does it happen?Working to build alignmentAlignment is a dynamic, ongoing process requiring continual monitoring and tweaking as conditions and needs change. Yet, research shows more than half of leaders report little or no training in the practice of creating alignment. In fact, only 47 percent report having a clear understanding of what “building alignment” even means in the context of leadership. These are the findings fromThe Work of Leaders: How Vision, Alignment, and Execution Will Change the Way You Lead,which also offers advice on how to create alignment.
- Communicate with clarity
It’s not surprising to us that this study shows that leaders often overlook communicating what is obvious and intuitive to them. In reality, it can seem like a mystery to followers. Like in any relationship, your employees can’t read your mind.
Providing clarity involves a delicate balance between keeping it simple and addressing real-world complexities. Leaders have to be able to do that AND explaining their rationale. Their messages need to be easily structured so that they’re clearly understood and can be repeated and shared with others.
We’re big proponents of explaining the rationale (think SIMPLE explanations) behind the vision so your team will understand where they’re going, why they’re going there, and what the expectations are. Keep your talking points short and simple so your team can remember the two or three things you want them to take away.
- Create dialogue
As a leader, you want to make sure people have the opportunity to say what they want to say. So, think about how to set the stage for honest dialogue.
Just like a personal relationship, once you make others part of the conversation, you open the door to shared ownership and accountability, and you gain buy-in and begin to build engagement.
If you can get people talking – and that’s usually the easy part – and listen to what they’re saying, you’ll be able to address issues, answer questions, and share insights. But beware. Don’t ask questions you’re not prepared to answer. And be receptive and approachable.
- Inspire your team
There are thousands of books, articles and blogs just on this topic, and we can certainly suggest a few. But we’ll just use the next couple of paragraphs to talk about little steps towards inspiring your team.
We’ve worked for start-ups and we’ve worked for big companies. The one thing they have in common is that leadership is about relationships. Think in those terms when you’re trying to get alignment. People need encouragement and ongoing positive reinforcement.
Be enthusiastic about each person’s contributions. It costs nothing to tell people how they’re doing. Recognizing what they’re doing well, and also giving ideas on how they can work even better, goes a long way.
Alignment is a critical component of getting people on board, because you need your entire team pulling in the same direction, focusing on the same desired outcomes. It’s well worth taking the time to think about how well you’re getting everyone in sync on your team.