The Advancing Leadership Blog

The Role of the Leader: Creating Alignment

The work of leadership – especially at the higher levels within organizations – is about creating alignment among all employees regarding different elements and aspects of the business. The conversations that leaders have with their employees must facilitate and ultimately create, The Ten Alignments.™

Some alignment areas are particular to the senior leadership team while others need to be viewed from a company wide perspective.

Ultimately organizational success depends on the ability of leaders to facilitate complete organizational alignment regarding a number of areas.

1) Business model

Leaders must ensure that everyone in the organization understands the fundamental business model. Comprehension needs to extend beyond how the company creates their profits to what markets the organization currently serves and aims to serve in the future.

Employees, especially at entry and junior levels, often have a tendency to develop tunnel vision. They may focus exclusively on the task they have responsibility for and not appreciate the larger scope of the company’s business model. Leaders can work with their employees to help them determine and understand where their work fits in the overall flow of the business.

2) Purpose

Why does your company exist? What is the organization’s purpose or mission? Examining the history of a company and its mission can explain a great deal about not only success but the potential for greater accomplishments. Without the answers to these questions, a company can flounder or fall off track.

3) Vision

Is there alignment between the vision of the company and the direction it is going? Leaders must learn to continually define, in as many different ways as possible, the vision that is drawing them and the company forward.

4) Values

The values and ideals of an organization must be clearly defined because they govern decision making, problem solving and the behaviour of the organization and its employees. Delineate acceptable and unacceptable behaviours and share them throughout the organization.

5) Differentiators

What makes a company different from its competitors? Examine the key competencies, points of differentiation and the unique selling principles of the company to identify what sets certain products and services apart from others. Explore how these differences can be used to leverage success.

6) Environment

Alignment regarding a company’s external environment can have a significant impact on the bottom line. The world is becoming more complex everyday and information sources are proliferating. Employees should be clear and aligned on the opportunities and threats in the company’s environment. If they are encouraged to pay attention to what is going on outside the company, the organization will have a greater chance of capitalizing on potential opportunities.

7) Expectations

How do employees advance and how are their accomplishments rewarded through the organization? Establishing a structure for goal setting and related compensation aligns employee expectations with the company’s. What accountability means to the company and employees should be explored.

8) Effective leadership

Define what leadership looks like in an organization. Who is expected to demonstrate leadership behaviour – management at the top level of the company or at other levels as well? Identifying what ‘good’ leadership looks like can be key to shaping success.

9) Teamwork

Whether employees and departments are empowered to make decisions or not shapes the identity of teams in an organization. Real teams have everyone making beneficial choices at all levels rather than being manager-led work groups. Alignment regarding the definition and importance of effective teamwork at all levels shapes an organization.

10) Corporate culture

Corporate culture is more than just a buzzword. The symbols, rituals and behaviours that define the way an organization is run has a large impact both on employees, employee retention and profits. Leaders can decide what they want the experience of working in the company to be like and how they intend to sustain that experience.

Why Alignment is a Consideration

Effective execution begins with alignment. Without complete alignment regarding the 10 areas noted above, organizations cannot perform at a high level and will not realize their strategic objectives.

Assessing the true cost impact of poor alignment, outside of anecdotal evidence, can be difficult. Most leaders have learned to spot specific signs when alignment in their organization is eroding or can be improved. Some examples of poor alignment include an increased incidence of turf wars, a tendency to withhold information, complaining about and blaming others, poor execution and weak work commitments, failure to reach goals and results that do not meet expectations.

Having the conversations with employees that facilitate alignment on the 10 areas noted above will go a long way to dealing with poor alignment.

Peter Buchanan is a TEC Canada Best Practice Chair in the Toronto Region. He works with people who can make a difference in our community and our world. You can learn more about Peter on the TEC Canada website >

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