Building alignment around the boardroom table and within your leadership team is one of the greatest challenges facing leaders today. Senior management members are passionate, talented and knowledgeable. They represent a variety of cultures, demographics and experiences, and have their own professional agendas the include their personal goals as well as team success benchmarks. All these dynamic factors get rolled into an ongoing opportunity to test – depending on the perspective you choose to take – for any leader with a commitment to internal corporate alignment.
Aad Boot, author of the Leadership Watch Blog, writes “Mastering the essence of people alignment is a crucial competence for today’s leaders.” Creating alignment is no small task and yet when it is achieved, organizations can reach greater effectiveness and efficiencies, ultimately driving business success.
Alignment is an outcome of good, strong leadership. Cynthia McCauley, a senior fellow with the Centre for Creative Leadership, defines alignment as an “effective coordination and integration of different aspects of the work so it fits together in service of the shared direction.”
Alignment is purposeful, it doesn’t just happen. Successful CEOs understand that people alignment is fundamental and ongoing, and it is part of everything that they do within an organization. It is a purposeful, steady journey that takes time, effort and an ongoing awareness of the corporate “temperature” within your organization.
There are a few important keys to building alignment within your leadership team, which in turn will then permeate throughout your organization, creating a stronger, healthier and more productive work environment.
Communicate. Open communication is essential. Ensure that your executive and management teams understand your corporate vision and mission, and your short-term and long-term business and strategic priorities. Clearly identify roles and responsibilities, as well as metrics for success. Invest in the right processes, systems and resources to help your management team and employees achieve success. Most importantly, be consistent in how you communicate strategic priorities throughout all levels of the organization. Whether it is a casual conversation at a water cooler, information disseminated through your company intranet or a formal presentation to the board of directors, make sure that you are essentially saying the same thing, regardless of how the message is delivered.
Collaborate. There is an intrinsic link between communication and collaboration. A leader with a collaborative mindset demonstrates a willingness to listen to what others are saying and to incorporate their feedback and ideas, compromising when it is required. Commitment to a common vision drives collaboration and fosters an environment where differing opinions are respected and welcomed. Challenging ideas an asking tough questions creates a more nimble and effective organization.
Connect. Alignment is the result of each team member becoming co-owners, or partners, in a shared vision. Strong teams are built through points of connection. As a leader, it is essential to schedule both formal and informal touch-points with all of your management team as a forum to openly discuss issues and ideas, and find solutions to problems. Be mindful that your senior leadershio team’s decisions have implications throughout the entire organization, but that for true success every person’s work matters. History is ruch with excellent examples of how alignment can be created when people work together to create an inspiring vision. Consider the Declaration of Independence and how this masterful document inspires and unites millions of Americans from all walks of life, 237 years after it was originally drafted.
Celebrate. One of the greatest ways to keep employees of all levels, as well as your leadership team engaged, is to foster passion. As a leader, you have the chance to “walk the talk” by demonstrating your commitment to your core strategy through management practices hiring, and rewards and recognition. While the path may be bumpy and the journey challenging at times, strong leaders will keep their eyes focused on the ultimate goal of creating alignment within their organization. It is the magic that happens when there is a common sense of relatedness and purpose, fueled by the passion of a united team and built on their strengths and talents. It is at this point that true business success happens.