Leadership team alignment is critical in achieving optimal company performance. McKinsey reports,
But having that shared vision may not be enough. The vision gives your company a ‘why’ — an ideal goal that may be too abstract to bring measurable success. Your business needs a ‘how’ to go with the ‘why.’
The ‘how’ is a concrete, actionable plan that brings team alignment to all the members of your management team. Your dynamic leadership alignment plan can pull everyone together to act in concert, bringing your company vision to life. To build a successful leadership team alignment plan, you’ll need to:
- Create a series of steps that will result in an effective plan
- Use team alignment tactics
- Foster clear communication
- Adopt an adaptable framework that empowers leadership to solve company challenges as they appear
What Is Leadership Team Alignment?
The critical goal of leadership team alignment is to bring all your business’s managers together in sharing a common vision, understanding individual and team objectives and agreeing on who needs to do what to reach those targets.
When employee actions move your strategic objectives forward with the whole unit communicating and working together, the team becomes aligned in a symbiotic relationship far greater and more potent than individuals or departments going it alone.
Achieving an aligned leadership team can create a dynamic company culture where employees who know their goals and responsibilities aren’t afraid to take risks, resulting in improved performances across the board. Your company could enjoy faster decision-making, fewer wasted resources, and increased leadership credibility and respect. To realize those benefits and more, you’ll need an actionable plan.
Steps To Create Your Plan for Leadership Team Alignment
Your team action plan is the key to getting everyone on the same page and moving forward together. A highly effective action plan has five parts:
- Identifying gaps
- Creating the plan
Your business’s action plan is not a report you create and present once. It should be a living document that you constantly update as your team meets goals and conditions change, demanding a new round of going through the five steps to vanquish fresh challenges. The first step is always assessing your team’s current alignment on the issues.
Assess Where Your Team Is Currently at With Alignment
First up is clearly defining your vision for the business. What type of company culture and values do you want? Where do you want the business to be next year, in two years or five? How did last quarter’s results compare to your strategic vision?
Next is to survey each leadership team member about how they are working toward fulfilling the company vision and how they would define progress for:
- Their personal role
- Their team
- Their department
- The company
Diverse answers may reveal areas your plan needs to address to unite team members.
Identify the Gaps That Need To Be Addressed
Comparing the data and answers gathered in the assessment stage may yield insights into disparities between management team members’ goals and their actions that your plan needs to rectify.
One manager may regard success as an increase in code shipped, while others measure success in terms of customer satisfaction or new features added. When management team members understand each other’s priorities, they can begin working together to produce an all-encompassing product or service that generates better results for everyone.
If members are reasonably well aligned with each other, ask yourself if the team’s overall direction could be shifted to bring everyone more into focus on turning the company vision into reality. And remember… clarity is king! If you and your team are not clear about something, by definition, you don’t have any clarity!
Create a Plan of Action To Improve Team Alignment
Top-down directives often fail to produce hoped-for alignment results. When team members share inputs to arrive at solutions that everyone can get on board with, the team feels like they own the course of action. They’re motivated to move toward common goals together.
To begin, get everyone in the same room and leave assumptions behind. You may need to kickstart the flow of ideas by asking questions designed to elicit views, opinions, and concerns. Julia Evans has developed an excellent guide to creating questions.
Build a shared understanding of how your product or service works. This may require some time and a whiteboard to create, but it enables each team member to gain clarity regarding their role and how their actions affect others. Your leadership team alignment plan should evolve as the group works together to model your product or service and answer questions.
Implement the Plan and Track Progress Over Time
Before implementing your plan, agree on common metrics to measure success and put them on a dashboard that everyone can see. Any challenges will appear on the dashboard so everyone knows them and can work toward improvements.
At the implementation stage, communication becomes vital. Establish how team members will keep each other informed about their actions, the challenges they’ve encountered, and the progress they’re enjoying. Member feedback will reveal adjustments the team may need to make.
Adjust as Needed Based on Team Feedback
Celebrating successes fosters team spirit and increases engagement and motivation to address the inevitable challenges. Brainstorming setbacks can be highly educational and lead not only to problem solutions but to entirely new endeavors. Using proven team alignment tactics will facilitate your plan.
General Team Alignment Tactics
Managers using team alignment tactics may appear open and approachable, which promotes the sharing of ideas. The same tactics also enable leaders to discover members’ positive and negative traits. Then those individuals can be guided into the most productive role.
Know Your Team Members
Your people are your greatest asset. You must know each individual to prioritize their strengths, minimize their weaknesses, and motivate them to excel. It can take time to get to know people, but the insights gained pay big dividends.
Manage Like a Mentor
Mentorship changes your relationships with team members. You become seen as a caring thought leader who supports your team, values their input, and furthers their careers. As trust grows, they will share more, enabling you to lead with purpose and keep team motivation high.
Hold Town Halls
Town halls allow leaders to articulate the company’s vision, goals, strategies, and plans with honesty and transparency while allowing employees to ask questions, raise concerns, and provide feedback. You become seen as human and approachable.
Work Beside Them
Rolling your sleeves up and working with your team members gives you insights into their characters that you can’t get any other way. And they get to know you much better. You may even gain valuable knowledge that wouldn’t appear otherwise.
Hold Regular Team Meetings
When building leadership team alignment, one of your best tools is regular team meetings to keep on track and move toward goals as a group. You could use the following:
- Short daily huddles to exchange information and get clear about activities
- Weekly meetings to discuss progression toward the primary goal
- Monthly gatherings to educate, collaborate and generate critical thinking
- Quarterly and annual meetings to assess and plan strategy
You can get the most out of your meetings by using actionable tips for scaling up:
- Be consistent.
- Come prepared.
- Maintain clarity.
- Stay on track.
These tips will also help all your communication efforts, which are the key to achieving your leadership team alignment goals.
Communication: The Linchpin of Successful Leadership Team Alignment
There are two types of communication every leader needs to master. External communications aim to inform the outside world about the organization. Internal communications exchange ideas and information within your organization through personal contact, email, phone, or communication platforms.
Internal communications are undergoing a massive revolution as organizations realize the value in moving away from top-down, siloed communications into organization/department-wide messaging that facilitates bottom-up feedback and the exchange of ideas.
The way your leadership team communicates affects every part of your business. McKinsey found that company productivity can increase 20-25% when employees are connected. Establishing clear communication protocols and periodically reviewing them will keep everyone working together smoothly.
Consider three aspects when establishing communication standards: audience, message, and channel.
Establish Communication Standards
How will your team communicate?
The short answer is — it depends.
It depends on the situation and the challenge facing your business. Each scenario may require a different approach.
- Changing from top-down information flow to inter-organizational information flow may require an internal communication app.
- Regularly measuring progress could be facilitated by a dashboard.
- Gathering feedback can be accomplished through surveys and town halls.
- Arriving at solutions can be done through brainstorming in meetings.
- Implementing solutions can utilize email or meetings to educate or disseminate information.
- Engaging with remote employees can be done through email, video, phone, or a communication app like Slack, Trello, or Google Hangouts.
Consider your audience, message, and channel when deciding on the most effective communication methods.
Establish Ground Rules
Chatting about how the weekend went may be suitable for the water cooler, but it is probably not productive in the daily huddle. Establishing ground rules bring advantages:
- Unified rules and language foster more constructive communication.
- A shared value system helps teammates work together toward goals.
- Everyone knows the expectations and can comply.
- Conflicts are more easily resolved.
- Onboarding is easier because new members quickly pick up on established norms.
You can use the five tips below to create custom ground rules that work for your particular group.
- Evaluate what is and isn’t currently working. Maybe criticism or feedback needs to be clearer instead of sugar-coated.
- Ask team members what they think will help or hinder honest, open, effective communication.
- Be specific by giving communication rules and norms clear, written guidelines.
- Gently enforce the ground rules. Often peer enforcement is more effective than top-down methods.
- Reevaluate your norms periodically because conditions change as the group assimilates new members and technologies while adjusting to arising challenges and changing social conditions.
Ground rules make all types of communication more effective and productive.
Use Two-Way Communication
Pushing out notifications isn’t two-way communication. Two-way communication includes responses from both parties. Surveys, face-face meetings, video calls, small-group discussions, and instant messaging all foster interpersonal exchanges that enable individuals to know each other better.
Encourage Constructive Criticism and Open Communication
It’s always a good practice to begin and end constructive conversations with positive feedback so that the person receiving criticism knows what needs to change but feels encouraged and supported. To foster an environment of open communication and free idea sharing, make clear that any objections or criticisms are directed at the idea, NOT the person sharing it.
Developing superior internal communication systems, standards, and open sharing will grow team alignment and the ability to solve company problems efficiently.
How to Use Alignment to Solve Company Problems
Your leadership team alignment plan gives you a valuable tool to solve company problems as they appear. Remember the dashboard? Issues may first appear in the metrics displayed on it.
Other external challenges may appear before they affect your key performance indicators (KPIs). Addressing them in leadership team meetings can give you a head start, enabling you to move before the competition and before adverse effects appear. Once your team has identified a challenge, they can work on analyzing it, determine the best course of action, and set goals.
Always Set Clear Goals, Expectations, and Responsibilities
It is wise to focus on the top one or two goals and allow a realistic amount of time to reach them. Trying to accomplish too many things will likely result in achieving only some of them, which can cause low productivity and morale.
Each goal can affect several areas of your company. You may need cohesion and adaptability across finance, internal business operations, culture, company systems, and acquisitions.
When problems fail to be solved, team leaders often don’t clearly understand their responsibilities and duties. A RACI chart mapping Responsibility, Accountability, and who must give Consent or be Informed will clarify stakeholder roles.
A RACI model displays at a glance all stakeholders, tasks, milestones, and critical decisions for each project, so everyone knows what is expected and when. Your team will see clearly who fills which role.
To create a RACI matrix:
- List the tasks that must be performed on the chart’s left side in completion order.
- List the stakeholders across the chart’s top.
- Fill in each cell with an R, A, C, or I to indicate who is responsible, accountable, and must be consulted or informed.
- Every task will have at least one responsible stakeholder.
- No task can have more than one person accountable.
After building out your RACI model, you’ll need to analyze it to avoid conflicts or ambiguities and ensure fair treatment for all stakeholders.
- Any tasks with no Rs may mean no one is working on them.
- A person with too many Rs may be carrying too much. Try changing some to Cs or Is.
- Too many Rs for a task may cloud who should work on it.
- A task without As means no one is accountable and may not get done.
- A task with too many As may cause friction that slows the project.
- Too many Cs for a task will delay the project. Changing some Cs to Is may expedite task completion.
You should include all actual stakeholders in the project, but the action group needs only the necessary personnel instead of everyone to cover all bases. Communicating the RACI matrix with all stakeholders and inviting discussion and agreement may avoid conflicts.
As work progresses, hold regular meetings to assess and discuss results, implementing changes as needed.
Invest in Leadership Development
Creating, implementing, and constantly updating your leadership team alignment plan can be a daunting, time-consuming task for busy executives with too much to do, especially if you haven’t done it before.
The answer may be to invest in leadership development by bringing in an experienced, professional executive coach who will guide your leadership team into alignment. Your company may enjoy many benefits like increased performance that brings higher revenue.
To lead successfully aligned teams, executives need to become the best possible version of themselves through constant self-growth and improvement. Executive coaching brings the deep inner insights that enable team leaders to guide others into the enhanced performance levels possible when leadership teams are fully integrated with each person’s strengths blossoming. Schedule a free 30-minute call to discover how an executive coach can bring out the best in your leadership team.