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The Keys To Getting Full Team Alignment

By Jayne Jenkins (1168 words)
Posted in Management on September 15, 2013

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"I have issues with my subordinates who don't act on agreed to decisions. Sometimes I have to follow up a couple of times before the task is completed. This is very frustrating and I have been tempted to jump in and do the task myself. I have spoken to them about my expectations, however I do not see much of an improvement." 


Does the above scenario feel familiar? As a leader, you can create greater results by more effectively aligning each team member. Strong leaders understand the need to own their team’s alignment. They also understand that it takes more than one or two conversations to do it right.


Many years ago when I was leading a large seven state sales team, one of my managers was more of a "maverick," with a strong belief system that I admired. We had just launched a major drug; critical to the success of the organization and a lot of work had gone into getting the sales message and strategy just right. Leading up to the big launch meeting I spent a lot of time with my management team ensuring they understood the strategy and owned it. So I thought! Eleven of them did, however my maverick had decided to go off on his own path. The consequence within his area was slow success (which in itself cost him his bonus) and it didn't reflect well on me either. What I had failed to do was spend enough time one on one with him, to hear his beliefs and observe his behavior.  


Based on our collective experience, our team here at "Churchill" recommends to practice three key disciplines if you want greater alignment from an employee or team in order to achieve faster and greater results:


The Importance of Contact 

Even a very engaged team can only do the best with what you give them. You cannot keep your team aligned unless you have frequent contact with them. If you don’t spend time with them, it is inevitable that they are going to make decisions you are uncomfortable with and veer off on a path you don't expect. It is your responsibility as their leader to make this regular contact happen. Don't hide in your office sending emails and not being visible. Rather, get out on the floor. A client recently said to me that she learns more about the challenges, successes and commitment of her team by simply taking a long slow walk across her office building. She claims it is by far the best use of her time. Have regular one-on-one meetings or early morning "fast-start" staff meetings, make them purposeful and concise and they won’t become a drag on your time. 


The Importance of Communication

Contact alone is not enough. You have to communicate clearly and often. Your people cannot read your mind, nor do they take it all in the first time! They need to know what you expect, again, again and again. They need to understand the mission and the vision and the company goals (Just 7% of employees today fully understand their company's business strategies and what's expected of them in order to help achieve company goals*). You need to verbalize it, over and over again. Don't fall victim to "they have heard it enough," just when you’ve gotten sick of talking about it, they will be about at the point of getting it! Keep your vision energized. Involve team members in the vision and what needs to get done. Talk about "why" the vision is important. Get them to talk to you to be sure of what they are hearing and understanding.


The Importance of Connection

Contact and communication alone are not even enough. For true alignment to take place, your people have to know and trust your intent. They will look for your level of belief in what you are saying and what you want them to do. You want them to be committed to your success and the success of the team. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you are entitled to their commitment just because you are paying them a salary. You’re not. You can buy their presence, but you can’t buy their heart and full commitment. You must earn it and keep earning it. To create a connection, and thus greater alignment and results, open your heart, consistently show you care, show how much you believe in them, as well as what you are asking them to do.


Remember that if you lead a global team with multiple cultures, a nod or an "aha" may have you thinking a person is aligned, but it may also simply mean, "I am listening to you."


Keeping your team aligned takes constant work. Effective alignment is critical if you want to get the right things done, and done in the time frame needed. These three simple approaches done well, and done consistently will move your team forward in the most effective and efficient way possible. 


Take a moment to think about your current most important project. Is it on track to be delivered on time and with the right quality? If not, is your team fully aligned? 


*"Kaplan & Norton, "The Strategy-Focused Organization," Harvard Business School  2001


{#/pub/images/JayneJenkins3.jpg}Written by Jayne Jenkins, CEO Churchill Leadership Group-Jayne, a STAND OUT Master Strengths Coach and Workshop Facilitator, is a leadership business veteran working with some of the largest companies in the world including Exxon, AstraZeneca and Sanofi-Aventis.  She has over 23 years of experience leading successful sales teams and holding positions in Marketing, Strategic Operations and Organization Development.  As CEO of Churchill Leadership Group, Jane consults and coaches teams to maximize the impact of Managers and Teams through a focus on STRENGTHS for sustainable results.


Do you have a question for Jayne?  Post it in our Senior Manager Community and she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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