Have you ever thought about the importance of alignment on how you think about stuff? By "stuff," I’m thinking frameworks for transforming, managing others, how you define leading with others, and what’s important about how you work together. It’s more than just company values, but certainly adjacent to that. Executives can get so wrapped up in results and quarters and issues that it’s so easy to lose sight of what’s going on in between people or what’s not going on in between people (which can also translate into areas of the business.) So why is it important that we align our thoughts in order to align our organization?
The ability of a top team to tighten up and work together is paramount to aligning an entire organization. It’s more than just shared goals, it’s also about being of one mind on key ideas that underpin the why and the how of working together. Strategy is about direction, alignment is about momentum. If you’re going to get any momentum about where the organization is going, leadership teams must actively bind themselves together. It’s a deeper invisible bond created by mutuality, not just title, position, mission, values, strategy and business goals. This level of clarity is what binds. You know if you fit and how you fit. You know what good decisions look like and can make them easier together. If you’re an executive on a leadership team, your job is probably already challenging enough.
I’m talking about the non-negotiable rules of working together or guiding principles to give it some proper lingo. These can be unique to the leader of the team. In fact, they should start there. I’ve been coaching executives who can effectively put a team together and have a super instinct as well as skill set to do that. They often don’t have a clear understanding of how they do it, until you make them write it down. These are answers to questions like: How do they think about the team dynamic? What are the behaviors they look for and why? What is it they will not tolerate and why? How do you expect others to show up? To participate? What is the nature of how you’ll interact? This will generate a list of things. Then, down-select to the core non-negotiables. The things that, if violated you would potentially consider the violator not a good fit for the team. It’s more than just Lencioni’s Five Behaviors (trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, results). It’s stuff like “people first.” This can mean that how you approach conflicts or create solutions, or craft messages, or set policy or hit financial targets always comes from a place of a people perspective. Relationships win everywhere-internally with staff and externally with customers and vendors.
Next, you say these out loud. You tell the story of each principle to your team. Each team member will know in that moment if they align and by align I mean fit or if they don’t.
I’ve also been working with executives who struggle to get a team to work together, which is more common, because teaming is tough. This is exactly why it’s so rewarding when you’re on one that works. The key to success in this has a lot to do with how clear these underpinning guiding principles are articulated and most importantly how non-negotiable they really are in practice. Yes, the leader, if not every member of the team, has to “see something, say something” and actually hold each other accountable when anyone operates in violation. To quote Brene Brown, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” Non-negotiable is as clear as it gets.
I think it’s also Patrick Lencioni who talks about the light between members of the leadership team that translates into the gaps. For some organizations, it’s miles of space lower in the organization where they’re left to fight it out on their own to understand, relate, communicate, and work with, let alone align with each other. Stop making it more difficult by working in the dark about how you all feel you should be working together-if you can align your thoughts and bind together in clarity, you realize the lightbulbs have been there the whole time. And if you’re the team lead, it’s your job to turn on the lights.