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In other posts, we have talked about the importance of regular strategic planning sessions. While strategy sessions are important, the first step to take is to align your people. When your team understands your organization's vision, mission, values and goals, every decision they make can be aligned with these important aspects of your business. Alignment helps to reduce or eliminate cross-departmental and team silos, resulting in better communication between your people, which will help them better implement the strategic plan.
What traits do misaligned teams have?
- Indecisiveness – When team members and even leaders have trouble making decisions, or take too long to decide on important matters, chances are they are not aligned. Some decisions need to take longer than others, but there may be a problem if every decision takes too long, or some decisions are never made at all.
- Ineffective or reduced communication – This could be too much or too little communication. Too much communication means that even after multiple long meetings, agreements cannot be reached, or decisions cannot be made. Too little communication means that people or teams are operating in silos, or are so focused that they don’t understand what is going on organizationally, at a macro level.
- Lack of clarity –This results from a culture that does not focus on empowerment or responsibility. When people don’t understand their purpose in the organization, and how it connects to other team members or departments, it may be harder for them to focus on the what, why, and how the job needs to get done. When people pass the buck, or don’t feel that their actions have impact on the organization, they lose clarity, focus and productivity.
- Leadership struggles – If your leadership team is unavailable or unwilling to communicate, it can be hard for employees to reach out when they need guidance on project or important decision. While employees should be empowered to do their job on their own, there are times when they require help with the direction of a project or advice on a challenging decision. Leaders make their team members feel valued, and so an executive who is too busy, with a constantly shut door, may not foster a culture of trust and openness.
On the other hand, here are some qualities of an aligned team:
- Your organization’s leaders are well developed - They understand what motivates their people. They have the ability to listen intently, and to support their teams without taking over.
- Your leaders understand that while culture cannot be created, it can be shaped - They foster an environment of transparency and trust, and help their teams feel empowered to do their job.
- Your people understand what your organization does and who they do it for - By helping your employees to understand the purpose behind your company, and the direction it is headed, they are more likely to ‘buy-in’ to the organizational strategy and follow through on your strategic plan.
- Your teams are high performing - They know what needs to get done, and they understand how to reach project goals without having to rely on constant guidance. They know when to ask for help, but have the ability to make decisions that meet the needs of both their project and the organization as a whole.
If your organization is not quite aligned, but you know you’d like to get there, it’s not out of reach! While it will take time and work to get there, a great place to start is by opening up communication between leaders and employees. Additionally, regular strategic planning sessions are a great way to help align your people with the organization's vision, mission, values and goals, equipping them with the ability to properly follow through on your strategic plan in every project they complete.
If you want to learn more about how high functioning, aligned teams are formed, we have a great Strategy & Leadership Podcast episode with Jeremy Bailey of FreshBooks. In this episode, he talks about how you can motivate your people to do their best and how this will have a positive benefit across your entire organization.