Leadership Lessons for Successful Team Alignment (Facilitator Files)
SME Strategy is a strategy consulting company that specializes in aligning teams around their vision, mission, values, goals, and action plans. Learn more about how we can help you and your team create a strategic plan with our strategic planning and implementation services.
As strategic planning facilitators, we get to work with organizations across several industries.
In November, Our strategic planning facilitators conducted multiple strategic planning meetings (Offsite / Virtual) across USA and Canada.
By leading these meetings, they were able to gain valuable in-time insights into leadership and strategy.
In this post, we've included some of the lessons they've learned about strategy, leadership, and everything in between while working with senior leadership teams to align their businesses and ensure that their goals are accomplished.
Jenna’s Leadership Lessons:
Strong executive leaders hire great people and listen to them
- When executive leaders add to their leadership team, it’s critical that trust is built in both directions so that they can step aside and let their people demonstrate their expertise. When executives avoid micromanaging and develop trust in their skilled team, they can begin a process of productive collaboration that pulls from the wisdom and experience of the people they have on their team.
- This is especially clear when CEOs/Executive Directors/Presidents hire a facilitator to lead the strategic planning process so that there isn’t a power imbalance between them and the rest of their senior leadership team. They can be a part of the process and listen to their key leadership voices rather than leading the process themselves
Goal setting & Action Planning Are Not The Same Thing (but Actions can help you reach your goals!)
- When working through goal setting, many senior leaders end up focusing on actions rather than outcomes. As humans, we often focus on what we want to accomplish before looking at the outcome we want to achieve, or the impacts we would like our actions to have.
- By helping senior leaders to focus on what success looks like first, they can become aligned with what they are aiming for before digging into their action plans and steps.
- During strategy execution, this will also help leaders to determine if the actions they are taking are in fact moving them in the right direction, towards the outcomes they would like to achieve.
Clarity is critical for alignment
- It can be relatively easy to align around visionary buzzwords like “achieving growth” or being “world-class”. However, it’s critical to unpack what these terms mean to each individual within the strategic plan development so there can be certainty that everyone is aligned with what these terms mean in practice. Growth can mean different things to different people, so making sure that everyone is on the same page with the level of growth is important for sustained alignment beyond the surface level.
- This is also true for values alignment. It’s one thing to say that everyone on the leadership team values respect, but another thing to dig deeper into understanding how different people may have different experiences, expectations, or actions that demonstrate respect from their perspective. By unpacking ambiguous terms with the help of a facilitator, it helps leadership teams to evolve their alignment from implicit to explicit, which will in turn help next-level buy-in for their strategic direction throughout the organization.
Anthony’s Leadership Lessons:
- Your team will live on Die on communication. If you don’t have the right quality, quantity, and system to hold it up, you’re gonna have a bad time.
- Don’t take for granted business systems, every company has a different system/way of doing things. And they all have a different range of effectiveness, strengths, and weaknesses.
- You don’t always know if there’s a better way, or if you’ve outgrown your system.
- People and Trust are at the heart of a team’s effectiveness. You can’t build around it.
- Beware of “Minnesota Nice”: Unwillingness to cause conflict or being critical. Over positive and unwilling to look at things that don’t work.
- Strategy is fun: people love digging in.
- (Babies are just younger adults)
Jen's Leadership Lessons:
If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
You might’ve also heard, “if you don’t know where you’re going you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” Either way, you get the point - you have to begin your planning with the end in mind. In my experience, teams are actually more aligned than they realize - they just need to have the conversation that massages and finalizes the details. The first and most important thing a team can do in the strategic planning process is confirm alignment to their vision or work together to create one. Without knowing where the company is going, each individual will craft their own version of a vision and do work to get to that version. The longer this goes on, the further away a team gets from success. A CEO might question “What’s it gonna cost for me to get everyone in a room together for 3 days to do that?” but the better question might be: “What’s it gonna cost you if you don’t?”
Complex is easy, simple is hard.
If something feels really complicated - like creating a strategy - the best thing a team can do is stop, name all the moving parts, and clarify why they are important/how they fit. What themes do you notice? What complexities are being caused by assumptions and/or lack of objective facts? How can you boil everything down to the three most important and simplest “buckets,” and then categorize how everything else fits? When you look at what doesn’t fit, will you still keep those things around, or is it time to let go of them? In the case of strategy, the simpler you can craft it, the more clearly you can cascade it for successful implementation.
Get on the same side of the rope.
Oftentimes individuals on teams have strong opinions of where an organization should go and what it should do to get there. When opposing viewpoints rear their heads during strategic planning, the conflict can feel like a tug of war game. In the mentality of tug of war, there’s a rope and there are two sides, each side on one end of the rope trying to pull the other side over to their own side. But what if you dropped the rope, identified the core problem, got on the same side of the rope, then lassoed the rope around the problem and pulled together? There’s always an opportunity in conflict to find common ground and work on an issue together instead of letting the issue come between us. All the time and energy wasted in the game of tug of war can be redirected toward alignment.