August 20: Fostering Alignment

Fostering Alignment
Alignment is about creating a shared understanding. You may be working to align your team on a strategy, identifying critical issues, the responses, or initiatives, and of course, the plans to address them. Among a team of leaders, there ought to be room for different opinions and perspectives, as long as they get discussed. Ultimately you can drive clear alignment or shared understanding about what actions you are going to take. Alignment doesn’t have to be a unanimous agreement (and rarely is.) What matters is that when you move forward, everyone is willing to do their part when it’s time to implement.
When there is wobbly alignment, sometimes there are genuine misunderstandings or an incomplete picture. Other times, there are differing or conflicting opinions and it’s up to you as a leader to root that out.
Sharing information and perspectives is some of the best team building you can do! Here are four things to keep in mind to help drive alignment:
  • Invite dissenting opinions and make it safe to disagree.
  • Ask everyone to restate the topic (e.g. strategy, initiative, issue) in their own words. The way they express the idea will reveal subtleties in seeing things differently or big things. Then it’s a chance to discuss them. Don’t just open to a group discussion, make sure you hear from everyone.
  • When working with challenging situations, work as a group or ask everyone to state a problem or an issue in a single sentence. Or two. No run on, long winded answers. That’s going to help you with clarity. One of my favorite quotations is that “A problem well-defined is partially-solved”
  • Talk frankly – I often ask clients to explain a complex topic like you are speaking with a friend from high school who doesn’t work in your company. Avoid corporate speak. Plain language reveals misunderstandings. Jargon and complexity obfuscates meaning.
Remember, checking in with everyone on the team galvanizes understanding as a group!
To dive further into alignment, I encourage you watch the playback of my LinkedIn Live session on Leading Alignment With Your Team here. My next live will be on September 1st. I’d like to hear from you on topics of interest within leadership, growth strategy, and sales organization effectiveness for future lives.
Throwback Thursday
Since this newsletter is released on Thursday, in the spirit of TBT…here is one of my earliest articles for Harvard Business Review. The article focused on extraordinary leadership and what it takes to develop profound leadership strengths. All leaders should be aware of and aim to improve their weaknesses, but our research suggests that even a few areas of strength will separate the extraordinary leaders from their average counterparts. Creating a profound leadership strength takes a more thoughtful approach than improving a known weakness. Consider the following three principles as you work to develop strengths.
1. The development of strengths requires a different approach. In our research, we found that leadership competencies tend to cluster together in predictable patterns. For example, leaders with exceptional integrity tend to also be decisive, assertive and optimistic. While the mastery of one skill may not inherently make you better at another, it can act as a magnifier of other leadership traits, a concept known as the interaction effect. Think of it like cross-training for an athlete. A runner can improve their running speed by doing other, complimentary activities such as lifting weights, doing yoga, or cycling. To improve your leadership strengths, focus on the development of strongly correlated companion skills and behaviors.
2. Following your interests leads to better outcomes. If you don’t enjoy doing something, it’s unlikely you will develop a mastery of that activity. It is a drag to put considerable time and effort into something just to go from below average to average. So while it’s important to bolster your weaknesses in those areas critical to your job, accept that not everything will be a strength. Instead of investing time in improving every weakness, consider building a team that compliments your strengths and shores up your weaknesses. Then the team as a whole can find energy and see real progress.
3. There is no such thing as too much of a good thing, but be aware. Have you worked with a leader who is too strategic or overly effective? I doubt it. Leveraging strengths is the path to success. That said, there are times when a leaders’ strength can show up as one-dimensional. For example, they may push so hard for a specific result that they fail to see the impact it has on others. Utilize your strengths but pay attention to the related leadership characteristics that are also needed to allow you and your organization to thrive.
The bottom line? To be an extraordinary leader, focus on your strengths. If you want to read the full article you can check it out here.
Current Read:
I’ve been curious about what’s going is going on with the US Postal Service and the upcoming election. Having voted by mail for at least the last 6 years, I wanted to sift through the incredibly partisan rhetoric on both sides of this issue to see what was really happening here. This article provides as cogent a perspective as I’ve seen, though nothing is without its political biases. It’s a long read at about 20 minutes but worth it if you want to know the facts. If not, the title does a good job of netting out the message: Stop Panicking about the Post Office; But Do Fund Them ASAP.

Edinger Consulting