Each Friday, I address a question posed by a leader from somewhere in the world. Someone asked me recently if the questions were really submitted by leaders – yes. However, today I’m making a slight exception – this question is one I am submitting. How do I get alignment around a goal, idea or initiative?
The ability to create alignment is one of a leader's most important skills. Without it, much energy is wasted and countless goals go unmet. With it, I’m convinced more can be accomplished than leaders can even imagine.
As I reflect on my leadership journey, I’ve had mixed success achieving alignment. I think the root cause has been a lack of focus on my part, based on the misplaced belief that if something is clear in my mind, it must be clear in the minds of others – this is just ridiculous.
Here are some of the ideas I’m working to apply.
Embrace the role. Leaders ensure alignment. My friend, Dr. Henry Cloud, reminded me again last week - leaders get what they create and what they allow. If our teams are misaligned, it’s our fault.
Start with why. Simon Sinek wrote a fantastic book by this title. His premise, and my experience, is when people understand the why behind an idea, the probability of alignment goes up exponentially. Give it a try.
Be clear on the goal. I’ve never seen true alignment around a fuzzy goal. By definition, alignment implies clarity and precision. Be sure you and everyone you’re attempting to align know exactly what you’re aligning around.
Narrow the focus. Seek alignment on the critical few goals, strategies and tactics you need for success. One of my mentors, Jennifer Howard, has been challenging me for years to determine the minimum critical specifications. If we attempt to align on too much, we’ll align on nothing.
Communicate… forever. This is how the message stays alive, relevant and vibrant. We’ve got to say it over and over and over again. When we think we’ve said it enough – we haven’t. We’ve also got to say it in many different forms. I wrote about this in my post: 7 Ways to Help People Catch Your Vision.
Leverage systems. Systems drive behavior. Try making a list of all the systems that impact alignment. I'm guessing your list will include: selection, performance management, compensation, training and more. All these will contribute to or impede alignment.
Make heroes. There are always people who “get it” (whatever idea you’re attempting to align around); they embrace it and do it. They make the idea real. Find those people and be sure everyone knows about them. What you celebrate will be emulated.
Don’t get lazy. Have you ever driven a car that was out of alignment? What happens if you take your hand off the wheel? The car pulls towards the ditch. As a leader, I’ve got to be vigilant. If I want us to stay on the road, I’ve got to keep my hands on the wheel.[GLS_Shield]
What do you do to achieve alignment?