We all want to achieve faster results and greater success in our businesses but how do we unlock this potential? For any business to succeed, it must have a strong value proposition, the ability to market it effectively and deliver it profitably. Consequently the majority of business leaders focus on the countless ways to strategize these fundamentals and miss one the most powerful contributing factors of them all, the ability to make important decisions quickly and implement them with maximum effectiveness. Herein lies the key to unlocking business potential. Both happen best when your team is aligned from the top down.
One of the most effective ways to do this is through a dynamic team alignment process, ideally leveraging a skilled outside professional. If you’re thinking this is just a new buzz word for ‘team building’ or ‘team development’, think again. Aligning your team has a much broader scope.
As a business leader, consider yourself at the center of a group of concentric circles, like the bulls eye on a dart board. Each circle spanning out from the center represents a layer of your organization chart. For instance the first circle outside of the center (where you are), represents those that report directly to you. The next circle represents those who report to them and so on. Each leader and those reporting to them represent a team. According to BusinessDictionary.com, a team is “a group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project. Team members (1) operate with a high degree of interdependence, (2) share authority and responsibility for self-management, (3) are accountable for the collective performance, and (4) work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s). A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.”
This fantastic definition shows just how complex and dynamic the concept of team alignment really is. To simplify this concept, I will break it down into 5 keys focal points of effective team alignment.
- Aligned Objectives – since the fundamental purpose of a team is to work together to achieve an outcome, each person must be clear of the team’s objective in order to effectively manage themselves and others to make it happen. Objectives are defined and communicated through the vision, mission, values and goals of the organization at all levels.
- Aligned Rewards – each person on the team must share in the rewards of successful achievement and see the connection between their personal “wins” and those of the team and organization at large. Aligning these corporate, team and individual rewards will ensure everyone fully appreciates why Together Everyone Achieves More and consequently will remain motivated to synergize.
- Aligned Strengths – each person on the team, the team as a whole, and even the company has unique strengths. When everyone sees clearly what these strengths are, they are empowered to leverage them better in the context of their daily work and careers. This alignment is about leveraging diversity where strengths can be used to maximize opportunities, overcome weaknesses, and mitigate risks at all three levels.
- Aligned Values – values ultimately determine our behaviors. A person behaving in ways inconsistent with their values will ultimately fail to sustain them. If, for instance, a sales person is required to follow a sales process that puts tremendous pressure on a prospect to make a buying decision during their first meeting and he/she values their emotions more than commissions, they will either be extremely unhappy or let the prospect off the hook to lose the sale. This is where individual values must align with their role and to a broader extend, their team and company values reflected in the culture. Every business has a culture or ‘feel’ to it that dictates how people behave and work together. This culture is in large part defined by the core values of leadership at the team and corporate levels. What are the core values defining your culture?
- Aligned Communication – all other alignment is ultimately influenced through a cadence of communication. Cadence suggests a rhythm and/or repetition which allows for understanding, interpretation and ultimately, mobilization. Once again, communication must happen with the individual, teams and across the corporation. In each case, the audience and message must be aligned. How we communicate to one person will need to be different for another based on a number of factors. In the same way, our communication and messaging at the team and corporate levels are quite different based on the scope of audience, medium and context. We must learn to align our message with the audience and determine the extent of repetition needed achieve the desired results.
Specific areas of focus for team alignment are likely to include:
- Agreeing upon or revisiting the team’s mission, purpose, vision, and goals
- Agreeing upon and implementing processes for problem solving, decision making, managing boundaries, and resolving conflict in empowering ways
- Creating and supporting clearly defined roles and responsibilities
- Developing individual and collective self-awareness, self-belief, shared values, and agreed norms
- Establishing, monitoring, and exceeding individual and team performance standards
- Empowering behavior that maintains team cohesiveness while recognizing, respecting, and leveraging differences in each team member’s strengths and ways of working
- Supporting a no-blame culture of shared responsibility and accountability
- Responding effectively to changes in team membership, structure, performance criteria, and processes
Team alignment is sequential in process yet dynamic in practice. It recognizes the need for systemic and cyclical progression yet must be flexible enough to adapt to the ever changing nature of people and business. Each step is achieved with varying degrees of competency and effectiveness which improve with repetition, consistency and the discipline of intention. Managing the process is a focus in and of itself, giving rise to an increasing number of business leaders hiring an outside professional coach as a vital partner in the process.
Team leaders can and should be effective team coaches. Yet even assuming they have the competencies of a professional team coach, it is often too difficult to be maximally effective going it alone. Let’s face it, most business leaders are pushed to capacity simply managing their core business and the daily tyranny of the urgent. Moreover, they become a part of the limiting patterns preventing their teams from reaching their full potential with biases and emotions of their own. An outside professional is hired to shine the light where it is needed and interrupt limiting patterns to create new empowering breakthroughs.
The return on investment in a team coach goes far beyond short term revenue and profits. A Team Coach can empower you to become a company you might otherwise never become…impacting the lives of every person you employ, work with and serve through your products and services. In short, a Team Coach can empower you and your people to become and achieve more, faster than they otherwise might accomplish on their own. Accelerate your business success by aligning from the top down and consider partnering with a professional coach to achieve the best results.
“This content was originally published in NAFA Annuity Outlook magazine (AnnuityOutlookMagazine.com) and is reprinted with permission.”