Guiding your team to work in tandem is essential to your organization’s success, regardless of business type or size. While you hire individually for individual purposes, you still need everyone to work in harmony to achieve both your daily goals and your long-range business objectives.
We all know it is a complex and sometimes challenging task to build teams from individuals—all of whom have unique personalities, goals, and challenges—in such a way as to ensure organizational success.
I have some ideas that will help you and your team members overcome these challenges to thrive, making sure your organization runs like a well-oiled machine.
Building an aligned team brimming with confidence and commitment can be difficult. However, working with people who have a collective vision and goal is extremely rewarding once you’ve pulled them together.
Consider these five ideas for aligning your team for success, and think about how you can adapt them for your organization.
The first thing you need to focus on aligning is your executive team because if you aren’t working with its vision, you and the rest of your team could easily veer far off course. Request that your organization’s CEO or a third party ask each executive team member about their vision for the company. If you get a unified answer, that’s great, and you can move forward. If you get varying answers, your team is out of alignment, and there is no point in moving forward until everyone is on the same page.
At this point, you can put some processes in place, such as conversations intended to clarify the executive team’s ideas to ensure everyone shares the same authentic vision. Ask for everyone’s commitment to work together to determine what it will take to get everyone aligned.
Another way to discover whether everyone is aligned is by determining how your team responds to the importance of different departments. This can let you know which functions people believe to be most critical to your organization’s success. Ideally, you’ll have a consensus, but if you are out of alignment, you might receive a few or even several different answers. In that case, it’s essential to sit down and talk with your team members to figure out why they feel the way they do. It really comes down to letting everyone know there is no “most important” function. I’ve found that people work better when they understand that their function and input are considered valuable. Everyone doing their best is critical for an organization to be successful. Of course, there are times when one employee’s or department’s function takes precedence, but that is not the usual case. The truth is that this all can ebb and flow based on where you are in your business lifecycle. For instance, let’s say you have a critical issue that needs specialized attention and repairs. Such situations might raise the level of importance of those employees briefly.
Keep in mind that this entire strategy only works when you have a “culture of feedback” that gives team members the confidence, to be honest with you rather than saying what they believe you want to hear.
Another critical factor in alignment is how your managers lead your employees. Suppose there is even one team member who either doesn’t like a manager or is afraid to talk about problems regarding work or other areas. In that case, you can’t achieve alignment throughout your organization. Help your managers and team members become comfortable with the uncomfortable to bring about alignment.
Here are some ways you can encourage managers and team members to align with each other:
- Ask both parties to engage in constructive feedback
- Encourage managers to coach team members and publicly praise their successes
- Spur employees to pursue career development and promotions
- Promote a healthy work-life balance when possible
While work-life balance is valuable, I’d like to add a note on this point. It is not always possible for a startup facing specific startup pressures such as rapid growth without full coverage. In that case, you would need everyone to pitch in, even if it isn’t ideal or convenient to their schedules.
In such cases, it may be a matter of talking to team members to ensure that a startup is the right fit for them. It’s best to have this conversation before hiring people, letting them know that you strive to offer work-life balance, but you can’t guarantee it for the foreseeable future.
Once your executive team is aligned, and you know what it takes to ensure success for each department and how your managers work with their respective team members, it’s important to focus on helping everyone succeed. The best way to do this is to let your people know your expectations and how they can best meet those standards to your organization’s satisfaction.
While goals sometimes create stress, they’re helpful in several ways:
- When it gives people direction and a daily purpose
- When the goals fit the team members’ responsibilities and are reasonably achievable, it creates a positive experience
- When it serves as a reflection of your staff’s potential when they’re at their best and doing their best
- When it challenges the team members without inciting fear of negative consequences
- When it breaks up goals into several achievable steps, allowing you to celebrate each milestone for and with your people
There will also be times when someone makes an unreasonable request to attempt to stretch an employee’s regular duties or time constraints. You can do this with good results if you handle it in a way that the employee can speak openly with the manager, expressing concerns. In my experience, I’ve had sales leaders over the years tell me the goal their boards gave them was totally unachievable.
Often, the most vital component at the core of alignment strategies is effective communication. With powerful communication skills, your team members can avoid frustration stemming from misunderstandings or a lack of communication. Essentially, your managers can express their expectations clearly, and team members know they are welcome to speak up and ask questions as needed.
Similarly, you want your employees to understand the broad stroke and nuanced approaches to communicating with their peers as they work on projects together versus the need to simply touch base between departments.
Communication is essential in peer-to-peer, peer-to-manager, and manager-to-peer interactions, so it’s well worth the investment in training and coaching. One study has revealed that executive coaching often comes with a 788% ROI for companies.
Here are some training and coaching strategies to help all parties and your organization thrive:
- Focusing on open-mindedness to create a non-judgmental environment
- Conveying the significance of an employee’s work, so people are secure enough to express ideas or ask questions
- Detecting body language cues and other subtleties, such as tone and inflection, to get a fuller idea of what a manager, employee, or peer is saying
- Promoting open discussions, whether in conference meetings or on Zoom calls, regarding projects and broader organizational topics
Once your executive team and management are fully aligned, only then can you communicate your direction to the rest of the organization and develop momentum toward your objectives.
Remember that you’ll need to explain your vision and the methods you plan to use to achieve it in different ways for different employees. Those working blue-collar jobs in the warehouse and the white-collar workers in the office already know some things and need to hear others. Just make sure to find ways to ensure that both types of workers feel respected and included in your organization’s vision. Then you’ll find that your alignment strategy continues developing as your organization runs like a well-oiled machine.