If I walked into your office and ask three people on your leadership team, “What are the most important priorities in your business?” or “What’s our company’s winning strategy?”… would I get the same answer?
“Leadership alignment” has become a delicious buzzword in corporate circles. But despite its cliche, any leader worth their salt understands the importance of their leadership team being on the same page.
And the research drives home just how important it is.
Leadership teams are aligned and working towards a shared vision, strategy, and plan are 2x more likely to achieve above-median financial performance. 📈
And when we think about it, it makes common sense.
It is tough to take your business to exciting places if your leadership team isn’t rowing in the same direction, right?
Being on a well-aligned leadership team feels like a crew team where the rowers are in tight sync on cadence, direction, and each person’s individual role in propelling the boat towards its destination.
And the boat moves through the water towards its destination with minimal friction because of this.
Being a part of a well-aligned leadership team doesn’t mean it will be easy work, but like this crew team above, leadership teams that are high-alignment can go far, and fast… because they don’t waste a lot of energy, and they don’t create a lot of friction or drag.
By contrast, when a leadership team isn’t aligned—isn’t on the same page—it can feel a bit like this aquatic version of the Bad News Bears. ⤵️
You’re pulling at different tempos, in different directions. One guy in the back isn’t pulling at all.
This creates friction. It creates drag. And it is possible that some of your teammates end up in the drink like the poor fella in the middle.
Take a minute and check-in with yourself. Which of these metaphors better illustrates your experience on your leadership team? 🤔
Does being on your leadership team feel smooth, or clunky?
Coordinated, or discombobulated?
Controlled, or chaotic?
How well aligned is your leadership team? Where would you put your team’s slider on this scale? ⤵️
BUT WITH ALL THIS TALK OF “ALIGNMENT”… ALIGNED ON WHAT?
The idea of “alignment” can feel a bit squishy… so let’s make this concrete.
Over time, I’ve observed that there are 6 very simple, but critically important questions that any leadership team—be it a departmental, business-unit, or executive leadership team—needs to be in-sync on if they want to deliver sustainable growth:
- Why are we here? (i.e. Our purpose)
- How do we roll around here? (i.e. Our values)
- Where are we going? (i.e. Our vision)
- How will we get there? (i.e. Our strategy)
- What needs to happen next? (i.e. Our plan)
- Who do we need aboard? (i.e. Our people)
For lack of a more creative name, I call these The 6 Questions.
When your leadership team is clear & aligned on these simple questions, it can make an exciting future possible.
When you aren’t, it can feel like a dog sled team where all of the dogs are pulling in different directions. Good luck winning the race.
OK… SO HOW DO I KNOW IF MY TEAM IS ALIGNED?
While it is possible that your team defies the average, it is safe to start with the working assumption that your leadership team isn’t fully aligned. Because research tells us that most teams aren’t.
Case-in-point: A survey of more than 4,000 managers found that only 1 in 4 of the managers could correctly list three of their firms’ top strategic priorities.
What’s more: 95% of a typical workforce doesn’t understand its company’s strategy.
Alignment issues at the top create alignment issues throughout.
And remember that there’s a direct link between leadership alignment and performance.
Translation: When it comes to this alignment stuff, the stakes are high. This makes it imperative for any leader to know: how tightly in-sync is my team?
If you find yourself wondering, here are 3 way to find out:
#1 – Go ask your team. To test for alignment, 2 questions are especially illuminating: “What’s your impression of our vision for the business? (or where are we trying to go together?)” and “What are the most important priorities right now?”
Then ask yourself, “How consistent and on-point are the answers that I’m hearing?”
I share more on how to do this with your team in this free guide. Check it out!
#2 – Look for the warning indicators. Classic symptoms of leadership team misalignment include:
❌ Conflicts over resources
❌ Chasing shiny objects
The best lagging indicator of leadership misalignment is poor results, but you want to spot the symptoms before the disease has spread.
#3 – Take this 5-min assessment… which can give you a much clearer window into how well positioned your company is to grow in 2021 based on how well in-sync your leadership team. In just a few minutes time. Check it out.