Why is it that often a decision gets attention during a meeting with leaders, but when everyone leaves, the decision or directive everyone supposedly bought into has degrees of follow-through? Some leaders leave the room forgetting their commitment to support the decision, some may have silently chosen not to follow it all along, and some go immediately and accomplish the goals related to the decision.
What’s missing in this scenario is alignment of leadership? Alignment is critical for an organization to reach high levels of performance and the outcomes it desires. If the transformational leader does not have alignment of his/her team, the outcomes related to a decision will be unpredictable.
What is alignment? Have you ever driven a car after someone has inadvertently driven up a curb several times or on rough surfaces with potholes? If the tires are not in alignment, which is a consequence, the car will not ride smoothly. The car will wobble a bit until all four tires are “put back in alignment”. When your tires are not aligned properly, it also has a negative impact on your automobiles performance. In the same way, if everyone on a team isn’t going in the same direction, for whatever reason, they will not be in alignment and, like the tire, each person will move in a different direction. The vision will likely not be accomplished in the way the leader intended or, sad to say, sometimes not at all.
Where does alignment begin and how do you make sure you have everyone moving together? Alignment truly begins on hire or, if you are new to a position of leadership, it begins with inheritance of a team. With hiring, the transformational leader is astute and consistent in selecting players that fit with the company’s mission, vision and strategic plan. Sometimes we pay attention to the expertise one brings to the table, but if the behaviors of the individual don’t fit with the direction of the company, misalignment will be the outcome. With inheritance, the transformational leader must ensure that the vision for the company is clear and that to accomplish it is an expectation of employment. Working with each direct report to receive commitment in word and action is critical. Part of this is through watching behavior and outcomes after directives are given.
Another part of the equation for achieving alignment is accountability. Unless there is accountability for every person, there is no incentive positively or negatively to follow directives. If the leader does not follow through on his/her expectations, there is no accountability.
Anything in an organization that causes a deviation from the vision or a given directive will cause misalignment in the tires of the operation. Unless it is corrected and the leadership team is in alignment, don’t expect the outcome to be as envisioned.
An organization is at its peak performance when everyone is going in the same direction. It’s up to the transformational leader to make it happen and ensure all members of the organization are aligned with the vision of the organization. Are you purposeful in hiring people who are aligned with your company’s vision? How do you know if your people are following your vision and directions? Are you achieving the results you need and if not, is it because of a lack of alignment?