Ensuring teams are aligned within an organization is a lot like laying tile—little inconsistencies in spacing in the first row turn into bigger and bigger gaps as you go. CEOs and Executive Leadership Teams (ELTs) must truly be aligned in their understanding and commitment to the mission/vision/values of the organization, and the strategic direction and goals that give life to them. If they are not truly aligned (as opposed to just believing they are), the degree of misalignment increases exponentially as more people—leaders, managers and employees—get involved in the implementation.
What is necessary as a precursor to team alignment is personal alignment. As a CEO, before you can expect your team to be aligned, you must be aligned yourself. I’m talking about integrity and authenticity. Do your words match your actions? Do you mean what you say? Do your employees trust that what you say is true? These behaviors underlie effective leadership that leads to bottom line results.
Become the Alignment You Seek
Here are four proven ways CEOs can assure they become the alignment they seek:
- Use “I” statements and steer clear of the proverbial “we” statement. When expressing a point of view, say “I believe,” “I think” or “I need.” Using “we” statements like “we should,” “we could” and “we need to” is non-committal; it is providing a suggestion with the hope that others will agree. If you think or feel something, say it directly.
- Tell someone if they consistently disappoint you, anger you or confuse you. There are times when we may temporarily be irritated and we realize there was no negative intent so we let it go. Don’t nitpick—if you can forgive and really forget, good. But if you find yourself forming beliefs about someone’s motives, and your trust in them is lessening, address it. They probably sense it anyway!
- Be aware of how you feel and appropriately disclose it, especially when those feelings are showing. Many of us act different under stress. Some of us “move away” (by saying nothing, by avoiding issues, by subtly giving the message of “leave me alone”). Others of us “move against” by arguing more forcefully/loudly, by dominating or by needing to win. And still others of us “move toward” by following expectations without question and/or ingratiating ourselves with others. You may not think others notice these changes, or you may think others understand what gave rise to them. But, more often, people sense the emotion and make up a story about what you feel and why. And that story, sad to say, is not always flattering!
- Admit your mistakes and apologize. There is a true skill to giving an authentic apology and few people have it. It is amazing how an honest “I’m sorry you are experiencing that” or “I’m sorry I missed that” can move people and processes forward quickly. Without one, resentment builds, trust is eroded, candid communication ceases and whatever is supposed to happen just doesn’t.
Need assistance with personal alignment? Contact The Bailey Group for a complimentary consultation.