Achieving Organizational Alignment

Achieving organizational alignment towards achievement of the vision starts with one person…YOU! It is your job to communicate a clear vision, and to inspire your team to accomplish the goals and objectives required to achieve the vision. The driving force behind your shared vision is your purpose. When your employees know and understand the “why”, they will be more motivated to focus on the “how”. Especially, when your employees can “connect” how your “why” helps each employee accomplish their own personal goals and ambitions.

Starting with You

When you have a particular challenge to overcome, or let’s say a “hill to charge”, when you shout CHARGE, you want your team to already be charging that hill. You want them to feel inspired by you and motivated to achieve organizational goals. If you shout CHARGE, and your team is behind you instead of in front, or even worse, deserting your ranks, you are not an effective leader. In fact, you may perish as the result of “friendly fire”.

The key to your leadership success, and alignment of your team to achieve great things, is how they perceive you as a leader. I call this this your level of “Leadership Credibility”. Does your team trust you and feel you are honest? Do they feel respected by you? Do they feel that you are competent and can help them solve problems? Do they feel that you are inspiring and forward looking? Do they feel that you “have their back”? If so, your team will charge the hill for you and will share your vision of success.

Connecting the “Why” with “WIIFM”

To achieve organizational alignment towards a shared vision, it is imperative that you be able to connect “Why” achievement of the vision is business critical to “What’s In It For Me” or (WIIFM). In other words, if I help you achieve your business goals and ultimately the organizational vision, how will I benefit? Organizations often fail to achieve great things because they have failed to help their employees understand how their efforts can result in individual goal accomplishment and success. We just assume that employees will make that connection, when we should be working hard to translate organizational success to individual success. Your goal, as a leader, is to ingrain the mindset in your team that you are all in this together. You succeed together or fail together, but regardless…you are together, aligned, and focused for success. The minute your team feels that it is “Us versus Them”, you are doomed to fail as a leader unless you can change that mindset.

Once your team connects the “Why” with “WIIFM”, your goal is to help them understand how their individual and team roles impact success. You do this by developing strategies that translate easily into team and individual performance goals, or the “How”. Then you make sure your performance management and rewards and recognition processes support positive behaviors and performance while discouraging undesirable behaviors and performance.

Achieving alignment towards a shared vision and goals takes time, patience, and perseverance, but foremost it takes effective leadership.

The Role of the Leader

If you were to sit down with any successful business leader, you would most likely hear about a journey and how they did not become successful by accident. Hard work, persistence, and perseverance are of course important, but in order to achieve organizational success, you need to be a leader who understands and fulfills your true role within the organization. The formula is really very simple in concept but can become complex in practice, depending on the size and culture of the organization. In essence, to be a successful leader you need to possess the ability to create a shared vision, align the organization to achieve that vision, and ensure execution of the plan to achieve the vision.

Creating the Vision

The first step in creating a shared vision is to be clear about what you wish to achieve. Your vision should be the desired destination of the organization. The vision should provide clarity of organizational purpose, values, goals, and direction. With a clear destination, you provide your team focus. For people to be truly inspired, the vision needs to be big. It needs to be challenging and needs to generate within you and your team a “call to action”.

Achieving Organizational Alignment

The driving force behind your shared vision is your purpose. When you know and understand the “why”, you’ll be more motivated to focus on the “how”. Unless you instill a sense of purpose in your team, you will have a difficult time getting them aligned towards achievement of the vision, and you definitely will struggle in getting the best performance from them. It just makes sense that the clearer you are about where you’re going, the easier it will be to galvanize your team to work towards it. A clear vision will also help your people to determine their own departmental objectives and to collaborate with others, as they will know that they’re all working towards the same goal. When communicating the vision, avoid doing so from just your point of view. Keep in mind that your team will be more motivated to share your vision if they can connect achievement of that vision with satisfaction of their individual goals. Also, communicate multiple purposes and you will increase the odds that each member of your team will be equally inspired by the vision.

Executing the Plan

Once you have settled on a shared vision, the next step is to establish strategic goals. Remember, the vision is the destination, and the strategy helps to determine the path to get there. Thus, a clear strategy helps to bring a sense of practicality to the vision, so that it seems attainable. Goals should be both measurable and specific so that there will be no ambiguity about whether or not your team is hitting them.

Achieving Results

When people of similar interests come together and share a common vision, the collective energy automatically shoots up. Your role is to set the stage for team and organizational success, get the team on board and focused, and follow through to ensure goal attainment.

The Heart of Process Improvement

Organizations, like people, need to maintain fitness. This is where business process improvement (BPI) comes in. Many companies launch process improvement programs such as Total Quality Management, Business Reengineering, Lean, and Six Sigma. These processes can result in significant benefits, including lower costs, faster time-to-market, and better customer experiences. The problem, even for companies that do a round of BPI is that after the initial round, they give up and let their organization get flabby again. Maintaining a healthy business requires diligence and something that many business owners overlook, which is an engaged team.

Engaging employees is a vital part of improving any process within a business. Employees that are unhappy and underutilized can become the biggest roadblocks to success. One of the keys to an effective BPI is transforming the culture of the company, where leadership within the organization is focused on enabling the full potential in others. It’s about allowing employees to be their authentic selves so they can leverage their strengths and unique perspectives.

Allowing employees to become leaders and mature within new expansive roles and responsibilities creates an environment of efficiency. Employees want to feel valued and challenged; they want to be trusted and given the freedom to explore and learn within the job.   Employees that stretch themselves to grow and take on more advanced assignments should be given the opportunity to further accelerate their advancement. The bottom line is that leaders must continuously create new opportunities for their employees – or their workforce will not be innovative enough.

Today’s leaders must constantly focus on the growth of their teams and strengthening the capabilities of individuals that can make the team more effective. This creates an environment of continuous innovation and initiative. The people who work within an organization are at the heart of the company and need to be included in the processes for improvement. When employees hearts are engaged, they will engage their brains on their own and exceed expectations.

Heart Health For Your Business

For most, having employees is a necessity for running a successful business. Even though this is true, finding and retaining talented employees who give their all can be more of a headache than a piece of cake. The truth is that many employers and their leadership teams often overlook the fact that employees are the people at the heart of the company. If the heart isn’t healthy and being engaged, dysfunction is going to be the result.

The key to changing culture in the workplace is to engage the heart of each employee before attempting to engage their brain. When there is a lack of connection there is a lack of commitment. One powerful way to create a connection for each employee is to tell your story. Share the vision of your company and the goals that have been set. Being vulnerable about challenges you are trying to overcome is a way to not only engage your employees’ heart but also opens a door for them to show innovation and leadership by contributing ideas and effort to overcome hurdles and roadblocks to the company’s success

Another way to take steps to engage the heart of your employee is to set clear expectations. As uncomplicated as this sounds, it is not uncommon for employees to be hired without ever being given their actual job description. Employees want and need to know, clearly and specifically, what is expected of them. This includes both job tasks and organizational culture behaviors.

Communication is also a powerful tool in creating a positive work culture. Communicate effectively and appoint leaders who can do the same. Provide the tools and coaching to help leaders and managers learn to communicate at a high level, fostering more productive and engaging relationships within their teams.

Being an active listener is a powerful way to create a thriving healthy team. Everyone wants to be heard. Show your leaders, peers, and employees that what they have to say is important by really listening. Put down your phone, turn to face whoever is speaking, avoid distractions and summarize what is said to you. Remember to take action after the conversation is over, if necessary. Actively listening shows respect and builds trust.

The bottom line is that when an employee’s heart is engaged they will engage their brain all on their own. Employees who are connected to their work in this way are more productive, efficient and contribute to a work culture that breeds success and creates leaders. As your business grows, hiring top talent in the marketplace will become more important, and retaining that talent will be as equally as important. By working to truly connect with the people you are putting at the heart of your business you will have no problem doing both.