• David Verhaag

4 Proven Ways to Align Your Team

Think about your best day at work. Maybe not the holiday party or the recent promotion, but think about the best day of actually doing your work. What were the essential elements of that day?

If you’re like most employees one of the essential elements of your best day was feeling like your work mattered. You were doing something important. Your contribution was important, not just to the company, but to your team. Another essential element was probably recognition. Not the bonus or award you might receive down the road but the recognition that your work that day mattered.

We all want to feel like our work matters. We all want to feel like the work we do each day contributes, at least in some small way, to something bigger than the tasks themselves. This sense of alignment can be hard to achieve.

Here are four proven ways to align your team to ensure that everyone has their best opportunity to feel connected.

Weekly Meetings

It’s a common complaint: we have too many meetings. The average employee attends 62 meetings a month! And at least half of them might be a waste of time. Does that mean you should cancel your weekly team meeting? Not if alignment is important to you.

Feeling connected to coworkers and the company mission is an essential part of team alignment and employee engagement. Not only do employees benefit from a shared sense of purpose but the shared sense of accountability drives better business outcomes. In times of crisis, it is especially important to leverage the power of team meetings to reassure employees, share critical updates, and to keep them aligned on the new and often shifting priorities.

As we noted in our post on beating Zoom fatigue, there are several things leaders should do to make their meetings as productive as possible. These include the basics of setting and communicating the agenda and sharing any required pre-work so the team is prepared for an effective meeting. In addition to these basics, ensuring that the team is on video (55% of communication is non-verbal), providing an opportunity for others to share their voice, and creating a safe environment for questions and shared learning, can go a long way to making your standup or weekly meeting one of the few that your team looks forward to.

Aligned Goals and Shared Status

You know that exercise your HR team tries each year, annual goal planning? It turns out that actually setting and aligning goals can have a huge impact on team performance, alignment, and employee engagement. We know, cue the eye-roll.

Yes, the process often sucks. Yes, it’s actually really hard to get company, department, and team level objectives defined at the start of each year, let alone each quarter. But driving a disciplined process around setting objectives AND sharing them out with the entire team has proven to lead to better team performance. Even better, understanding how individual work contributes to the organizational strategy has proven to improve individual performance and employee experience.

The tool you use doesn’t matter as much as simply creating a process to collaborate and agree as a team what the priorities for the quarter are and then breaking them down into individual objectives. Of course, driving alignment doesn’t end with just setting and forgetting goals. You need to update the status, share and celebrate successes, and discuss and course-correct on challenges along the way.

Think this is too obvious? According to an MIT Sloan report, only 28% of executives and middle managers responsible for executing strategy could list three of their company’s strategic priorities. Only 28%! And that’s at the top of the hierarchy. The further you get from the decision-makers the worse the alignment gets. If you want to get your team aligned try starting with the basics of setting and measuring your goals.

Execution and Delivering on Commitments

According to the Harvard Business Review, 67% of well-formulated strategies failed due to poor execution. More than half of executives surveyed said they were not prepared for the challenges they faced upon being appointed to senior leadership roles. The result: 50-60% of executives fail within the first 18 months of being promoted or hired. You have probably seen the revolving door of some leadership teams.

While those stats might not generate a lot of sympathy these days, the downstream impact on team alignment can be huge.

When an executive or team leader fails to plan for the challenges they will face and fails in their execution the entire team will be impacted. One secondary impact of the failure to execute on the strategy is that the leader loses credibility. Do you follow someone that can’t deliver on their commitments? Do you worry about being aligned with the objectives if you suspect there won’t be follow through?

Driving team alignment starts at the top. It requires clear communication and defined and shared objectives. It also requires that the leader demonstrates the ability to consistently deliver on his or her commitments to the organization and to the team. If you want a high-functioning and aligned team ensure that you are setting the standard with your own execution.

Cutting Through the Clutter to Share Resources

Let’s get aligned! But on what? According to Deloitte, 72% of employees can’t find the information they need from their company systems. And this is the information they need just to do their jobs. Alignment is a step further. Employees are overwhelmed. Not only with the crises affecting the world today, but they are overwhelmed with the state of work. To make matters worse, at least 85% of employees are already disengaged. It’s a tough place to start.

To effectively drive team alignment leaders need to help their teams cut through the noise and clutter of the workplace. They need to help them see that their work matters. Employees shouldn’t have to search for the latest version of the company or team objectives if you want them to feel like they are a part of something bigger. They shouldn’t have to search for basic information like the product roadmap or customer case studies if you want them to feel accountable for their contributions.

Simplifying team resources is a good place to start. Ensuring everyone knows where to look and has access to the basics is an important part of an overall alignment strategy. You can start by asking yourself, what are the top 10 pieces of content everyone on my team should have ready access to? Can you consolidate them in one place, like a knowledge management tool, or make them readily accessible in some other way, like Olifano?

Beyond making basic content readily available, performing an information audit can help eliminate the distraction and clutter of outdated information. File it away, throw it away, or remove access so your team isn’t spending their time sorting through content that won’t help them in achieving their goals.

Think again about your best day, your employee’s best day. Alignment is not easy but it’s an important step in providing yourself and your team with more of those days. Driving team alignment might be a challenge but it is one worth investing in.

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