“An aligned team is one in which the individuals have agreed to own every decision and to be committed to making the decisions and each other successful.”
In the meeting, they all agreed. Yet afterwards it was a different story…
As a business leader you make tough decisions all the time. Decisions that require team effort to successfully execute. Imagine you have presented and successfully defended your business strategy. Are you satisfied with “buy in” from your team members? After all you had a robust debate and everyone had an opportunity to air their different perspectives.
However, why is it that what you thought was agreed upon at the board meeting isn’t delivered when the staff are back in their division or region?
Some team members may be reluctant to say “no” outright at a board meeting. They may appear to be in agreement, but they may actually disagree with the strategy and so don’t put their best efforts into making it happen.
Worse still they may sabotage the strategy or collude with their own naysaying team members.
As Miles Kierson points out “buy in” is not enough. Successful execution requires more. It requires team alignment where each team member declares his or her commitment to the strategy even if they disagree with it.
In my conversations with Miles I recall struggling with this last point. I couldn’t see how you could align to something if you disagreed with it?
As a former equity analyst I have seen a lot of M&A, product launches, category expansions, market entries etc. that didn’t work. I found it difficult to let go of my “superior” knowledge.
Miles gently challenged me. He asked “were all your assessments and decisions right?” Sheepishly, I had to acknowledge that they were not always right and there could be other ways of doing things that would be successful even if I couldn’t envision it.
As he explained if everyone goes off doing what s/he thinks is “right” confusion arises. It is then more difficult to detect what needs to be addressed.
However, if everyone is rowing in the same direction, doing the best they can and supporting their colleagues then an unsuccessful strategy can be detected early and corrections can be made more quickly and effectively.
Questions for reflection:
Can you let go of the need to be right?
How do you confirm with your team members that they understand your strategy?
Has the team agreed on clearly defined points or is there a semblance of agreement around vague objectives?
Do you listen to their objections and different perspectives or do you brush over them and just expect that they’ll carry out what you’ve told them to do?
How do you engage with your colleagues so that they feel that they are making a significant contribution?
Has responsibility for different aspects of the strategy been assigned?
How is progress being monitored without “micro managing” and the completion of numerous spreadsheets?
Miles Kierson, 2009, The Transformational Power of Executive Team Alignment. US: Advantage
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