You’re the leader.
· You keep finding a dramatic difference between work done by the day shift and that done by the night shift. The first shift consistently turns out a reliable product while units assembled by the second shift are often returned for repairs.
· You are aware that two of your department heads are embroiled in a passive-aggressive stalemate over some work related offense. The atmosphere in the two departments is filled with awkward tension. Employees are left walking on eggshells.
· It’s your observation that veteran employees take more pride in their work than newer ones. Your most recent hires don’t seem to care as much about your company’s success as your tenured staff.
What do you do?
Well, most leaders conclude they have personnel problems.
· You’ve got a bad manager working the night shift. You need to hire a new crew for the second shift.
· Your department-heads need to grow up, get over their grudge with one another and work together as a team.
· You conclude it’s difficult to find good people who are willing to work hard these days. Young people “just don’t get it.”
Or perhaps…just perhaps…the real fault lies with you, the leader.
The truth is you have not done the work that is yours to do. It’s not a personnel problem. It’s a failure of leadership.
In our continuing series on the Four Essential Practices of Effective Leadership, the third essential discipline is Alignment. It is the leader’s responsibility to make sure that the people on his team are properly aligned around the critical priorities that influence your company’s success.
Alignment in an organization typically revolves around three key areas.
· Vision, Mission, Strategy
Alignment is about ensuring that every member of your team is in sync with the company’s preferred culture.
· Your team needs to clearly understand the larger vision and mission for which your company exists and the strategy to accomplish it.
· Fundamental corporate values have to be raised up as the standard to which every team member is held accountable (including the leader!).
· Everybody on your team must appreciate that the relational harmony of your organization is indispensible to the synergy, collaboration and cooperation that is vital to success.
Somebody has to oversee all of that. If you’re the leader, that somebody is you. Failure to do so will result in apathy, confusion, and lots of frustration.
Organizations always move toward a state of apathy if their primary vision is not declared frequently. Keeping first things first is the most important work of alignment.
The success of your company depends on the clarity of your vision and the number of the people in your organization who embrace it wholeheartedly. Unless your corporate vision and mission are clearly communicated and people are inspired to work in support of it, your company will flounder. It will always be two steps forward; three steps back.
If you think aligning people around your company’s vision and mission is difficult, wait until you tackle corporate values. Values, by nature, are intangible. It’s hard to describe them in a fashion that everybody interprets in the exact same way.
I believe every organization needs to have a few (not too many) key values that define how they agree to go about their work together. If people don’t honor those values, they are hurting your company, not helping it.
The momentum loss that occurs due to conflict within an organization is very costly. It can sap a team, a department, even an entire corporation of the vital momentum, creativity and trust necessary to achieve its fullest potential.
Relational alignment must be a critical priority in the life of your organization. Without it, your team is not working together in a unity that is essential to winning.
The leader who permits relational drama to go unaddressed within his organization is killing its capacity for success. Unfortunately, many leaders dread stepping into relational conflict. Most avoid it; ignoring it in the mistaken belief that it will eventually go away. It never does. Instead of going away it just goes underground. That is worse.
Leaders must learn to move toward conflict in constructive ways for the good of their company. Otherwise, it festers; growing into an even bigger problem. Stalemate turns into sabotage and good people start looking for work elsewhere having grown weary of working in such a dysfunctional environment.
This may not be easy work for a leader to do, but it is necessary if you hope to see your organization succeed. Just like the alignment in your car’s transmission is essential to both performance and progress, the same is true for the engine that drives your company’s success.