We often talk about the need to “get aligned” on our company strategy, our goals, execution plans, decisions to be made, and so forth. It’s a common objective of leadership meetings. There are two principles that can help leaders avoid predictable pitfalls associated with the drive toward alignment of their teams:
1. Alignment is about the conversation, not the presentation. Too often leaders are overly focused on presentations and slides. When alignment is done well, your slides are artifacts of a rich conversation leading to the development of a shared understanding about your strategy or the issues. That’s not to minimize the importance of expressing your strategy powerfully in your presentation slides. But the questions you invite and the conversations you facilitate are the tools for creating alignment. Not the slides. Presentations don’t align teams – conversations do.
2. Alignment is an ongoing process. A few years ago, a frustrated client spoke to me about a lack of understanding of the business’s strategy among his teams. ‘We went over all of it at our retreat at the start of the year.’ It was only mid-summer, but the wide variance of how the strategy was being applied and executed throughout his company was striking. Don’t underestimate the amount of drift that can occur after meetings, especially if there is any room for interpretation within your strategy. This is why carefully crafting your strategy using precise and specific language is so important. Keeping your teams aligned isn’t a “one-and-done”, etc.
Apply these two principles to keep alignment on your strategy among your leaders at the forefront. Every conversation provides you with a chance to further align individuals and teams, and to illustrate how parts of your strategy apply to the current issues you’re discussing.