Every leadership team has its own unique issues and challenges that need to be managed in order to achieve extraordinary results and become a truly high-performance team. When you understand that team members have diverse styles, personalities, priorities, preferences, and experiences, you accept that it is natural for a team to encounter some difficulties from time to time. In addition to these interpersonal challenges, organizations face formidable business problems that must be resolved on a regular basis. It could be supply chain shortages, employee retention, responding to competitor strategies, or technological struggles. The vast array of challenges teams face creates a vital need for leadership teams to come together, coordinate, collaborate, and get better aligned across all functions within the organization. However, more often than not we see teams taking a reactive approach to these situations rather than a proactive approach.
Over the past four decades, we at CMOE have developed and refined a team alignment process that has produced significant results for our clients. In doing so, we have discovered five critical lessons that are key to achieving successful team alignment.
Lesson #1: Understand the Purpose
It is important for stakeholders and facilitators to keep in mind that the overarching goal of a team alignment or realignment process is not to bring an end to all issues that teams will encounter. It is critical to acknowledge and accept the fact that we live in a changing world with lots of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. That said, the central goal of team alignment is to equip team members with the skills, capabilities, and methodologies to resolve issues constructively and turn them into opportunities that will lead to a competitive advantage. Don’t expect miracles to happen overnight. Most teams simply need an apparatus or methodology that enables them to productively work through obstacles and barriers to team and organization success.
Lesson #2: Measure Progress
There is a saying, “progress is made where progress is measured.” Another key element of achieving team alignment focuses on establishing quantifiable data that will help teams measure progress on their journey to becoming a highly effective team. By identifying key performance indicators, whether it is for specific projects, overarching team goals, or both, the ability to track progress keeps team members accountable and drives improvement. For example, CMOE’s Team Alignment Survey is a great resource that enables teams to thoroughly assess their development. The survey creates a benchmark that allows a team to measure their progress every 6-12 months and identify new opportunities for improvement.
Lesson #3: Enhance Communication Skills
After working with a large variety of teams, we have discovered that clear alignment cannot happen without clear communication. Developing communication skills in the leadership team is essential for having clear, candid, constructive, and courageous conversations that need to happen in order to address obstacles and achieve success. All members of the team must continually develop and practice good listening skills, have the ability to ask penetrating questions, and be assertive in a helpful way. It is essential that the group can talk freely, collaborate, and construct consensus around solutions while keeping an open mind and being less competitive or domineering during the problem-solving process.
Lesson #4: Have Patience
Growing and developing highly effective teams requires patience and a lot of it. Developing a high-performance team is not like flipping a light switch on. It is truly a process and a learning journey. As people work together, establish positive emotional connections with colleagues, and build trust, team synergy will grow, and it will lead to greater performance. It is important to remember that getting in sync takes time and it requires ongoing, active engagement to ensure sustainability.
Lesson #5: Be Flexible
Last but not least, each team member must develop flexibility and be open to feedback about their individual strengths and opportunities for improvement. We are all a work in progress and in order for the leadership team to change, individuals must be willing to learn and change as well. Sometimes this may require individual coaching to help team members become more engaged in the team alignment process. When individuals grow the team grows, and the ability to own up and adapt to a need for change will only facilitate a more engaged and successful alignment process.
No leadership team is perfect and there is always room for improvement either in the tasks they perform or in the interpersonal relationships between team members. All teams have a potential for greater synergy. The key is consistency in bringing teams together every few months to reflect and build cohesiveness, assess and resolve big dilemmas, take bold action for new opportunities, and maintain accountability. If you think your team needs to achieve greater alignment and these lessons resonate with you, we encourage you to reach out to a CMOE representative for a no obligation call to discuss your team needs.