By: Suzanne Bates, CEO
Strategy planning is the work of the leadership team. However, teams are made up of individuals. They have a variety of backgrounds, experiences, roles and responsibilities, which can naturally conflict. Your team may be working hard, running fast, and trying to get things done. They may not even realize they aren’t aligned on critical issues.
Getting real alignment is not a problem if you have a shared vision and purpose. It will guide decisions, from the launch of new products, pursuits, channels or geographies, to navigating competitive challenges, disruptive technology, and decisions about growth.Alignment is important when a new leader takes the helm, and also when a team is just formed, or has several new members. It is especially important in executing a successful merger or acquisition.
Recently we worked with a team leading the integration of two public companies. Progress was slow despite hundreds of hours of work. They came from two cultures, and had two agendas. The only agreement was that the public deal had to succeed, and be finalized by year end.
Though they’d been together for a few months, many didn’t really know each other, or the roles they played in their respective organizations. In a simple exercise, we had them stand up and create a “living organizational chart” – which prompted smiles, then laughter, and ultimately, understanding. They discovered in an hour more about each other than they’d learned in a dozen previous meetings. It broke the tension and helped them start to form new bonds.
We had them gather in small groups around flip charts to brainstorm brief purpose statements on topics such as organization structure, product, culture, key pursuits, and workforce. We refined those statements into a paragraph that became a powerful mission statement that became a road map for a successful transition.
In another scenario, a research pharmaceutical company’s team spent a year in report out meetings without making any decisions about pursuits. Behind the scenes, each leader was fighting for research dollars. The shared purpose statement they developed after just a few hours produced this mission statement -- “in ten years, we’ve found a cure for a major disease.” When we read it back, they had chills. They were energized and immediately shifted to discussions about breaking down barriers.
How can you help your team get aligned around shared purpose? Here are three tips:
- Take time for a meeting to step back and agree on shared vision and purpose
- Break down the key issues and get everyone involved in brainstorming
- Boil it all down to a short statement that describes where you’re going and why
An outside facilitator will help you come together and guide your team to getting real commitment. The process informs critical decisions and makes teamwork easier and more productive.
A facilitator can also diagnose communication issues among the team. A Bates ExPI assessment identifies team strengths and gaps that are helping and hindering their ability to execute. For information on obtaining a team dynamics report contact us at email@example.com
For more information on how to lead effective teams, you may want to download our report: