Lack of alignment.
How many times have you been in a meeting, or part of making a decision and NO ONE could make the call? Or it took days or weeks or longer?
A study conducted at London Business School and MIT Sloan School asked more than 11,000 senior managers what was supposed to be an easy question:
What are your company’s top three to five priorities?
The results were....TERRIBLE. Only about one-third could name their company’s top three goals and then even after given 5 different opportunities to try again, only 50% could agree on the same one priority. SCARY!
Alignment problems start at the top, where senior executives don’t fully agree on the top priorities or the company’s core purpose. This lack of alignment then leads to fragmentation of efforts as each department begins forming
its own agenda (the silos we discussed last week). As teams get involved in their own agendas, finding that alignment becomes harder and harder.
To top it off, the ripple effects can become quite costly. For example, right before the iPhone came out, Bill Gates, the then Chairman of Microsoft, asked CEO Steve Ballmer to create a copycat product to forestall Apple’s dominance in this field. While Ballmer did pass on this request to his senior executives, they failed to produce anything that could slow down the iPhone. Why? They weren't in alignment on top priorities and ended up losing billions of dollars in sales.
One of the most vital aspects of being a CEO is ensuring employees are fully engaged and aligned—that they understand the value and importance of what they do every day. Think about it - do you know the value and importance of what you do every day in your job?
It's far from an easy task, that's for sure. As a CEO, you can't spend every day interacting with every employee, especially as a company is growing. CEOs try to bring in consultants to train people on how to become high performers and be in alignment with the company. Well, most of us know that this works for a short period of time and then everyone goes back to the silo-thinking and dysfunctionality.
So how can CEOs find an effective way to unify all employees around the common purpose and goal, ensuring everyone is fully engaged so that high performing teams are the norm?
How do CEOs refocus the conversation to be on what’s best for the company, its customers, and each other?
Once again, let's define a high-performance organization: "an organization that achieves financial and non-financial results that are exceedingly better than those of its peer group over a period of five years or more, by focusing in a disciplined way on what matters to the organization" (per Maastricht School of Management).
Through my research and experience, I believe that with the right framework, CEOs can successfully build and sustain high-performing teams of fully engaged employees, while continuing to foster unity and common purpose.
These 5 key components, when in place, enables CEOs, their exec teams, their project and team leads, and every employee in the organization to work as a single, purpose-driven unit (we will review two this week and the remaining three next week):
1. Common Purpose
You need to have a clear purpose in order to set the stage for any team initiative. First, you have to talk about the ‘why.’ Why does this matter? Why are they working on this project, or this special task force?
Think about a child - a young child - they ask "why" multiple times a day about numerous things you are doing. They want to know how what you are doing affects their life and others'. Same with your employees.
So, connect what you need the team to do with WHY you need them to spend valuable time doing it.
Why does it matter? We always tend to tell a team of people WHAT to do; many managers are good at that. As a result, the ‘why’ gets completely ignored. The sign of a high performing team is the ability to stand behind and get excited about a common purpose. Make sure you take time to clearly explain the WHY to each person on your teams!
2. Set Clear Expectations
People can be given expectations, but if they are vague, nothing gets done or if something gets done, it's not in alignment with the company's mission.
Agree on who needs to do what and what success looks like - what gets measured gets done! Every employee should be clear on their role and the results expected from them. To regularly stay aligned, the CEO and managers need to coach their teams to success and provide the path for how to prioritize and focus on the work that matters.
Stay tuned for part 3 next week as we talk about the last three of key components of high-performing teams!
And remember, CEOs must set the tone for their company and ensure that everyone in their company is fully engaged to ensure short and long-term success!