When it comes to leadership, building alignment is essential to getting people on board with your ideas.
Alignment conserves time and energy by making sure every employee knows what they’re supposed to be doing and why, and provides a forum for asking questions and expressing concerns.
This builds emotional and rational buy-in and unites people around your vision.
Working to build alignment
Alignment is a dynamic, ongoing process requiring continual monitoring and rejiggering as conditions and needs change. Yet, research shows more than half of leaders report little or no training in the practice of creating alignment.
In fact, only 47 percent report having a clear understanding of what “building alignment” even means in the context of leadership.
These are the findings from The Work of Leaders: How Vision, Alignment, and Execution Will Change the Way You Lead, which also offers advice on how to create alignment.
1. Communicate with clarity
The authors’ research suggests leaders often overlook communicating what is obvious and intuitive to them, but this can seem like a mystery to followers.
Providing clarity involves a delicate balance between keeping it simple and addressing real-world complexities. Leaders who master this tricky communication are good at explaining their rationale, and structuring messages so they’re clearly understood and can be repeated and shared with others.
Explaining the rationale behind the vision means providing explanations so your team will understand where they’re going, why they’re going there, and what the expectations are. Keep your talking points short and simple so colleagues can remember the two or three things you want them to take away.
2. Create dialogue
Set the stage for an honest dialogue and make sure people have the opportunity to say what they want to say.
By engaging the group and making others part of the conversation, you open the door to shared ownership and accountability, and you gain buy-in and begin to build engagement.
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If you can get them talking, and if you listen to what they’re saying, you’ll be able to address issues, answer questions, and share insights. But be mindful about the vibe you’re sending out during the conversation. Both consciously and unconsciously, people sense whether you’re really receptive and approachable.
3. Inspire your team
Leadership is about relationships, and a lot of the same emotional mechanisms are at play when you’re trying to get people aligned.
People need encouragement — and it must be ongoing. It’s the leader’s job to breathe life into the vision by bringing positive energy to your group and your goals so people are emotionally committed.
A naturally expressive leader may communicate passion spontaneously; a high-energy leader may create an event that gets people motivated. But even the most reserved leader can find a way to express and instill genuine feeling.
Being expressive isn’t grandstanding, it’s believing in the vision and helping people see the deeper meaning behind their tasks.
Alignment is a critical component of getting people on board, and without alignment, leaders won’t have the entire team pulling in the same direction, focusing on the same desired outcomes. It’s well worth taking the time to think about how well you’re getting everyone in sync on your team.
A different version of this was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.