How does a leader begin to create total strategic alignment and commitment?

The answer is almost simpler than it seems. You have to start with your own management team. The problem is not “somewhere out there in the organization”. We often hear that. We need to get those people onboard. We need to get those people to understand what we’re committed to.

But when we look closely at leadership teams the problem is often right there. You get people who are at complete odds with each other. They don’t trust each other. Often they believe they can do one another’s jobs better. They’re still holding on to things that have happened in the past. They don’t really care about one another.

So, you get people sitting in silence in meetings. The same person who always talks is still making noise…people are texting each other under the table. There’s no alignment or commitment at the senior team level.

If a leader does not have a healthy environment within his/her leadership team, one in which people can put real issues on the table and have healthy kind of contention, there’s no hope for having alignment and commitment out in the organization. People will follow their leaders. That’s the rule.

When a leader identifies that this is what’s going on, the first thing that needs to happen is to establish a clear expectation on a minimum threshold of alignment, engagement and commitment to the vision. No spectators, no backbenchers, no ‘I-told-you-soers’.

All of that has to become unacceptable. Leaders have to establish an environment in which people can tell the truth to each other about what is working, what isn’t working, their concerns, their doubts, and also their appreciation for each other. That’s a healthy dynamic.

When there’s backsliding, and there will be, they call it out. They call it out individually. They call it out collectively. They start by being diplomatic and then they ratchet it up and it’s as simple as that. I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s really not complicated.

One of the things we sometimes see people doing in these situations is using instruments like a Myers-Briggs. Those can be helpful during “peacetime”, but in these circumstances they often cement the problem by giving people a scientific explanation for why they’re not dealing with each other. That’s not helpful.

So, start with your leadership team. The rest will follow.

Leave a Reply