One of the challenges any organization with more than 1 person faces is alignment. In this sense alignment refers to clarity in what the objective is and how it will be carried out. One of the reasons this clarity gets lost has to do with a strange phenomenon where a small misalignment in leadership creates much larger gaps throughout the organization. This translates into politics and other counterproductive traits – the opposite of a functional, empowered team. Another reason this happens though has to do with poor communication or what Patrick Lencioni simply referred to as “leadership blather”.
Here’s an example from his book “The Advantage“:
“Mission Statement: ________ incorporated provides its customers with quality _______ products and the expertise required for making informed buying decisions. We provide our products and services with a dedication to the highest degree of integrity and quality of customer satisfaction developing long-term relationships with employees that develop pride creating a stable company spirit.
As bad as it is, it’s hard to deny that this statement seems fairly ordinary.” It’s not that different than many mission statements I’ve seen but the funny thing is, this is from the fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin featured in the sitcom The Office.
Part of the problem stems from leaders that aren’t willing to have real conversations or speak sincerely. I would argue that while that ability may not be natural in everyone it can be developed and is a trait the best leaders understand as critical to their team’s success. It’s easier to throw around jargon and MBA sounding phrases but to create real alignment, the communication has to be real, vulnerable even.
Lencioni goes on to describe 6 questions you should be able to answer:
- Why do we exist? [Start With Why]
- How do we behave? [An Organization is often defined by the worst behavior it’s leadership allows]
- What do we do? [Make a mantra, not a mission statement – Our product team mantra: “Innovative Insurance Transactions”]
- How will we succeed? [OKRs & KPIs]
- What is most important, right now? [Prioritization, what will you say no to?]
- Who must do what? [It’s a basket ball team, not a golf team]
Not easy to do but in the process of gaining clarity on these questions, there’s vulnerable messy dialogue that takes places. If done well, that closes gaps and creates a healthy organization equipped to perform at a high level!