This article originally appeared on td.org.
How would you describe the alignment between you and your management team? Although having a cohesive management team is important in driving workplace culture and productivity, many teams struggle with making it a reality in their work environments.
A management team that is aligned in terms of communication, decision-making processes, modeling core values, and working with a common vision and purpose can positively affect many aspects of the work environment. These behaviors lead to greater respect, trust, and productivity within the team. On the flip side, however, lack of alignment in a management team can be disastrous for those they lead.
Problems that can arise from a lack of leadership alignment include:
- Confusion: When employees get different answers or directives from different leaders, they often don’t know which advice to follow, and may not do anything because they don’t want to make a mistake.
- Unnecessary work (or rework): If leaders’ expectations aren’t aligned on project plans, it can lead to extra work or unnecessary changes.
- Damage to leader credibility: When a manager’s decision is overturned or ignored, it can negatively affect employees’ respect for that leader’s future decisions.
- Disengagement: Disengagement can happen both at the employee and management levels when responsibilities and expectations are unclear.
I recently started working with a new executive coaching client (let’s call him Jeff) and I got to participate in one of my favorite activities: spending a day in the life of Jeff. This experience allows me to observe my client at work to fully understand his environment, working relationships, and leadership style.
Jeff’s team has been steadily growing in size and complexity over the past several years. One key issue I noticed is that as new managers are hired or promoted through the ranks, there has been no consistency in the way they are trained. In fact, Jeff said there is no formal training at all, which is especially problematic when employees move into leadership positions for the first time. Without clearly conveying the desired leadership culture, it’s based individual leaders’ strengths and weaknesses, and trial and error.
Jeff’s management responsibilities have become increasingly difficult as he’s added new managers to his team. It’s not because Jeff is a bad leader. On the contrary, he tries his best to help everyone. It’s simply harder to get results through others without clear communication and a shared understanding of how issues will be resolved.
While I was with him, Jeff received a call from an employee with a problem that should have been handled by his manager. Instead, Jeff listened and gave the employee feedback directly instead of encouraging him to talk with his own leader.
Even though I could tell that this was an extra burden for Jeff, without a true procedure in place, he didn’t believe he had much of a choice. Given this situation, what do you think will happen the next time there is an issue?
Here are three steps to build greater alignment within your management team:
1) Create or build buy-in to a common vision and purpose.
If your company has established core values and a vision statement, review it with your team. If nothing exists, co-create a vision with your leadership. Remember, vision starts with the top leaders. For employees to be engaged, they need to understand how their daily actions contribute to the overall purpose and objectives of the company.
2) Be transparent and communicate with your leadership team regularly.
It’s important to keep your management team in the loop as much as possible. No one likes being blindsided by information from a third party. Answer their questions and build buy-in at the management level first so they can help reinforce key messages down the line.
3) Ensure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and honor them.
This means that you must adhere to agreed-upon channels of communication and redirect employees to the appropriate party for discussion or decisions. This builds credibility and reinforces trust in your management team to provide a consistent message, regardless of who an employee might approach.
What are some other ways you can ensure that you’re on the same page as your management team?