Why team alignment is important for effective team leadership
According to a statistic, 97% of employees believe that team alignment influences and is paramount for the success of a project or task (source). Now, what does it actually mean to have your team aligned?
Have you maybe experienced that you thought you had everybody on board and half way through the project you realized your team was not working towards the same goal? Well, I did.
Here’s what I learned from it and how you can apply some tips and hacks to ensure effective team leadership.
Stages of team development
First of all, according to Tuckman’s stages of team development, each team goes through 5 stages: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. While team alignment is important in all phases, I will address it in the first and most crucial phase. When a team is established or “formed”, it’s important to get your people on board with your vision and the goals of the project.
Now that is easier said than done. Often when we think we have communicated all there is to know, projects still get sidetracked because not everybody is working in the same direction.
My not so effective team leadership
One of my first bigger projects was to organize a weekend conference for 100+ people. I had some experience with event management already, and it was and is actually one of my passions. So I got together with my team and we agreed quickly that we are going to organize the best conference ever for the organization. Everybody was on board and we got to work.
Now during the course of the 12 months preparing and planning of the event, I realized that my team wasn’t aligned. Yes, we all wanted to create a great event, but our definition of great was different. What I thought would make a great event, was not necessarily what my team or team members thought of as essential. Long story short, a couple of months in, we sat down again and defined together what a great event means for all of us.
Now let me share what I have learned during this experience and have used since to make sure teams are aligned from the start of a project.
Tip #1 - Create and visualize a compelling vision
Before you can communicate a vision you need to have one. Start with having the end in mind. What will it look like when your team has completed the task or project? What will it feel like, what will the impact be, what will people see and experience? Be so detailed as you can and use all senses to tell your story. And first and foremost, you need to see it yourself.
Tip #2 - Set team goals for your project
There are many ways and tools to set goals in a good way, and this is especially important for effective team leadership. For this post, I want to address team goals. What do I mean by that? For example, when the metrics, the goals for sale, or any other values are set, think about the following: How will this project enhance the competence of my team? How will the task contribute to building and strengthening the team? And lastly, how can you as a leader use this project to reach any of these “unusual” goals?
"The ability of a group of people to do remarkable things hinges on how well those people can pull together as a team - Simon Sinek
Tip #3 - Communicate your vision and goals &
Tip #4 - Align vision and goals with your team
I will address points 3 and 4 in one since they are highly connected. From my experience, communication is one of the essential cornerstones when it comes to human interactions. There are many theories and tips on communication which you all probably have read and heard about in some form.
The aspect that I specialize in is, what I call, to communicate “in the same language” as the receiver you are trying to convey a message to. In short, to talk the same language means to be able to put yourself in the others shoes and understand their perspective.
Use the following steps when communicating and aligning your vision to and with your team:
Have an open mindset for that others see things from a different perspectives
Observe how they like to communicate
Be aware of how you like to communicate
Find similarities and differences in your communication styles
Find common ground - the same language - to communicate your message
Take action and be consistent
These steps comprise the content and process of the G.A.P. method which I apply in all my activities and interactions. G.A.P. stands for Growth, Awareness and Purpose, and takes you through a process of learning about mindset, personality and core motivation (Growth), to becoming self-aware of your own and others style (Awareness), as well as to establish connections and take action to achieve your goals (Purpose).
Tip #5 - Always check in and monitor alignment during the project
Finally, even when you start of great, it’s important to check in with your team and make sure that everybody is still on board like in the beginning. People can change perspectives, have new priorities, have a changed workload, and many other factors that can influence the performance of the team as a whole and of each member. Know your people and what is going on in their lives.
"Empathy is a superpower. I always default into “what’s in their mind, how does it effect them” it’s made me a good communicator/ salesman / sibling / leader ... but most of all .. it’s made me kind" - Gary Vaynerchuk
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When and how will you use these tips?
Bringing it all together, if you want to achieve success with your next project, start by creating a compelling vision and setting achievable goals. Communicate the vision and goals to your team, making sure they are aligned with what you’re trying to achieve. Then check in regularly to make sure everyone is still on track. It won’t be easy, but with careful planning and execution, you can use the power of visualization and goal setting to bring your dreams to life.
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