Strategies for Creating and Keeping Team Alignment

“What are you doing?” said Chelsea.

“Assembling a puzzle,” I said.

Chelsea quickly responded, “How long will it take you?”

“A few hours. Probably before you leave,” I answered.

“No, you won’t!” she shouted in disbelief. 

Four hours later the puzzle was completed. Here is a photo of it, taken the morning after. Yes, it is glued and ready to be framed. I really enjoy putting puzzles together. I don’t know why, but if I had to guess I would say it has something to do with this blog post. 

Puzzles are made up of unique pieces that fit together to present one work of art. Teams are the same way—we are uniquely working together toward a goal. Every time I put a puzzle together with family, friends, or team members, I discover so much more about those I am assembling it with. 

I am a huge fan of people—like all people. I find us so fascinating. What I have come to enjoy most is the fact that we all need each other. 

We spend billions of dollars every year in the self-help industry, but fail to realize the help we actually need exists within the other humans we encounter. 

Millions of dollars are spent each year on team building and employee engagement resources, yet only 16 percent of employees feel connected and engaged.

May I suggest a way for us to save money and achieve the results we so desire? 

Invest in each other.

Well, if it were that easy everyone would do it. However, it is not easy so we find the latest improvement resources and repeat the cycle. 

Ninety percent of leaders think an engagement strategy is important for business success, but only 25 percent of them have a strategy. (Forbes) 

As Orange Leaders, we have come to understand the value of having a strategy. If we are going to keep our teams aligned, we need a strategy. A strategy is a plan of action with an end in mind. What are our plans for genuine team alignment?

As Orange Leaders, we have come to understand the value of having a strategy. If we are going to keep our teams aligned, we need a strategy. Click To Tweet

Though our plans and strategies will differ, here are some commonalities that I believe should exist in all of them: 

Start With the Edges 

If the leadership team is not aligned, the team will not be either. Starting with the edges of the puzzle helps me to better attack the rest of the puzzle. The edges are the easiest part of alignment. I did not say it is easy, but it is the easiest. 

Our leadership teams are much smaller than the rest of our teams, so it will not take as long to get everyone on the same page. Approach the following tips with the leadership team first, then with your teams. 

Burst the Bubble 

I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as too close. Many of us have a personal space bubble that we use to keep people at bay. Well, I spend a lot of time penetrating those bubbles. Like I said, I really like people. But I can only know them well by getting closer and closer every time I connect with them. 

“Proximity changes perspective.” – Reggie Joiner 

The closer we get to our teams, the better we will know them. So, let us burst the personal space bubbles and show our teams that we have a genuine interest in them. Doing so will open our eyes to who they are as well as help us to know what speaks to them. 

Be Authentic 

We constantly present partial or even artificial versions of ourselves that keep people from really knowing who we are. Ryan Leak says, “The mask has done us a disservice.” There are way too many reasons for why we do that, so I will not go into them now. However, I will say that I have witnessed how consistent, genuine investment changes all of that. 

The more we know about each other, the better we can support each other. Just as a half-truth is a whole lie, knowing half of you allows me to be there for only half of you. To help our team members to begin to let their guards down, it starts with us. Let them in and they will do the same. 

The more we know about each other, the better we can support each other. Click To Tweet

As leaders, we are often seen as heroes. So letting our teams know that we are flawed will speak volumes. Let’s be vulnerable. 

“There’s a kryptonite that goes along with your cape.” – Ryan Leak 

Make Sense 

To align a team, the communication has to make sense to everyone on the team. Bursting bubbles helps us to learn about our team members, which also gives us clues of how to refine our messages to them. How we share our message to one person may not be the way to share it with another. 

Be Patient 

Puzzles take time to assemble. Teams take time to align. The bigger the puzzle, the longer it will take to complete. The bigger our teams, the longer it will take to align. The more complex the design of the puzzle, we can expect the completion to take even longer. The more diverse our teams, we can expect alignment to take even longer. 

“I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.” -MLK Jr 

There are no shortcuts to excellence. To get our teams on the same page, we have to be in it for the long haul. If we are impatient, we are setting ourselves up for failure. 

Keep It Up 

The important thing about all of the work we do to align our teams is that we must maintain it. The moment we stop investing into our teams, they will notice and regard the initial investment as disingenuous. 

Once that happens, it is much harder to climb the new walls that have been erected. So maybe we need to evaluate if we really want our teams to be on the same page. 

REMINDER: Building strong teams that joyfully work together towards the same goals is not easy. But I believe in you. Go, and burst some bubbles! Get started with the puzzle. You will like the finished product. 

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