Play From the Same Sheet of Music

4 Tips to ensure alignment

Play From the Same Sheet of Music

Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment. — Jim Collins

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone seemed to be headed in a different direction on the same topic? Ever been in a situation where nobody seems to agree on what we are supposed to be doing or what we are trying to accomplish? I think we have all been there and it is not only unproductive, but demoralizing. When we experience this, we know we are a long way away from being a high performance organization.

When everyone has a different interpretation of what is being asked or does not really understand the vision, we do not have alignment on what we are trying to do or where we are going. Without clear communication and leadership we are all left to wander around the topic trying to persuade others to join our solution when in fact we are not even all working on the same problem. Just having a vision is often not enough, we need to have alignment around the vision to come to a common understanding.

So what is alignment and how do we describe it? According to Wikipedia, “Strategic alignment is the process and the result of linking an organization’s structure and resources with its strategy and business environment (regulatory, physical, etc.) Strategic alignment enables higher performance by optimizing the contributions of people, processes, and inputs to the realization of measurable objectives and, thus, minimizing waste and misdirection of effort and resources to unintended or unspecified purposes”.

There is a lot of substance to this definition and more than we can cover in a single article. For the purpose of this discussion let’s focus on the second part “…higher performance by optimizing the contributions of people, processes,…” When we take the time to ensure we have alignment around where we are going or what we are trying to accomplish (our vision), we enable resources to focus their energy on developing a solution rather than debating the objective. It creates a better efficiency in our use of resources and ultimately allows them to produce a better result in less time.

Though sometimes overused, the metaphor of the relationship of the orchestra conductor and the musical score to the musicians is a great example of alignment. Imagine a conductor in front of a sellout crowd at the music hall stepping up to the podium and expecting the orchestra to play a complicated piece of music without anyone actually having a sheet of music. While the highly talented and experienced musicians probably have familiarity with the music in concept, there is no way for them to join together or even know where they are at any point in the performance. The conductor may think he is leading the orchestra, but in fact all he is doing is waving his arms. Without the sheet music, there is no way for the orchestra to be in alignment even though they are assembled in front of a leader.

Much like the conductor, we need to make sure that everyone has the sheet of music (alignment) to create a solution. In addition we need to be sure that everyone is at the same place in the music with a full understanding of where we are headed and what we are trying to accomplish. By taking time to make sure we have alignment, we are ensuring that we are producing an environment that will allow our resources to work more efficiently and produce better results.

Here are 4 tips for ensuring we have alignment:

Keep Moving Forward

4 Tips to keep moving forward

Keep Moving Forward

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” — Walt Disney

Are there times when you just feel overwhelmed? How about those days when nothing seems to be going right, have any of those? Have you or someone you known faced a significant heath or financial crisis? Most of us have at one point or another and we are likely to face more in the future. Sometimes life throws some big challenges our way. What can we do?

We will all most likely face stressful times and hard decisions in our lifetime. These events will happen, usually not by our own making, and most often without warning. As these things occur we have two choices. We can either face the challenge and find ways to keep moving forward or we can surrender. We can either assess the situation and find a way to get to the next day, or not. Clearly the or not option is not a viable solution, so it really leaves us with the move forward option.

People who have faced difficult challenges tell us that the only really solution is to find the strength to move forward. Today may appear bleak and perhaps even hopeless, but if we can find the will to make it to tomorrow we will find that we are one day closer to our solution. When we are able to focus on getting to tomorrow we are in the process of moving forward.

There are many people facing difficult circumstances everyday and if we are one of them then we know the challenge of moving forward. Fortunately, for most of us we are not facing dire circumstances and we should be grateful for that blessing. Nonetheless, most of us feel the stress of things not going our way and have the same feelings as those in dire circumstances though perhaps to a lesser extent.

When we face difficult circumstances either personally or professionally, the best thing we can do is “put one foot in front of the other” and keep moving forward. There is no future in looking back, after all the future is in front of us. Looking back allows our emotions to relive the event and does nothing to help us get to the next opportunity.

Most of the things we fear never happen to us, they are just projections of our imagination. Sometimes we tend to view our current circumstances through a negative lens and only see more negativity in front of us. The reality is that most of the things we fear will not actually happen to us. Our fear is mostly driven by projecting ourselves into other people’s difficult situations. Our empathy for them can make us feel as though we are there and allow us to relive an event that we have never truly experienced.

Our worry is just wasted energy. Worrying about things that most likely will never happen engages us to focus on things that fortunately we will never experience. When bad things do happen, they usually happen in unexpected ways. And here is the thing, we are so resilient that when something bad happens, we almost always find a way to rise above the issue. We would not have gotten this far if our first action was to surrender.

When things are not going our way, the best thing we can do is to keep moving forward. Find a way to get to the next day and things will be better. Hang in there and give ourselves a chance to find a solution. Tomorrow will open a new door and we need to see where it leads.

Here are 4 tips for helping us continue to keep us moving forward:

Trust is Essential for Success

4 Tips for establishing and maintaining trust

Trust is Essential for Success

Do we trust those around us? Do those around us trust us? How does trust impact the performance of our teams? How does trust impact our success? These are great questions and the answers have a great impact on how we are perceived and our success. Trust is the fundamental currency of leadership.

Trust is the foundation of high performance. Before others are willing to go the extra distance to help us achieve our goals, they must be able to trust that our interest aligns with their interest. If we are not trustworthy or those around us are not trustworthy then the basic foundation of high performance is broken. There must be a firm belief in place that what is good for us is good for me. Without that firm belief there will always be doubt and reservation around the risks we are taking and the result it may produce. Where there is doubt or insecurity at the personal level, people will not give their best. In order for people to put it all on the line for a result they must trust that the result will be in their best interest.

So what is trust? defines trust as “Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” Essentially, trust is believing in something or someone to such an extent that they can be taken at their word. If they say it or convey it, then it can be believed. The “it” can be a vision, request or most any action, but the key is that people are willing to follow because they have faith in the reliability and credibility of the person making the request. We are more likely to follow a leader because they are trustworthy. We are more likely to achieve what they ask because they have earned our trust.

The benefits of trust are quantifiable and are significant. Organizations that are led by leaders that can be trusted significantly out-achieve those where their leaders are not trusted. Research conducted by The Forum cites 10 years of findings that high trust organizations have some major advantages:

  • 16% greater profit margin
  • 19% greater operating margin
  • 18% greater productivity
  • 2.6 times the earning-per-share growth of less-trusting companies

These are significant findings. These are core business metrics that all businesses are striving to achieve. As we can see trust in leadership has a direct correlation to superior business performance. Building and maintaining trust in an organization should be one of the core goals and key metrics to measure the success of the leadership of any organization or business. It has a direct link to business performance and the bottom line.

So how do we build and maintain trust? It starts with keeping our word. People need to believe that we will keep our word and deliver on our promises before they will fully trust us. When we make a commitment, we must keep it without excuses or failure. Even the way we make the promise is important. It must be clear and solid. It cannot be built on vague words that sound good on the surface but can be bent to have different meanings. Our statements must be clear and precise. If people are to have trust in us, they must have faith that we mean what we say and that if we say it we will do it.

We must always tell the truth and be transparent. Misleading in any way or not telling the whole truth or misleading by not including key facts will diminish trust. Our word becomes our currency and if our word is not rock solid, it will not have value. We have to be careful not to make promises that we cannot keep. In the event we find that we cannot fully deliver on a promise, we must come forward with full transparency and help others see that the results were from circumstances beyond our control. To say one thing and do another will severely diminish our credibility and trust will go out the window.

Employee trust is strongly connected to the organization’s transparency. Studies have shown that as organizations become more transparent they will become more trusted and therefore produce better results. Being transparent means doing a good job of sharing information with our teams and not hiding problems. Often we can produce better results by openly explaining the problem and including our teams in the problem solving. This serves not only to build trust, but leverages ideas and involvement which will yield better results with deeper ownership of the solution. By being transparent and open about the issues and solutions and in effect “showing our work”, we build trust and credibility with those around us.

The net result is that building trust through being open, honest and consistent allows others to invest in our ideas and actions and yields better results. Leadership is most effective when everyone is pulling together toward a goal without fear or reservation. As leaders, trust is perhaps our most valuable asset in creating commitment and producing results. Trust builds relationships and unlocks the future. It is one of our biggest levers; it should be one of our biggest concerns.

Here are 4 tips for establishing and maintaining trust: