Are your management practices in alignment?

Communicating to maintain alignment and performance

In earlier posts, I’ve discussed establishing clear Purpose, Priorities, and Plans for the team. But as leaders, we can’t stop when those are in place. We must continually reinforce these things in everything we do as managers. How we manage makes a big difference in whether the team maintains momentum and alignment… or not.


Early in my management career, I focused primarily on the mechanics of management. What are our goals? What’s the next milestone? What metrics should we be measuring? What will I put in the next status report?
Luckily, I had some great leadership mentors who helped me expand my field of view. What are we really trying to accomplish? Why are we doing what we’re going? Why was it successful (or not)? What barriers can we remove to improve our likelihood of success? What risks may be lurking ahead?
When I expanded my thinking (and behavior) in this way, I was serving my team better, and my team performed better. I was also able to recognize many barriers to success in my clients’ organizations. What were some of these barriers?
  • Insufficient ongoing communications with key stakeholders, to maintain alignment with what’s important to them.
  • Distractions by tactical needs and “shiny objects” that become competing priorities.
  • Insufficient skills and expertise to implement Plans.
  • Insufficient resources to get the job done.
  • Refusing to inspect and adjust appropriately, as Plans progress.
  • Leadership losing clarity on Purpose, Priorities and Plans… leading to loss of stakeholder enthusiasm and Passion.

The remedy for most all of these is frequent, clear, open, focused communication within the team, across teams, and between leaders and their team members.

How do we interact with and communicate with each other?

Traditional cultures shared stories around the fire. These stories used simple language, clear examples, and passionate storytelling to engage and educate the audience. These stories built shared understanding across the tribe. If you’ve ever had the privilege of working with a great leader, chances are they were also a very good storyteller. Some things, like the organization’s Purpose, are best communicated via stories. Often, organizations begin to lose their alignment when they stop making time to tell stories. Make time every month for an “all hands” meeting that includes storytelling, and watch your organization’s alignment flourish.

Teams huddle. Football teams, rugby teams, basketball teams all do it. So do Agile development teams. The huddle is an opportunity to align priorities, tactics and resources to surge toward the next goal. Without frequent huddles, team alignment breaks down. Establish a rhythm for team huddles, as well as key events / exceptions that trigger unscheduled huddles. Review where we are, what we’ve done, what we’re doing next, any barriers that have surfaced, and how we’re going to remove the barriers.

Good managers reinforce priorities, surface risks, remove obstacles, and teach. They can do this in the huddle, like sports coaches during a game. But there’s also a need to do this one-on-one with team members, ideally weekly. A very effective one-on-one meeting agenda includes:

  • Employee updates (10 minutes): status of projects, review activities, obstacles and plans to remove them, employee self-assessment, what does the employee need help with?
  • Manager updates (10 minutes): what’s going on in the organization, reinforce priorities and plans
  • Development discussion (10 minutes): discussion of methods, best practices, learnings, a good book, training plans, etc.

Great one-on-one meetings don’t need to take a lot of time, if they happen often.

Unproductive meetings waste everyone’s time. But quality meetings, like the ones described above, multiply productivity… and alignment. Don’t let “we’re too busy” become an excuse for shortchanging communications within your organization. A good leader, and a high performance team, is never too busy to maintain alignment.

Question: What’s your formula for maintaining alignment across your team? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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