I think we’ve all experienced situations when getting a group of people aligned and moving forward in the same direction has been challenging, if not downright impossible. ‘Like herding cats’ is the expression you might commonly hear.
Whether this group is colleagues at your workplace, other parents on the school advisory council or members of an organization’s board of directors, realizing alignment requires some basic elements to be in place to ensure success.
I’ve experienced this, many times, first hand. Just this past week, while meeting with my colleagues on the board of a charitable foundation, there was disagreement regarding a specific issue related to liability insurance. While the discussion appeared, on the surface, to be about the type and level of coverage – as I watched and listened, it was obvious this was really more about our roles as board members. We lacked common understanding of our responsibilities to the foundation, its members and our external stakeholders.
If you’re seeking better alignment for your group or team, here are some time-proven suggestions for getting on the same page:
1.) Get clear on your purpose and vision
Make sure that your team or group clearly understands their mandate and the common future they’re working to create. Help members craft a vision that inspires and engages as well as one that defines the major outcomes that will be realized as a result of their efforts. Revisit the purpose and vision when you feel the group’s focus is drifting or they are at odds with one another regarding anticipated results.
2.) Clarify goals and roles
Confirm with group members the few key goals that they’re working to accomplish as well as the role that each member is playing in that effort. Ensure that you spend time discussing the role of each member, in some detail, so the group understands the scope of each role. Be realistic in terms of expectations and continually clarify role tasks, boundaries and commitments as the group moves forward.
3.) Establish expectations regarding group behaviour
Spending time, up front, identifying the critical few behaviours that will enable productive conversation and collaboration is particularly important when a group forms. These may be called interaction guidelines, ground rules for engagement or just plain ‘behaviours that we’ll live up to.’ For many groups, particularly newly formed groups, this discussion feels uncomfortable and artificial but it’s time well spent. The best opportunity to have this conversation around ground rules is when the group is initially forming. Another option, which incorporates some sense of urgency, is when the team is struggling due to challenging group dynamics or noticeable lack of progress.
4.) Ensure you’ve mapped some kind of route
Quite often the way forward in accomplishing specific goals is difficult to discern. However, to ensure forward momentum and avoid frustration, it is important to develop a process that moves the group along in the direction of the desired objective. Acknowledge that it may not be perfect but that changes to the approach can be made as you encounter challenges or roadblocks. Be sure to outline the proposed process for that particular conversation or meeting each time the group comes together.
5.) Debrief the experience
At the conclusion of each meeting, your group needs to spend about ten minutes asking two very powerful questions: What worked well in terms of our time together? What could be changed or improved to help us be more effective? Make sure that you specifically discuss strengths, as well as improvements, in terms of group alignment.
Strengthening alignment among the various personalities and interests in your group or team may be challenging, but it is essential if you want to realize success.
If you’d like to better align your executive team or leadership group, don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-882-8830 for a conversation regarding the benefits of expert facilitation support.