How to improve leadership alignment to reach your goals

2024 | 04 | 09
Leadership alignment

Defining a strategic plan is an everyday challenge for companies, especially in today’s socio-economic environment. But even more problematic than defining a strategic plan is its implementation, which often fails. Numerous studies reveal that the perceived alignment between strategy and implementation is often far greater than the actual alignment within the company. To meet this challenge, leaders need to focus on value creation and work with all levels of the organization to integrate strategic priorities into the day-to-day business.

The impact of leadership alignment on resilience and performance

It’s no secret that today’s companies need to be highly adaptable and resilient to deal with economic, societal and environmental changes that can occur at any time. This is where the role of strategic alignment turns out to be crucial.

In fact, equipped with a clear guideline and fully understood and integrated strategic goals, leaders and teams can navigate the inevitable storms with greater ease, aware of their role and the impact of their work on the company’s strategy. This is a real boost to motivation and commitment, invaluable in turbulent times.

What’s more, by being well-informed and involved in the company’s roadmap, leaders and teams will find it easier to focus their efforts and energies on the projects that are most useful for reaching goals. Decisions on what to prioritize, de-prioritize or even abandon thus become easier, especially as roles and responsibilities are clearly established. Similarly, the allocation of resources (financial and human) is much easier to determine when it is understood that they will be used to drive high value-added initiatives for the company – initiatives that will lead to the achievement of strategic goals. This is a winning situation, whether the organizational context is troubled or not. Because even in calm times, teams with clear alignment benefit from easier collaboration, where there’s no need to work in silos, and where everyone contributes to the collective intelligence – a far cry from the purely productivist vision where actions are carried out without any real understanding of the mission and the role we play in it. This is the whole concept of the famous “purpose”, this quest for meaning at work so dear to the new generation of workers (and rightly so!).

But strategic alignment is more than just defining corporate goals and allocating the resources needed to achieve them: it’s about speaking the same language and adopting common working methods, at every level. It’s also about creating a working environment where leaders and teams are committed, valued, recognized, and supported on the road to success. It’s an alignment in terms of values, vision, and mission, which will give employees a stronger sense of belonging and, in turn, greater commitment and productivity. Ultimately, it means improved individual and collective performance, and hence greater chances of success for the organization as a whole.

Overcoming the obstacles of leadership alignment

If all this sounds like common sense, the reality is that implementation is far from obvious: alignment between employees, managers and executives is 2 to 3 times lower than perceived alignment, according to a study cited in this article. This finding is confirmed by surveys conducted by Gartner, which show that getting everyone on the same wavelength is a real challenge in itself, and a real obstacle to implementing strategies.

As we all know, when we spend our days “firefighting”, with every crisis, we drift further and further away from the guidelines set by the strategic plan and, consequently, from our goals. Employees are preoccupied with operational emergencies and have a short-term view of their work. The same problem occurs on the management side, where hasty decisions can be taken without coordination with other departments, creating confusion and, even more seriously, the complete derailment of certain parts of the strategic plan.

An essential first step in achieving alignment is to review the company’s mission and vision, and adjust them as necessary: are they clear, unified and understood by everyone, at every level of the organization? Are all stakeholders working towards a common goal?

The second step is to communicate the strategic plan and related goals – but not at a one-off meeting at the beginning of the year. This is a comprehensive and ongoing effort on the part of management teams, who will need to share developments and updates as they occur, and help maintain team commitment by valuing the achievement of intermediate goals. According to Forbes, strategy implementation fails about once in every two cases, with lack of clarity in communications as the primary cause. This is followed by ambiguity in roles and responsibilities, silos, unclear priorities or an unsuitable culture.

This last point is worth mentioning because the company’s culture and values need to be aligned with the strategy. By clearly presenting the behaviors expected to achieve common goals, you’ll create a working environment where everyone is moving in the same direction and is aware of their role on that path. Take the time to analyze your current corporate culture in relation to the one you’d like to see: SuccessFinder can help you do just that.

Finally, strategic alignment within the company is largely a matter of communication. Dialogue, listening, seamless information flow, inter-team collaboration… Maintaining open and effective communication channels throughout the company is the only way to ensure that employees are aligned with the overall strategy. Of course, it is crucial to ensure that the goals set are achievable so as not to discourage and exhaust managers and teams. The socio-economic context must also be taken into account, so we can remain flexible in the face of changes that could affect customers, suppliers, or partners.

The crucial role of the human factor in leadership alignment

Naturally the human factor plays a crucial role in the alignment between strategic plan and practical implementation: do leaders have similar management styles? Are strengths identified, and used where they can best be expressed? Is the work environment conducive to collaboration and the sharing of ideas, while respecting one another? And let’s not forget what was mentioned earlier: are managers effectively communicating everyone’s role in achieving overall goals, the reasons for inevitable changes to the roadmap, and ways of readjusting?

The list is long, but all these questions are at the heart of the quest for alignment between strategy and reality on the ground, between directors and their leaders, and between managers and their employees. When you know that taking the time to ask yourself these questions and answer them can help your business to successfully endure over time, despite the inevitable obstacles along the way, you’ll probably take the time to do so. For example, that’s what Desjardins did with SuccessFinder, when it looked at its talent management to boost performance.

If employees are at the heart of effective strategy implementation, leaders are their guides. The question of alignment naturally falls on their shoulders. So having identified the key factors for successful alignment, it’s up to them to maintain it over the long term, come rain or shine. Their mission? To stay the course with flexibility and openness, seamlessly, to celebrate reaching intermediate goals, but also to provide the necessary feedback to make adjustments along the way, among other things. All this needs to be done with an emphasis on active listening and collaborative dialogue.

We agree, it’s a lot. There’s a considerable burden on leaders. So, to avoid burning them out, it’s important to build on their strengths and work with them to develop key competencies specific to their potential shortcomings. To achieve this, your leaders must have a good understanding of themselves, so that their development plans aren’t just personalized and relevant, but also aligned with your company’s goals. SuccessFinder can help you conduct this assessment to identify the behavioral competencies essential to your leaders’ success within the unique context of your organization.

In an ever-changing business environment, strategic alignment is an imperative for companies that want to maintain their resilience and reach their goals. This alignment, which is crucial for performance, requires seamless communication, clarification of goals, and a coherent corporate culture. Central to this dynamic is leadership, which is responsible for staying the course, fostering team commitment, and developing the necessary skills. SuccessFinder offers solutions for assessing and improving these competencies, and helping to cultivate cultural and leadership alignment within organizations.

Written by
Aurore Le Bourdon

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