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Team Alignment: What Is It and How to Improve It?

Without an aligned and cohesive team, it is challenging to work towards achieving a common goal. This is by no means a new realization. Still, with the recent pandemic forcing the world to execute the largest remote work experiment, 'team alignment' and its importance, have been gaining more recognition.

What is Team Alignment?

Simply put, team alignment depends on each team member's ability to understand the larger vision and goals of the company and be able to work together to achieve them.

According to the Growth Institute:

“An aligned team is a team who aspires to achieve the same vision, understands the goals, and is made up of individuals who understand how to contribute their strengths to them.”

3 Signs of an Aligned Team

👀 One Vision - Everyone sees and understands the main company goals and strategic objectives.

💭 One Language - Everyone communicates clearly and speaks the same language.

🎯 One Direction - Everyone steers the company in the same direction.

Importance of Team Alignment

Team alignment is a lot like spine alignment. When your spine is aligned correctly, your body is balanced, allowing your central nervous system to facilitate communication between your body and brain easily.

Overall, when your spine is healthy, you feel aligned and fully equipped to tackle the mental and physical demands of the day.

Achieve success without the extra stress

Stress is at an all-time high as employees quickly adapt to a new work environment. A recent study on the implications of COVID-19 for mental health reported that 42% of employees globally had experienced a decline in mental health when the Covid-19 pandemic started. Work-related stress is inevitable, but having clear goals helps employees maintain their focus whilst navigating the external situations that can affect their performance.

Increase productivity without being overworked

When a team is aligned, the team is focused on executing tasks that move the needle forward and help achieve the company goals, all of which lead to overall job performance satisfaction.

Creating a more empowered Team

When the goals are clear, the team is empowered to make decisions in the company’s best interest. According to an Forbes employee engagement study, 67% of employees are willing to go the extra mile when they feel empowered.

Signs of Misaligned Teams

It’s vital to catch misalignment as early as possible. When things go unchecked, they are harder to fix. These indicators will give you an idea of when something is out of place.

Missed Milestones

Does your team keep missing crucial milestones? For example, your sales team agreed to increase quality leads by 20% each month. But instead of increasing the number, the trend keeps going down.

The team also keeps missing the deadlines. Did the marketing team promise to launch a new sales page? It has been three months, and the sales page is still in progress.

Over-communication

The jury is out on this misalignment symptom. Some managers encourage over-communication, especially for first-time remote employees.

However, over-communication is one of the most common causes of conflict in a team. As they say, too much of something is bad. When there are too many emails, Slack notifications, and meetings, people seem “busy,” but they don’t get the real work done. Many teams opt for async collaboration tools to keep their team in sync by using daily check-ins and encouraging fewer better meetings.

Overworked and Underaccomplished

Your team is overwhelmed and overworked but still feels like they didn’t accomplish anything. This is quite hard to identify right away, especially when your team is afraid to speak up. That’s why 1:1 meetings, skip-level meetings, and monthly check-ins could save you a lot of headaches. It’s your team’s health check.

Having regular 1:1 meetings with someone from HR may aid in providing a better view of how the team is genuinely feeling and performing. Sometimes employees don’t speak freely about their experience to their direct managers for understandable reasons.

Team Alignment and How It's Affected by Remote Work

By 2025, Upwork estimates that 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely. This is an increase of 87% compared to pre-pandemic numbers. While virtual teams have their advantages, remote team alignment can be challenging to maintain.

Time Zone Differences

Gathering everyone in a video call or collaborating is taxing when a company has employees from more than five time zones. Determining whether you need a synchronous or asynchronous meeting is a skill that every manager must master.

Less Face-to-Face Communications

Nothing beats face-to-face communications, especially when conducting team alignment workshops, because it allows us to see people’s expressions and body language. Online communications, on the other hand, tend to magnify negativity bias. Our brains are hardwired to register and focus on negative stimuli.

In the Information Age, negativity bias manifests when reading emails and chat messages. According to Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence, we feel that the tone in the email is negative even if it was meant to be neutral or positive. Using emojis is one way to convey emotional cues and compensate for less face-to-face communication.

Organizational Silos

Remote work may also result in organizational silos, which is a big enemy of team alignment. Silos happen when some employees form clusters to achieve the goals and keep others out of the loop.

The Importance of Goals in Team Alignment

Goal setting is the compass of team alignment. Without it, you really won’t know exactly where you are and where to go next. Ultimately, the ability of the team to achieve goals is how you will measure team alignment. In the book, Performance Management: Putting Research into Action, author and consultant William Schiemann reported that only 14% of employees understand their company’s strategy.

In another study from the book Profit from the Core, Zook and Allen found that 95% don’t even grasp their company’s strategy. Based on these stats, it's clear why upper management should invest their time and resources in leadership alignment to identify the company's common goal or purpose.

For example: Increase revenue by 10% per month or a total of $100k revenue for Q2 2021

Once you have clear and concrete numbers, you can cement it further by providing a strategy. Are you focusing on acquiring new customers or upgrading the accounts of your existing customers to increase the revenue?

Team Alignment Tips for Managers

Once company goals are clear, each department manager must take the following steps to break it down into smaller and actionable goals.

Turn company goals into individual goals.

If you’re a marketing manager and your goal is to increase the number of users signing up for your software, how will a content manager turn this into his/her individual goal? Here are some marketing team alignment examples:

Marketing Team Goal: Increase sign-ups by 15%

  • Ads Manager Goal: Cut user acquisition cost from Facebook by 50%.
  • Content Manager Goal: Increase blog traffic by 25%.

Set daily and weekly quantifiable results.

When individual goals are clear, each employee can now break this down into daily and quantifiable tasks.

  • Daily: Repurpose three old blog posts per week on Twitter.
  • Weekly: Publish one new blog post per week.

Review communication and processes regularly.

Team alignment is not something you set up once leave to run on autopilot. You need to review the processes and work on improving them consistently.

What are the types of meetings to help keep your team aligned?

  • Status Report Meetings - Share updates and plans on how to achieve outcomes weekly or monthly.
  • Results Meetings - Discussing the results fosters team accountability.
  • Alignment Meeting - If misalignment occurs, a special meeting is needed to understand what happened, why it happened, and how to correct the course quickly. Make sure to prepare the alignment meeting agenda beforehand.

Even if you think your team is perfectly aligned, managers must always strive to keep improving team alignment. Conducting business alignment workshops should be on top of your list.

Choose one place to see goals at a glance.

Everyone knows the goals and is on the same page. Great! But it doesn’t end there. Regardless of the goal-setting framework, you need a central page or a team alignment map where everyone can see the goals and action items at a glance. Using a tool like Complish is one of the easiest ways to manage your goals, and keep the teams aligned without complicated spreadsheets, and all with fewer, better meetings.

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