Ever worked in a truly aligned team?

Most likely we all have – whether to deliver a fabulous wedding or family celebration, as part of a winning team at sport, climbed our own ultimate mountain, participated in an exceptional conference, played a great piece of music with a band, danced flawlessly with our partner, worked with a successful lobby group in your community…

Simon Lenton, previously Human Resources Director at Jaguar Land Rover and at Diageo International, is a Visiting Tutor for Henley Business School’s Leadership Programme, and here, he outlines the concept of the power of alignment.

For many of us, our achievements will also be memories that we cherish. I know I do. Isn’t it life affirming when these things come off? In their own way they are about achieving the extraordinary as a team of people – everything works, all the things we planned to do come off and isn’t it interesting that other good things, we hadn’t anticipated, often happen too?

You can bet that the level of alignment across the teams that have achieved these amazing things will be extraordinary too.

So what is a truly aligned team?

Here are some characteristics: 

  • The team has a clear and expressed purpose together, with one or more specific measurable outcomes – so they know exactly when they have (or haven’t) achieved it.
  • The purpose is critically important to everyone in the team and has a profound meaning to them personally.
  • The relationships between team members are powerful and remarkable for their personal commitment to each other’s success. The success of each individual is viewed as critical to achieving the overall team goal – everyone at their best.
  • Openness prevails. New ideas, new solutions, a willingness to try things and support each other in the trying. Plus, importantly, a readiness to offer up – and invite – constructive criticism, review what things have gone wrong, share mistakes made, as well as understanding what went well and why. Leaders across the team are willing to take responsibility, direct others and be directed themselves.
  • A leader who is skilful and pro-actively creates an environment in which all of these things are possible; standing unshakeably for the purpose and outcome; folding-in the ideas and contributions of all the team; being a role model for the quality of relationships, ensuring team connections are always in place; and always checking for alignment as the key to team success.

All of this, with the goal of achieving the extraordinary rather than the ordinary.

I met someone recently who played a small part in the Olympic Opening Ceremony at London 2012 – widely acknowledged as a remarkable and audacious theatrical display, perhaps the best opening ceremony ever. She talked about it with great excitement as a wonderful experience, and what struck me most of all was how much she, and the thousands of others, owned the whole outcome and what a remarkable job of alignment the director Danny Boyle and his team had achieved.

The UK is about to go into a General Election and our exit from the European Community will be a key issue for voters. Party leaders are busy trying to woo voters and promote their manifestos through the media. It is interesting to see how much alignment they achieve within their parties – party unity is usually one of the most important goals of political leaders, especially at election time.

Think about leaders in your sphere

Consider leaders you know socially, for example, a captain of a sports team, or in your workplace. Also think about those in the public eye, which ones are remarkable as leaders in alignment? Can they be a role model for you in your own leadership development? What do they do that is different? What do they focus their attention on? 

As part of the exploration and development of successful leadership, the Henley Leadership Programme offers insights and strategies to help leaders bring about alignment and achieve the extraordinary.

To find out more about the Henley Leadership Programme, click here.

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If you have any questions, please contact our programme advisors, Hannah, Ruhi & Diana by email at exec@henley.ac.uk or by phone on +44 (0)1491 418767.

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