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5 Steps to an Aligned and High-Functioning Organization

5 Steps to an Aligned and High-Functioning Organization

IN OUR WORK training and consulting organizations across the globe, we have found misalignment to be at the heart of most organizational dysfunction. People assume the organization’s goals are clear to everyone and that employees’ roles and priorities are aligned to support those goals. However, most of the time they’re not. This misalignment causes all kinds of problems. Managers get upset because the things they think are important aren’t getting done. Employees get upset because they’re not getting the support they think they should be getting. And massive amounts of time and energy are wasted as a result.

It’s not that anyone has ill intent. It’s just that they haven’t aligned on goals, roles, and priorities.

Here are 5 steps to create this alignment in an organization:

1. Lead the shift to an outward mindset

No leader, no matter how brilliant their argument or how pressing the bottom line, will be able to enable alignment in an organization that’s locked in an inward mindset. With an inward mindset, we are self-focused. We see only our own needs, challenges, and objectives. By contrast, an outward-mindset culture enables all to envision and pursue a collective result. With an outward mindset, people focus on achieving their goals in context, with a clear understanding not only of how their actions contribute to collective results but also how they are impacting others’ abilities to contribute. As a leader, you need to spearhead the shift to an outward mindset by focusing on the collective result, your role in it, and how you’re impacting others. As you honestly hold yourself accountable for your impact on others, you model that change—and walking the walk will invite people to follow your lead.

2. Lead your teams’ shift to an outward mindset

Too often, people in organizations primarily identify around their separate, individual roles. With an outward mindset, teams and team members break free from the constraints of self-focus and are able to see options that would not otherwise occur to them. The basic ways they see the world are different: with an inward mindset, people tend to see each other as objects; with an outward mindset, they see each other as people. Instead of acting in ways calculated to benefit or justify themselves, they take into account their impact on others and adjust their efforts to be more helpful. They consider others’ needs and behave in ways that further the collective results they are committed to achieving.

3. Articulate the collective result

An organization needs to be explicitly organized around a result in order to achieve it. Take the case of Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Not surprisingly, this NBA team and their coach are all about championships. And winning a championship isn’t yet the kind of objective that sets up an organization to work in an outward-mindset way. Chasing that dream can be done in inward-mindset ways as well. But Popovich led his team to shift to an outward mindset in order to better achieve a specific collective goal: winning through ego-less teamwork—a result that requires everyone to be all in. This collective goal informs how they pursue each championship, and the results tell the story. The team appears to operate as a single organism on the court, with no ego on the floor that would prevent the most advantageous moves. This approach also means the team can prevail despite personnel changes.

4. Show people how they play a role in the collective result

Wherever people are organized together, a collective result already exists, just waiting to be named, collaborated around, and worked toward. But people need to grasp the importance of their own roles in the overall collective result and see how their work will contribute to the end results. When people not only understand the collective goal but have a clear sense of their own importance in it, they have the clarity and confidence to act on their own initiative.

5. Ask these questions

Invite people at all levels of the organization to ask the following questions. These questions will help everyone redefine their own role in achieving the collective result, and accelerate the shift to an outward mindset.

• Toward my manager: Do I have a clear understanding of my manager’s objectives? What can I do to learn about them? What do I need to do to make sure I am holding myself accountable for my contribution to my manager’s results? Who do I need to work with to ensure that I help my manager achieve those results?

• Toward customers: Who are my customers, and what objectives do they have that I could help with? How will I measure whether they are, in fact, helped by my efforts?

• Toward peers: Which of my peers are affected by my work? What are their objectives? Do I know whether I am helping or hindering them in their ability to accomplish their objectives?

• Toward direct reports: Are my direct reports growing in their abilities? Have I worked with them to set a collective result for the entire team, and do they understand how they contribute to that result? Do they understand how their work impacts the ability of others to make their contributions to the collective result? And are they holding themselves accountable for that impact in each of the directions of their work? What can I do to help them to do this?

By clarifying the collective result, leaders encourage individuals and teams to improve their contributions within the organization—without waiting for directives from those with a broader view of the organization’s interconnected parts. Equipped with this understanding, people don’t need someone else to align their roles relative to others. They can do it themselves. They know how their actions contribute to accomplishing the collective result and can constantly adjust to achieve a better outcome. They decide to be this kind of contributor—and that’s when the true power of teams is unleashed.

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Leading Forum
Mitch Warner is co-managing partner at the Arbinger Institute and co-author of the Arbinger bestseller, The Outward Mindset, 2nd edition (2019). Founded in 1979, the Arbinger Institute is a world leader in improving organizational effectiveness and in conflict resolution. Its training and consulting programs help thousands of individuals, teams, and organizations achieve breakthrough results by shifting to an outward mindset. Arbinger’s programs and methodology are based on four decades of research in the psychology of human behavior and motivation as well as practical experience with clients. Arbinger’s books include Leadership and Self-Deceptiona> (2000), which has sold 3 million copies and is available in 33 languages; The Anatomy of Peace (2006), an international bestseller on resolving conflict; and The Outward Mindset. In 2019, Arbinger was recognized on the Inc. 5000 annual list as one of America’s fastest-growing private companies. Learn more at arbinger.com.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:39 AM
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