Realignment Isn’t Just for Cars: 3 Ways to Bring Your Teams Back into Step

Multiple locations can result in multiple problems for leaders – and the issue of alignment often sits at the apex. It does not matter whether those locations are nestled among several counties or sprawled over several countries. Whenever you have multiple locations, it is harder to stay connected, harder to keep communication flowing freely, and harder to remain on the same page with one another.

Misalignment between geographically-dispersed teams often makes itself felt subtly in its initial stages. Leaders may not be aware that there is an issue until it has grown to a formidable size. Here are some signs of misalignment to watch out for:

  • A lack of agreement or understanding of the company’s vision, direction, or plan
  • Projects take longer than necessary to get done
  • Tasks are missed or are performed incorrectly
  • Re-work is called upon more and more frequently
  • Productivity and efficiency is down
  • Tension due to misunderstandings is up
  • There is a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities
  • People have differing expectations of how to work together

No one in your company intends misalignment. You don’t. Your managers don’t. Your employees don’t. In all likelihood, everyone is trying to stay on the same page and keep in step. So how does misalignment occur and what can you do to keep in step with one another?

A Primary Cause of Misalignment

A primary cause of misalignment is that people get farther and farther removed from key leaders such as yourself. You may be leading and managing people or teams whom you are not with on a routine basis. Consequently, those teams do not get the benefit of your influence. They are not part of the chemistry and culture that you create as you interact with people day in and day out. They are not part of the pre-meeting and post-meeting conversations and the water-cooler discussions on vision, plans, and projects. They do not have the opportunity to ask questions or to get clarification “on the fly.”

For example, suppose you are starting a new initiative. You flesh out the details of the initiative with those closest to you. There are a dozen spontaneous discussions – often driven by proximity. That is a lot of dialogue! But then what happens? You hold a general meeting, probably via Zoom, to introduce the initiative to the managers at your various locations. That is one meeting with limited discussion time. You follow it up with a memo or PowerPoint slide deck. That is one-way communication. And you can bet that when your managers share the initiative with their people, information will be parsed down even further.

Is it any wonder that misalignment occurs in situations like this? Those within the direct sphere of your influence get exponentially more information and opportunity for dialogue than those at other locations. The farther away from that center that you go, the less people understand, the less certain they are about their responsibilities, and (frequently) the less they buy in.

That brings us to three ways to prevent misalignment from occurring or to counter it if it currently exists.

3 Ways to Keep in Step

  • Your Presence Is Required

When you receive a social invitation, it may contain the words “we hope you can attend.” You RSVP with a “yes” or “no.” In the business world, some invitations are not optional. Specifically, when it comes to spending time with your teams, your presence is required. It does not matter if that involves travel, if it is inconvenient, or if you do not really want to take the time. Your presence is required.

We need to be real: phone calls and video conferences will never take the place of meeting face-to-face. When you spend time with your teams, your managers will learn from you firsthand as they watch you, listen to you, and dialogue with you. They will get the full picture about the company’s vision and values, goals and objectives, projects and plans. They will develop the relationship with you that they need in order to have healthy and open virtual communication when you are not physically present.

Visiting with your teams in person is an investment of your time and energy; there is no question about that. But it is an investment that delivers tremendous ROI. So make your travel plans. Be intentional about sitting down with your managers and teams to build solid relationships and communication. Remember, the only way to get past a physical barrier is to physically cross it.

  • Communicate x 10

Since you cannot be everywhere at once, you need to take extra effort to communicate with your scattered teams. That means regularly sharing and reinforcing messages about vision, direction, plans, and projects. It involves clearly defining who is responsible for what, as well as setting expectations about how to work and act – within the company, with vendors and partners, and with customers.

For instance, suppose you have a goal of condensing shipment lead times from two weeks to ten days. You will need to be clear about what has to happen, where responsibilities lie, why you are making this a priority, and how the company and your customers will benefit. This is not the subject of a single meeting or memo. It is going to take a constant beating of the drum, both to make it happen the first time and to make it normative.

  • Check and Check Again

Be present. Communicate. And then, check for understanding. You know what happens when you assume … so make no assumptions. Ask your managers clarifying questions to be certain that they understand completely whatever is on the table, whether that is a project plan, an organizational change, or a new company vision.

Emphasize that you are not asking questions because you do not trust your managers: you are asking questions for your mutual benefit to ensure that at the end of the day everyone is aligned and able to work hard and confidently. Checking for understanding is a way of setting up your teams – and your company – for success.

Encourage your managers to ask you questions, as well. You want people to feel free to inquire whenever there is uncertainty or confusion. You also want to be sure that you are apprised of any concerns or obstacles that your managers or teams may have so that you can give them the support they need to achieve the set objectives.

Misalignment is common in companies with multiple locations – but it does not have to happen in yours. Maintain a physical presence with your geographically-dispersed teams, communicate and reinforce important messages consistently, and check for understanding regularly. As you do, you will ensure that your entire company is able to keep in step toward your mutual goals.

Frustrated by misalignment across your teams? Contact me today.

I will be glad to help you and your teams get in step.

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