3 keys to creating alignment in your family business
“There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it. It’s called ‘swing.’ It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of sync with those of all the others. But the closer a crew can come to that ideal — maintaining a good swing while rowing at a high rate — the closer they are to rowing on another plane, the plane on which champions row.”
—Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat
This is a quote from a New York Times bestseller that showcases the rise to glory of the University of Washington men’s rowing team — and the challenges they faced in achieving “swing” — on their way to a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
When your business teams are in alignment, they also experience a type of “swing” – there’s a sense of camaraderie, an ease in the working relationships, and a high level of productivity.
Our clients often describe it as “being on the same page” or “rowing in the same direction.”
Alignment is a critical component in bringing your business into the Prosperity Zone.
Having a brilliant vision and strategy doesn’t make a difference if you can’t get your leaders and employees to embrace that purpose and vision – and align their actions towards it.
In a 2020 survey of over 20,000 employees – 71% of them responded that their leader’s vision for the future is NOT always aligned with the organization’s.
This is troubling, because the more a leader’s vision for the future seems to be aligned with the organization’s, the more an employee will be inspired to give their best effort at work.
How well-aligned is your company? A simple test
Ask yourself and your management team the following two questions.
- How well does your business strategy support the fulfillment of your company’s purpose?
- How well does your organization support the achievement of your business strategy?
Next, plot your responses in the following Matrix.
Companies that score highly on both scales stand the very best chance of winning in their competitive field.
They also reap these rewards:
- Superior financial performance
- More positive work culture
- Above-average employee engagement
- Strong commitment to values
- Fewer distractions and team dysfunctions
An organization with strong alignment exudes positive energy because people value being part of a company that is winning.
3 keys to alignment
Here are 3 lessons for alignment from the rowing team I referenced earlier.
- Understand your role and how what you do affects your team
- Have a clear direction, but an easy hand on the steering
- It’s not how hard you work, it’s how hard you work together
Understand your role and how what you do affects your team
On a successful boat, everyone must work together to balance the boat and have exact timing. Every oar must drop into the water at the exact same time. Everyone needs to pull at equal pressure. All the blades need to come out of the water and release in unison.
Without this synchronization, the boat tips back and forth and jerks front and back, making it impossible to build momentum and speed.
Like great boat teams, great business teams find the flow and rhythm of their business.
To do this, team members need to know and understand their role, the roles of others, and how each is connected.
This allows them to make small adjustments to deliver exceptional results.
Have a clear direction, but an easy hand on the steering
There is a ninth person in the boat, the coxswain.
A good coxswain keeps the boat in the lane but does so with an easy hand. Steering too much means zig-zagging over the course and rowing far more than 2,000 meters, which adds to time.
The same thing can happen in business. Without a clear picture of the goal, teams struggle with process and fail to stay on course. This reduces productivity and goal achievement.
High-performance teams always keep the end in sight and know the ultimate objectives of their work.
Going in the wrong direction as fast as you can doesn’t get you any closer to the finish!
It’s not how hard you work, it’s how hard you work together
It turns out that pulling as hard as you can, without pulling together, actually slows the boat down.
Imbalanced power will veer the boat one direction and throw off the timing of the entire team.
In business, if a team is not equally empowered the balance will be off.
If too much structure overshadows flexibility in the organization, it becomes slow and bureaucratic.
And if flexibility wins out, then the business will have a lot of activity not accomplishing results.
A successful team pulls in perfect balance and with perfect timing.
The Best Companies are the Best Aligned
In our experience, there are many capable businesses with great people – that lack a coherent, overarching purpose that helps guide their strategy.
Because of this, they fail to effectively address customer preferences, market conditions, and competitor capabilities.
The result is a company that becomes less and less capable over time as customers move on and talented employees depart for new pastures.
The best companies we’ve seen are the ones with strong alignment.
Their strategy is aligned with their purpose and mission. They achieve a good balance of structure and flexibility. They have high levels of transparency, communication, trust, and accountability.
These companies achieve a level of “swing” that can propel them to greatness.
If you’d like some assistance developing stronger alignment in your organization, contact us for a free consultation.
Free Video: Creating Alignment in Your Family Business
Get everyone rowing in the same direction
A strong sense of alignment is vital when it comes to helping your team stay focused and doing their best work.
As your business grows, team alignment becomes increasingly hard to attain. Join us for this free training to learn:
- How to make sure that short term priorities are contributing to longer term goals
- The magic of the Alignment Triangle
- How to balance structure with flexibility
This video is included in our free resource library. Enter your email address below to get instant access.