How much “drift” is OK on your team?
Leaders are constantly wrestling with this question. Part of the leadership task – some would say “the” leadership task – is helping a team move together. In order for that to happen, there’s got to be collaboration, coordination, and alignment. And those things don’t just happen naturally. Everything in a culture, in a system and on a team fights against alignment. Like the front end of a car, a moving team will naturally tend toward misalignment. And so this is an ongoing focus for any healthy team.
But how do you know how much alignment is enough?
I once was part of a team where anything was OK. It was sloppy, disorganized, and downright discouraging. It seemed like nobody cared, nobody was in charge, and nothing important was happening. On the other hand, in my current role we’ve had seasons when we put too many boundaries in place and created frustration on the other side of the scale.
When you read the New Testament, the Apostle Paul seems to be obsessed with the issue of alignment. He speaks to families, to churches and friends about working to get on the same page. And apparently he got that emphasis from Jesus Himself, who was equally as concerned about the issue of unity.
Paul says, “Be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10). He says, “Aim for perfect harmony, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11). And he says about his relationship with his co-worker, Titus, “We have the same spirit and walk in each other’s steps, doing things the same way” (2 Corinthians 12:18b). That last one really speaks to me because it describes a working relationship in such detail.
“We have the same spirit and walk in each other’s steps, doing things the same way.” -2 Corinthians 12:18b
What if that described the way your team worked? What could change? What would speed up? What problems would go away? And most important, how could you achieve that kind of alignment on your team?
Thankfully, Paul put the answer right inside the sentence: We have the same spirit. Of course, any organizational authority would point out that he’s talking about DNA – vision, mission and values. And there’s a good chance if you’re a leader, these things are constantly on your mind. But there’s a huge difference between having your vision, mission & values worked out and having them actually work. In Paul’s case, they did.
So perhaps the best question is, what did Paul do to drive alignment with Titus? When you examine his life there’s one inescapable answer: He spent loads of time with him.
“Oh no!” you might be thinking. “That’s the one thing I can’t afford to invest.” And for all of us, it is here we find the beginning and end of our alignment issues. We’ve got to carve out the time to have the conversations, share the experiences, pray the prayers, instill the DNA, provide the feedback, clarify the why, do the hard things, laugh the laughs, cry the tears, and enjoy the journey. This is the work of leadership, and there is no shortcut. Time-starved teams are not on the same page.
If this dilemma resonates with you, a good place to start might be evaluating your meeting rhythms as a team. When are you together? When do you have fun? When do you discuss the important questions together?
I’d love to hear your feedback. If you’ve got ideas that have worked to build alignment on your team, would you share them with us?