This post was shared in the January 2022 edition of The West Coast Way.
Today’s leaders are tasked with managing and directing teams that physically spread out, specialized, and working on projects that are more far-reaching than ever before. Managing a cohesive team is challenging. After you have set direction for your team, how do you keep them moving in the right direction?
We have to get everyone aligned and moving in the same direction to help us achieve our mission.
Alignment asks the question, How do I get everyone on the same page to move down this path?
Motivation focuses on asking, Once we’ve started down this path, how do we keep from getting off course and continue moving forward?
If you lack alignment, you may find your team is moving in several different directions and priorities are unclear. If you lack motivation, you’ll frequently get distracted by different priorities and become unable to reach your goal. As a leader, you have to build alignment and motivate and inspire your team.
Communication is critical for alignment and motivation. Communication might happen formally in a meeting where you’re all together. Or it may happen during informal, one-on-one conversations with individuals on our team. Consider crafting a purpose or “why” statement with your team to help you all align around the same goal.
Another great tool for alignment is telling stories. Stories break through the logic and persuasion, all the data, and help us see why we need to be aligned and why we need to keep moving forward. Stories connect us to one another through shared or relatable experiences. Stories give us a chance to relax and breathe. We love to hear someone else’s story. Consider sharing the following stories: a customer experience, how your organization was founded, living the organization’s core values, or someone’s memorable first day on the job.
When using a narrative to align your team, be careful: you should not be the hero of your own story. And remember that it is easy to get lost in our own stories; make sure that there is a clear and defined point to your story. If you are interested in learning more about storytelling as a way to align and motivate your team, consider our The Power of Storytelling customer program.
In order to motivate an audience, we have to tell them what’s in it for them and why it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes in a leadership role, we forget to mention why a certain course of action is not just good for the world or our company, but why it’s good for our team members. We first have to answer the question, Why are we doing this? Don’t just consider the “numbers” perspective, but also the “human” perspective. This is where connecting head and heart—logos and pathos—are vital.
In addition to storytelling, we must sincerely act in our team’s best interest to motivate them. We want to see our leader pushing forward with us: helping to remove obstacles, listening to understand instead of listening to respond. We want to follow someone who will recognize what we’ve accomplished and will stand alongside us when we’re struggling. It’s a lot for a leader to do, along with everything else that’s on your plate. But you’ll find that the time you spend investing in the alignment and motivation of your team pays dividends.
Finally, let’s not forget the power of a simple, handwritten thank you note. Personal touches like a note of gratitude are motivating and inspiring. It’s simple and effective—a worthwhile investment.
Does alignment and motivation change in a hybrid work environment? If your office has both a remote and in-person experience, you will need to work harder to align and motivate your team. It’s really easy for us to keep our video cameras off for meetings. It’s tempting to disengage a little bit. It’s easy to brush aside informal conversations in favor of back-to-back meetings and full schedules. But emerging from the COVID-19 shutdown, many of us are still lonely, including leaders.
Push through the barriers of technology and location to regularly engage your team in personal connection. It’s critical in the remote space that leaders think about how not only to speak and present with polish, but to be human. Connecting with your team and empathizing with them is essential.
And if you are feeling burnt out, you may need a coach: someone who can help you think differently; someone you can share things with that you can’t share with your team. You may need a network of peers, either inside or outside of your organization, to help share the load. Or you may need to practice self-care. Find ways to re-energize by doing things that bring you joy.
Exceptional leaders are those who actively set direction, align their team, and provide the motivation to help their team succeed. Let us know how we can help you in your leadership journey.