This article was published on March 9, 2014

How to steer your team members back on track

How to steer your team members back on track
Andre Lavoie
Story by

Andre Lavoie

Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, the first talent alignment platform that bridges the gap between talent management and business str Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, the first talent alignment platform that bridges the gap between talent management and business strategy by contextualizing employees’ work around a company’s vision and goals. You can connect with him and the ClearCompany team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, a real-time talent alignment platform that helps companies connect all aspects of talent management to their business strategy.

It can happen to anyone… all is going well with your company, when something just seems a bit off, nothing major at first, but something just isn’t quite right.

As Global Managing Director at Thomson Reuters, I decided I needed to spend time checking in with employees using a method I called “five levels to find out” to encourage organizational alignment and attempt to get us back on track. I isolated employees five levels removed from my tier of the organizational chart and listened to them talk about their work experience and how they believed they contributed to organizational objectives.

This made it clear that alignment needed to be one of my top priorities, because it mattered so much to our success. Let me explain why.

The importance of alignment

What every manager must understand is their primary purpose in a business structure is to cascade a company strategy. They are to take what in most cases is a big theme and break it down into smaller bits their people can grasp onto and run with.

Companies literally depend on this kind of alignment to succeed, and employees depend on it for their own engagement and personal success.

Simply put, companies without aligned employees are underutilizing their resources. And underutilized people are disengaged people, just as certainly as unaligned companies are dead ones.

A recent survey called “How Leaders Grow Today” backs up my personal experience. It found that, while 43 percent of workers are familiar with company goals, they couldn’t specifically name these objectives.

Think about this for a minute: 43 percent of employees can’t articulate their company goals. They’re walking without a destination, so it’s no wonder so many of your people are becoming lost.

Getting your business back on track isn’t impossible, but you’ll have to first look into your organization a little deeper. Here’s how:

Break up the game of telephone

Have you ever played the game telephone? As your message travels from person to person, the meaning can sometimes change dramatically. It may be an exciting game for parties, but it’s much less fun when it’s happening in your organization.

Still, far too many companies have communication structures mirroring this game, with employees losing the meaning behind their efforts as tasks cascade down the organizational chart.

The cost of this can be exorbitantly high. According to research, mistakes due to miscommunication cost approximately $37 billion a year. One of the reasons I used the “five levels to find out” method was to see how this game of telephone was playing out in my own company. I discovered it’s all too easy for goals to get misaligned when directives are veering off course as they make their way down or up the food chain.

The key is to link your teams’ everyday efforts to overall goals, and to make it easy for managers and employees to visualize how work flows up to larger company strategies. By aligning all the middlemen — through a clear alignment of their goals — you can ensure your team gets the right message every time.

Make goals a daily part of life

As an employee at a medium or large-scale company, the levels of upper management can look particularly serpentine. Maybe at one point the employee understood how their contributions impacted company goals, but it’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of piling work.

Instead of focusing on how a particular project will contribute to your company’s goals, employees are most likely just focused on hitting deadlines and punching the clock. Talent alignment platforms can help here, by allowing employees to easily visualize how their specific project dovetails with company-wide strategies.

You don’t have to schedule weekly meetings or quarterly gatherings in order to restate goals if employees have a clear view through the company hierarchy. Most importantly, this can ensure your people don’t get caught up in small tasks and miss the larger picture.

Connect your employees together

Getting your company back on track means getting everyone together on the same page. When I would move up and down the chain of command in my company, I was always surprised at the lack of shared focus between departments and branches.

As a leader, you probably think everyone in your company is pulling in the same direction, but this often couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Transparency into the productivity of your workers allows you to recognize and reward the right people. This cuts down on toxic office politics, since your workforce will see hard work rewarded.

After all, a Gallup study found strengths-based employee feedback resulted in a 12.5 percent increase in productivity. So understanding how your employees work best and encouraging managers to play to strengths can mean happier and more productive workers.

It’s time to get your company back on track, and now you know it’s not impossible. Using proper talent alignment and focusing on goals means your employees receive the right message, every time.

What do you think? How do you use goals to keep employees on track? Share in the comments!

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