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C-Suite Misalignment Torpedoes Company Effectiveness

Author: Eric Bean, PhD

One time as a kid, I went to my mom to ask for her permission to go to a concert. My mom was adamantly against the idea. Displeased with this result, I waited until the time was right and approached my dad with the same question. My dad, ever the pragmatist, said as long as I could pay for it myself, I could go. Of course, my mom caught wind of my ingenious strategy and thwarted my efforts to go behind her back.

At a young age, we learn who to ask when our parents are not strategically aligned. We take this lesson into our adult years and, sometimes, use it to our advantage at work.

When executive teams are not aligned on strategy, the working environment can become chaotic, reactive, and inconsistent. This is especially true if employees are seeking out the executive who will give them a green light on a decision and avoiding the ones who would shut it down. Gaining leadership alignment is critical in any relationship, especially on an executive team.

A fun way to determine alignment: Play the dating game!

Recently, I was brought in to help an executive team gain alignment, strengthen collaboration, and bolster their leadership. The team has been working together for some time and I was unsure of how aligned or misaligned they were. We started the meeting discussing the importance of alignment and how they, as leaders, set the tone throughout the organization. We discussed how inconsistency in terms of leadership values, strategic goals, and priorities within their team, inevitably creates inconsistency throughout the organization.

To get this team started on the right path we played the dating game! If you are not familiar, the dating game was a popular gameshow in which couples were individually asked questions about the other person to see how well they knew each other. Hilarity (and perhaps separation) ensued when one partner was way off from the other partner. To assess this team’s alignment, I asked them each to privately, without input from the others, write their answers to the following questions:

  • What are this team’s top 3 goals in order? Be specific in your response (i.e. profitability is not an answer).
  • What are our main responsibilities as a team?
  • What are our strengths as a team?
  • What are the top 3 most important characteristics of a leader? Be specific.

The first two questions focused on alignment regarding what they do and the second two questions focused on how they do what they do.

After each, we discussed their responses. To be fair — they were not wildly misaligned, but they were not powerfully aligned either. Plus, it took some creativity to find common patterns, and make the case for how they were aligned. I encouraged them that the goal is to become aligned without question, without having to make a case, or having to work to find links between their responses.

The dating game provided a powerful “aha!” moment that gave them awareness of the work they needed to do to not only clearly define their strategic priorities, but also gain alignment in how they execute and go about accomplishing those priorities. From there, we continued our work together to build alignment, trust, and cohesion.

If you find yourself on a team that is not firing on all cylinders, is misaligned, or lacking the cohesion necessary to be elite, try your own version of the dating game exercise, or reach out to the HigherEchelon Human Capital Services team.

Dr. Eric Bean is Director of High Performance at HigherEchelon, Inc. where he works with a range of public and private sector clients to improve performance under pressure, develop leaders, and optimize culture. He is an AASP-certified mental performance consultant, ICF-certified coach, and holds a PhD in Sport Psychology from Michigan State University.

Check out Eric’s Coaching Through Stories Podcast and subscribe!

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