Whilst many seem to think leadership begins with big visions and strategy, Henry Ford nailed when he said: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” And once you have got your head around the two rules of leadership I believe this is the best place to start. Too many sports teams are bursting with talent and know exactly what the goal is, yet lack any real connection – they are just a bunch of talented individuals. Almost invariably, when the chips are down, they fail. Inspired leaders make sure they connect with their team, and their team connect with each other. In the complex field of interpersonal relationships this is a tough one, but worth every bead of sweat … because it makes or breaks a team.

Internal alignment

For me, this question goes back a long way. At school I was one of the tallest boys in the year – which made me something of a target for any kid who wanted to show off. I had no interest in fighting, so when these situations arose I would walk round the corner and stand in front of the staffroom window – but on the odd occasion I would find myself with no way out and a fight seemed unavoidable. The thing was, because I really didn’t want to fight half of me would end up throwing a punch – and the other half of me would be pulling it back at the same time. Not exactly the way to make an impact, and it’s safe to say none of these fights were particularly impressive!

And we can be like that at work – whether we are looking at an individual, team or organisational level we could save SO much time and energy simply by getting out of our own way.

I talk about internal alignment a lot. I often get asked the question – “What is internal alignment? It sounds like a weird medical procedure?!” Well rest assured – no surgery is necessary. Internal alignment is simply about capturing the power of ‘getting out of your own way’.

Just think about it – and be honest. Over the years:

  • how many of your frustrations, worries and constraints have only existed in your head?
  • how often have you found team members working against each other rather than with each other?
  • how many times have you seen things ‘dropped’ as they pass from one department to the next?

The average organisation

And it really does matter. According to research completed by Harris Interactive, if we compared the average organisation to a football team:

  • Each player would pass the ball to only 2 other teammates
  • Only 4 players would know which goal is theirs
  • Only 2 would care
  • Only 2 would play in their best position and know exactly what they are supposed to do
  • And all but 2 players would, in some way, be competing against their own team members rather than the opposition

A ‘lucky’ team may have the same 2 players passing to each other, shooting for the right goal, playing their best positions and knowing exactly what they need to do. But we both know that even 2 out of 11 just isn’t anywhere near enough.

Enter an organisation with internal alignment:

  • Dysfunctional relationships across the organisation have become partnerships built on mutual respect and understanding
  • Activity builds on strengths of the organisation and its component parts rather than focusing solely on what’s wrong with it
  • Everyone knows what the final goal is and most importantly are bought into WHY it matters

A better way to play

So with internal alignment your team would be totally different. Each player would:

  • pass the ball to any and all of their teammates
  • know AND care which goal is theirs
  • play in their best position and know exactly what they are supposed to do
  • work with their team members and direct all their energy against the opposition

Surely that’s a better way to play?

So if you want to have a real impact, if you want to make the most of the resources you have in a challenging environment then it’s time to start creating internal alignment – just like Henry Ford.

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Peter Anderton

Author: Peter Anderton

A sought after coach and change agent, Peter has spent many years in Organisational Development, focusing on developing high performance leadership teams, executive coaching, strategy and change. He builds relationships quickly and is as comfortable in the boardroom as he is at ‘grass roots’. Known for his integrity, energy and a real passion for making things happen, he has a uniquely direct yet supportive style that delivers.

Peter is a qualified NLP master practitioner, a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and a Chartered Engineer.