I’m going to share with you two major commercial nuclear power industry leadership problems formerly identified on an INPO Training development team I was on in 2013. It may come as no shock, but the two things we needed to get better at were coaching (being intrusive in a job observation), and leadership alignment (everyone on the same page with the same goals and vision). For this post I’d like to address leadership alignment, what it is and what can be done about it. I won’t pretend to have all of the answers here, but per the usual, I will have recommendations based on research that I share with you. You cannot strive to improve something if you do not really know what it is you are trying to improve. Defining the problem/issue accurately is sometimes more than half of the solution.
Dozens and dozens of pretty specific definitions of what is true leadership exist, but for the purposes of our alignment discussion let’s use Berkeley College’s, “The Leadership Quarterly” to explain it:
It seems that leadership is how well you implement the following objectives with your workforce (note that it’s a lot about communicating and handling change):
- Clearly articulates the strategy
- Provides a compelling vision
- Provides measurable objectives for implementing the vision
- Recognizes and rewards progress in implementing change
- Responds effectively to resistance to change
- Personally inspiring and motivating for the change
So, how do you define alignment?
“Linking of organizational goals with the employees’ personal goals, requires common understanding of purposes and goals of the organization, and consistency between every objective and plan right down to the incentive offers.” [Source]
Hmmm… this doesn’t feel like the right definition to me – we are seeking what Leadership alignment is, not a misaligned org/worker goal thing. How about this:
“Organizational alignment refers to the existence (or absence) of a consistently clear understanding of the organization’s purpose throughout the business organization’s entire value chain.” [Source]
Nope, this still doesn’t feel like it hits the mark…
I’m left wondering if the term “Leadership Alignment” is really a creation of fiction.
Does alignment matter more than good individual leadership?
“In organizations of any size it is likely that organizational performance should be related to the aggregate effects of leaders at different hierarchical levels.”
“…it is clear that leaders at different levels influence strategic initiatives and their implementation, how aggregate leadership influences organizational performance is not straightforward. For instance, a powerful senior leader may compensate for less effective leaders at lower levels. Alternatively, a less effective but highly aligned set of leaders across levels may successfully implement change.”
[same source as above]
With this in mind, I am left to surmise that successfully implemented changes is a trait of a good organization, properly influenced by leadership. I also do not know the official answer to this question – I think the answer can be yes or no, depending on the mission and flexibility of the team.
Another way of assuring or creating leadership alignment is by having leadership do observations of other leadership performing observations. Does that sound crazy? Well, it’s actually a pretty powerful tool when done correctly. Part of doing it correctly involves the “paired” observer following the leader around through a work observation evolution and then debriefing the things that went well and any gaps to performance in private. A lot may get learned in these sessions, because the paired observe may learn of things they weren’t aware of, or maybe even afraid to ask a subordinate.
Zero Zeta Tool from Behavioral Science Technology, Inc. (BST)
Note that this tool will help to discover where misalignments exist in an entire organization, not just within leadership. I went through BST’s training on this tool in Dallas Texas in 2010. The tool is amazing and extremely underused for it’s various possibility and alignment function.
Consider six levels of maturity in an organization on a taxonomy – starting with farthest from valuing, and moving to internalization. (Author’s note: If you have been paying attention to my other posts, the AFFECTIVE DOMAIN is in play here. If you forgot, the Affective Domain is Receiving, Responding, Valuing (*internalization level), Organization (*advocacy level), and Characterization (*fanatical level))
As department personnel use this classification process and voting for each, you can determine if alignment exists.
The ten dimension scales for BST’s Zero Zeta tool:
- Enabling Systems
- Sustaining Systems
For the BST supporting webcast video click here
How do you fix alignment?
My thoughts – this model is pretty great at helping you see relationships between different significant “domains” or “realms” within a multi-employee business, but by itself I don’t see this having the full effect for fixing leadership alignment issues… so, if we mix this idea with the Zero-Zeta concept, define the Domains that our organization is built on, then further define the taxonomies within those domains, we can then have the model for our site.
Each domain comes with a simple value question – where do you feel we are within the taxonomy? Give these 10 minute survey questions out for each custom domain, see where leaders (or even workers) say they feel the organization is, and then you will know your misalignments and what to work on.
As an example of a taxonomy: If you have a Domain for Organizational Error Culpability it could (but shouldn’t – this is off the top of my head simply for explanation purposes) look like this:
- Organization: The Organization allows workers to be set up for failure
- Managers: The Managers allow workers to be set up for failure
- Supervisors: The Supervisors allow workers to be set up for failure
- Workers: Workers create situations where they fail
- No Issue: Workers do not fail because of process
Once you have all of your domain areas (multiple taxonomies), you ask individuals to grade them on where they believe the organization is within each taxonomy.
Once you have that data compiled, you can compare answers to see if everyone feels the same problems and triumphs exist in the organization.
If everyone is aligned, you all are agreeing on similar gaps, and you have work to do closing them…. if everyone is not aligned, then you have an alignment gap AND whatever other problems your organization is dealing with.
In a nutshell that’s what I would do to determine gaps and if an alignment issue exists, as well. Survey Monkey is your friend.
This is one of my favorite and I believe one of my most valuable posts. Because of this, I’ve waited a while to make it available and to let readers have a full appreciation for all of the parts that feed into the idea of multiple custom taxonomies used for measuring leadership and organizational alignment. To truly get the value out of it takes contemplation and possibly collaboration. Feel free to contact me for questions.