When we build a language that allows us to articulate what success looks like, a team will align and order will reign supreme. The key to organizational alignment is consistent communication. This means taking the time to have a consistent conversation and consistent language when anyone is hired, promoted, evaluated, and when adding any tasks to someone’s job. Clarity equals success.
These seven rules of alignment are the language tools that create clarity. They are the specific areas where people could fail. They are also the specific areas where people grow and develop.
If you are aware of them, and consistently discuss all seven rules, you will avoid the pitfalls that result when communication is unclear.
Rule #1: Discuss the Job Description
Whether for core work or coordinating work, people need a definition of their task responsibilities. Many businesses provide a job description. But surprisingly, many people report that they are unclear about their task responsibility. Discussing the job description and each task, looking for agreement, creates clarity.
Rule #2: Measurable Results
What does job and task success look like? It is typical for sales positions to have revenue goals. It is typical for call centers to have calls per hour. What is true for your team? Often people are confused by the goals. They feel that the goal is arbitrary. Or they don’t know how to reach the goal. And there are innumerable jobs where results aren’t articulated. This rule allows for clarity and discussion about this specific key for success.
Rule #3: Establish Boundaries
What are the limitations for fulfilling the job? What is inside or outside the job’s responsibilities? Where are the handoffs and are team members integrating well? We all know that when boundaries are breached it creates discomfort. We just aren’t always aware that it is a boundary issue. Discussing boundaries allows people to think about and voice comfort and discomfort.
Rule #4: Talk About Authority Levels
Let employees know if they should act when directed (do what I say), act after approval (we’ll decide together), act and report (I just want to know) or act autonomously (I don’t need to know). An honest conversation about where you think someone’s authority lies and where you want them to be is an eye-opener. This one rule alone is the basis of the Situational Leadership model and can create support for team members.
Rule #5: Discuss Time Constraints
How often, how long, deadlines, and milestones all need to be clear and specific. Team members may struggle with time constraints. Bringing them to light brings clarity to understanding how we need to perform.
Rule #6: Do Knowledge and Skills, Information and Resources Match the Task?
Do people have the knowledge and skills to do the job? If not, when and how will they get them? Even when you want to stretch someone’s ability, even when you know they have what it takes, even when they may not, be sure to ask, “Do you think you have the skills and knowledge required for this task?” It may be what holds someone back, whether real or imagined. Do people have all of the information they need? Resources? If not, can they obtain them? Sharing information within the company—even financial information—is critical and necessary if you want your team to thrive.
Rule #7: Support
How will you support each other? How will leadership support it? How will team members support? When asked how we want to be supported and then that request is followed through, we light up. The feeling that our team makes us a better person is priceless. Isn’t that clarity worth the time to ask?
To ensure team success, discuss all seven areas leaving nothing to assumption.
As you will become quicker and more comfortable with the process. This time spent talking, when people start their jobs, when people add new tasks, and when people are in an evaluation process, will become second nature. Create the habit and the language for this discussion and alignment within your organization will result.
If you want help developing company culture at your business, a consultant with Idaho SBDC in your region is available to help.
Ruth Schwartz joined the Idaho SBDC in March of 2020, She has been a lifelong entrepreneur and business owner. She spent 25 years in the music industry: radio, publishing, producing, and retail.
Most notably, Ruth started, built, and sold a $10 million, wholesale, music distribution company. She has owned and operated a leadership training and coaching company, a debt collection company, and an Amazon store.
Ruth is a Professionally Certified Business Leadership Coach (PCC) through the International Coaching Federation and is the author of the book, The Key to the Golden Handcuffs: Stop Being a Slave to Your Business. She is certified in over four assessment sciences and is the creator of the Fail Proof Hiring Program. She is a Distinguished Toastmaster and a member of the National Speakers’ Association.
Hailing from the Sierra Foothills in Northern California, Ruth taught at the Sierra Commons Business Incubator and became a consultant with the California SBDC before her move to Idaho in 2017.