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How clarity creates cohesion in leadership teams

Adrian Baillargeon - global leadership speaker and author

In 2018, LinkedIn Learning surveyed 2,968 professionals and asked them about the most frustrating quality they had experienced in a manager. The runaway winner was “ a manager whose expectations aren’t clear or frequently change.” Another survey showed that 97% of workers and employers believe that the lack of team alignment influences the success of a task or project.

A lack of clarity creates chaos and frustration, and disorder is not good for leadership teams. If issues exist at the highest levels, you can bet they will trickle down quickly to the teams reporting to those leaders, causing many groups to sink, spin their tires and look after self-interests. For leadership teams to develop the clarity and alignment that matters most, here are four key items to align on and how to do it regularly.

Clear purpose, clear focus
The very best leaders complete the trifecta of purpose, meaning they are clear on the purpose of the organisation, as well as their own personal purpose. However, leadership teams often overlook the final leg of the purpose trifecta: the leadership team’s purpose.

Leaders are part of two teams – the team they lead and the leadership team they are on. Both teams serve different purposes. The sooner the leadership group chooses their purpose, the sooner the team can work as one, enabling innovation, empowering people and energising those across the organisation.

At your next leadership team, do the 20-15-20 exercise. Allocate 20 minutes to finish this sentence “The purpose of our leadership team is….”. Write down the words that resonate most. Circle those that are future-focused and excite the group. Keep this statement to 15 words or less. At the following team meeting, allocate 20 minutes to describe what great looks like if the leadership team achieves its purpose. This list becomes the leadership team’s checklist to ensure they focus and reach the right things.

Clear objectives, clear wins
Knowing what game you are playing – and what winning looks like, is incredibly important to leadership teams. Is everyone within the leadership team aware of each other’s key performance indicators? If not, share them. Far too often, leaders keep their KPIs close to their chests. Two marketing leaders realised they shared similar goals. They decided to collaborate and allocate the savings towards another initiative, making an even broader impact..

By sharing your goals with your teammates, you may identify opportunities to shine even brighter.

Clear responsibilities, clear outcomes
Job descriptions help and hinder. They outline individual responsibilities and required deliverables. They are also created at a point in time and do not consider future market, customer, company or team changes.

As a result of those changes, the nuances of roles and responsibilities change quickly too. Reviewing roles and responsibilities regularly in leadership teams can unclog holdups, prevent clashes and reduce tensions. The sooner team members are clear on what needs to be done and by who, the sooner stuff gets done, instead of getting stuffy with each other.

At your next team meeting, pick one leader in the team, and have everyone write down what they think leaders’ roles and responsibilities are. Then share your responses. There will be some clear black and whites of their responsibility and some grey areas. By being aware of the grey, teams can work through them – either on the spot or as issues arise.

 Clear behaviours, clear actions
There’s a saying in golf “Drive for show and putt for dough”. In the workplace, I like to say you can talk for show and do for dough.  When it comes to leadership teams, being clear on what actions will help the team do teamwork best helps avoid unproductive conflict and get through tougher times quicker.

At another team meeting, spend 20 minutes identifying what behaviours amongst each other will drive the best outcomes for the leadership group. Theme up the responses, develop a promise statement representing the theme and use that statement when needed. Say it sooner is a promise used by many of the teams I work with. This term is used as a bridge of safety – it gives the instigator of tough discussion a way to bring up an issue, and it’s a flag to the receiver that the other person has something important to share. In leadership teams,  beliefs alone don’t make them better. Their actions do. Align on the actions and reap the rewards.

Leadership teams with clarity react and adapt better. Don’t let ambiguity hinder your team’s – or those below you – success. Be deliberate and intentional to create clarity. When this happens, you and your leadership team will shine and deliver the results you desire and deserve.

Adrian Baillargeon is a global leadership speaker and author of Teams that Swear (by each other, not about each other)

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