After having facilitated more than 200 executive planning meetings, it doesn’t take long for me to spot major alignment issues among the CEO’s top brass. But when I bring up this misalignment to that same CEO during a follow-up call, he or she is always surprised. “But they all work so well together.”
No, they don’t. Some struggling CEOs really don’t see the problem, and others just have their heads buried too deep in the sand. But if your leadership team isn’t on the same page, then they’re really not on YOUR page, and your firm will struggle.
Follow these steps to get your leadership team back in alignment with that plan, with each other, and get ready for BIG growth:
1. Get a fresh perspective.
The CEO Coaching International Core Values Scorecard can be a great way for you to hit reset and look at your leadership team with a fresh set of eyes.
Work through this exercise by writing down the values that are most important to your company, and then rate your leadership team on how well their performance embodies these values. Many alignment issues start right here. Anyone who rates exceptionally low on this scorecard probably shouldn’t have been hired in the first place–or shouldn’t stay hired.
You should be talking to your direct reports daily, but when was the last time you sat down with THEIR reports? Get a ground-level view of how your departments are operating. Encourage honest feedback without fear of repercussions. Ask employees how they’d rate their relationship with their supervisor, how strong they feel the company’s culture is. Figure out if this alignment issue has any other causes or potential side effects that run deeper than just the C-Suite.
If you still can’t pry your eyes open, get some outside help. Ask a trusted mentor, a friend who’s also a CEO, or your coach to spend a day or two at your company. Don’t dismiss their opinions: they’re most likely seeing things you just can’t right now.
2. Escape the “what happens if …” loop.
A common reason that CEOs avoid confronting misalignments in their leadership team is that they get stuck wondering, “What happens if …”
- What happens if my CFO gets mad and quits?
- My head of sales is popular but underperforming. What happens if I have to fire him?
- What happens if I replace my customer service lead with someone my top customers don’t like?
- What happens if I find a perfect replacement but I can’t afford to hire her?
- Jack might be a little difficult to work with, but at least he’s a devil I know. What happens if I replace him with someone who turns out to be worse?
One hypothetical leads to another hypothetical which leads to another … a CEO can go crazy thinking like this.
Let me propose a better question: What happens if you DON’T act?
These answers aren’t hypothetical: your executives will keep fighting, keep drifting further and further off the course you’ve set, and eventually drag the company into a sea of red ink.
If it was easy being the boss, everyone would do it. CEOs have to make tough calls and facilitate difficult conversations for a business to succeed, and eventually, grow.
3. Check your blind spots.
It’s your job as CEO to set the tone for the entire company. Have you struck a wrong note recently that’s thrown off the harmony?
Do you get out of the way and let your C-Suite do their jobs, or do you have a habit of butting in to remind everyone who’s really in charge?
Do you include your C-Suite in important company-wide decisions, such as annual sales targets or expansion plans?
Is your door open to suggestions, including some outside-the-box thinking that might encourage innovation and a more committed buy-in to your overall vision?
Have you clearly delegated C-Suite tasks, or is your leadership team constantly stepping on each other’s toes?
Owning up to your mistakes will encourage your leadership team to own up to theirs. That kind of realization and honesty will be critical to completing the final step.
4. Have a meeting to clear the issue.
The attendees will vary depending on the precise nature of the problem and the dynamics of your staff. But consider getting your whole leadership team together to have a transparent discussion that will correct this particular alignment issue and prevent future ones.
If you need some help structuring this discussion, the issues clearing exercise developed by YPO can help. You can read this blog post for a more detailed overview, but in brief, have the disgruntled parties listen to and repeat back their issues with each other. This technique will help your team move past blame and hurt feelings towards an understanding that will clear away alignment issues and get everyone back to making BIG happen together.
If your leadership team is squabbling and out of alignment, fix it now. It won’t fix itself, rather, it will get worse and infect the rest of the company.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. His firm coaches over 150 of the world’s top high-growth entrepreneurs and CEO’s from 17 countries on how to dramatically grow their revenues and profits, implement the most effective strategies, becoming better leaders, grow their people, build accountability systems, and elevate their own performance. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.