Rally: Pivoting to ensure team alignment during times of uncertainty

We are in a different time than we were two months ago, and there’s uncertainty about where we will be a week, a month and a year from now. However, one thing is for sure – the world needs leaders…NOW.

Employees across all organizations and industries are looking for hope, direction and assurance. They need to know their leaders “have their back” and that we are “in this thing together.” In this blog, I’m sharing some thoughts and suggestions to help you think about the best way to hit “reset” and establish a path forward for you, your team and your organization. We share these tips in 9 steps, divided into 3 rally points.

Rally Point 1: Set the Tone

The first “Rally Point” to pivoting is to set the tone for your team, department or organization. We walk through four steps necessary to make this happen.

Step 1: Conduct a temperature check

“The essence of communication is intention.”

-Werner Erhard, American author

Any new initiative or undertaking for an organization deserves the spotlight. There are times, however, that once we launch an initiative our attention moves to something else. To combat this, we suggest finding ways to conduct a regular temperature check throughout the initiative (and beyond). Regular interaction with your employees is crucial to make sure the “thermostat” does not need to be adjusted. Calibration can be accomplished through conducting one-on-one’s, focus groups, surveys and having an open door policy for all employees. Make yourself accessible to your employees. Identify and leverage internal champions (ambassadors) who can help tackle bigger challenges and initiatives. Here are some trigger questions to consider:

  1. What forms of communication work best in our organization?
  2. How can we best stay connected?
  3. How do we stay engaged with our clients to allay their fears and concerns?

Step 2: Establish your “secret sauce”

“If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself.”

-Tony Hseigh, CEO, Zappos

When I mention the term “secret sauce”, it’s what makes you unique and different. It’s how you stand out and make your customers come back time after time. In order to maintain the “swagger” you have as an organization, think about what you need to do to pivot. What you stand for as an organization and how you go about doing business may be tested during times of uncertainty such as what we’re experiencing right now. In order to survive, it’s important to stand by your cultural norms. Think about your values, vision, mission and purpose. Trigger questions include:

  1. What got us here?
  2. Is what got us here what will keep us together…moving forward?
  3. What needs to change about how we do business? What does not?

Step 3: Define (agree on) what success looks like

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

-Winston Churchill, United Kingdom Prime Minister

As a leader, you need to provide direction to your people. They are relying on you to pave the way through adversity to the other side. But you can’t do it on your own. Collaboration is the key to success. Align yourself with the rest of your leadership team on what success looks like for the short-term, as well as the long-term. Consider what Simon Sinek calls your “just cause”, or your higher purpose as an organization. Think about alignment of your people – how to create buy-in for the way forward so, as Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck says, you can “row the boat” together to success. Some trigger questions to consider:

  1. How will success be measured?
  2. What performance metrics will I use?
  3. Will my evaluation process change?
  4. Will I use lead/lag indicators (KPIs)?
  5. What will I do to communicate our way forward and ensure buy-in?

Step 4: Light the flame and pass the torch

“The only way to do great work is to love the work you do.”

-Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder

In order for your planning and hard work to take root, the organization must feel your passion and unwavering commitment to success. I refer to it as “lighting the flame” because true passion and commitment is contagious. You must identify others in the organization who share your passion and are bought in to what you are trying to accomplish. Trigger questions include:

  1. How will I launch the initiative?
  2. What will I do to ensure buy-in?
  3. Who are my ambassadors (champions) who will help carry the torch out to the rest of the organization and to our clients and the community?

Rally Point 2: Monitor Progress

Once you have successfully set the tone and things are moving in the desired direction, it is time to keep the momentum. In addition to periodically conducting a temperature check with your employees and clients (Step 1), you must also take three additional steps.

Step 5: Encourage self-reflection and awareness

“Without self-awareness we are as babies in the cradles.”

-Virginia Woolf, English author

Once you have your employees on board and committed to the organization’s direction, it’s important to help them grow and develop. As the saying goes, your people are your greatest asset. Without them, you are nothing. To help them become even more connected, encourage self-reflection and awareness. Offer opportunities to your employees to learn more about their strengths and opportunities (“blind spots”). Find creative ways to help teams become more productive, effective and aligned. Trigger questions include:

  1. What methods do we currently use to help with self-awareness?
  2. How can we gain better alignment?
  3. What can we do on an ongoing basis?

Step 6: Establish diversity and individuality

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.”

-Ani DiFranco, American singer-songwriter

I’ve seen it before – a hiring manager who hires someone because the person “reminded them of me.” Hiring someone just like you is the worst thing you can do for your team and the organization. It’s crucial to have diversity of ideas, backgrounds, thoughts and personalities to maintain a competitive edge. Without it, no one is around to play “devil’s advocate” and ask “why”. Having a bunch of “yes” men and women in the office will do you no good. Trigger questions include:

  1. What’s missing from our team?
  2. Where do we lack strength?
  3. How can we be more balanced?

Step 7: Push boundaries

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

-Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter

To be the best, you always need to be pushing your team for more. If you know where your employees stand personally and professionally, you can help them find opportunities for development and partner to set stretch goals. Trigger questions include:

  1. How well do I know my employees?
  2. What can I do to make a better personal connection?
  3. What can I do to stretch them professionally?

Rally Point 3: Sustain and adjust

Once you have set the tone and made sure there is ongoing progress towards the goals and objectives that have been set, you need to monitor the workplace and make necessary adjustments. These final two steps will help with sustainability of efforts.

Step 8: Always be YOU

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

-Oscar Wilde, Irish poet

As we all know, people don’t quit a company, they quit their boss. In order for them to stay, you need to be YOU. Employees respect leaders who are honest, trustworthy, open and positive. Servant leaders put others before themselves at all times. I tell leaders that I work with to think about the legacy they want to leave behind. Trigger questions include:

  1. What is the “legacy” I want to leave behind?
  2. What can I do to be a better role model?
  3. Am I ever sacrificing my values? If so, why?

Step 9: Apply the “three-legged stool” every day

“Adaptability is not limitation. It means power of resistance and assimilation.”

-Mahatma Ghandi, Indian lawyer and pacifist

You must do three things effectively to move your team and work force forward: 1) lead, 2) coach and 3) manage. Think about when each is appropriate to “rally” the group and accomplish what you have set from a goals and objectives standpoint. Be vulnerable and admit mistakes when appropriate. Showing you are human is appreciated by your employees. In addition, don’t try to have all the right answers. Seek guidance and support when appropriate.

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