The Power of One

Achieving the alignment that leads to enterprise value

Picture this: A group of leaders passionately debating a strategic direction, creating a single set of messages for its shareholders and employees, executing the strategy flawlessly, and delivering value. Such is the power of one: one voice, one direction, one result. An aligned team leads swiftly, purposefully, and cohesively, and the results are dramatic. Yet, how many teams truly demonstrate a high level of alignment? Not many. The reasons include indecision, poor teamwork, low trust levels, slowness to act, weak leadership, lack of focus, silo mentality and many others.

As part of a recent research project, I had the pleasure to speak to some CEOs about what drives positive results. Some key themes emerged from their thoughts on how to achieve alignment. First, the CEO needs to assume ownership of aligning the leadership team and the organization. It is the leader’s role to put the right team in place and relentlessly pursue team alignment. As Jim Collins writes: “first the ‘who,’ then the ‘what.’” Second, the team must work collaboratively to create a vision, set objectives, and make strategic decisions. Third, a structure must be in place to drive collaboration and strategy execution.

When I asked about how to measure alignment, I heard “unity of action,” “goal achievement,” and “financial returns.” I discerned that enterprise value is the ultimate goal of alignment. So how does an organization achieve the alignment necessary to improve enterprise value? It does so by committing to a process-driven approach to alignment. A pursuit of sustained alignment is driven by three disciplines. First, the team must work to develop cohesive functional teamwork. Second, the team must agree on a compelling strategy that sets the direction for the future and captures the hearts and minds of employees. Third, the team must execute the strategy with disciplined thought and action.

Sound easy? It is a journey that requires commitment and vigilance. However, its impact is great. Think of what you can achieve in leveraging the power of an entire organization that performs consistently well. It’s the power of one.

We have all been captivated by Patrick Lencioni’s illustration of a highly functional and cohesive team – one that is founded on trust, engaged in conflict, fully committed and accountable, and focused on results. Highly functional teams need highly functional leaders – those who probe for insight, engage in critical thinking, and listen carefully to those with whom they disagree. Tony Schwartz writes in the Harvard Business Review blog:

“The best of all leaders – a tiny fraction – have the capacity to embrace their own opposites, most notably vulnerability alongside strength, and confidence balanced by humility.”

One might ask why a highly functional team is critical to business success, especially if the organization has a great group of high performing talent. Doesn’t working together as a team just slow things down? After all, teamwork requires boring meetings with endless PowerPoint presentations, right? Would we not be better off just letting our people do their own thing? Simply put, no. Collaboration drives efficiency in an organization. Unless everybody knows their roles and executes them well together, it will be difficult to fulfill the purpose of the organization. Moreover, without some synchronicity of movement, unproductive conflict and morale issues among employees are sure to arise.

Collaboration can only thrive in a culture where employees want to work with each other. It is the leader’s job to foster this culture by building trust, pursuing thought excellence, and allowing everyone’s voice to be heard. Unless people trust one another enough to share ideas without fear of retribution or ridicule, the organization will struggle to harness the collective intelligence of its employees. The willingness – indeed, the desire – to engage in constructive debate is essential to producing the best and most thoughtful solutions. Leaders must model the behaviors they expect from their organizations; they must demonstrate openness to new ideas, encourage honest feedback, and “walk the talk” by trusting their employees. Of course, none of this is possible unless employees and leaders are trustworthy. A culture of trust enables commitment, accountability, and attention to results – not to mention higher morale.

Learn More About The Power of One

Susan M. Diehl

Susan M. Diehl

Partner and Advisor

Susan Diehl is a is a partner with Trinitas Advisors, an executive coaching firm that helps business leaders build the leadership alignment they need to win more, grow faster and succeed longer. She can be contacted at susan@trinitasadvisors.com.